Is it possible to be a tradesman and a great business operator? Josh Nicholls and his team at Platinum Electrical know how to run a trades business that puts a sparkle in their customers eyes.
Thirty-four year-old electrician Joshua Nicholls has taken on the stereotypical view of tradesmen. Nicholls, the director of Platinum Electrical Contractors looked at what most customers hate about tradies and based his business around doing the complete opposite. It’s proved very successful, and he’s turned his idea into a franchise.
External recognition since 2005 include, being listed as the 36th Fastest Growing Start up Company in Australia in BRW Magazine in 2006, A 2007 National Winner of the Telstra Business Awards and in 2008, managing director Joshua Nicholls joined PricewaterhouseCoopers' list of 30 Hot Entrepreneurs under 30.
And today Platinum Electricals has announced that they are now a triple certified company, having achieved ISO 9001, AS4801 and ISO14001. To receive certification, the business is audited regularly to ensure it complies with the strict, internationally recognised intensive requirements of Quality Management, Occupational Health & Safety and Environmental Management Systems.
“This gives our customers peace of mind when they are looking for reliable, safe and environmentally conscious electricians,” said founder Josh Nicholls.
“Platinum is predominantly an electrical company that specialises in service and maintenance and medium-sized projects. Our business started very humbly.
"I’m an electrician by trade. Like a lot of other tradies, I started my business out of my bedroom at home with mum and dad and have grown it to where we are today,” he says.
Nicholls was competitive by nature and from the outset introduced game changing innovations for a competitive advantage, determined to do things differently.
So, what was it that he wanted to change about the relationship between tradesmen and their customers?
“The biggest thing for us is customer service in our industry. I say to a lot of our franchisees and a lot of our staff is that it’s all about customer service. We are in the game of customer service. We’re not in the game of electrical. And how we do our customer service is our point of difference. That’s our specialty I suppose you could say."
It’s the little things that count
What were the salient features of his tradesmen compared to the universal experience with a lot of tradesmen?
“There are good tradesmen out there. We do little things. For example, we put out a floor mat before we enter the customer’s house and we have things that go over our boots to protect their carpet and their floor. And we have dust busters in the vans and we have a lot of little tricks we do throughout the whole process of the job that creates that experience for the customer. And that’s what we like to leave with the customer, is that experience of what they felt while we’ve been there,” he says.
Tradesmen working under the Platininum Electricals banner also do unusual things for customers like phoning them when they’re running late.
“Call it the old sort of chivalry service of opening the car door. It’s going above and beyond in customer service, in communication levels, in making that customer feel that they are important – it’s not just an electrical job that we’re running late to – that they’re an important part of our business,” he says.
Nicholls' clever idea was to create a franchise electrical business where other tradesmen actually bought the franchise. Platinum Electricals created the system and the franchise owner learns to follow the system.
“And that’s one of my passions in business is growing people and growing businesses and letting other people share in that success factor. We’ve got 19 franchises on board in all states. We’ve just got Tassie to go, but we’re pretty much national exposure. We have 70-plus vans now running across the country and we’re growing multiple vans every month at the moment, so that’s our challenge now is controlling the growth, it’s a good problem to have. We need to protect the brand because it’s not only for myself, but there’s now 19 other franchises that I’ve got to protect their business as well."
So what’s going to be the biggest challenge for this business going forward?
“The big challenge now for us is controlling the growth. That’s actually our biggest thing. Now it’s about controlling the growth, and not getting to big for our britches so to speak and growing strong and steady would be the key for us."
Nicholls was a tradesman who learned about business so I asked him what was the major thing that he has learned about being in business. Was it actually having a mentor or a business coach or someone in your life to show you stuff you couldn’t see?
“ I’ve had business coaches, I’ve attended seminars, but I think the key lesson for any leader of any business is to stay teachable, stay open and stay learning because there’s always more things to learn.”
And if you want to check out his website it’s platinumelectrical.com.au.
Business lessons learnt:
• Its all about relationships. Good relationship building with customers, employees and suppliers helps grow your business through referrals, staff retention and effective purchasing.
• You must have a unique selling point. You need to do something different to everyone else if you want to get different results.
• Surround yourself with good wisdom and advice.
• Work on yourself before your business.
• Have a healthy balance between business and family life.
• Create a great team environment by recruiting in favour of attitude over skill.
• Recognise and appreciate staff.
The company’s mission statement sums up the point of difference: “Platinum Electrical Contractors is committed to providing five star personalised service, based on professionalism, integrity and relationship building. ”
However, the only unbelievable part of the story is how Nicholls and his wife have created a business that has seemingly looked at every reason why consumers cringe with fear at dealing with tradespeople and have set out to do the opposite.
The electricians are trained to cope with a hi-tech consumer durable world where fridges carry computer screens, an in-house administrative team ensures paperwork and record keeping is of a consistently high standard.
“When you deal with Platinum, you are not met with answering machines, or unreliable tradesmen who don’t return your phone calls,” Nicholls says. “At Platinum Electrical, there is always someone to answer your phone call and tend to your needs.”
“Our team members are at the top of the ladder in their respective areas and, driven by a ‘nothing is too hard’ mentality, every member of the Platinum team will respond as promised, and arrive at appointments on time.”