Charlie Mullins, Founder of Pimlico Plumbers: A rags to riches story
In our March Rockstar series, facilitator Rosie Coxshaw invites our guest speaker to share the near misses, trials and tribulations and key ingredients he believes are the recipe for entrepreneurial success.
As the plumber turned-millionaire introduces his story he soon reaches the question of how he scaled, which for Charlie comes down to hiring the right people and firing the wrong people.
“The hardest and best thing in business is employing people. The only way to make money and scale is to build the right team around you”
It’s all about the people
“No successful business doesn’t treat their staff well because it just doesn’t work.” Charlie goes on to tell our member audience that letting go of your ego and understanding that you can’t do it all is a fundamental part of the process. Once you realize this, get the right managers in, learn to delegate and trust people, the success starts. How to find the best people? “Pay the best money” Charlie answers.
“Hire them right and get rid of them right”
Charlie’s next simple bit of advice is to put the right people in the right jobs and know how to get rid of the ones that don’t fit. The hardest thing in business is hiring people and getting rid of them. The best time to get rid of someone? “As soon as you think of it” our guest speaker answers.
The three things that set Pimlico Plumbers apart as a business
- Quality, personal service
Pimlico Plumbers wasn’t the cheapest on the market, but people will pay for quality. Charlie says price never bothered him because to provide the top quality you need to charge a top rate. They would do 2,500 jobs a week, 80% of which were returning customers, all because of this personal service. The “marry the plumber to the job” motto was a key part of the service, matching the right plumber with the right customer, a testament to the personal knowledge Pimlico Plumbers had on both the employee and customer.
- Hiring the right people
“Get recruitment right and HR right and the rest will sort itself out.” It takes time to find good people but once you have them, treating your staff well is fundamental. At Pimlico Plumbers, they were big on incentivising staff, so the office space was always full of rooftop BBQs, parties and social events, as well as having a stream of monthly award schemes to ensure there was a real incentive.
At the very start of the company journey, Charlie was advised to invest in PR. At first, he tells our audience, this felt unnecessary, but as he came to discover, you can have the best service in the world but if you aren’t recognised for it there’s no point. As the recognition grew so did the business, so this soon became a key ingredient that set them apart.
What went wrong and what drove you to carry on?
In the late 80s, the company was struggling financially and owed a lot of money. The essence of the problem was money, so their solution was to take payment upon completion instead of giving out credit and keep the cash flow going. When asked what drove him to carry on when he nearly lost his house and “went bust”, Charlie openly admits there was a strong financial drive, but also a desire to understand what went wrong. He had taken the business from £1m to £5m at this point, so he wanted to unpick how this template that had been working, collapsed.
The lessons Charlie learnt from the near miss:
- Stay in financial control – Banks control you, so don’t let them run your business.
- Get paid – More often than not, companies go bust not because you’ve gone wrong but because they are owed money. Only work for people who will pay.
- Don’t listen to busybodies – We get too many busybodies in Business. Keep it simple.
“I’m never going to retire, I’m not going to read a book and sit in a corner”
Charlie shares a story about his fiancé, a singer who in the last few years went from performing on the hotel circuits to bringing out an album and an EP, and securing a manager. He makes the point that when you find success, it rubs off on others. It’s clear that there are new business ventures on the horizon, but the main energy coming across around next steps is Charlie’s enthusiasm for imparting the knowledge he has learned. “I don’t want to waste all that knowledge. If you talk to people you can change their path.” And on that, he finishes with a decided clarity that you won’t find Charlie Mullins, Founder of Pimlico Plumbers retired in a corner any time soon.
Here is a video from the event: https://www.instagram.com/p/CpVJcOeIf26/
If you’re interested in enriching your entrepreneurial experience and finding a strong community of entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders then contact our membership team at Home Grown.