June 12, 2013

The Value of Listening...and some really cool plumbing tips

I'm always stressing to my students and students in the program how important the simple skill of listening is.  We talk about a lot of business, utilize (and praise) the support of ASMP and try to cast our students out with a solid understanding of the business tools needed to find and retain a client.

I recently had an experience that taught the lesson better then anything that could be or has ever been said in a classroom.  To understand fully you need to know that my wife and I have a rather small house in the western suburbs of Chicago, if you have been out you know what I mean.  Alongside Kate and I, are our two boys, 10 and 12 so the real estate of the single bathroom is at a premium.  My poor wife, surrounded by her three boys (even the 2 cats and hamster are boys) the shower is often her only escape.

For about a year now the pressure has been on a steady decline until recently when it barely had the pressure for the faucet to convert itself from tub filler, to a shower.  So like anybody who doesn't want to attempt a re-pipe or other fix I started calling around to get an idea of what a fix would involve.  And don't get me wrong, I do a lot around the house but the thought of water spewing in from all angles is enough of a visual for me to call a professional.

Call number one: a ten-minute inspection and a three thousand dollar estimate (of course they won't know for sure until they 'get inside.'  Get inside what?  The pipes??? Are you really going to get inside, I thought you already said they all need to go???

Call number two yielded a similar 10-minute once over, although this one did at least turn the water on to check the pressure.  This was $950.00 for a partial re-pipe after taping on the pipe like a damn Pipe Whisperer to determine that the original 90+ year old pipes are full of 'gunk.'  I gotta say, I'm no plumber but the pipe whisperer bit (and the look on his face while he waited for the pipe to air it's secrets) was both too odd and too much for me.

While at a little league game, (our city and our oldest) are big into baseball, another parent told me her cousin-in-law is a plumber who lives a block or two over.  A couple messages back and forth and I was answering a very thorough battery of questions, the conversation ended with me texting him a couple detailed images of fittings, faucets and other plumbing 'stuff'. He explained I may need new inserts on the faucet, with the pictures he would be able to bring the right one.

I really like where this is heading already...

When he showed up he checked everything out and said quietly, let me try something...he reversed the flow of water through the valves to insure nothing was lodged in the valve restricting the flow.  He downplayed his actions, saying we should rule it out before doing anything else.  Fifteen minutes later, the flow was back to normal, actually with more pressure then ever.  Both hot and cold had substantially more pressure then in the ten years we've owned the house.  The grand total...less then a hundred bucks for labor...

He didn’t fix my shower, he earned a client.  He could have increased the pressure in the sink and made the toilet fill faster, but times are tough and the difference in a four digit and two digit solution is huge.  Will we need to eventually re-pipe, sure, it's a 90+ year old house, did he tell us that?  Yep, but if a quick reverse-flow-flush would buy a couple years isn't that a better solution for everyone involved?  I'll never call anyone else and I didn't have to sell a kidney.

If my son were reading this he would sarcastically say 'cool story, tell me again' but my point is this: when your phone rings take the time to really understand what it is your client is seeking.  If they need a shot of the lobby in their new building for the website, take the time to see what the rest of the site looks like.  A formal architectural interior or a quick shot with your dSLR are completely different and both have their place. Portraits, heck everything can be done, really done or just barely done, take the time to really learn what your client wants.  Clients are hard to find nowadays but from their prospective so are kick ass photographers who know just what they need and can consistently do it efficiently while exceeding their expectations.  


  1. Thanks for sharing! This post was a great read... :)

  2. Great post and happy to hear that you can take a shower again!

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