When we meet Colin Clark in his home just outside Leeds, he’s fitting out his pristine new van ready for action. The sign writing hasn’t been done yet, but when it is, there are lots of things he can proudly display on its side.
The Power of Feedback
With more than 200 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder, Colin is spoilt for choice when it comes to picking out his best recommendations. “Carlsberg don’t do gasfitting,” says one review, “but if they did, they wouldn’t be as good as Skeltonwood Gas”. Other reviews praise his time-keeping, his tidiness, his politeness and his pricing - as one says, “I’ve recommended him to my grandma too, that says it all!”
“It’s always nice to hear reviews like that,” says Colin, “I work hard to make sure people are happy with their jobs, so knowing that people are leaving you good feedback is a real boost.” Making sure the reviews come in is a vital part of his admin, politely asking for feedback from his happy clients. “People are usually very happy to give feedback if the job’s done well. Little things, like clearing up at the end of every day, go a long way to making people happy. I always ask if they’d leave a comment, and they nearly always do.” The more feedback he gets, the stronger his profile looks, and the more work comes his way. “I’ve been on MyBuilder for a long time now, and it’s a great way to get regular work. Then for every person you meet through it, they can recommend you to other people, and it keeps going.”
Colin has built up his reputation thanks to years of experience in the trade, starting out at the Gas Board (later British Gas) in his native Yorkshire, before setting up Skeltonwood Gas alongside his brother, Chris. Nowadays, Chris’ son Nick is also getting involved, building up his own experience by working alongside his uncle with thoughts of expanding the business. “It’s nice to work alongside family,” Colin explained, “especially bringing another generation into it. I have years of experience I can pass on, because I’ve seen everything before, I’ve had to deal with every problem going. That doesn’t mean he always wants to listen to me, but it’s working out so far,” he says with a laugh.
When it comes to the business, it’s the more the merrier as far as Colin is concerned, as there’s plenty of work to be done. Colin told us: “It can be a busy trade, working with gas and boilers. There’s always work to be done, as every boiler and central heating system needs regular checking and servicing to make sure they’re in good nick. I keep a diary so I know when I’ve installed every boiler, and can make a note to give them a call and come and check on it in a year’s time. There’s lots to do.”
Tried and Tested
With a list of qualifications as long as his experience, including being a gold star accredited Worcester Bosch installer, Colin thinks he’s seen it all in his time in the business. “I’ve seen some death traps in my time for sure,” he said. “A lot of the time, people want the simplest solution - just a quick check. If they’re thinking of moving out soon, they might want to leave any bigger issues for the next person to deal with. A full service, changing the filters and everything, is better than a basic check up, and it’s worth doing. You find sometimes that some landlords don’t want to pay for the full service, but I’d always recommend it. It’s the same when it comes to buying new boilers - some are cheap in the grand scheme of things, only about £400, but the chances are they’ll only last you a few years at best. A good boiler might cost a little bit more up front, but it can last you for 20 years, so it makes good sense to buy the best you can afford. The only thing a cheap boiler is good for is someone looking to move house in the near future, and they know the problem will be dealt with by the next owner somewhere down the line.”
As with many tradesmen - and doctors - he also advocates for prevention rather than cure. “I always advice people to have their boilers looked at in the summer, when you can maybe afford to be without it, rather than in the winter when you’ll be relying on it.”
Advice for tradesmen
- Plan your diary: While admin and paperwork is often the aspect of work that many tradesman would rather ignore, the value it can have on your business is crucial. Colin said: “I always make sure I follow up with all my customers to get services booked in down the line. It’s a bit of extra work and preparation to get it all down and be organised, but it pays off for you.”
- Cultivate your feedback: As with other admin, chasing feedback can feel like a chore, but one good piece can really stick with you and boost your profile. “It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of effort,” Colin said, “you just have to think to do it. When you’re finishing the job, just remember to ask them to leave some feedback, and get into the habit of doing it.”
- Go above and beyond: Colin is proud of the qualifications he has acquired over the years, and of course cannot work on domestic gas without his registration with Gas Safe. But on top of the qualifications, he is always keen to keep learning and adding to his knowledge: “There’s no substitute for real experience,” said. “Getting your Gas Safe and other qualifications is essential, but it’s just a starting point.”