You might fancy yourself as a self-reliant kind of guy. But no man is an island. You also need an 
archipelago of reliable service-providers to see you through life’s trickier situations. Follow this guide to recruit your own personal back-up team to keep you on form and match-fit.

Plumber

Sign Him Up
Don’t know your float valves from your sump pumps? 
Join the club. That’s why it’s easy for a dodgy plumber to overcharge or bill you for unnecessary extra work. Without a trusted recommendation, your next best bet is to seek the services of a plumbing company registered with the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA). “A good plumber will communicate clearly what the problem is, what he is going to do to fix it and how much it will cost,” says Ken Gardner, CEO of a plumbing business.

Trade Him In
A grumpy service provider is never much fun. But it’s even worse when you have to endure their gruff presence inside your own home. “If you’ve found someone who isn’t calm and collected, it can be really hard to negotiate what needs to be done and ensure that it’s being done properly,” says plumber Richard Jesse. If you don’t feel comfortable asking them questions, you’ve got a problem, he says. Secondly, while you probably want your plumbing problem dealt with quickly, a plumber who isn’t busy is not always a great sign. “Good plumbers usually have work banked up for weeks, but they’re also worth waiting for,” says Jesse. If they’re out the door and on their way before you’ve got off the phone, questions have to be asked.

Your Game Plan
Once you’ve found your plumber, ask them for a service contract, says Gardner. It’ll provide clarity for you and the plumber, as well as a clear and concise quotation about the work to be completed and the 
costs involved.

Personal Trainer

Sign Him Up
Do you dream of nothing more than beating that ex-first team rugby mate of yours at arm-wrestling just once? Your ambition may be laughable, but your PT had better keep a straight face. “You need to know that your goals and safety are your trainer’s priority, too,” says trainer Dan Andrews. This level of engagement allows them to modify your programme and develop new goals to match your improving fitness. Beyond that, you want education. “You want results, but you also want to learn how to achieve them by yourself,” says Andrews.

Trade Him In
“The biggest advertisement for a trainer is themselves,” says Paul Haslam, a sports scientist. “Take advantage 
of the one time you really
should judge someone’s appearance, because it’s the first indication of whether they know what they’re doing.” Alarm bells should also ring if they don’t ask questions. “If a trainer isn’t asking about your previous fitness experience and medical history, walk away,” says Andrews.

Your Game Plan
The average man doesn’t like being ordered about at the best of times, so forging some form of personal connection is key. To find out if your trainer is right for you, Andrews recommends sticking it out for three or four sessions before making your final decision. To improve your chances of a successful trial, look for someone with an exercise science degree as well as a qualification in nutrition. “Then you’re almost bound to have found a great trainer – if you can get along with them,” he says.

Doctor

Sign Him Up
When you’re trying to stay healthy, a good doctor should be your eagle-eyed coach on the sidelines. “Your GP should identify factors that require monitoring or treatment, as well advise you on preventative activities and better lifestyle choices,” says GP Dr Tony Lembke. But the most important element of your relationship with the man in the white coat is trust. “You need to feel comfortable enough to tell your doctor everything, including the things you’d never tell anyone else,” says Dr Andrew Rochford, resident health expert on numerous TV shows. Monstrously swollen gonads? They may be harmless (indeed, even a bonus), but let your doctor 
be the judge.

Trade Him In
If your doctor seems more preoccupied with his schedule or isn’t showing genuine concern with your issues, it’s time to head elsewhere. “Every concern of yours should be a concern to your doctor,” says Lembke. “If there is nothing to be worried about, why not? You should always leave with your mind at ease.” The bottom line: if your doctor’s only diagnosis is hypochondria, then you’re not getting the treatment
you deserve.

Your Game Plan
“You’ll find better treatment from someone who is familiar with more of your medical history, so the sooner you build a strong relationship with your doctor, the better off you’ll be,” says Rochford. The quickest way to give a new doctor an immediate snapshot of your overall health is to book in for a check-up to get your key health screenings done.

Barber

Sign Him Up
Some haircuts make you look like an extra from one of Die Antwoord’s music videos – and not in a good way. Avoid them. “You want to find a hairdresser who listens to you,” says award-winning hairdresser Joey Scandizzo. “And you don’t want to be afraid to say yes or no to their suggestions.” Over time, you’re looking for someone to develop an instinctive understanding of you, your tastes and your hair, so that they can offer informed opinions that work for you. Are they discouraging you from that pink Mohawk? 
They might just be doing you a favour.

Trade Him In
After forking out for a cut, you don’t want to be told you need multiple products to keep it that way. “A decent cut should hold it’s shape, so if your hairdresser is telling you it’s essential to buy all these products to maintain it, you need to find someone else,” says veteran hairdresser Dario Chicco.

Your Game Plan
Word of mouth is generally your best bet. “If you have a mate who really likes his hairdresser, ask who it is,” says Chicco. “The same goes for someone on the street – if you like his cut, find out who did it.” Once you’re in the chair, you also need to take some responsibility. Chicco recommends ongoing feedback throughout. Want a little bit more off the top? Let them know. At the end of the day, it’s your wallet and your mug that will be staring back in the mirror.

Financial Adviser

Sign Him Up
You wouldn’t trust your life savings to some pimply kid 
in a cheap suit. Similarly, it’s reassuring to see some runs on the board in terms of your planner’s experience. Equally vital, however, is that they’re up-to-speed with the latest investment tactics and schemes. “Experience is invaluable in this industry, 
but financial strategies are always changing, so you want to find someone who has the intelligence to keep up with them,” says Noel Whittaker, financial planning guru and author of Making Money Made Simple.

Trade Him In
Beware of scammers. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” says budgeting specialist Tammy May. You also want to know the advice you receive is independent. Do your homework to establish whether your adviser is licensed to a large institution. “Find out who their shareholders are,” says Whittaker. “If they are working for a large bank or insurance company, you want to ensure they aren’t just pushing 
their own products and investments towards you.”

Your Game Plan
Grill your adviser before signing up with them. “Ask how long they’ve been in their role for. How many clients they have. What investments they’ve made,” says May. These high-stakes issues call for an accredited professional, so seek out a certified financial planner (CFP). This enforces uniform standards of competency, practice and ethics. Finally, there’s no point in using a financial adviser if you’re not honest with them. “It’s a waste of time if a financial adviser doesn’t know your complete history,” says May.

Mechanic

Sign Him Up
Just because you were handy with Meccano as a kid, doesn’t mean you understand the internal combustion engine. “You want someone who can diagnose the problem 
almost instantly,” says Tim Moggridge, who heads up a roadside assist programme. “After you’ve briefly described the issues with your car, look for follow-up questions that show they know what they’re talking about,” he says. What you’re ultimately looking for is a mechanic who’s technically competent but who can explain the problem in language you don’t need a degree in aeronautical engineering to fathom.

Trade Him In
You need to know the cause of your car troubles and how to avoid them in the future. “If a mechanic is dismissive of your questions or theories and tells you to leave it with them, you’d better find someone else,” says Mark Dutton, head engineer of leading V8 Supercars team, Red Bull Racing. “It’s your money and your car so there’s no reason you should be left in the dark during the repair process.”

Your Game Plan
The easiest route to safe results? “Go to your car manufacturer’s local dealership,” says Dutton. 
“It might cost more, but you know the mechanics there are specialists for your car and are more likely to do the job properly.” Alternatively, guard against the rip-off merchants by doing a bit of industry research. “If you know how much a certain part costs and whether it’s an easy fix for the mechanic, you’ll be able to tell if the quote sounds like a good deal or not,” says Dutton.