Ten years ago, Tom Martin was a young man with a plan. A plan to build a successful plumbing business from scratch.
Tom now owns Water Tight Canberra, a plumbing, drainage and gas fitting company servicing Canberra and surrounding areas. Tom and his business are a testament to the value of planning, preparation and hard work, recently recognised by winning a National Telstra Business Award.
After completing his plumbing licence, Tom set his sights on learning how to run a business so he enrolled in business courses at CIT. The business courses were the start of bigger things.
“Every unit helped me build my business plan. We covered everything, marketing, finance, HR. There were a dozen or so people in the course and most of them did not have a specific business idea. I was the only tradie and the only person with a firm idea. Most of my business ideas were generated during those courses. I still go back to the notes now,” Tom explained.
Tom’s business name – Water Tight – came about after Tom ran an informal competition among his workmates and classmates. “I offered $50 or something like that to name my new business. It was someone in my class at CIT who thought of the name. We are still in touch today.
“Essentially, through that course, I built the business before I launched. I had bought a van, registered the company, taken out insurance and I was ready but I was still working with another company and not sure when to make the leap,” Tom said.
Tom’s break into his own business came by chance.
“I was walking through a shopping centre here in Canberra and a Sydney builder approached a mate of mine who worked on big commercial jobs and asked if he could help him with a job. My mate didn’t have spare capacity so he offered it to me. It was a risk but I took the opportunity. We had to put in monumental hours but we got it done,” Tom said.
“We worked 18 hour days, I got my mates to do night shifts to meet the deadlines but that job gave me the money to support myself for the next couple of months while I got enough jobs to go out on my own.”
Water Tight Plumbing has now grown to employ eight plumbers and three office staff.
“I knew that customer service was the key to success. So many people had a ‘plumber story’ to tell. I wanted to build a maintenance business with great customer service. Early on I made sure we got good online reviews from our customers and I really think that is what set us up for future success.
“Many plumbers prefer new commercial work where you have set hours and you know what you are doing each day. I like the maintenance side of plumbing. You never know where you will end up each day, so many jobs are unexpected. It has more of a customer focus and I enjoy that.”
Water Tight Canberra specialises in fault finding, maintenance and renovations for both residential and commercial customers.
“We are maintenance specialists. We do general property management and strata maintenance. We deliver quality, preventive maintenance. Hot water, sewer and stormwater systems are expensive to fix when they fail. Well-planned maintenance saves a lot of problems,” Tom said.
Water Tight Canberra are recent winners of the 2019 Telstra Business Awards in the category of Small and Succeeding business. Of the 21,000 companies that entered this year, only four were selected as national winners.
The Telstra Awards said Water Tight won for its ongoing commitment to social and environmentally conscious practices re-engineering the plumbing industry. The judges were impressed by Water Tight Canberra’s fastidious approach to business, finding a niche in a crowded market through their focus on detail, customer service and supporting their local community. Tom said the award was a remarkable achievement for ”this high-flying, down-to-earth company”.
“This is an achievement that we extremely proud of,” Tom said.”To win this award means we are doing all the good things I had hoped for when I started.”