Pimlico Plumbers founder Charlie Mullins on the importance of PR and marketing

Employing a 99-year old man to clean vans increased revenue by millions, says the founder of Pimlico Plumbers

Pimlico Plumbers catapulted itself into the headlines when it hired ‘Britain’s oldest worker’ Buster Martin at the ripe old age of 97 to clean its vans, and as founder Charlie Mullins explains to Startups in this video, the publicity this generated resulted in a huge boost in revenue for the business.

Whilst employing Buster was “the best PR job we’ve ever done”, Mullins claims that it was not originally for publicity, but for a much more mundane reason. “He wasn’t taken on for PR – he was taken on to clean a few vans,” Mullins explains.

But it wasn’t long before the two PR agencies Pimlico employed spotted a major opportunity to play up the connection between Pimlico Plumbers and the nonagenarian van cleaner. Back then, the firm’s publicity was mostly handled by high-profile PR man Max Clifford, and as Mullins recalls, “it didn’t take Max too long to work out what a great asset he was”. “Buster Martin was a cheap commodity – we just got him from the old people’s home down the way,” says Mullins. “It was nothing complicated, just a bit of part time work. But we spoke to Max Clifford, and the rest is history.”

Indeed, the publicity generated by Buster Martin was such that Mullins estimates he has been worth around £10m to Pimlico Plumbers – increasing revenues by 30% on the back of the exposure generated. “All companies need to be recognised,” says the millionaire plumber. “I don’t think there’s any better way of getting recognition than getting help from the best people in the business.”

Understandably, this experience has left Charlie Mullins a firm believer in the power of PR, and he has some words of advice for business owners. “Marketing and PR is very important, but unfortunately a lot of businesspeople think they can do it themselves,” he says. “You’ve got to go to the people that can do it. As soon as you realise that you’re not the expert in that field – get someone who is.”

And Mullins is quick to stress that Buster is more than just a mere mascot for Pimlico. “He’s a great asset to the company anyhow – you can see our vans are the cleanest in the industry,” says Mullins. “So he’s obviously good at his job.”

Buster Martin passed away in 2011 at the age of 104.

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