Charlie Mullins is everything an entrepreneur should be – An antidote to the stuffy suits of the City.
Outspoken and well known for his political views and no-nonsense attitude, Charlie seems to thrive in situations that would leave many businesspeople flustered.
Business Report speaks to the London entrepreneur and managing director of Pimlico Plumbers about his drive to succeed and how he has organically grown his business from a sole-trader to a 200- employee, £17million business.
Like many successful entrepreneurs Charlie came from a working class background but had a strong will to change his environment for the better.
Whilst many people will recall famous idols when they talk about people who inspire them, Charlie’s came from an unusual source, at the age of just nine.
“I remember in my childhood meeting a local plumber who really inspired me. He was popular, and earned more money on a single job than my father who worked in a factory did in a week.”
During his school days would bunk off lessons to help the plumber with his work in West London
“Coming from a poor background, being able to find something I could be successful from and earn a lot of money was my motivation”
Focus is a recurring theme when interviewing entrepreneurs and combining that with a passion for what you do is a recipe for success.
Charlie said: “For me I loved plumbing, being creative with your hands and being well liked within the community were things I aspired towards.
“It is really important that you like what you do. I’m a firm believer in not putting square pegs in round holes.
“In the past we have done this in recruitment but it doesn’t work, people need to be motivated to do what they do.”
Pimlico today employs 200 people with a turnover of £17million; amazingly enough all of this has been done organically without the help of the banks whom Charlie has strong opinions about.
“I have banked with our current bank since 1990, I have never met my bank manager and never will.
“My opinion is they are crooks in suits and have contributed to a lot of business failures.
“For me, a personal experience during the last recession meant a property I owned went from being worth £250k to just £50k in less than a year. This £200k loss in assets resulted in having to put up not just another business property, but my home to secure the business future.
“If you’re in business you need to be working for yourself and not a bank.”
Charlie also has even less time for the benefits culture which he believes has caused problems for businesses like him.
“Recruitment today is a big problem for most businesses, there are too many people out there who don’t want to work and as a country we have paid and incentivised people to stay at home and are now paying the price.
“I have had several discussions with George Osborne, Boris Johnson and key people in government to put forward the idea of giving these people to companies who can put the benefit contribution towards an apprenticeship but unfortunately the proposals get watered down to the point they lose their effectiveness.”
Investing in young people is also something Charlie is passionate about. “Coming from an under privileged background I know the struggles that many youngsters fine themselves in, which is why I got involved with the Princes Trust.
“We regularly bring youngsters into our company and show them the working environment, for many young people it is the first time they have been inside an employers office, there are even a few people that fear the workplace.”
For those youngsters out there who believe they have no chance or there are no opportunities or formal skills we need to show them that if they work hard then there are opportunities out there.
Charlie also offers some advice to other businesses. “I am often asked what the secret of our success is. There is no magic formula, it’s just doing the basics and doing it well. “Our motto is ‘keep it simple’. Our business has been built upon a common set of values and they are, great service, our people dress smart and are well presented, we always turn up on time and tidy up after ourselves.
The future for Pimlico looks bright; they have successfully played their part in changing the face of plumbing and hope to further expand on their 6% share of the London plumbing market.
Despite being offered numerous opportunities with firms to use their brand Charlie has always stayed focus on his own business.
“For us offering a good level of service is important and we can only control that if the person is employed by Pimlico.
“I’ve never really bought into the whole franchise concept that tried to exploit our market. To have a consistent level of service you need to know who is working for you and not just have lots of independent tradesman all working off a brand.”
Company Pimlico Plumbers Ltd
Website Pimlico Plumbers Ltd
Plimico Plumbers are one of the UK's largest plumbing businesses, specialising in domestic plumbers the business rose to fame through its founder Charlie Mullins who appeared on an episode of 'Secret Millionaire'