16 May 2017

CHARLIE Mullins will tell you that apprenticeships are the way forward.....

CHARLIE Mullins will tell you that apprenticeships are the way forward for everybody- businesses and for employees. In addition, that building a successful business is not as complex as many might claim and believe!

And he is a man worth listening to because after leaving school with no qualifications Charlie became Britain’s first millionaire plumber with a business now employing more than 300 people and turning over tens of millions and with no signs of slowing down at all.

Charlie openly supports Apprenticeships at any given opportunity, it is the apprenticeship that started Charlie off in his business, and this is the reason for my visit to his head office near Lambeth Road, to meet with him to discuss Apprenticeships but also entrepreneurship and business.

So, what does a man who certainly ‘walks the talk’ think makes for success in business?

“The way I run my business isn’t rocket science, its common sense,” said Charlie, who after leaving school at 15 – he believes his mistake was not to leave a year earlier – went on to do a plumbing apprenticeship.

Now comes the rub: “The only problem is that common sense isn’t that common.”

Charlie was the typical ‘man with a van’ and when he started in business that is what he had – second hand of course - along with a bag of tools.
Being young in the age of moon flights, Concord and the early pioneering of medical advances such as heart transplants, Charlie had his feet very much on the ground and from just nine years of age he wanted to be a plumber.

“I set out to change the image of the plumbing industry and get rid of the stigma of plumbers always turning up late in rusty old vans, no uniforms and with the arses hanging out their trousers, bad workmanship and ripping off the customer,” he said.

For Charlie plumbing is a trade that should run as a profession with high standards and it is an ethos that he expects from his employees.
His smart blue liveried vans and staff in uniforms have a corporate look.

His firm is regarded as the plumbers of choice for the stars, the rich and famous ranging from former Prime Minister David Cameron to stars of stage and screen and many more.

Apprentice training is part of raising the status and standing of plumbers. He is unhappy that anyone can call themselves a plumber and would also like greater regulation of plumbing including licensing.

In some respects, Charlie Mullins is a man of contradictions and is completely proud of this.
Born and raised on a London council estate, he is proud of his success and not ashamed to wear his money with a love of cars including a £300,000 Bentley. He has a number of homes and admits to spending a lot of money on holidays.

With a keen interest in politics, Charlie believes Margaret Thatcher helped to make it possible for people like him to ‘better’ themselves and set up businesses.

He has advised Government, including former Prime Minister David Cameron and the former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
However, he is much less enthusiastic about Prime Minister Theresa May and believes Brexit will prove to be a bad mistake.

He is a great believer in young people and a champion of apprenticeships. Charlie is a Patron of the Prince’s Trust and has setup ‘The Pimlico Apprenticeship School’ that he has put to Government and believes would help to dramatically cut youth unemployment.

Charlie is also a sponsor and fund raiser for The Rhys Daniels Trust that provides a home from home environment at Children’s Hospitals.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to put something back into society by helping others,” added Charlie Mullins.

But whilst being a strong advocate and champion of young people, Charlie has a huge regard for age and experience.

He makes no secret of the fact that he is keen to employ older people and someone over 100 and another in his 90’s have been on his books.
“Employ older people because their experience is priceless,” he added.

Experience and learning, at times from mistakes, is at the core of Charlie’s business success. He admits that borrowing from a bank was a huge error that almost resulted in the business going bust.
Perhaps it is because common sense is usually a product of age and experience and learning from the ‘school of hard knocks’ that it is not that common.

Charlie Mullins is in his early 60’s and put me to shame with his is very youthful look but what impressed me most was his energy levels shown in his enthusiasm and ambitions which include growing the business to an annual turnover of more than £100 million and having it recognised as the UK’s leading plumbing and service company.

I must say that in meeting with him, I found him truly inspiring, as he is the best kind of inspirer – doing it by example.

Please also review his take on my meeting with him on their website with the link below:

He is an avid user of twitter - connect with him on:

Thank you to all the team at Pimlico and Charlie for taking time out to support our promotion of Apprenticeships through “Apprentice to Executive” video series and the Asian Apprenticeship Awards.

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