Gut instinct

“Alright, Sean. Are you ready to handle your first weekend of running this company?” my dad asked me over the phone.  It was Friday, and I was wrapping up my tools and excited to take over the family business for the first time for several days. “Don’t get overwhelmed this weekend and just handle whatever you can. I’m only a phone call away if you need to ask me anything,” my father said.

I agreed and knew that I was ready to handle anything. Before I knew it, the sun was up on that Saturday morning, and I was suited up and ready to hit the road and plumb away. A few calls came in that morning which consisted of some minor toilet repairs and faulty thermocouples. The day had ended, and before I knew it I was home, showered in my pajamas and sitting at the dinner table with my wife, son and dog Norman at my feet. Just as the delicious spaghetti and meat sauce made its way down my throat the phone began to ring. 

“I’ll be right back; continue eating without me. I need to take this call; it may be an emergency,” I said to my wife. 

“Hello?” I answered. 

“Hi, Brendan?” a woman asked on the phone.

“No, it’s Brendan’s son, Sean.” I replied. 

“Sean, we have an emergency over here at my house. The cold side of my kitchen faucet is not working anymore and I don’t know why,” she said.
She continued telling me about how the faucet wasn’t working and she wasn’t sure why. But, something sounded fishy to me. 

So, I began to ask some questions, “When was the last time the faucet was working? Was the main water shut off at any point?” 

Eventually, after five minutes of asking questions, the truth came out. 

“Well, my husband was trying to fix the faucet and now the cold side seems to have stopped working,” she said. 

“OK, so you still have hot water?” I asked. 

“Yes, but I am having people over for dinner in an hour, and I need cold water at the faucet to mix in with the hot to do dishes,” she replied.

I explained what our hourly rate was for the weekend, and that there were no guarantees that I could fix the problem. At the time, supply houses were all closed. She kept saying over and over how great my father is and how wonderful he is to them etc. Now, I felt tremendous pressure to head over and try to fix the problem. I tried one last time to see if it could wait until first thing tomorrow, being that they had a dishwasher to clean the dishes. After about an half hour of discussion, I went against my gut feeling and walked out the door.

I arrived at the house and was greeted by an extremely excited homeowner. She brought me up into the kitchen and showed me the faucet that was not functioning properly. 

“Well, here it is! I just don’t understand why we wouldn’t be getting any cold water,” she said. 

It was a plumber’s worst nightmare. The husband’s tools were all over the kitchen countertop, mixed in with different types of faucet stems, O-rings, washers and a bloody paper towel! I wanted to pick up my tool bucket and make a run for the front door. I took a closer look at the beat up dismantled faucet and just shook my head. I explained to her that she was better off replacing the kitchen sink faucet, rather than trying to repair the beat up one she currently had. Just as I was finished explaining, in walked the husband with his hand wrapped in a towel and beads of sweat across his forehead. 

“Hey Sean, how are you? We are a big fan of your father’s. So, what do you think? It should be an easy fix, right?” He asked. I looked at him with that, “you’re joking” look on my face. 

I told him what I told his wife, and that I would be back tomorrow to install a new faucet rather than trying to repair the current one. After, negotiating for several minutes, they reluctantly gave in and agreed to just change the faucet. As I began to wrap up my drop light, the husband started tinkering with the faucet again. 

“We just need some cold water, I think I might be able to get it going for tonight,” he said. 

“I’d rather you not touch the faucet because I don’t want anything to leak, ” I said.

Well, those were my last words to the homeowners, and I bet you can guess what happens next. Yup, a major flood happened that evening, and I got that panic call the next morning.

“Sean, it’s me! We had a major flood over here in our kitchen. I don’t know what you did or what you touched when you were here, but now we have a flood!” she said frantically on my voicemail. 

I immediately called her back, and the drama then began. She blamed me for the flood and told meI was responsible for the damage. I tried to explain to her that I didn’t touch anything while I was there and how her husband was still tinkering with the faucet as I was leaving.

Long story short, we argued on the phone for a good half hour, and our company ended up losing the job and were not paid a dime. 

Later that evening, I sat down in my office and reflected on the job and how I could take anything positive from this experience. My initial gut feeling about the job was the right feeling and I should have listened to my gut. Instead, I felt obligated to head over that evening because my father had dealt with the customer in the past and was highly praised. I felt tremendous pressure to fill the shoes of my father in that situation and I didn’t want to be viewed as “the son who isn’t like his father.” 

Let this story be a lesson to all of you out in the field. When your gut is telling you that something is not right, regardless of the circumstances at hand, listen to your gut and stand your ground.

Sean McCormack is co-owner of BMC Plumbing and Heating Inc. He can be reached by Email at; Phone 845-596-7770; Twitter @seantheplumber1; and Periscope @seantheplumber. Visit Sean’s website at

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