Starting a plumbing business can be a very lucrative opportunity. You may have heard of famous success stories like Pimlico Plumbers, now the largest independent plumbing firm in London. The company was launched in 1979 by Charlie Mullins, who left school with no qualifications, started out as an apprentice plumber, and went on to amass a £70 million fortune.
Of course, this kind of success requires the right combination of skilled tradesmanship, business acumen, and dedication – not everyone succeeds in building an organisation quite like Mullins has. Many plumbers will be happy with owning a smaller firm that provides them self-sufficiency and allows for a better work-life balance (which is commendable in its own right).
Whatever your ambitions, this blog will explore what it takes to launch and grow a plumbing company. We’ll start by looking at the skills and experience you’ll need to get the business off the ground, then go on to discuss the process of setting up a private limited company. To conclude, we’ll explain how you should market your plumbing firm, drawing on some tips from Mullins himself.
Becoming a Self-Employed Plumber
Of course, the first step towards setting up your own plumbing firm is to become a self-employed plumber. To do this, you’ll need to take one of three routes:
- Completing a traditional apprenticeship.
- Completing a fast track plumbing course.
- Working as a plumber’s mate.
All of these career paths and the qualifications involved are explained in detail in our guide to becoming a plumber in the UK. Once you’re qualified, you should work for an established firm for a few years and pick up some experience before you consider becoming self-employed.
Gaining Skills and Experience
Whichever route you take to become a plumber, you’ll pick up skills and experience that are vital to running your own company down the line. Remember that it’s not only important to have organisational skills and a mind for business, but also to excel in all aspects of plumbing and people management.
Your training and on-the-job exposure to common plumbing tasks should set you up with technical skills you’ll need, which will help you when you come to set up your plumbing company. As the boss of your own firm, it’s important that your employees respect you as a tradesman and look to you as an example of how the job should be done, particularly if you start to take on apprentices.
Before you think about employing other people, though, it’s a good idea to upskill by taking on some more advanced plumbing training courses and expanding your portfolio of talents. Specialising in particular areas or even qualifying as a gas engineer will help you to differentiate your firm in the future and broaden your potential client base.
As the owner of a plumbing business, you’ll need experience of managing staff on-site. Starting out as an apprentice or plumber’s mate could help you with this because you’ll see how the day-to-day management process should work from the employee side. Equally, if you’re a manager in another industry and are looking for a career change, your management skills will be a transferable asset.
Setting Up a Private Limited Company
Ideally, you should have gained your plumbing qualifications and had some experience of working for an established firm before setting up a private limited company. Without the skills and experience that this will provide, you might struggle to pick up much work given the levels of competition between plumbing firms.
After this, you could think about registering with Companies House. It’s important to approach this decision in a careful and considered way. Before you make the switch, try taking on a member of staff to see how you get on. You might discover that you’re more productive on your own and, as an employer, you’ll have to pay out for PAYE, which could throw a financial spanner in the works.
There are, however, advantages to setting up a private limited company should you decide to go ahead with it. You’ll be able to expand your firm without worrying about the bankrupting yourself if it all falls flat: when private limited companies go into administration, the directors’ personal financial assets are safe beyond the company shares they own. This also applies in the event of legal trouble.
You can register with Companies House online via the government site, which also contains lots of useful information on whether this is right for you and your business. In short, the process involves:
- Choosing a company name.
- Selecting directors and a company secretary.
- Deciding on shareholders and guarantors.
- Identify people with significant control (PSC) over the business.
- Preparing documents agreeing how you will run the company.
Marketing a Plumbing Company
After you’ve launched and employed some staff, the next step is to start promoting. When marketing a plumbing company, social media should be one of your main promotional channels. Start by creating a free business page on Facebook. By posting regularly and engaging with users that like and comment on posts, you can build up lasting relationships with potential and existing customers.
Another important step is to sort out your local search engine optimisation (SEO). Create a Google My Business (GMB) page; this is a free means of marketing your firm that allows you to tell people about information such as opening times and your business address(es). Google users in your local area will then be able to find your business by searching for terms like “plumbers near me”.
If you’re in a position to do so, you should also consider creating a website. You may only have the resources to do this once you’re slightly more established in the industry, but a website is a really useful marketing tool: as well bringing in more customers that search for businesses like yours online, a business website also acts as a virtual storefront and makes your company look much more professional (if done right, of course).
Digital marketing aside, there are plenty of traditional, offline techniques that work well when marketing a plumbing company. In an interview with This is Money, Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbing, advised that “memorable signage on your place of business, vehicles, and unique and memorable traditional media advertising are still invaluable.” Particularly for businesses that only operate in a small area, branded company vans and newspaper ads are a great way to increase awareness in the local community.
We hope this blog has helped you to decide whether starting a plumbing business is right for you and, if so, given you some useful tips on how to go about it. Should you want to follow this career path, Skills Training Group can help you get there. Whether you’re a complete beginner or simply want to upskill, we have a plumbing training course that’ll help you get ahead – contact us today!