What town/city are you based in?
Number of generations
Number of employees
Tell us about your family business (What you do, how you started, who’s involved etc)
Pimlico Plumbers is the UK’s largest independent plumbing company founded by Charlie himself. After completing a four-year plumbing apprenticeship, Charlie started out with a second-hand van and a bag of tools. In 1979 he established Pimlico Plumbers from a basement of an estate agent in Pimlico. The company continued to grow and is now based in Lambeth, employing 350 people a current turnover of in excess of £35 million.
From the beginning Pimlico Plumbers set out to change the image of the plumbing industry, which Charlie says was plagued with ‘plumbers who turned up late, driving rusty old vans, dressed in scruffy clothes, providing sub-par workmanship and ripping off customers’. Pimlico is different and has strict policies that are the opposite of all that Charlie perceived to be wrong with the industry, and is what the company has become famous for. Also, being a family business, the company is able to offer a personal touch to services.
Charlie has been at the forefront of Pimlico Plumbers since founding it in 1979 and continues to do so today. He has led the business through everything, including difficult times in the recession in the early 1990s, through to today’s £35 million turnover operation. He now uses his experiences to give advice to other businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs, sharing what he’s learnt at many different inspirational events, conferences and panel discussions. This not only includes other businesses but young people too.
Knowing what a great opportunity his apprenticeship was, Charlie has gone on to campaign for more young people to be able to get the same chance. He’s involved with various local colleges and youth projects, as well as doing inspirational talks for young budding entrepreneurs. A big part of his influencing agenda has been in his push for government to introduce a nationally funded apprenticeship scheme, making it easier for businesses to bring young people on, and giving them a skilled career.
Charlie’s impact in both the local community and further afield can also be seen in his position of patron of The Prince’s Trust and founding member of the Trust’s Enterprise Fellowship. Here he not only provides financial support but also brings youngsters to Pimlico Plumbers for work experience placements, and continues to give them all the advice he can. Aside from many charitable causes, Charlie also supports various small business campaigns and has recently branched out to set up a Pimlico Heating & Plumbing Merchants, a trade only plumbing wholesaler.
What’s your proudest moment/biggest achievement as a family business?
Charlie’s proudest moment is receiving his OBE for services to the plumbing industry. He is the first, since the world famous, Thomas Crapper, to be honoured in this category. The honour has made Charlie particularly proud as it’s a trade that’s given him so much in life. To him, it proves that hard work pays off and, more importantly, has given him recognition for his continuing campaign for apprenticeships. There have been many small victories along the way, but with this status, he will be able to take it much further, which he is determined to do.
On top of this, he is proud to see his family legacy continuing through the generations, especially with his grandchildren now well into their careers having started on an apprenticeship and following in his footsteps to a skilled career for life. He prides himself on a workforce that is happy, friendly, honest and trusting in his leadership – and also dedicated to the amelioration of the PP community.
What do you love about being a family business?
Charlie loves being able to work closely with his grandchildren and watch their business minds grow and develop.