Meet the MD: Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers

Meet the MD: Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers

Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers, one of the UK's largest home service companies, talks to BQ about his career so far, why he setup the business and what makes a great business leader...

What does your role include?

As the founder and MD of Pimlico Plumbers, my role is to provide the leadership for the business and ensure our operations and our people maintain the exceptionally high standards I’ve set for the company. 

While I haven’t been ‘on the tools’ for a few years I still get my hands dirty when it comes to the day to day operations of the business.

I make sure I get around all the departments, from customer service to our in-house garage to keep across what’s happening.

 

What is it the company does?

Pimlico Plumbers is the UK’s largest home service company, which serves private and business customers across central and greater London. 

Our core service is plumbing and heating, but we also offer carpentry, electrics, drains, appliance repair and installation, bathroom and kitchen fitting and small building works.   

We have an army of more than 240 experienced professional tradespeople and around 95 support staff, including a team that operate our 24-hour call centre from our HQ in Lambeth.

The company has established an excellent reputation, which has enabled us to serve some very prestigious customers, including celebrities, sports stars and politicians, who, along with all of our customers, demand the best service from the best companies.

 

What do you believe makes a great leader?

The best leaders lead from the front and are willing to stand by the courage of their convictions.

It’s important to be assertive and confident, but most importantly to have the guts to make tough decisions and stand by them.

Sometimes it might be the wrong call, but it’s the best entrepreneurs that are prepared to make the call, even in tough circumstances.

 

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

When I bought our current HQ, all 35,000 sq ft of it, the challenge was to build a business that justified such as large property in the heart of London.

We have achieved that and, in fact, we are bursting at the seams of the building, constantly remodelling the interior to maximise the space. Luckily I know some good plumbers, sparkies and builders!

Recruitment is also a challenge, not because people don’t want to work for us, we’re inundated by applications. The problem is finding the people with the right experience. As an employer we’re feeling the effects of the severe lack of investment in vocational training by Tony Blair and Co that has created a skills shortage.

Good tradespeople are now at a premium and we have had to recruit from outside London and the South East to get the best. We are, of course, investing in apprenticeships and would take many more on if the Government introduced a fully-funded apprenticeship scheme using money given to kids as Job Seeker’s Allowance.

 

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I like to travel and I have a villa in Spain. There’s nothing better than relaxing by the pool. That said, my phone is always at my side and I’m in constant contact with the office in London or I’ll pop along to see what the lads in the Marbella crew are up to.  

 

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A plumber, without a doubt. From the first day I skipped school to work with Bill I knew that’s what I wanted to do. He had a nice house, he had money and everyone respected him. He said if I could become a plumber I would never want for work and have lots of money, and he was right.

 

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?

I hate meetings, so the only way to deal with that is ban them.  Why have a sit-down with ten people when you know the answer will be either yes or no?  In the same vein I don’t like people who can’t make decisions.  In that case I make it for them!

I also can’t stand banks and bank managers so I never let them into my business!

 

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

I want a greater share of the London market, which will help get turnover to over £50m with a workforce of around 500. If we keep doing things to the standard we are now, stay ahead of the market with new ideas and keep developing skilled people I don’t see any reason why we can’t make it happen.

 

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Keep it simple and run a business on common sense. When people visit Pimlico Plumbers they are amazed at how simple our operations are.

They are just done, very, very well, which is one of the reasons we are successful. I’d also encourage people to not copy others, but be different.

This comes from being bold and not letting people talk you out of an idea. Most of all, don’t waste time talking, it’s all about action.