Opinion

Perception is only half the battle for a gold-plated reputation

4 min read

07 August 2018

When I set up Pimlico Plumbers in 1979, plumbing didn’t have the best reputation, plagued by cowboys turning up in rusty vans. I had to change this perception if I was to stand any chance of winning, and keeping, work.

It’s a philosophy that has served me well from those early days driving round in my old, but clean, van, with a second-hand bag of tools, fixing taps and installing radiators in the big houses of central London. Right through to today where we have an army of several hundred engineers and trades people operating across the Capital.

It led me to create the “Pimlico Bible”, a manual which clearly sets out what is required of our people, from how they dress in the distinctive and smart company uniform, how their Pimlico van should be kept pristine and how they deal with our customers.

By doing this, we set ourselves apart from the competition and set the standard for other firms to follow. And, to be honest, I don’t mind if they follow. I’ve always wanted our industry as a whole to be better perceived, which will happen if our way of doing business and portraying ourselves to customers is universally adopted.

We’re always ahead of the curve anyway and happy for the rest to play catch up!

But, that said, perception is only half the battle if a business wants to gold-plate its reputation and win the holy grails that are repeat business and referrals.

This is often down to the fundamentals of business, including having the infrastructure in place to make sure firms can deliver on promises to customers.

This is easier for established SMEs rather than startups, but smaller, fledgling enterprises need to look at this stuff very early on if their business is to have any future at all.

Take insurance for example. It’s not everyone’s favourite outlay, but it’s vitally important for every business, and especially for one-man-bands taking their first steps into the world of entrepreneurialism.

In some industries certain insurances are mandatory, but it’s the one’s that aren’t compulsory that can catch a business out.

According to some recent YouGov research, some four million British people have seen their property damaged or a member of their household injured by the work of a self-employed person like a cleaner, decorator or babysitter.

The study says the majority of Brits think personal liability insurance is important for workers in their home, but most fail to check if the people they hire have the insurance to pay out if things go wrong.

The company behind the research, Zego, reckons nearly a fifth of people that undertake work in people’s homes, including full-time tradespeople, are working without insurance.

This is a dangerous game to play. They’re putting themselves, their livelihoods and, of course the property and possessions at risk.

I applaud anyone who wants to go it alone and become a paid up member of Britain’s entrepreneurial class, but they won’t do themselves or anyone else any favours if they try and cut corners.

I was always told if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. That doesn’t just count for what a business does, but how it does business too.