Small Business Stories: Charlie Devlin

Growth and strategy

27 May 2016

In 2010 Charlie Devlin decided he wanted to be his own boss, so he gave up his full-time job and started his own plumbing business. As if that wasn't enough of a challenge, he chose to do it abroad in Australia. After years of grafting, he brought his successful business back home to Glasgow.

Today, Charlie's Plumbing Services is growing fast, and he's taken the time to share some of the lessons he learned along the way – like the power of humour and the importance of clean clothes.

If you could give some advice to yourself five years ago, what would it be?

I'd want to go back further. Ten years ago I was working full time for a company in Glasgow's West End, working very hard for a fairly basic wage. My advice would be to listen to myself, not to others – I wish I’d made a go of running my own business back then instead of waiting.

What’s been your biggest learning curve?

Understanding how to make customers feel relaxed and happy when I'm working in their home or business. Gaining trust is a big part of my job. Over the years, I've learned that some customers can feel uncomfortable with the experience of having a tradesman in their home, and a joke and a smile can go a long way.

What was your most unexpected moment?

It has to be the day AXA phoned me up and told me that I had been chosen for a photo shoot. This is my first and, most likely, my last!

What plans do you have for your business?

Right now I'm very happy with the position of my business, but in the future maybe I'll be sat behind a desk and sending one or two employees off to do the dirty work!

Who gave you the best piece of business advice, and what was it?

My best ever business advice came from my old boss when I was an apprentice. He told me, “never wear the same t-shirt two days in a row, people will think less of you.”

When did you realise your business was going to work?

When I arrived in Australia, I realised that my business was going to work almost straight away. Going under Down Under wasn't an option for me, so I made sure it didn't happen by staying focused. I brought that same attitude back to Scotland with me.

How would you like to be remembered as a business person?

Pretty much how I am right now: friendly, reliable and not too expensive for my services.

What tips do you have for anyone thinking of starting a business?

Think big, think positive, and don't let negativity pull you down. Most importantly, take the weekend off if you can!