7 Ways to Stop Plumbers From Doing Dishonest Side Jobs
Updated: May 31
As a business owner, you put a lot of trust in your team. You’ve risked an enormous investment in overhead and customer acquisition. Technicians work independently in the field, using your trucks, tools, materials, licenses and reputation. So protecting your investment is a natural response.
That being said; the fastest way to lose a good job in the trades is by performing off-the-clock work.
Bear in mind that work outside company time isn’t always about money. Some plumbers might just want to help their family with odd jobs. In this case, they’re not trying to push you out of the picture and go from employee to entrepreneur.
But even with the best intentions, a tech that performs side work for pay is competing against their own company.
You can safeguard your plumbing, HVAC or construction business from this kind of dishonest work, while remaining respectful and fair.
Here are 7 steps you can take to stop employees from doing side jobs that deprive your company of revenue.
Outline Your Policy for Working off the Clock
What’s your stance on employees doing side work? If employee happiness and retention is your priority, you might let it slide in some situations.
But you have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. If you don’t define what you’re willing to allow, you risk being taken advantage of and, frankly, stolen from.
To lay out your policy for side jobs, consider the following:
Do you allow employees to work for immediate family?
How about friends or neighbors?
Are they poaching from your batch of general contractors?
Are they using your tools, truck, materials or other company resources?
Have you lost paying customers by being underbid by your own employee?
Is the extra work interfering with performance or attendance?
Does this behavior result in immediate dismissal or will they receive a warning?
Like I mentioned, some techs might be doing work on the side more as a favor than to make money.
But it still paves the way for a conflict of interest.
Take a stance and be firm. Once you’ve crafted your policy, don’t allow exceptions or you risk resentment and negative feelings between coworkers. Exceptions also undermine your ability to enforce the rules.
Explain Your Moonlighting Policy
You might assume your plumbers should know right from wrong. But you can’t know what you don’t know. And if your techs are unclear on your expectations, they might do side work for friends and family and not even realize they’re in the wrong.
Once you have a well-written moonlighting policy in place, you need to promote it and explain. Share your expectations early and often. Answer questions to give employees the best shot at following your rules.
Set expectations in stone during onboarding and training with your new employee. Cover the topic verbally and in your employee manual. Explain you don’t employ competitors and share the consequences of that action.
What Are the Consequences of Moonlighting?
If plumbers and other skilled trades workers knew the risks of doing under-the-table work, would they do it anyway? Maybe...
But understanding the consequences helps put a stop to side jobs.
Moonlighting is illegal in many states, and can result in fines, union penalties, jail time and lawsuits. When techs do off-the-clock work in the same industry as their profession, they risk losing their certifications and licenses, effectively ruining their career potential.
Not to mention, there’s no insurance coverage to back their work if something goes wrong. If property damage occurs or someone is injured, your employee is in jeopardy of serious financial repercussions.
On top of all that, does your employee care about their paycheck? Under-the-table work undercuts industry prices and drives down wages. Every time they work for less than the industry standard, they suppress their own future earning potential.
Make sure employees understand the consequences of doing odd jobs outside of their employment with you.
Start a Spiff Program for Customer Referrals
To prevent employees from taking side work in the same field as your company, encourage them to bring that work to you instead. Create incentives that inspire your team to solicit on behalf of your business.
Spiffs, also known as bonuses or commissions, are short-term rewards to motivate employees. A spiff program that pays for customer acquisition turns your employees into brand advocates.
Give out these spiffs during company meetings and in front of coworkers. Publicly show your appreciation to the employee for bringing in leads and contributing to customer growth.
Before you know it, your team will be looking for customer referrals that earn them extra dough without lifting a finger!
Need help planning a spiff program? Want powerful incentive ideas that motivate employees? Click here to plan a solid spiff program for your team!
Offer Incentives to Friends and Family
Contractors that allow their plumbers to work for friends and family open the floodgates for fresh leads.
Sweeten the deal on your referral spiff program by making the offer enticing for friends and family. This will make it easier for your team to promote your company. Plus the decision to hire you will be easier for the customer.
Show the extra benefit of working with you when a neighbor or relative needs a plumber, electrician, or HVAC company.
Consider a small discount, materials at cost, or priority on the dispatch board to persuade them. These special perks for friends and family will position you as the obvious choice.
Prevent Theft With Inventory Tracking
Even something as small as a flapper comes at a cost to you. If your plumber uses just one minor item off your company truck for a side job, they are stealing. But the only way to know if materials are missing is with an organized inventory tracking system.
Your total inventory consists of your entire truck stock and everything in your warehouse. Inventory management helps you keep a close eye on the flow of products and materials that leave your shop.
Beyond detecting theft, good inventory management has other benefits like:
Preventing shortages or overstock
No turnover for obsolete parts
Better job efficiency through organization
More accurate inventory costs
Improving inventory control and maintaining well-organized trucks is the best way to protect your stock. It also leads to better productivity, lower operating costs, and quicker solutions for your customers.
Manage Plumbers and Track Your Fleet with GPS
Doing side jobs in between appointments or on the way home isn’t unheard of in the plumbing industry.
GPS fleet tracking lets you monitor your trucks’ locations in real-time. You also have the power to set up criteria that warns you if a vehicle is out of its service area.
If a situation occurs where you need to confront an employee about sidework, you’ll have a record of the truck's locations to back your case.
Technicians may feel offended by this “big-brother” approach to management. But it has become the norm for many plumbing, HVAC and construction businesses.
GPS isn’t solely about micromanaging your team. These tracking systems provide a streamlined way to virtually build timecards. It also creates a solution for vehicle theft if a truck goes missing. Plus it keeps customers in the loop on the day of their appointment; many GPS systems for the service industry notify customers of their techs location and ETA. This helps you provide transparency and better engagement with customers.
No business owner wants to fire an employee over side jobs. Avoid the complication altogether by taking precautions that protect your business and employee retention.
So tell me — are side jobs or moonlighting a problem with your employees? Have you tried any of these tactics? What worked and what didn't. Share in the comments! 👇
Need more ideas for managing your skilled trades business? Connect with me on LinkedIn!