Don’t Be a Slug


Frank Blau
Contributing Writer

“What’s a slug?” one of my industry friends asked me not long ago. For those who don’t know, a slug is a type of snail. Snails are slow and primitive, so I used the term to describe people in our industry who fit that description. Most people regard snails/slugs as loathsome creatures – except for French chefs, who call them escargot and prepare them smothered in butter.

The fact that some people in our industry didn’t know what a slug is leads me to believe that they may not be able to identify the PHC industry version either. So I have prepared a little quiz to test your powers of perception. Answers and scoring are at the end of the article.

Frank Blau’s Slug Quiz

1)     If direct job costs are $1,000, your overhead is 15{938cd9e8dae860e800efc538277d4f7684e6f6981618ba70d1c34357a53c2e1f} of sales and you wish to make a net profit of 10{938cd9e8dae860e800efc538277d4f7684e6f6981618ba70d1c34357a53c2e1f} of sales, how much would you have to sell the job for?

  1. $1,333
  2. $1,286
  3. $1,250
  4. Huh?

2)     Do you know your dollar-per-billable-hour overhead factor?

  1. Yes.
  2. Approximately.
  3. No.
  4. Huh?

3)     A reasonable net profit is…

  1. 20{938cd9e8dae860e800efc538277d4f7684e6f6981618ba70d1c34357a53c2e1f} and up.
  2. 5-10{938cd9e8dae860e800efc538277d4f7684e6f6981618ba70d1c34357a53c2e1f}.
  3. What everyone else makes.
  4. What’s “profit”?

4)     The industry’s biggest problem is…

  1. Contractors who price their services below cost.
  2. Home Depot.
  3. Columnists who remind me of my ignorance.
  4. Contractors who charge too much.

5)     How much do you pay your employees?

  1. More than anyone else in town.
  2. The going rate.
  3. Below average.
  4. As little as possible.

6)     Flat rate pricing is…

  1. A way to get prices in line with value.
  2. Opposite of rock bottom prices.
  3. Not time & material.
  4. A greedy rip-off.

7)     Customers are…

  1. To be pampered.
  2. Money machines.
  3. A pain in the rear.
  4. I lost all of mine.

8)     Business education is…

  1. Essential.
  2. Be nice to have.
  3. Too costly and time consuming.
  4. Unnecessary. I already know everything there is to know.

9)     Who do you rely upon to pay for your business education?

  1. My customers.
  2. Myself.
  3. The manufacturers.
  4. The government.

10)  I spend most of my time…

  1. On management and marketing activities.
  2. Working with the tools.
  3. Fixing my mistakes.
  4. Blaming others for my mistakes.

11)  I read the trade magazines…

  1. From cover to cover
  2. To look at the new products.
  3. When I’m on the john.
  4. No time to read.

12)  A P&L is…

  1. A critical snapshot of business conditions.
  2. A computer report.
  3. A bunch of numbers that I don’t understand.
  4. Letters of the alphabet.

13)  How do you determine what prices to charge?

  1. Figure my costs and overhead, then add my profit goal.
  2. Find out what my competitors are charging and charge a little more.
  3. Find out what my competitors are and charge a little less.
  4. Consult an astrologer.

14)  How much should a PHC business owner get paid?

  1. $100,000 and up.
  2. Industry average.
  3. Whatever’s left over.
  4. No more than my daddy made.

15)  My employees are…

  1. My most valuable assets.
  2. People who work for me.
  3. The cause of most of my grief.
  4. Always quitting on me.

16)  Selling is…

  1. The essence of business.
  2. Something I ought to do more of.
  3. Something I hate to do.
  4. Immoral.

17)  How do you decide which products to sell?

  1. Best value, highest profit margins.
  2. Whatever’s on sale.
  3. Whatever’s easiest to install.
  4. Whatever’s cheap, white and chrome.

18)  How much should a contractor pay a spouse who works in the business?

  1. Market value or above for comparable professionals.
  2. Whatever’s affordable.
  3. A token amount.
  4. Slave Wages. That’s what spouses are for.

19)  Do you have a dress code for service techs?

  1. Mandatory uniforms, clean and pressed.
  2. No nose rings.
  3. No policy.
  4. Mandatory display of butt cracks.

20)  How often do you pay your suppliers?

  1. Take all discounts.
  2. Within 90 days.
  3. When I get some extra cash.
  4. When there’s a gun to my head.

21)  Who are your role models in business?

  1. Contractors who make a lot of money.
  2. Contractors who manage to stay in business.
  3. Anyone who does better than me.
  4. Guys who go broke subsidizing their customers.

22)  How will you support yourself in retirement?

  1. Pension plan, other investments.
  2. Social Security.
  3. Hope to make a killing selling my lousy business.
  4. Plan to work the rest of my life.

23)  What is your favorite magazine?

  1. Plumbing & Mechanical.
  2. Brand X.
  3. Playboy.
  4. Comic books.

24)  How do you respond when people ask what you do for a living?

  1. “I’m a business person/contractor.”
  2. “I’m a craftsman.”
  3. “I’m a plumber.”
  4. “I’m just a plumber.”

25)  Would you like your children to carry on your business?

  1. Absolutely.
  2. Maybe.
  3. Hell no, I want them to go to college and get a good job.
  4. The last thing they want to do is work in my crummy business.


Slug Scale: Scoring is simple. Give yourself 10 points for every 1. response, 3 points for every 2. response. 1 point for every 3. (just for being honest), and 0 points for every 4. Add them up and find out where you rank on the Frank Blau Slug Scale, as follows:

200-250 – You leave the slugs far behind and soar with eagles!

150-199 – You’re a bit behind the times but show signs of evolving to a higher state of existence.

100-149 – You have one of the most progressive minds of the 19th Century.

0-99 – Better stay away from French restaurants!

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