When Charlie Mullins founded Pimlico Plumbers in 1979, he had no idea that one day it would become Britain’s largest independent plumbing company. Last year, after four decades at the helm and his fair share of highs and lows, Mullins sold the company for £125m to explore other business interests.
Since then, the former advisor to David Cameron and George Osborne on business matters, has invested in Great British Radio and become a national newspaper columnist. Here he shares his insights in helping businesses achieve growth and profitability.
On taking on more employees
- It may sound stupid when you say it out loud but to be successful in life you’ve got to have you’re own business, and to be successful in business you need to employ people.
- In fact, taking on employees is the key to success and the best way to grow any business – the more people you employ, the more successful you are going to be.
- Taking on more employees means you can take on more work and expand the reach of your business.
- To grow your business, hiring someone – whether it’s another person like you to double your output, an apprentice or junior to learn the ropes, or someone to manage your paperwork and handle customer queries – is always going to be a good move.
- Bear in mind, though, the additional responsibilities that come with being an employer, including things like employers’ liability insurance, which is a legal requirement for most businesses with staff.
Clearly lay out your terms of business
- My next piece of advice for running a successful business is to make your terms clear to your customers, and stick to them like a religion as the business grows. Customers may not always agree with your terms but they will appreciate consistency.
- Small business owners struggling with cash flow should make payment terms very clear before allowing customers to rack up loads of bills.
- You might think being a serious business means you have to invoice monthly, but for lots of people it’s an invitation to pay you after 60 or 90 days. Far too many businesses go broke not because they are bad at what they do, but because they were unable to collect what they were owed. Never be afraid to ask for what a customer owes you when you have done work in good faith.
Secure repeat business
- When it comes time to scale up your business, you need happy customers who are keen to use your services again and will recommend you to other people. Remember, ‘once a customer, always a customer!’
- And how do you get customers for life? Well, you treat people with respect. Converting a customer from scratch is a lot of hard and expensive work. First you need to convince them to try your company, and not only is it difficult to get people to change suppliers, but think of the invisible marketing costs involved in getting that first phone call or email. Retaining customers whilst growing your customer or client base is vital to grow your business successfully, otherwise it’s one in, one out, and that’s no way to expand your operation.