At the moment we cover Aberdeen and most surroundings. As a general rule we will take projects that are up to 50 miles away from Aberdeen. For big projects like extensions, conversions or even high complexity bathrooms & kitchens, we will consider projects up to 150 miles from Aberdeen (this includes Edinburgh)
No, we are not a limited company. At the current level, it’s more advantageous for us not to go limited. The business is registered as a sole trader on Ilie Pituc (trading as Claude’s Tradesmen) who is an employer for the rest of the team. The main advantage when dealing with an unlimited business is that we can’t simply default if we get into financial difficulties. This is extremely advantageous for you, as most businesses simply declare themselves bankrupt when they can’t finish a big project.
No, we don’t have a showroom and we don’t plan on having one. Showrooms are expensive to run and would mean for us to reduce the costs somehow, which would probably affect the service quality.
We are well aware that we are losing a lot of customers that prefer a brick and mortar store. But we have the feeling that, especially for home improvements, showrooms are not really a necessity. Yes, it’s nice to see the products you will have in your home, but how much are you willing to pay for this? Seeing the products before buying would probably mean paying a few hundred or thousands extra.
The other negative aspect for showrooms and advantage to us is that if you see something that you like in a brick and mortar store, we would probably be able to supply it at a cheaper price. We can virtually supply any type of products you require, you don’t have to select from a very limited selection of products.
Yes, we are VAT registered. In the UK, all sole traders or companies that have a turnover larger than £85 000, have to register for VAT. If a business is under this threshold, they have either just started either they have a really poor performance.
We usually try to be booked for around 4-6 weeks. In the past, we were aiming at bookings over 3-4 months, but customers kept changing dates at the last minute. If a customer doesn’t want the job done in the week we agreed 3 months before, then it messes up all our calendar.
We have this case where a customer delayed a bathroom project twice, with less than three days notice. It was quite a large project, a whole week job. We couldn’t take other jobs at such short notice and the moment we started that project, we were way too busy with other projects, so we had to work from 7AM to very late into the night, including Sundays, to finish all the projects.
4-6 weeks booking period is artificially maintained, as we would stop doing marketing completely when we reach this booking period. Since we book jobs for only 4-6 weeks, it hasn’t happened yet for someone to cancel at the last minute.
No, we currently can’t offer finance on our services. In the UK, you need to be approved by FCA for even recommending a certain lender.
We plan to offer finance once we get approved by the FCA. Alternatively, you can easily get a home improvement loan and use that to pay us. You can use a comparison tool like MoneySupermarket to compare loans, at the current interest rate you’re most likely to get a very good deal.
This is a tricky question, but as a general rule, the answer is no. We compute all our prices more than once and try to make sure that we included all the costs and a small profit margin. Even a small drop in the price would transform a potential small gain in a loss. It’s like paying your bills every month, even a small increase in a bill can mean that you need to use a credit card to pay that.
For example, if we price a job for £1000 and our costs are £900, we will make a profit of £100. If we charge you £850, then we will make a loss of £50. It’s your advantage for us to do a profitable project for us. If a business doesn’t make a profit, it will enter into ‘damage control’ and try to finish the project at the cheapest possible cost.
But there’s an exception. If you come to us from a reference and we don’t know, we might be able to negotiate a little. We usually take into consideration this before giving you the price, but sometimes we don’t know that you’ve been referenced by a certain past customer. This is simply because it’s cheaper for us to work with references, as we don’t need to spend any money on marketing to get new customers.
Definitely yes, we’ll never ask for more money (unless you ask for extra services).
We sometimes make mistakes when we compute our prices, but this is rare and far between. We’ll support the costs if this is the case.
This is the reason why it takes a little bit longer to offer you a quote, as we double or triple check all our costs. Giving you a quote that doesn’t cover the costs is the worst a business can do because they will most likely ask you for more money in the middle of the job or they will simply default (remember that we can’t default, only the limited companies can default!)
But we sometimes make mistake. We have this painful example where the costs with a big project were higher than how much we charged. The costs in total were somewhere around £5 000-£10 000 more than what we charged and it took us about a month to finish that big project. Despite the fact that it was a horrible month for us, we didn’t ask a penny more. This shows how committed we are to this business and its success. It was also the moment when we decided not to compete on the price anymore, but on performance (only the limited companies will compete on prices, as they can default at any time and get away with it)
The final decision should be yours. If saving every single penny is your goal, then probably you’re looking for a labour only quote. But bear in mind that there are risks associated with this. If you get a product that has a manufacturing issue, you’ll have a hard time to get a replacement or get it fixed. This applies to both online and local stores, being a one off customer will mean that businesses will apply every single term and condition on you.
We are a volume buyer. From the same supplier, we’re probably taking hundreds of products. Every time we have issues, they don’t even ask for any proof of damage or whatever, they would simply give us a replacement asap. The same with the warranty claims, if a product we order has a manufacturing issue, they will simply send a replacement without questions asked.
For you, the situation is not going to be the same. Especially if you buy the products online, the return procedure can be a nightmare. We have this example where we ordered a basin that was not from one of our usual suppliers. It was an all-ceramic basin, including worktop, and by design, it had a fault: it would break right in the middle during the delivery. In the end, we had to order 5 times the same basin from different suppliers (we couldn’t offer the customer a different model) and we had to pay 4 times for it. One supplier took responsibility once, for the rest of times they were blaming us for breaking it. In the end, they were happy to refund all the money, as we had some big orders from them just to show them that we are a volume buyer.
So it’s your risk. But remember that a labour quote can get really expensive if things don’t run smoothly. And our warranty won’t cover your products. If something breaks after a while, you would have to pay for the workmanship again. For the labour quotes, we will offer warranty only on workmanship and the products that we supply.
We don’t have a limit, but generally, it makes sense to accept it as soon as you made a decision. If the job has the same costs as before for us, we would probably take it. There are cases where customers got back to us after 12 months and the price stayed the same for them.
But there are cases when quotes can go up. We had this person for which we offered a very good price for a refurbishment job. After three months he was surprised once we told him that we can’t do the job at the initial price. From the moment we quoted, we increased a little bit the wages for our team (they do a great job, they deserve every penny!), started to use even better tools and the local demand increased.
So don’t be his case. If he would have accepted the price initially, even if the job would have been done after a few months, the price would have been the same.
It depends on what a business understands by low overheads. Some costs can be avoided and some can’t.For example, those tools that are designed for home use are around ten times cheaper than a proper professional tool. When they’re referring to low overheads, these are the types of savings they do.
Yes, they’ll be able to offer low prices, but the quality will be proportional to this. We are using high-quality tools that are very expensive; we would happily use DIY tools if they’d allow us to do a good job, but they don’t.
Another way some businesses are reducing costs is by using low-quality materials. You can easily detect these businesses, as they won’t offer a warranty on the service and, if they do, then it won’t be more than a year.
Where we can avoid some costs we will do it. We spend days only thinking how to make the business more efficient and cost-effective. But we won’t reduce those costs that allow us to make a good job. It’s simply not sustainable. We have a fantastic growth rate, showing that most people prefer a well-done job at a reasonable rate, rather than poor service at a cheap price. Yes, we all want a great service at a cheap price, but this can’t happen in a well-working market.
If you’re really struggling with the money, you’re probably better off going with a business that advertises low overheads. It’s like the difference between a good car and a very affordable car: a good car is well worth the money for some, but not affordable to all. In some cases, a very affordable car is better than no car at all. The same here, a cheap home improvement is better than a no home improvement at all.
Sometimes we will be able to offer a breakdown of the price and sometimes we won’t be able to offer one. Just to offer you an idea of the costs involved in running this business: materials, wages, pension contributions, VAT, tax, tools, vans, insurance (employer insurance, business insurance, insurance on vans), marketing, samples, broadband, electricity, warranty, website hosting, CDN and so on.
We try to spend every penny as wise as possible. This would yield in some quotes to seem extremely favorable for some or very expensive for others. But they are definitely the best prices you could get for a well done service.
Yes, we are the main contractor and we can deal with all trades for your project.
But we won’t take any job, this is not what we understand by all trades. For example, we will do painting and plastering as part of a bigger job, but we won’t be able to take painting and plastering jobs on their own. It simply doesn’t make economic sense to do them, we lose money every time we take a painting or plastering job.
But it’s more effective for us to take the plastering and painting part when doing complex projects. We would simply lose too much time if someone else would have to come in the middle of the job, do that part, and then us returning later to finish our part. This is why it’s best to go with a business that has all the trades in-house.
We don’t usually ask for a deposit, except in special circumstances. For bigger jobs, we will send you multiple invoices during the course of the project.
We believe that hiring a contractor requires a lot of trust from both parties, this is why we try to avoid asking for a deposit. You trust us to finish your project to a high-quality standard and we trust that you will pay us at the end of the job. It’s amazing how smooth things go when there is mutual trust between the contractor and the customer.
Most of the times we are paid by bank transfer (the details for the transfer will be on the invoice).
We are also able to take Debit/Credit Cards using the Paypal system, but we would have to add a 3% increase to the total sum, in order to cover our costs with the payment processing.
We don’t have a lot of sales for small prices, just a few invoices for larger sums. This is why most of our payments come in the form of bank transfers. We had just a customer that wanted to pay by credit card, so a dedicated card/debit machine would not be justifiable (it would increase the costs for all our customers, even if just a tiny percentage want to pay by debit/credit card)
We can accept cheques as well, but it’s more complicated as we’re not a limited company. Just contact us for confirmation if you plan to send a cheque.
We’ve been in the local market for 3 years. But these 3 years have been extremely busy: we had hundreds of local projects with various degrees of complexity.
It’s hard to find a business that evolved so much in such a short time. Our success is owed to a lot of work from our team, but also in our approach to reinvesting a large share of the profits back into the business.
If there would be a job position for a whole construction team and we’d apply, then we’d probably be way overqualified. On average, our team members have over 25 years of experience each.
We are a team. Some of us are better at certain tasks, some at others. We know each other extremely well, we’ve known each other for over 10 years and this is why we are so successful. What we worry the most is that in the future we won’t be able to find people as skilled and trustworthy as our current team to expand our business.
We will offer you quotes as long as we know that there are realistic chances for you to accept our quote.
If you ask us the third time to quote, after not accepting our first two quotes, it’s obvious that we would refuse to quote. We are very limited in the number of quotes we can offer or in the number of jobs that we can take.
When we finish a project, we test everything extensively. We sometimes even use compressed air and a professional inspection camera for some tests. But the final test will be the real life.
In the very first days after we finish the project, we will be ready to come in a matter of hours (or days if not urgent) if there are small issues. Most of the times this takes minutes to fix. If there are any issues with the project, then almost all of them are in the first few 2-3 days or never.
This is why we usually send the invoice a little bit late after the job is done. Just so you have the peace of mind that everything is up to scratch.