The Plumbing Business

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Christopher G. Fox

Once upon a time, a smart plumber figured out how to game the system by changing their company name to AAA-Aardvark Plumbing. Just like that, at the top of the Yellow Pages listing. The “algorithm” was alphabetical.

Then another plumber took on the name AAA-Aadvantage Plumbers and got to the top of the list.

As time went by, Yellow Pages publishers learned to sell display ads that would catch people’s eye more readily than the first listing. All that renaming effort wasted. Because they owned the algorithm. They printed the pages.

Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, Martin Plumbing built up a following with a few of the city’s most demanding customers with the biggest jobs, the kind of people who attend every high-profile event and love to tell stories. They were known as problem solvers, knew everything about the latest fixtures. Persistent clogs or premium remodels—they were the ones people in the know would call. They became the plumber of choice for a few of the city’s biggest developers. Most people never even needed to look up their number because they got it from a friend. Lost in the middle of the list, but it didn’t matter, because people looked for them by name.

If you were running a plumbing business, which one would you rather be?