Edinburgh entrepreneur sees future of gas boilers after COP26

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Name: Michael Cairns.

Age: 37 years old.

What is your company called?

Celsius Plumbing and Heating (Edinburgh) Limited.

Where is he based?

Portobello in Edinburgh.

What services does it offer?

Plumbing and home heating, gas boiler installations and maintenance, scheduled maintenance and responsive plumbing services.

Who is it selling to?

Domestic customers, owners, including Airbnb owners, property managers, and light commercial businesses.

We are embracing technology that allows our team to work cohesively, with many of our once “manual” processes now fully systematized.

What is its turnover?

For the year as of August 31, it was £ 780,000. We have set ourselves a target of £ 1million in revenue in 2019 and, without the pandemic, we likely would have reached that figure by now.

How many employees?

We employ 15 people and work alongside three subcontractors.

When was he formed?

2007.

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Why did you take the plunge?

Just before the 2007/2008 financial crash, I was made redundant and reluctantly became self-employed. My former employer told me that I could choose any jobs that might come up. Then, with my older brother as an apprentice, the crash happened. From there, we had to take care of it ourselves. It was a difficult lesson but it was very useful to me. I chose to call the company “Celsius” because at that time, as a young engineer, I was really interested in the heating side of the trade and thought Celsius was just right.

What were you doing before you started?

I left Portobello high school and worked in various jobs. In addition to selling pies at Easter Road football stadium, I worked in a bank and another financial institution where I learned a lot about how big companies work. I started my apprenticeship late at 19, and due to the commitments I had at the time, I continued to work at night, especially in a pub in the city, which I liked a lot, to supplement my income.

How did you raise the start-up funds?

I received a £ 1,000 grant from the Prince’s Trust and haven’t borrowed anything since except for a Bounce Back loan when Covid-19 hit. We hired a CFO, Robert Swan, in 2017 and he, along with Alan Smith from Action Coach, made sure we all now knew all of our numbers.

What was your biggest break?

In 2016, I met and then signed with Big Change and that’s where I met Serge Fagelman, who opened my eyes to how we could improve our systems. Our business has since transformed through a shift towards using tablet software instead of tedious paperwork.

What was your worst moment?

When Covid-19 hit us, I could see twelve years of hard work and effort disappear before my eyes. Like many other small businesses, we quickly learned to adapt. I never imagined the UK government would step in with the leave program and the Bounce Back loans to help us get through these very difficult first months. We also had great support from the Action Coach community. We, business owners, have been encouraged to share our experiences and approaches to dealing with regulation and support request processes. It is their support that kept us going.

What do you like most about running the business?

Money helps but that’s not what motivates me. I love developing people and I am proud that we have seen 14 apprentices join our ranks over the years. We have two apprentices who are currently working on their qualifications in the industry and seeing them develop their skills gives me a lot of pride. I know how difficult it was for me to get and complete my apprenticeship.

What are your ambitions for the company?

As in 2019, we aim to be a £ 1million turnover company. We would like to grow the team to at least 20 and be recognized as the premier responsive and planned plumbing and heating company in Edinburgh. Today’s gas boilers are very efficient and emit reduced amounts of Co2. In my opinion, they will still be there in the short and medium term. After that, I’m pretty confident that there will be a new generation of technologies that will provide us with solutions.

In my opinion, the geothermal heat pump approach is not even starting to address the problems of cities like Edinburgh where there is a huge housing stock, let alone listed buildings.

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What are your main priorities?

We are working in a traditional industry and we see it as ripe for disruption. We focus on asking our customers the right questions about the delivery of the service we provide, rather than the end products we recommend for installation. We are currently working on new technologies to allow our customers to get a quote for a new boiler installation, including a financing guide, without us having to enter their homes. This approach was of course born out of the pandemic, but virtual quotes are the way to go.

What could the Westminster and / or Scottish governments do to help?

Do more to promote learning. There is simply not enough support funds for companies to hire all the apprentices Scotland needs.

How do you relax?

I’m going fishing. I like the quote from Thoreau, “a lot of men go fishing all their lives not knowing that this is not the fish they are looking for.”


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