Tag: advice

 

Many tradesmen start out in the business because they grew up with it, but for Bradley Jones, life as a tradesman is a real family affair.

Together with his dad, Steve, and brother, Danny, Bradley is 33% partner in their business, Johnson & Jones, which takes on a range of projects, from boiler replacements and demolitions to renovations and large loft conversions.

Going into business with his nearest and dearest wasn’t always in the plan though – it took leaving home for Bradley to realise where his passion really lay.

“At school I was always really good at certain subjects – maths, chemistry, physicals, all of that, I always did really well and was in the top set,” Bradley told us. “When I finished school, I wanted to carry it on, so I went to university to study maths. I was there for a year, but I realised I didn’t like living away from home, so I came back. Then I had to figure out what I wanted to do next.”

 

 

Bradley’s dad, Steve, was a gas engineer of 35 year’s experience, who’d spent most of his career working alongside a close friend. Bradley said: “I didn’t really want to go into the same line of work, but when I was sat at home, I realised I could help him out a bit. I got him joined up to MyBuilder, set up a profile for him, and started using it to find him jobs. Anything he got through the site, he’d give me a cut at the end. After a while, as well as doing that, I ended up going out with him on site, helping out where I could, cleaning up and stuff. I started to think about what else I could do to help.”

With brother Danny already following in their dad’s footsteps as a gas engineer, Bradley decided to follow a slightly different path. “I decided to become an electrician,” he said. “I knew electrics could be something I’d enjoy, because there’s a maths side to it, there are calculations to do – the electrician is always the cleverest person on a building site – although I would say that!”

Bradley committed to becoming a fully qualified and accredited electrician, becoming certified through NAPIT. “The fact that we have gas engineers and an electrician means we’re able to take on more jobs – we can cover everything. I can even go out by myself on weekends and evenings to do littler emergency jobs. If someone posts something up at 8pm, I’ll just head out and get it done.”

With the three working together and able to turn their hand to a variety of jobs, the company has grown massively, now employing a team of ten. “Any job that is there, we can undertake it,” Bradley said, “from something big like a loft conversion to smaller jobs stripping out a room or fixing up a boiler. We use MyBuilder to pick up quick jobs and fill in the gaps between the bigger projects.

 

 

Though based in Chigwell, Essex, the family work a wide radius, picking up jobs across London – they even did some work this autumn taking apart the old MyBuilder HQ when the company moved into new offices (we left positive feedback).

Despite all the time spent working together, Bradley says arguments between the trio are rare. “My brother and I never argue – I can’t think of a single time we’ve ever really had a falling out. It’s usually more that me and him will be up against my dad, because he has a different way of looking at things. Dad’s always think they know best! They don’t like to listen to their sons because they think they’re right. But to be honest, it doesn’t happen very often, and it never lasts long if it does. If anything, my mum will get involved, get everyone together in the front room, and force people to make up.”

As for taking work home with them, that’s just an occupational hazard. “Every time we come home from work, mum will open the door and make us take our work boots off before we come in the house. She must be sick of it – we’re out all day on jobs, come back late, then spend another two hours talking about work. Even when we’re out for dinner somewhere, we’ll be talking about work. She deserves a nice holiday.”

The future looks promising for the business, with the team looking to take on work with local councils to renovate and expand their housing stock. “It’s something we see more and more of,” Bradley said. “Generally, people seem to be moving less, so they think more about expanding. For councils, they need to maximise the space they offer, so they’re doing the same thing.”

If things do get busier, there’s always more manpower on the way. “My younger brother, Sam, is training as a carpenter – so hopefully he’ll be joining in soon.”

 

Advice for Tradesmen:

 

  • Work on your messaging: “Your initial message must be strong. It has to be professional. You can’t just say you’re interested, you’d love to quote and so on – it has to be in depth, introducing yourself and the company and what you do, and outlining potential costs based on what they’ve posted. And no spelling mistakes helps as well!”
  • Build your profile: “You need a strong profile. It’s your showcase. Especially with pictures, show off what you do and make it relevant – show off the big jobs and the small jobs so people know you can do everything.”
  • Go the extra mile: “Go that extra step for every customer – if it’s just 10 minutes do something while you’re already there, why not? Clean up after yourself, and take away your rubbish. The customer will remember you, leave great feedback, and call you when they need something again.”

 

One cup of tea. That’s how emergency plumber Tyrone Tash measures his jobs. “I like to turn up, get to work while I have my tea, and be done before I need a second cup. Then I’m off to the next job.” It’s a quick pace, but that’s how he likes it.

Life hasn’t always been that fast-paced for Tyrone. When he was a teenager, he found himself working on the tills for Marks & Spencer. “I was in retail for a while, working at three different stores,” Tyrone told us. “I worked in Ealing, then in Kensington, then I thought I’d be the best I could be, and moved to the flagship store in Marble Arch. I was on the tills mainly, and helping customers out, but I didn’t really feel like I was learning anything. After three years I’d had enough.”

Tyrone was at a crossroads. “I’d tried college, doing a course in leisure and tourism, but I knew deep down studying wasn’t for me. I wanted to work full time.” Luckily, something came up. “My dad is a clerk of works. He started out as a painter and decorator but now he goes round inspecting big building projects. He’s got high standards – if you’re not going to do it properly, don’t do it! So he never liked me tinkering at home, because I wasn’t going to do it properly. But he knew a lot of people in trades, and one day, one of his friends gave me a call.”

It was a call that would change Tyrone’s future. “The guy gave me a week to decide if I wanted to come and work with him. I was still in the shop, and I wasn’t sure, but I thought about it for a couple of days, decided ‘yeah, I’m in’, and quit my job. Then the guy told me he thought I was going to turn it down and he’d offered the job to someone else! But thankfully, he kept his word and took me on.”

 

 

The job was joining a large team of plumbers and other tradespeople working on large projects, such as newbuild apartments. Tyrone started doing four days a week on the tools, and one day a week in college. “The other guys used to take the mickey out of me for being a good little student, reading my books – they’d all been doing it for years and learned it all on the job,” Tyrone said. “But I appreciate having the qualifications now. It’s something solid you can show people.”

Tyrone knew from the first day that plumbing was for him. “I couldn’t have done decorating like my dad,” he said. “I’m sorry, but it’s so boring – you’re literally watching paint dry! But I knew plumbing would be for me. I’m an enthusiastic person, I like to get stuck in, and as soon as I was doing it, I just knew.”

It was a steep learning curve, but Tyrone thinks working on the large sites helped him develop his skills. “I spent four years doing new installations, and I learned to solder my pipes properly, all nice and neat. You’re doing it from drawings so you have to be exact, because if you put the pipes in wrong, when they come in and lay the concrete, you might suddenly find what you had planned to come out in the bathroom is now coming out in the bedroom.”

After a few years learning the ropes, Tyrone knew he wanted to go it alone, setting up 24-7 TT Plumbing and Heating, which has now built up more than 200 positive pieces of feedback on MyBuilder. “I just like being out there,” he told us, “where every day is different. On the same site every day, I go mad, it’s like working in an office for me, my brain just turns to mush. I like meeting new people. Six or seven jobs a day, that’s what keeps it fresh”.

 

 

That passion for novelty means Tyrone has found his perfect job as a reactionary plumber, becoming an emergency service of sorts for homeowners who find themselves with leaks, floods, and other plumbing crises. “I like being out there on the road,” he explained. “I got a new van five months ago, and I’ve already covered 10,000 miles. I’m all over north and west London, from where I grew up in Cricklewood out to Uxbridge and beyond – but not central. I can’t bear being stuck in traffic!”

Tyrone can do six or seven jobs a day, and although he can pick and choose his jobs these days, in the past he’s worked late into the night. “When I was doing all-night calls, you used to get people crying down the phone at you. It’s tough. The money is good because there aren’t many people who want to do those jobs, but it’s hard to drag yourself out, and you could be so tired.” Now, he tends to start work mid-morning and go into the evening, but can still end up getting home at midnight.

In the years he’s been working, he’s seen it all. “I don’t mind all the dogs and stuff, but you do end up in some strange places. The worst is when places are really dirty – I’ve seen dust gathering on top of dust.” He added: “One job I really remember was when someone rang me about a pipe that had split. He’d been on holiday in the USA and it was during a snowy winter a few years ago. His ceiling has collapsed, falling into his bathroom, but he couldn’t get someone to come see it because no one wanted to head out in the snow, and the water was still flowing. I had 12 jobs that day – I must have been the only one working. I got there after about four hours, and turned off the water in five seconds. I was like ‘sorry mate, I wish I could have got here sooner’. People need to learn where there stopcocks are though!”

 

 

Despite the long hours and tough jobs, it’s all been worth it. “It was hard, starting out,” he admits. “MyBuilder was great for building up my reputation though. That’s what it was all about for me – getting those reviews. I was chasing feedback over money to begin with. The first job, when someone took a chance on me and I didn’t have a review on there, I was so grateful, I practically did it for nothing. But I wanted the reviews. I used to look at other guys on the site and see how they did it. I was going for jobs all day long, then asking the people to leave feedback. You can’t beg them, but it’s worth explaining to them how important it is.”

Tyrone has big ambitions, inspired by the Pimlico Plumbers vans he sees around the capital. “I think it’s amazing the business they’ve built up. I’d love to grow into something like that – I already have the personalised plate for the van! By the time I’m 40, I’d like to have a team of people and be the one directing the work. Running a business is difficult, dealing with admin, and I’ve made mistakes along the way, but it’s been a learning process. I still enjoy it.” He might have a few more years to go in his van, but Tyrone is always keen to take on the next job, and always happy to have another cup of tea – just the one though.

 

Advice for Tradesmen

 

  • Timing is everything: “You can’t be late in this game, keeping people waiting is just rude. I tell people a window when I’ll get there, and I make sure I’m there.”
  • Stick to your quote: “It’s annoying if you make a mistake and you’ve underpriced it, but the person has accepted you based on what you told them. If you have to just charge for materials and undercharge for your time, I think it’s worth it to build your reputation build trust with a client.”
  • Give receipts: “Make everything nice and official, be professional. It’s not that hard to do but it helps everyone out.”

The leaves are changing colour, the evenings are drawing in, and before we know it, the clocks will be turning back. Autumn is here, and there are a host of things you can do to your home to get it ready for colder nights and wetter days.

Check your heating

Across offices and bars, the debate is already raging – have you turned your heating on yet? If you haven’t, then the chances are it hasn’t been on for a very long time. If that’s the case, then there’s no better time to make sure your boiler and your central heating system are all in full working order. Get yours checked over before all the engineers are busy with emergency callouts – or before you’re stuck with your own emergency breakdown.
Hire a heating engineer

Update your windows and doors

As temperatures drop, our cosy nights in can be rudely interrupted by cold drafts. Single-glazed windows and wooden doors can be the main culprits for these. Make sure yours are well-fitted and up to date to keep the cold out, and improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Hire a window fitter / carpenter

Repair any broken fences or gates

Strong winds and falling branches can wreak havoc on fences and gates, while wet conditions can cause wood to swell, warp and rot. Before any more bad weather sets in, it’s worth checking for any damaged panels or posts. Fixing them early can save money and effort further down the line
Hire a fencer

 

 

Fix damaged roof tiles

One of the easiest ways to prevent major problems from occurring is to keep an eye on your roof for signs of damage. Even a few loose tiles can lead to nasty leaks. An experienced roofer can inspect everything and should be able to show you pictures of any damage you might need to have repaired.
Hire a roofer

Make sure your home is insulated

No one wants a chilly and unwelcoming home when autumn begins to bite, so making sure your home is properly insulated is essential to keeping things nice and toasty. It can be a big job depending on what you want done, but can benefit your home for years to come.
Hire an insulation installer

Add new lighting

If you want to turn your indoor spaces into a safe haven from autumn’s damp and drizzle, lighting is key to creating the perfect atmosphere. Adding spotlights, accent lighting, or even just dimmer switches, can help change the character of a room with immediate impact.
Hire an electrician

Victoria Plum small bathroom Smart Walnut

 

In this guest blog, the team at VictoriaPlum.com explains how to make the most of a small bathroom.

 

2.4 metres x 2.7 metres.

According to a recent survey of VictoriaPlum.com customers, this is the average size of a UK bathroom. If you think about it, that doesn’t really give you much to work with in terms of floor space, being not much bigger than a king sized mattress.

Striking a balance between style and practicality is the bane of the bathroom fitter’s life. On the one hand, the homeowner is looking to achieve a certain look and feel, but on the other hand, the actual size and shape of the room can throw a real spanner into the works, turning a grand plan into something quite disappointing.

But, before you think it’s all doom and gloom, there are some tricks of the trade that you can employ, to leave your bathroom feeling bigger than it actually is. Follow our tips below to make the best use of every square inch.

 

Always look on the bright side

 

Forget smoke and mirrors, if you really want to create the illusion of space in a small bathroom, light and mirrors are the winning combination. The aim is to bounce both natural and artificial light around the bathroom, turning a gloomy space into one that is welcoming, and there are a number of ways you can do this.

The easiest method is to place a large mirror on the wall adjacent to the window. If the bathroom you’re renovating doesn’t have a window, a full length mirror could be a great option to boost any interior lighting. Mirrors with LED lights are superb, providing additional task lighting when applying makeup or putting contact lenses in. You can even choose between warm and cold light to create a particular ambience.

 

Lighten up a little

 

A dark colour scheme can immediately make a small space feel oppressive, so you’ll need to make sure any tiles, paint or even wallpaper you use are of a sufficiently light shade. However, whilst fairly bland colours like beige, cream or light brown spring to mind, there are ways you can inject a touch of personality and contemporary style into proceedings.

These days, monochrome colour palettes are proving incredibly popular, and one of the reasons for this is that they work well with small bathrooms. Whites and light greys keep things feeling clean and uncluttered, whilst a border or mosaic pattern can break up any design that appears a little too plain.

When choosing your wall or floor coverings, gloss tiles can add another reflective surface into the mix, enhancing both natural and artificial light.

 

Victoria Plum small bathroom fairbanks

 

Don’t get cornered

 

The corners of a bathroom are often the most underutilised space in the whole room, however you can turn them to your advantage. With a corner toilet, basin or quadrant shower enclosure, the tricky corner can be put to serious use.

By fitting a corner installation, you can overcome issues caused by radiators that need to be positioned along a wall. Or, to solve the problem another way, there are now even heated towel rails that fit into corners, giving you greater heating options.

 

Vanity project

 

Many homeowners don’t think creatively enough when it comes to installing a basin or bathroom suite. Whilst the traditional pedestal basin is still a very common choice, the vanity unit is gaining popularity with its smart combination of storage space and style.

Thanks to space-saving designs that are just over 200mm in depth, you’ll find plenty of vanity units that fit a small space. If you really want to squeeze every last inch out of your floor space, why not consider a combination unit? By combining the toilet, basin and vanity into one easy-to-fit unit, you not only provide extra storage space, but you’ll save both time and money too.

For great space-saving inspiration, you can head to VictoriaPlum.com and discover even more small bathroom ideas.

ben copy

Whether climbing trees or jumping out of planes, tree surgeon Ben Robinson is making the most of his head for heights.

Ben Robinson of north London’s Clear Cut Trees thinks it’s only natural that he ended up becoming a tree surgeon. “Most of my childhood memories are of playing outside,” he tells us when we met him in the midst of a day of quoting. “I grew up in London, in an estate, and we were always out swinging about in the big willow trees that were there.”

Despite his love of the great outdoors, it took a while before Ben realised that was where his real passion lay. “I came out of schools with just some GCSEs, and I actually ended up going into the media. I started out doing graphic design stuff, and then moved to a post production company, but I realised quite quickly that it wasn’t for me – it just didn’t fit my personality. Being indoors, at a desk – when I was growing up, I just wanted to be outdoors, but I was stuck inside.”

It was a random encounter that provided the spark for Ben’s career change. “I fell into it by accident, I guess,” he tells us. “I saw some guys working on a tree on my road, and I liked the look of it. I ended up going through a directory, ringing as many different companies as I could to see if I could get a job. Most weren’t interested in someone with no experience like me, but after a while I found a company that said, okay, let’s have a chat.”

Ben began working for company, staying mostly on the ground while he began to learn some of the skills needed to master the trade. “The firm that took me on did so on the proviso that I did an intensive course to get my knowledge up. I went and did a ten week course that showed me as much as possible – tree names, tree lore, climbing, knot tying, first aid, chainsaw use – all the basics you need on a day to day basis.”

 

Ben Robinson - Tree Surgery

 

But it was working with other, more experienced arborists – known as climbers in the trade – where Ben got his real education. “I was very lucky, in that the company was big enough to have climbers from all over the world working there. Back then, the money here in London was seen as very good, so guys who’d be travelling would stay here for a while to find some work and make some money. I had the luxury of learning from some of best climbers from around the world.” Nowadays, he says, those lessons are just as likely to travel in the opposite direction. “You’ll see people from the UK going over to Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, to do work over there. I think it’s a bit less lucrative here than it once was. There are fewer Aussies coming over now, I think their industry has matured and grown, so they can stay and find good work. But I was there just at the right time where I could learn a lot from them.”

“I didn’t have any plans for the long game,” Ben says, “but I was young enough that I could just try some things out. I got to realise that I really enjoyed it, and still do.”

Despite finding his calling, Ben still had other ambitions he wanted to pursue. “I’ve always been good at the sciences and had an interest in it, especially biology. I guess trees fell into that. So it was something I wanted to explore, and see what direction I might go in, beyond just being a climber.” Ben found an outlet for his ambition in undertaking a part time degree in biological sciences through Birkbeck University, eventually receiving first class honours for his efforts. “My final thesis wasn’t actually about trees, in the end,” he admits. “It was about antibiotic resistance – but that’s another story!”

Managing his coursework alongside his busy career as a tree surgeon spurred Ben to achieve another ambition – starting his own business. “The admin side of things doesn’t come particularly easy to me, but I’m a quick learner. The degree helped to teach me to fairly militant about deadlines and organising my time. I was capable before that, but I don’t think I would have been as much of a success.”

Clear Cut Trees began in 2014 and now has a team of six, working in two crews. “Business has been really good,” Ben says, “it’s been pretty consistent, with natural peaks and troughs. It’s a bit quieter around Christmas and in the summer holidays, but there’s always been enough work. I like to try and get jobs booked up a month or so in advance to stop me panicking, but we do get emergency work coming in too, especially if there’s been a storm.”

 

Ben Robinson - Tree Surgery

 

Tree surgery is a year-round trade, with autumn the best time for most pruning jobs according to Ben, while it should generally be avoided in spring, particularly for trees that bleed, such as birch and mulberry. “Tree removals also happen throughout the year,” Ben explains, “though you might have more issues in summer with subsidence because there’s more going on with the roots.”

He joined MyBuilder in the autumn after he set up the business, and says it was vital in helping to get the company up and running: “It was the first thing I joined and it helped a lot to get me going – it’s such a handy tool for tradesmen, I couldn’t recommend it enough.” Three years on, he still has 100% positive feedback from happy clients.

“We do a mix of all jobs,” he says. “We focus almost entirely on private gardens, because they’re just nicer jobs – people are more appreciative. Local authorities used to keep a lot of their work in house but now they outsource, but it tends to go to big firms who can basically work to cost. I much prefer private gardens. The nice thing now, three years in, is that we’re starting to see repeat work from people we saw back when we started. That’s a really good feeling, that they liked us so much they want to have us back.”

Like in all trades, he occasionally encounters people who’ve tried to have a go themselves. “You do see some scary stuff,” he admits. “YouTube has a wealth of videos of people doing dangerous stuff with ladders and chainsaws. The main issue with doing tree work yourself is that whatever you do, you have to wait a very long time to be able to undo it – until the tree grows back. It’s not like a plumbing job where a professional could come and get it back to normal that afternoon.”

 

Ben Robinson - Tree Surgery

 

Ben makes sure his own crew keeps safety in mind at all times. “We’ve not had any significant accidents, we keep a tight ship, and all our equipment is top of the range and well-maintained. Some issues are unavoidable, but you mitigate against it with good procedures. A lot of the safety stuff becomes second nature, but if you’re going up a 90ft plane tree for example, you make sure you double and triple check everything.”

Heights aren’t an issue for Ben, though. “I lived in a block of flats growing up, so I’m used to being up high. In fact, my hobby is skydiving! I did a tandem course in Spain, jumping with someone else, then a course to learn how to do it solo, so I now have a licence and can jump from any drop zone.”

As well as unusual hobbies, Ben has also encountered the occasional unusual job. “I guess the classic is the cat stuck up the tree. I’ve only done one I think, where the cat was still there when I turned up. I had to scale a roof, then use a ladder to get across to a tree. And when I finally got it, it scratched me to pieces.”

With the business going from strength to strength, trees are still where Ben’s passion lies. “I think my favourite trees are the almost stereotypical ones – oaks and beeches, trees that grow to enormous proportions. It’s still one of my ambitions to go out to California and see the giant redwood forests.”

With plenty of work booked in and only a few days off planned, the big US trip might have to wait for now – but if there’s one person sure to make an ambition a reality, it’s Ben.

 

Advice for tradesmen:

 

  • Spend time getting your online presence right: “Starting out on MyBuilder and making my own website felt like a lot of work, but once you’ve put in the groundwork to get it right, the really see the results down the line.”
  • Be willing to answer questions: “Customers will naturally have a lot of questions when it comes to the job, so you should be willing to be patient and explain as much as possible. The more helpful you are, the more appreciative the customer is.”
  • Don’t delay on quotes: “I think it’s a bad look to let people chase you for a quote. They want to make a decision on a tradesman and get the job done – as a basic courtesy, I try to get any quote turned round in 48 hours.”

Daniel Morgan - Roofer

 

With September drawing near and children getting ready to start the school year, now is the perfect time to embrace change and bring some new features to your home. Before the weather becomes fully autumnal, there are a number of external jobs you can undertake to boost your home’s kerb appeal and make your property look its best.

Add a New Coat of Paint

Painting over brickwork, or refreshing any paintwork that is already in place, is the one of the simplest ways to make a big and effective change to your home. An experienced decorator will be able to talk you through all the options for getting the best finish.
Find a painter

Fix your Fence or Wall

Overgrown plants, poor weather, tree roots and wayward car parking can all take their toll on fences and walls, making your property look messy and uncared for. A professional will be able to repair or replace any damaged parts.
Find a fencer

Deal with your Garden

A messy and unkempt front garden can spoil the whole atmosphere of your property, whether it’s cracked paving or a weed-filled lawn. A landscaper will have lots of ideas for how to improve the space and make it more manageable.
Find a landscape gardener

Build a Porch

Creating a dedicated porch not only keeps you dry when you’re fumbling for your keys, but also changes the look and feel of your property. In the vast majority of cases, they do not require planning permission.
Find a builder

 

James Edney - Driveway Paver, Fencer, Landscape Gardener

 

Upgrade your Windows

Whether you have draughty wooden frames or uPVC double-glazing that hasn’t been touched since the 1980s, changing your windows can have a huge impact on the look of your home, as well as improving your energy efficiency.
Find a window fitter

Gut your Gutters

An easily overlooked, but vital element of your home are any fascias, soffits and guttering you have. If they’ve seen better days, replacing them can smarten up your home – and they’ll also help ward off leaks and damp.
Find a fascias, soffits and guttering specialist

Change your Roof

It’s a big project, but one that has a huge effect on both the look and the structural integrity of your home. A new roof can give you peace of mind for decades to come.
Find a roofer

Replace your Door

Peeling paint, a battered letterbox, old fashioned locks – none of these create a good first impression when people come knocking. Speak to a joiner or carpenter who can give you a front door to be proud of.
Find a carpenter

 

Roof Professionals Direct Roofer, Fascias, Soffits and Guttering Specialist in Northamptonshire


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