< Tools & Gadgets | 02.05.2019

Technology takeover

Technology takeover

Madley Plumbing is not yet three years old but is growing rapidly, partly because of a booming bathroom installation market.

For Josh Madley, founder of Madley Plumbing, the plan was always to work for himself. After initially spending a year at university studying mechanical engineering – before realising that wasn’t for him – he started his apprenticeship relatively late at the age of 20, and went on to work for a number of local firms in the Cardiff area.

“I was quite open with all my employers that I wanted do this by myself one day,” he says. “I started with a little company in Cardiff and from there went to a bigger company, and then back into a smaller company. Then I thought it was the time for me to go on my own. I was 24 then.”

Josh set up Madley Plumbing in September 2016 but within a couple of months found he needed support, and took on his first employee, who still works for him today. “When we first started we were heavily into the domestic plumbing and heating market, so we did a lot of bathrooms and standard plumbing works but also some quite big projects,” he says. “In the last 12 months we have always had one big project on the go; at the moment we’re doing a house refurbishment.”

Make it real

Josh estimates around half of the company’s work today is around installing bathrooms, and with no premises of his own he relies heavily on his local Wolseley Bathroom Showroom in Llanishen to help demonstrate products and designs to customers.

“I didn’t appreciate when I first started up how much support I would need, especially on the design side of the bathrooms,” he says. “We have a really good relationship with our local showroom, and they enhance our saleability to customers. It’s really helpful to be able to take potential customers there so they can look at what styles they want and see how any changes will affect the price.”

Being able to demonstrate possible designs to customers can help them visualise it better, he adds, and can also help them make more out of limited space. “Not everyone is blessed with nice big bathrooms so you have to be quite clever with the way you position furniture,” he says. “A traditional bathroom layout doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the best use of space, so it’s nice to be able to show them different space-saving options.”

Renewables is also a growing part of the business, which installs air source, hybrid air source, and ground source heat pumps. “We’re trying to grow that side of the business and it’s something that will naturally grow as the renewable technology gets better,” says Josh. “But we want to get ahead of the game before everyone catches up.” Most of the company’s work is in and around the Cardiff area, but this activity can see it head over to the Gower peninsula, where many properties are off-grid.

Josh is also keen to develop a commercial side to the business, and the company is currently in the final stages of a tender to refurbish toilets in an office block in Cardiff. “That would be about nine months’ worth of work, so that’s really exciting and there are challenges involved in that,” he says. “But we won’t forget where we have come from; the domestic market is really important to us and we’re not going to leave that. So many people get intimidated by tradespeople, so I’d like to provide a friendly service for people.”

Josh is currently still undertaking work himself, supported by his three employees, but admits he may need to focus more on running the business in the near future. “It’s definitely something that crosses my mind, because I need to be able to be present on different sites,” he says. “You have to be able to take that step back to manage the workload properly. There’s a lot of work involved in getting the work in the first place, and it’s difficult to do it all in a working day. Initially, you do it at the weekends and in the evenings, but ultimately I’d like to get to a situation where I have a good strong team around me that can do all that work.”

Going for growth

Josh, who is getting married in the summer, says his immediate aim is to add another van-and-engineer team to the business. “I’ve got a good relationship with my local college – Cardiff and Vale – so if the work is there and their attitude is right, I’ll see if I can accommodate them because without staff I can’t grow or develop the business,” he says.

In the longer-term, he hopes to become a bigger player in the Cardiff area, taking on a range of commercial and domestic work. “I’m keen to keep growing but it needs to be at a sustainable rate,” he says. “We’re very lucky because we have access to a lot of work at the moment but we want to grow at a rate that we can cope with. In an ideal world, I’d love to have six or seven teams to run; I’m not afraid of growth at all.”

Nick Martindale, editor, Talking Trade.

Picture credit | Simon Ridgway

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