HVP interviews Pimlico founder Charlie Mullins about the current state of the industry during the coronavirus crisis.

Q: What was behind the decision to offer NHS staff free labour on emergency work?

A: I am keen to do what we can to help our NHS heroes by taking away some of the stress of dealing with a home emergency. Anything we can do to alleviate the financial pressure on these heroes, the better.

We have already helped a number of NHS staff since we introduced the free service who have been extremely grateful for all the support they are receiving from the public and businesses. We have fixed emergency floods, electrical problems, boiler breakdowns, and have received some incredible thanks.

Q: Offering a discount to NHS workers is a welcome gesture, especially during a period of uncertainty for plumbing and heating businesses such as your own. What impact has the coronavirus crisis had on Pimlico as a whole?

A: We have had to streamline our business and make sure that key workers that are here are safe. We have offered them parking so they don’t have to take public transport and they all get free food and hot and cold drinks. We gave everyone the option to either work or furlough, it was entirely their choice.

For the staff who have continued manning the call centre, we have also given them a bonus of up to £140 as we appreciate their dedication to helping us help the vulnerable, elderly, and the NHS in emergencies. Some of the team have been working from home where possible.

Q: What is Pimlico doing to protect its tradespeople who are still working on the front lines?

A: We are doing a number of things to help our engineers firstly all calls are screen prior to sending them out. We ascertain that the customers are not ill or suffering with any symptoms before confirming a job.

All engineers now have strict PPE, which includes:

  • Foot covers
  • Face masks
  • Gloves
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Washbasins in their vans.

Q: How would you rate the response of government in supporting businesses such as yours through this difficult period?

A: The government acted quickly and decisively to help the majority of businesses, but some companies may still fall through the cracks. There are processes which are still not entirely clear and, with no end in sight, some companies will be having to make tough decisions because it’s not worth increasing debt on an uncertainty. But it’s hard to tell what else the government can do as we have never faced this unprecedented situation before.

We are doing what we can as a business to support our staff, but it really isn’t completely straightforward how the whole furlough process will work.

Q: Having built the business from scratch, you will have no doubt gone through some challenging periods as a business owner. What advice would you give to small business owners in the plumbing and heating sector to help ensure they recover from this crisis?

A: It is important to try and focus on the positives. Setting short term goals which, as each one is achieved, takes a business a step closer to the other side of this crisis, is an essential strategy.

One of the early stages of dealing with the crisis many have gone through is controlling and securing cash for the coming weeks, along with working out the best way to support and protect their workforces. We can only adapt stay strong and try to keep the economy going.

We also have to keep in mind that in our industry people will always need services and that is something to be thankful for right now. You also need to be brave and, as I have done, lead from the front. 

If it’s your business stand up and be counted. There is nothing more inspiring than to stand side by side with your staff and give them the motivation to keep going. It is something I have always prided myself on and will continue to do.

Q: Do you expect there to be any long term impact from coronavirus – in your business and/or across the industry as a whole?

A: Well, obviously there will be some impact but mostly indirect, people are always going to need plumbing and other services so I don’t think the demand will go away, although it may drop off slightly. We switched the business to emergencies only which has kept not only us going but, as I said before, the vulnerable, elderly, and the incredible NHS.