“Whatever the size of the business, family has been key to our success,” Charlie Mullins, CEO and founder of Pimlico Plumbers tells me.
“Whatever the size of the business, family has been key to our success,” Charlie Mullins, CEO and founder of Pimlico Plumbers tells me. “Whether it’s my family, our extended family in our workforce or the families we provide our services to, we always aim to provide a personal touch that sets us apart from other firms. The brand of the company is also essential, and we have worked very hard to make ourselves the most recognised as well as the best home services company in London.”
Pimlico Plumbers is UK’s leading family-run service and maintenance company, employing a workforce of highly skilled tradespeople specialising in heating, bathrooms, drainage, electrics, appliance installation, repair, carpentry, roofing, building and air conditioning, with a 24-hour service for all maintenance needs.
Charlie founded Pimlico Plumbers in 1979 which started as a one-man plumbing job. With a second-hand van and a box of tools, Charlie built his customer base from scratch in the Pimlico area. It was through sheer hard work and passion that brought his company to where it is today. 40 years later, Pimlico has expanded to offer a wide range of services, completing over 100,000 jobs a year with a turnover of more than £50 million.
“Like any new business trying to get off the ground I had to put in the hours and the shoe leather to get myself known,” he said. “l bought a second-hand van and an old bag of tools and got out there to try and win the work. Once I’d landed my first few customers the jobs began to flow in, and the seeds were sown for the future.”
Building his company’s reputation back in the day was no easy feat. Customers were often sceptical about hiring out plumbers as many were notorious for unsatisfactory work - that was when Charlie realised he had a gap in the market to fill.
“The biggest challenge was not about my business, but the plumbing industry itself, Charlie explained. “It has a terrible reputation for cowboy tradesman turning up in battered vans, untidy with their backsides hanging out of their trousers, do a bad job and then rip off their customers. It made potential customers sceptical of the service they’d receive, so I had an uphill struggle before I’d even knocked on their door.
“It made me take a step back and think about what needed to change about the industry that I could apply to my business that would set Pimlico apart. I was starting to win work in the more affluent areas of London like Kensington and Chelsea where residents were used to a top-class service in their dealings with other businesses, so why shouldn’t it be any different with their plumber.
“I had my guys in smart uniforms and immaculate vans, turning up on time, doing a cracking job and leaving the property in a clean and tidy state. It’s an approach that has remained at the core of our business for 40 years. Others have copied what we do, and, as long as they do it well, I don’t mind as its good for our whole industry. “
Staying competitive and thinking one step ahead has put Pimlico Plumbers at the forefront of their competition, making it the UK’s largest independent plumbing company – but keeping it in the family was their true secret to success, Charlie said.
“Undoubtedly, family is the beating heart of Pimlico and has been key to our success,” Charlie said. “Not only because the family is working in the business, but because their lifetime involvement in Pimlico makes it second nature for them to deliver and share our vision for Pimlico with our extended family of more than 400 workers and our customers.”
“I am nothing but proud. Pimlico is in their blood; they love the business as much as I do and give it their heart and soul every day,” he added. “My son Scott has been involved since he was seven-years-old and he has developed his skills and expertise as the business has grown. He has been integral to its success and I see my grandson Ashley, and my granddaughter Daisy, who are both already Control Room Managers, following the same path to success.”
Charlie’s oldest son, Scott Mullins, is Pimlico Plumbers’ Managing Director and is the main man in charge of day-to-day operations and the company’s strategic growth. Charlie’s grandson, Ashley Mullins is one of the control room managers and manages the coordination of jobs for engineers while granddaughter, Daisy Mullins, also helps manage the control room, assisting with customer appointments and ensuring operations run smoothly.
Speaking about his decision to keep Pimlico in the family, Charlie said: “As Pimlico became more successful so did the approaches from investors, particularly those in private equity keen on taking a piece of the business. Like any good entrepreneur I considered all options, but ultimately, I knew that I wanted Pimlico to remain 100 percent a family business. We have an exceptional team here and the members of my family that are involved are in Pimlico on merit and are exceedingly talented, living and breathing this business. I don’t see the benefit of bringing in outside investors when the talent I have in the business is proven and is part of a structure that is successfully driving the business forward.”
Charlie loves working with his family and seeing his business flourish in the hands of his son and grandchildren, making him not only a happy business owner but a proud father and grandfather as well.
“From a more emotive perspective, I love working with my family and seeing them flourish in the business that I founded. It is extremely satisfying and makes me hugely proud to see them take increasingly prominent roles in the running of the company and maintaining the philosophy I created for Pimlico 40 years ago.”
Scott began working for his father at the age of seven, answering phone calls and washing company cars until he was old enough to get behind the logistics side of things.
“I’ve worked for Pimlico all my life,” Scott said. “I think that is common in family businesses for children of business owners to find themselves involved from a young age, and I was really keen to help my Dad as much as possible. I was about seven when I was taking phone calls for him and sending him messages on his bleeper with details of jobs.
Scott said starting young gave him a much-needed head start and allowed himself to fully immerse in the company while learning the ins and outs of the plumbing industry.
“It was my first step towards running the call centre years later! I also washed vans in the yard to earn a few quid and it was from then I really felt part of the business. Working with the plumbers, learning how the industry worked and how Pimlico was trying to change it, all gave me the ideal grounding to build a career at the company for the long-term.”
Ashley, Scott’s son, started working for Pimlico aged 16 during his apprenticeship. He was inspired by his grandfather Charlie and wanted to get out on the road, tending to people’s homes as a plumbing and heating apprentice. He always saw his grandfather as a source of inspiration, and from day one, knew he wanted to be a part of Pimlico’s future.
“I built my experience at Pimlico from a very young age I have always aspired to be part of the family business, the drive and motivation of both my father and grandfather was totally infectious,” Ashley said. “I have been brought up to be grounded and with no mistake its hard work that makes you a success. Nothing has just been handed to me, it’s all about commitment, determination and drive.”
“It’s honestly great having my father as my boss, he is absolutely my role model and I have always looked up to him,” he added.
Scott’s daughter, Daisy, started as a Pimlico employee through their apprenticeship scheme in business administration role, and soon progressed to a control room manager.
Daisy praised her father, Scott, for empowering her with business knowledge and work ethic, but also for keeping her grounded. As Pimlico employees, Daisy said she and her brother, Ashley do not have special treatment and just like every other staff member, have to crawl their way up the career ladder.
“My father Scott has literally taught me everything I know, from the importance of great customer services to how to gain control over a busy working environment,” Daisy told me. “The main thing I’m happy he did for both Ashley and myself is he kept us both grounded. Although we are a family, we don’t get treated any different to anyone else here at Pimlico.
“We started off at the bottom and worked our way up gradually. People may think we were handed things but once you get to know us, you realise we work for everything we have and that is thanks to my dad. I will treasure that lesson from him for the rest of my life. He also taught me about having a good work ethic too.”
Despite its challenges, Scott insisted working as a family has been Pimlico’s driver for success. forward. Their shared sense of passion and drive has helped instil motivation in their staff, allowing them to push their business to greater heights.
“There is a shared sense of responsibility and passion that only comes from a family business and enables us to share that passion with our team that they then apply to everything they do for our customers,” Scott said. “We are a business that doesn’t do meetings, we stand and chat things through and decisions are made quickly. I think that being family members helps with this as we have the same mindset, which is also shared by our management team that have really bought into the company philosophy so we can remain agile and responsive.”
“You're collaborating with people you trust and care about. It’s a very nurturing environment, where we are all working toward a common goal,” he added. “We are family so there are similarities between us of course. We are a close and have worked together all our lives so no we don’t clash. There are certain pressures that may arise but we deal with them collectively.”
It’s not all work no play for The Mullins. Just like any other family, they take time off for leisure, dinner gatherings, barbeques and holidays together. However, they all abide by one rule - to never talk about work outside the office.
“Just like any other family when we leave work, we are just grandfather, father and son we go to football, meet for dinner and take holidays when we can,” Ashley said. “We also have our own individual families and spend any free time equally with them. We never talk shop though that’s our rule and that makes it work.”