People are always giving me advice, and a lot of it gets filed in my mental skip, but there are three instances that do stick in my head as having been worth heeding, and it's a good thing I did.
The first one won't surprise anyone who knows me, and came to me from a man I used to work for when I was bunking off school. His name was Bill and he was a local plumber, who lived on my estate when I was a kid. One day when I was on a job with him he told me that if I was happier changing a washer than going to school then I should go and do a proper apprenticeship when I was old enough. He said I'd never be out of work and I'd have a bloody good living, better than most of the other kids in my class.
I left school when I was 15 years old, and it was the biggest mistake I ever made! I should have left at 14 for all that extra year did me and I could have been earning like Bill said even earlier. The rest as they say is history. Without that piece of advice all those years ago there would never have been a Pimlico Plumbers.
Things went along quite well for me until the recession of the early 1990s, when I had grown big enough to get myself into big financial trouble, but hadn't outgrown the small company model of doing everything, or trying to, myself. I had a load of debt and I'd already been to see one financial guru for help, and been told it was hopeless. People are always giving me advice, and a lot of it gets filed in my mental skip, but there are three instances that do stick in my head as having been worth heeding, and it's a good thing I did.
I was the lowest I'd ever been until my accountant at the time offered me this piece of advice, he looked me in the eye and said: "You're probably going to lose your house whatever you do, so you might as well go down fighting."
It wasn't so much the advice it was the underlying thought that reminded me of my boxing days - you're never beaten until the referee counts you out and until the banks took everything I owned there was still a chance. I fought on, and we came out the other side stronger, wiser . . . . and crucially with a roof over our heads.
The final piece of advice that comes to mind is something that came from my marketing director, Tony Davison, who said to me: "You've gotta buy this building!"
The problem was it was about the turn of the century and Pimlico Plumbers was quite happily operating from a 5,000 sq ft premise, which was getting a little small for us, but I though another couple of thousand square feet would do for us for 10 years. Anyway the building we were standing in the street outside was 30,000 square feet, and cost several million quid. I don't even know why we were bothering looking at it, but you know how it is when an estate agent says - I've just got one more to show you . . . it's probably too big, but why not have a look?'
Well we looked, and it was that bloke's lucky day because for some reason I knew Tony was right, and I found a way to buy it.
It was a bit falling down at the time, and needed a lot of work, but these days it's fully restored and houses the entire Pimlico plumbers operation, all 20 million quid a year of the business. It's not that we wouldn't have grown without it, but we wouldn't have managed to grow at the rate we have over the past 10 years that's for sure!