Wednesday, 06 July 2022

Let's Get Down to Business: Andy Stevenson, Hoopla Heating and Plumbing

Let's Get Down to Business: Andy Stevenson, Hoopla Heating and Plumbing

ANDY STEVENSON is the proprietor of Henley business Hoopla Heating and Plumbing, which recently relocated to a unit at Greys Green Farm in Rotherfield Greys. Born and raised in Henley, he attended Valley Road Primary School, Gillotts School and The Henley College. He and his partner Sarah, who is a senior dietician in the NHS, live in Henley Road, Caversham, and have just had their first child, a boy. When time permits, Andy enjoys playing golf.

Describe your business

Hoopla is a reliable heating and plumbing business.

How many people does it employ?

Seven, including me.

What did you do before you started this business?

I dropped out of college before the end of the course and spent several months travelling in Australia and Thailand. When I returned I served my apprenticeship with a local plumber. I then spent a few years as a “one-man band” under the name AS Plumbing before deciding to go to Vancouver where I worked as a plumber for almost three years.

When did you start your business?

In 2017 when I returned from Canada as my visa had expired and I had to come home.

What was your objective?

To build my own company.

Who or what influenced you?

Both my parents have been self-employed for as long as I remember. My dad was a car mechanic for many years before switching to property renovation and my mother runs her own hairdressing business. That gave me the confidence to do likewise.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

My role model is Charlie Mullins, owner of Pimlico Plumbers in London, which is very successful and employs more than 300 people.

What would you do differently if could start again?

At the beginning I was running the business from home and couldn’t switch off, which was detrimental to a good work/life balance. Now that I’ve moved to a proper office, I’m able switch off.

What impact is the coronavirus pandemic having on your business?

When we were in lockdown I was able to take advantage of the furlough scheme, which helped a lot. Fortunately, we were able to bounce back quickly because we were considered to be key workers.

How is your business doing?

Very well. We’ve been able to hire two more plumbers this year. Because so many people have been forced to work from home, things like boilers are being used more, which often results in the need for repair. People are spending more money on renovations and there are more people moving home, so we’re getting busier.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

The sense of achievement I get from watching both it and our staff grow.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

The diary is probably the biggest challenge. I’m also constantly thinking of ways to improve and to keep our staff happy.

Where is your business headed?

We are growing every day. My aim is to make it the best in the area. Eventually, I’d like to get off the tools and commit to growing the business while retaining all our customers.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

That it’s so important to keep a healthy work-life balance.

What would you advise someone starting a business?

Be prepared to lose some of your freedom — it’s not easy to work as hard as you will need to. And be sure you are financially stable before you start.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

When we started I believed what candidates told me about their capabilities when I interviewed them only to find out that some had exaggerated their experience and knowledge. Now all applicants have to sit a written exam and I change the questions to prevent any cheating.

What three qualities are most important to success?

A good positive attitude, a good work ethic and persistence.

What’s the secret of your success?

Always being professional and doing a good job, working hard and being positive and resilient.

How organised are you?

I’m not the most organised person, to be honest. But Alice, our office manager, makes sure that everything runs smoothly.

How are you planning for retirement?

I hope that I can eventually pass the business down.

How do you dress for work each day?

We all wear the same branded sweatshirts and polo shirts.

What can’t you be without every day?

Alice and coffee.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

We have a guy who comes to the business park every day with sandwiches and snacks so I’ll get something from him or bring something in from home.

Do you continue to study?

In this industry we are re-assessed every five years so I’m always looking at new regulations and updates.

What do you read?

I only have time to read the news and I read the Henley Standard most weeks.

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