Decisions: Charlie Mullins, Pimlico Plumbers, Founder/MD of London's largest independent plumbers

MY BEST ...

by
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Having personalised number plates for all the vans was an unbelievably good decision. It's money in the bank. The first number plate we bought was 15 or 20 years ago. I paid £6,000 for 'DRAIN'. I think I'd spotted it and a company man came to me and told me it would be great for my business, and I thought, 'he's right!'.

It was a straightforward publicity and advertising thing, and then obviously an investment. If someone put £100,000 on the table for DRAIN, they couldn't have it now.

Every other day, I'll get phone calls about our number plates, but I'll never sell one, because they're an investment. A lot of people know us from them. We actually have customers phone us up saying: 'Will you send me BOG 1?, will you send me LAV 1?' It's true as anything. They get to know the plumber by the number plate.

We also use them for charity - 'spot this number plate and we'll give a couple of quid to charity'; so we get the publicity there. To me, it has become part of us, as we've done it for ever.

MY WORST ...

A mistake I made in business years ago was not putting the right people in place. I'd been doing the HR, the recruitment, trying to do everything. I was interviewing, hiring, firing, getting out and doing the job. But I've since learnt that you need to delegate.

As time went by, I realised that if I'd put the proper people in place at an early stage, we would be a bigger and more powerful company than what we are now.

What stopped me doing that? One reason would have been finance; the second would have been my normal instinct not to trust people. That's just people ... You just don't believe that they are as good as they can be.

Some plumbers are a waste of time, but I can also tell you that we have some brilliant tradesmen out there - not just at Pimlico, but throughout Britain, but we never recognise them.

We always look at plumbers as being nuisances. You have to learn to recognise people's qualities. And if I'd picked that up at an early stage, we'd be twice as big.

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