Charlie Mullins

Charlie Mullins: How I made it

To mark Global Entrepreneurship Week (Nov 12-19), Secret Millionaire’ Charlie Mullins, managing director of the UK’s largest independent plumbing firm Pimlico Plumbers, shares the secrets of his own success.

I was born in Camden and grew up on the Elephant and Castle estate in south London. Not the nicest part of the world admittedly, but the place taught me the value of a pound, and that I didn’t want to stay there all my life.

I left school when I was 15. Biggest mistake of my life - I should have left at 14! There was this bloke, Bill Ellis, the local plumber, people used to respect him, and he was theonly bloke about who had his own car and went on holidays. I used to bunk off school and help him do plumbing. He took pride in doing a good job and was the only person I knew who had a car, and from that moment on I decided I wanted one too.

When I finally got out of school I got an apprenticeship. I set up on my own pretty much as soon as I’d finished my time. I’ve never looked back since; I set up Pimlico Plumbers in 1979, with a second hand van and a bag of tools, and now I’ve got 150 engineers and a workforce of 200 all together.

I get up and most days go for a swim pretty much straight away, then a quick shower and I’m on the road by about half seven. It’s about an hour drive from my place in Kentto our depot in Lambeth, but these days that’s not wasted time. By the time I’ve landed in London I’ve generally been on the phone to everyone, my PA, service managers, My PR manager, whoever I need to talk too really.

As far as I’m concerned meetings are over rated and get in the way of achieving things. I’ve never met my bank manager and I don’t intend to either! Once I hit the office I dealwith anything that needs the ‘personal’ touch’ and generally have some breakfast. At Pimlico we have our own 24-hour cafe, so it can be anything from just a cup of tea to afull fry up, or cheese on toast.

Generally I get out of the place by about 7pm, unless there’s something on in the evening.

As for the secret of my success – I’d say it’s lots of hard work and just ‘common sense’. I look at things and think what’s the most sensible way to deal with this and usually thatworks. I suppose the biggest problem is that common sense ain’t that common!

Apparently if you ask the people I work with they’ll tell you it’s attention to detail… and sometimes they mutter something about OCD. Don’t know what that’s about, since tome doing something to the absolute best of your ability is common sense!

To other budding entrepreneurs I would strongly advise going with your gut instincts. I’m not saying don’t accept or even ask for advice, just don’t think others necessarily know better than you, especially when you’re trying to figure out what’s best for you.

I started my business from scratch with just a bag of tools and a very old van bought at auction. Pimlico Plumbers now has over 150 professional engineers and a support teamof around 50 staff, with a turnover in excess of £17 million.

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