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When your goal is for your business to be self-sufficient and you have moved around a lot in life, you have to work damn hard if it is to become a reality. David McCarthy tells Kathryn Kernohan his story.
How do you build a client base in a community where you have few existing relationships?
That was the question faced by David McCarthy and wife Catherine, when they moved to the outer western Melbourne suburb of Point Cook before establishing David McCarthy Plumbing six years ago.
“We only moved to the area about 12 months before we started the business, so we didn’t have local contacts or connections. We started by advertising in local newspapers and on websites like hipages and slowly started building things up from there,” recalls David.
David’s career in plumbing had already taken him from Colac to Perth, where he spent three years in a “baptism of fire managing 25 guys on a high-rise development,” and even to London.
He only contemplated plumbing as a career pathway at age 19, having grown up on a dairy farm in Victoria’s western district and working in the dairy industry throughout his teenage years.
After completing an apprenticeship and spending more than a decade working for other people, David began to see an opportunity to start his own business with an emphasis on professional service matched by quality customer service.
“Six years ago when we started the business, customer service wasn’t seen as a hugely important thing in the industry. People were always telling us that they were sick of being let down by tradespeople not showing up on time, or not calling back, or that there was no transparency in quotes.
“Customer service, customer satisfaction and communication are our priorities and we instill these in our employees and our apprentices.
“The experiences we’ve had gave us a great foundation for running our own business and managing rapid growth - particularly in understanding different people and different personalities which is so important in the overall success of a business.”
David McCarthy Plumbing started in the couple’s garage, and once they outgrew the family home they relocated the business to Laverton North.
The business works across residential, commercial and industrial plumbing and gasfitting and also has a list of sub-contractors including electricians, waterproofers, tilers, carpenters and handymen.
It means David McCarthy Plumbing can be repairing or replacing a hot water system one day and renovating a kitchen the next.
“Our plumbing work is about half-half between residential and commercial. We’re heavy with domestic new builds, mainly high-end new sites, and we do a lot of maintenance as well.”
As well as a commitment to customer service, David and Catherine are also passionate about developing apprentices. In 2018, their apprentice Thomas Dunn won two awards at the Plumbing and Fire Industry Awards, including the prestigious Andrew Letten Gold Medal which is the highest industry award for apprentices.
“We also had a finalist last year - we’re committed to helping apprentices develop and making sure their start in the industry is a positive one.”
David says the rise of cloud-based management software has been one of most important advancements he has seen throughout almost two decades in the industry.
The business utilises a handful of systems including Groundplan, SimPRO and Xero.
“They allow us to keep transparency with clients the whole way through, with access to things like GPS tracking and the ability to see exactly what we’re billing the client for to ensure it’s accurate. We can store notes and photos and we can show clients photos of similar jobs before we start work.
“With our team always out on the road it just ensures we are always connected.”
The David McCarthy Plumbing team includes full-time operations and client relationship managers who “handle 99 per cent of the day-today business.” Catherine works as the people development manager, including some HR and payroll responsibilities.
Away from work, the couple’s hands are kept full with their two children, aged three and five.
That’s why David says, with a laugh, that his eventual goal for the business is “to make ourselves redundant”.
“Our plan is that one day the business will become self-sufficient and that we can mentor other people to manage the day-to-day operations.
“We have sacrificed a lot to do what we do, and of course we enjoy it, but we know this goal is achievable and it gives us something to work towards.”