Brand new franchise signs three franchisees

By Sarah Stowe | 22 May 2020 View comments

Plumbing Bros co-founder James Riddle is new to franchising but he’s already passionate about providing business opportunities for enthusiastic entrepreneurs.

After establishing the Plumbing Bros business three years ago with co-founder Joe Papiccio, the CEO and director worked with fellow Perth-based franchising consultant John Brown for 12 months to build the franchise model.

Plumbing Bros signs three franchisees

By October 2019 he was impatient to deliver on his expansion dream.

Despite his desire for the business to flourish Riddle has been highly selective about the franchises he’s granted.

“I’ve had four people I’ve said no to right at the end [of the process] because they weren’t a good fit,” he says.

After a slow start he signed his first franchisee in late March. The Victorian franchisee has since been joined by a franchisee in Brisbane, and the first Sydney owner is about to open his doors any day. 

The time it takes to bring a franchise buyer through to sign off has been a challenge for Riddle.

“It’s quite a process, and I had to get used to that,” he says.

James Riddle, Plumbing Bros founder | Inside Franchise Business

James Riddle, Plumbing Bros founder | Inside Franchise Business

Of course the coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with the process and Riddle has adapted his training program very quickly. 

What is different about the Plumbing Bros model is that franchisees don’t need to be qualified plumbers.

“Our entire purpose and why is to change the perception of plumbing.”

Business model based on experience

Riddle’s model addresses both the professionalism of plumbers as they interact with customers, and the lack of business skills they have as business owners. 

“There’s a common perception in trades that you do a four year apprenticeship, work for one to two year, then run your own business. That’s how it’s meant to play out for you.”

After a plumbing apprenticeship Riddle was soon running his own business and did so for five years.

“I went gangbusters quickly, and employed up to 12 people. But a tradie is not a business person. I had no learning, no mentor, just a passion. Once I lost the passion I didn’t have the marketing, finance skills. 

“I liquidated the business in 2014. That was the making of me. I managed a commercial construction plumbing firm for two years and I got the relevant experience.”

“It’s a fickle industry, very set in its ways. Plumbers provide a great service but some don’t want to upskill.”

And that’s why the model has been designed to suit anyone with or without a plumbing background. If the franchisee is a non-plumber, they employ a master plumber as the compliance officer.

There’s a broad swathe of people interested in the business model, some franchisees in other systems, some new to business, some men, some women.

What appeals, he says, is his experience.

“I’ve run multi-million dollar plumbing businesses and part of them joining is buying me. They understand the one-on-one time.”

Riddle says through CoVID 19 people have lost faith in their own industry. Plumbing has survived many downturns and remains an essential service.

“We’ve had an influx of enquiries. Plumbing isn’t going anywhere,” he says.

Right now he’s gearing up for further growth with verbal agreements for five more plumbing franchisees already.

So what principle is guiding him on this growth trajectory?

Riddle cites a McDonald’s executive who offered advice that resonated with him and has become something of a motto for his business approach: “progress over perfection”.