Meet the Member – Peter Dilnot
Peter Dilnot is a third-generation plumber, following his father and grandfather into the plumbing and heating industry 30 years ago. He first worked as an apprentice pipe fitter and welder on commercial heating projects for Crown House Engineering. He then went on to study heating and ventilation and welding for four years at Croydon College, gaining a City and Guilds qualification. He also won apprentice of the year for two years running.
“I got an apprenticeship before going to work for my dad, John, at his business, Gas Homes in Croydon – a successful family business that Dad ran with my uncle Dave,” explains Peter. “I was with the company for 10 years, working on domestic heating and gas appliances.”
In addition to working for his father, Peter also worked for a variety of different companies fitting gas fires, as well as subcontracting for builders.
In 2009, Peter left the family business and emigrated to Western Australia. He lived in Perth, attempting to revive his welding career before returning back to the UK two years later. It was after moving into a flat above her shop that he met his now wife, Sarah.
Upon his return to the UK, Peter worked for Priory Mechanical, maintaining high-end residential and light commercial properties in London. However, after a couple of years, with Sarah’s support, he decided to start his own business in 2014 – Professional Plumbing and Heating Services (PPHS). Sarah’s business experience, owning and running a hair and beauty salon, proved a valuable asset to Peter’s new venture. She set about creating a logo and started branding the business, marketing and helping Peter behind the scenes.
“We wanted to create a business that was reliable, building a great clientele and aiming to support our life together,” explains Peter. “We offered our customers a range of plumbing and heating services – from small jobs, such as changing taps, to boiler servicing and bathroom renovations.”
It was during this time that the couple had their first child. John retired from work to help his wife, Carol, look after the baby and passed on his customers to Peter. This resulted in the business being busier than ever, servicing gas appliances around the Croydon and south London area.
The business expanded over the next seven years, building up a great reputation in their local area of Edenbridge in Kent as well as Croydon. The business was so successful that customers were having to wait weeks or even months for a visit.
“We had more work than we could handle, which was a great position to be in,” recalls Peter. “We turned away lots of work that we simply couldn’t fit in, despite working six or seven days every week.”
The company had grown beyond the one-man band, but Peter was initially resistant to expand and was concerned about how it would work.
“We had nothing to lose and simply couldn’t continue working so many hours without being able to earn more money or fit any more customers in,” says Sarah. “Pete had also suffered many back issues over his career, which was becoming progressively worse as he continued to carry out such a physical role, often building bathrooms on his own from start to finish. Everything was telling us to grow the business.”
The pair decided to take on a plumber and Connor Edwards became part of the team. Connor’s experience of new builds, physical ability and enthusiasm made him a great addition to the expanding team.
“We were filling the days as quickly as ever and shortly after Connor joined us, his brother Ronan came on board too,” says Peter. “Both the guys offered a great range of knowledge with their own ways of working and expertise, but they worked well together.”
By this point Peter was struggling to fit in all the admin, answer enquiries, carry out his work, as well as managing the team. He felt as though the basis of what they had built the business and reputation on, being a reliable and professional company, was slipping away.
“Sarah took on a greater role, managing the diary and organising the bookings,” says Peter. “She also now deals with all the marketing, including social media, advertising and keeping things flowing day to day. Running the business between us works well and, although we still spend a lot of time working and talking shop, it’s given us a nicer way of living as a family of now five.”
Keen to keep up to date with the latest technology, the team has explored and completed courses in renewables, such as heat pump technology. They have also taken on Tommy Symes, a plumber who is currently studying for his Level 3 qualification at Surrey College.
“We still come across the occasional back boiler that a newer fitter wouldn’t know how to deal with and this is where experience is on our side,” says Peter. “Our customers have faith in us, that we can help with whatever we’re faced with. We are now in our ninth year of business and we hope to continue to expand the business further.”