PartnerHacker Weekend 12/24: Ask a Plumber, They Know the Secrets

A quick recap of the PhD from this week:

Recently published:


  • Partner Ecosystem Kickoff - January 17 - Let's dive into some tactics to make 2023 the best year in the history of partnerships. Don't miss this half-day event. Pre-register here.
  • Amplify Summit - January 17-18, 2023 - Save your seat at this two-day affiliate event hosted by our friends at Affiliate Insider for free here!

Merry Christmas!

PartnerHacker Christmas Card

Blue Collar Wisdom: Things tradesmen do that can help you win in the era of ecosystems

I was a plumber's assistant for a few years (my LI profile as it turns out, is far from historically accurate). In that time, I learned many valuable lessons, some of which are resurfacing now.

This partner ecosystem movement that we’re all a part of is reminding me of some powerful tenets my old boss ingrained in me.

He was a plumber by specialization but he made most of his money as a general contractor. To land the money-maker projects, you needed to show enough proficiency as a generalist to prove that you were competent enough to land the contract. Think the partnerpro generalist.

I knew this because he was never opposed to answering my NEVER ENDING questions. In fact, he seemed to welcome them. Over a few years, and a few thousand questions, I began to build a deep understanding of what worked with his business model.

Here are three blue-collar tenets I learned:

1. "Doin’ it alone ain’t worth it.”

Alone is impossible. Businesses die when you try to cut costs by doing all the work. It doesn’t matter if you can. My boss was very good at laying the foundation of a house. He knew what good looked like and could have done it alone.

Instead, he brought in experts because they were faster, had specialized tools, and worked as a well-oiled team to get the job done more efficiently than he and I could.

One time, when building an extension to a house in Dana Point, I asked him why we didn’t just build the foundation alone and pocket the extra money. His answer had several good reasons, some focused on the bottom line or his own interest, and some focused on feeding the ecosystem.

He said:

“Rebar benders and concrete pourers have to eat too, and they’re faster than I am. I’m not greedy enough to do the extra work for a few thousand dollars. It may cost more but the customer is willing to pay for a much faster and better job. Plus I don’t like bending rebar all that much, it hurts my back.” 

2. “I got a guy for that.”

My boss had a guy for EVERYTHING.

Every plumber has a story about being under a house to fix one problem and coming back up with three more.

One time I remember him calling out from under the house, “Grab the book and call Matt, see when he can get down here. I’m going to clean up and talk to the customer. They’ve got mold.”

The book was a Rolodex of business cards from all of the people he called on when needed. He cared about his customers and his guys (partners). And when you think that way, it turns out everyone wins.

Here’s his mental calculus:

  • My Boss gets a finders fee from the mold guy Matt + a happy customer who no longer has a mold problem.
  • Mold Guy Matt gets an inbound and urgent lead + some borrowed trust to close the deal, which = he’s happy to give my boss a finders fee.
  • The customer gets a discount for the combined work + fixed plumbing + no mold disaster, which all = TRUST (who’s he calling for the next project?)

3. "Wear your company shirt, smile, and talk to everyone who will listen.”

My boss understood marketing at a fundamental level. This was his way of living-in-market.

One time I asked him why he talked to literally everyone in a store.

He smiled through his beard and said, “They all have houses don’t they?”

He made it his mission to make everyone he could smile while wearing his company shirt. So the next time they had a problem they knew who to call.


“Doin’ it alone ain’t worth it.” - PartnerUp

“I got a guy for that.” - Always have someone to point your customer to.

“Wear your company shirt, smile, and talk to everyone who will listen.” - Live-in-market.

I hope this serves as a reminder that you can learn from anyone if you’re open.

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