“Wolseley isn’t as competitive as it should be and that’s strangling the business,” comments Pimlico Plumbers founder Mullins, who has been fixing other people’s toilets since he was 12. “We have negotiated better deals with smaller suppliers, which are eating into Wolseley’s market share.”
Although Mullins has put a freeze on overtime for his 35 office-based employees, he’s surviving the downturn by focussing on efficiency: “We have a new vehicle tracking system that allows us to see which plumbers are closest to a job,” he explains. “This means we can get to more customers in a day. No-one’s allowed to waste any time.”
His approach is working. “With one month left to trade this year, turnover is up ten per cent on 2007’s figures.” And he hasn’t had to resort to redundancies.
While the sharp downturn in the housing market has battered companies such as Wolseley, Mullins reckons it has worked in his favour. “Customers are more inclined to call in the experts to make sure everything works properly, so they can avoid getting work redone or repaired.
“DIY used to be regarded as the ‘cheaper’ option, but it doesn’t always give the right results. Now the common trend is for ‘right first time’ and ‘pay once for quality’.”
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Want to listen to Charlie Mullins talking about builders’ bums, female plumbers and unblocking Gordon Ramsay’s drains? Click here.
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