Its Tough Out There: One Contractor In Five Closes Annually

An analysis of government data reveals an annual business close rate of 20% among plumbing, heating, and air conditioning companies, according to a white paper recently published by the Service Roundtable, Dallas, TX.

“According to government statistics there are roughly 200,000 plumbing and air conditioning contractors [in the U.S.],” says Service Roundtable CEO Matt Michel. “Just over one-half are sole proprietorships or partnerships without a payroll. Our estimates are that nearly one-quarter of non-payroll contractors close annually. Overall, one out of five close every year, only to be replaced by new starts.”

Michel adds that there’s fairly solid data on larger shops, but little is available for the smallest contractors. “They’re overlooked by nearly everyone. They are the industry’s underclass,” he says.

The close rate drops rapidly with contractor size. For example, only 6% of contractors with five to nine employees close every year.

“As an industry, we should be doing more to help the smallest contractors. The large contractors of tomorrow are the small contractors of today. While growth isn't a requirement of success, it does increase the odds. There are many successful small contractors. There are also many small contractors who fail or operate just well enough to hang on. These contractors are less likely to pay their suppliers and more likely to under price their services. This hurts everyone.”

The white paper, “Business Closure Rates For Plumbing & HVAC Contracting Companies” is available on the Service Roundtable website ( under the “Freebies” tab.

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