Pimlico Plumbers: Charlie Mullins
The founder of Pimlico Plumbers on creating one of the most recognisable brands in the industry
I’ve been in plumbing since about the age of 10. I used to bunk off school to go and work with the local plumber in Camden Town. And it was great. He was very well respected, everybody looked forward to seeing him, and he was the only person I knew that had any money. Thank God he wasn’t a bank robber!
I left school at 15 with no qualifications, which was a mistake, really. I should have left at 14. I would have got into plumbing earlier and we’d probably be a bigger company now. There was no value in staying on. I knew from the age of 10 that I was going to be a plumber, and that’s all I ever wanted to be.
I did a four-year apprenticeship, and then immediately set up on my own. I worked for an estate agent called Pimlico Properties. At the time it was booming; they were converting houses in the area into flats, so there was a lot of work to do. A few years later, I rented a room in the basement and set up the business. Everyone called me the Pimlico Plumber, so it seemed like the obvious name to have.
I’ve always wanted to be different from Joe Bloggs the plumber, who hasn’t got a good reputation. They never turn up on time, they’re never smart, they always have a rusty old van. If they’ve got to go back to a job they don’t turn up, they never get it finished and they charge excessive prices. My idea was to do the opposite. Suddenly there was this plumbing company where they turn up, they’re smart, they’ve got a good van, they get on and do the job, complete it there and then, and charge a reasonable price. I think I’d have been happy just to be a plumber working for myself, to be honest. I didn’t necessarily set out to start a company. But the demand was there and it was just an obvious thing that had to be done. If I’d have realised earlier what we could achieve by hard work and employing the right people, we would probably be four times as big as we are now.
I’m a great believer in going steady and progressing slowly, and we’ve built the business up on reputation. We very quickly formed a dos and don’ts book which we called the Pimlico Bible. We deal with about 1,500 jobs per week, and 70% is repeat business. It doesn’t matter how much marketing you do, people will only use you if your quality of service is up to standard. If a customer uses Pimlico, we hope that they become a Pimlico customer for life. I haven’t worked as a plumber for 25 years, but people still ring us up now and say: “Charlie put my bath in for me.”
Charlie Mullins was speaking to Steph Welstead.