A-list clients, luxury cars and Dubai escapes – it’s the norm for the man behind Pimlico Plumbers
9 min read
25 January 2017
Charlie Mullins is the epitome of self-made. Having gone from skipping school to apprentice to then open Pimlico Plumbers, the business has a £30m turnover, which has given him the keys to the good life.
Indeed, what Pimlico Plumbers has become today is a far cry from founder Charlie Mullins’ early days, though it was childhood when his entrepreneurial vision ignited.
Long before Pimlico Plumbers, Mullins used to skip school to earn money, doing things such as delivering milk and working with the local plumber.
However, early mornings and an apprenticeship shaped his path further, which eventually led to the launch of Pimlico Plumbers. A thriving British business today that runs 24/7 with some 300 staff, Mullins has been able to forge himself an enviable lifestyle and admitted he much prefers spending his money than saving it.
His love of luxury is highlighted with an overseas arm of the business opened up in none other than the prestigious Spanish city of Marbella.
We caught up with Mullins about his journey to the top and how he spends his time when he’s not working as part of our Business Class section.
(1) Were you born into wealth or has your success been self-made?
I was definitely not born into money; there were no silver spoons in my house when I was a kid, let alone in my mouth.
When I was born we lived in a couple of rooms in Camden, and then when I was still at school we moved south of the river to the Rockingham Estate at Elephant and Castle.
(2) How much did your first job pay?
I started working when I was still a kid, and the earliest memory was getting two bob a day from our local plumber, Bill, when I was nine-years-old and used to bunk off school. I had a load of other jobs doing the milk and running errands, which paid whatever I could get.
My first real job was as an apprentice plumber, and that was £4.8s.6d. It wasn’t a lot at the time, but it turned out to be a pretty decent investment in the future.
(3) You have achieved business success within the plumbing industry. How lucrative has the marketplace been for you, and what excites you most about what you do?
Plumbing is my passion. I dabbled with being a professional boxer, and that was an option until I got knocked out fighting for London against Wales; I ended up in hospital that night, and after that I couldn’t get a licence to fight.
It’s true, the marketplace has been very lucrative for me, and the reason for that is that is that there was a gap for a top quality, high-end service, which I filled as a one-man-band, and which the Pimlico Plumbers team continues to fill.
(4) Pimlico Plumbers clients include Simon Cowell, Helen Mirren, Richard Branson, Keira Knightley, Daniel Craig, and more – how did you win their business?
Everybody likes to have the odd celebrity client, and we have a lot of them – but I’d say we won their business the same way we have won the business from thousands of non-celebrity customers, and that’s by being the best.
It’s all about service, and I think people who find fame are used to the best, which I hope tells people about what we’re offering, but we treat everyone, famous or not, with the same care and consideration.
(5) What has business ownership taught you about money management?
I never had any money when I started out in life, and happily I have money now. I’ve always known the value of a pound, which is something you tend to appreciate more perhaps when you grow up without a great deal of the stuff.
I do like to spend what I make, so maybe what I’ve learned is that there’s a lot of pleasure to be had in enjoying the benefits of your own hard work, and being able to share it with others, be they family, employees, or even strangers sometimes.
(6) Tell us about your smartest investments
The four years I spent as an apprentice, getting up at 5am so I would be on site on time, being told what to do all the time, when often I was pretty sure I knew better.
And in a more conventional sense I’d say the Pimlico Plumbers headquarters in central London, and my collection of plumbing-themed number plates, which some say are worth £1.5m.
(7) Do you get more satisfaction from spending or saving your money?
Spending, without a doubt. I work hard, the people around me work very hard, and I genuinely enjoy taking advantage of what I have.
I’m not a hugely religious man, and even if I was, you can’t take it with you!
(8) What are your most expensive hobbies?
It has to be buying cars; don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’d ever splash out £10m on a rare classic Ferrari like Chris Evans, but I love my Bentley Mulsanne.
We also have a Porsche, a couple of Mercs and a VW Golf for running about town. I guess as much as I love cars, like most things with me, they have to have a practical purpose to be worth the money.
(9) Most prized possession?
That’s my Bentley again, I’d have to say. I am looking for a new villa in the south of Spain, and I’m pretty fussy, so when I finally do that deal, I’m hoping that will take over as number one.
(10) What are your favourite luxury brands?
Brands? I’m like the next guy I guess. I like Prada clothes and Cartier watches, but it’s the bespoke stuff I like the best.
For a lad from a council estate like me being able to have my own Savile Row tailor-made suits, and being able to wear really nice handmade shoes, is the definition of luxury.
(11) Where has your most luxurious holiday taken you?
I’d like to tell you a tale about going on safari for six weeks in southern Africa or something, but when I go on holiday I like to relax.
And because time is also a factor, I want to be able to kick back by the pool and recharge my batteries, but for me I also need to be in contact with the business, otherwise I can’t fully relax.
For this reason, my most luxurious holidays are taken in Dubai, because of its luxurious hotels, where the service ethos means that nothing is ever too much trouble.
(12) Excluding property, what has been your most expensive purchase?
That would once again be my Bentley Mulsanne, in Pimlico Plumbers blue, of course, and the second most expensive was its predecessor, an Azure – also Pimlico Plumbers blue.