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Jamie Southall

Jamie Southall on maintaining reliable trades

By Jamie Southall

Founder - JPS Plumbing, Gas & Electrical

In this behind-the-scenes profile, we talk to Jamie about his journey in business, his passions for excellent training and customer service, his insights into the trade and his reflections on fuel and energy efficiency, as well as his own aspirations for the future. We also learn a little about the man behind the business!

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Starting out

Fresh out of school, Jamie trained as a plumber’s apprentice, and felt an affinity with the trade straightaway. His positive experience throughout his apprenticeship has made him a passionate advocate on improving training in the industry, and he’s pleased to see a resurgence of apprenticeships in small businesses. Within JPS Plumbing, Gas & Electrical (JPS), there is always at least one apprentice learning on the job at any time, alongside one of JPS’s highly experienced heating engineers.

Once he was fully trained, Jamie became a sole trader, but soon became so busy that he started his own company in 2008 to enable him to expand and help more customers - when people need a plumber, it’s often an emergency and they can’t afford to wait for an appointment to become free in two weeks’ time!

The time has flown by and the team has grown, but what hasn’t changed is his attitude to customer service.

Excellent customer service and reliability go hand in hand

JPS specialises in responsive maintenance in plumbing, heating and gas for letting agents and domestic customers across Winchester and the surrounding areas. It’s especially important to be reliable when you specialise in responsive maintenance – your customers need to trust that you will be there when you say you’re going to be there.

Jamie respects the value of word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business, and is proud that a high percentage of his company’s business is generated this way, proving that JPS is providing great service that their customers want to enjoy again, and are happy to recommend to others.

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A day in the life of a JPS plumber/heating engineer

JPS specialises in plumbing and heating repairs and breakdowns, as well as carrying out installations. Boiler breakdowns form a massive part of their job list (particularly during the winter months). They diagnose problems and repair them, or replace the boiler where the system is so faulty it has to be condemned. They also carry out numerous boiler services throughout the year.

Covid saw a dramatic increase in kitchen and bathroom renovations, due to people spending more time at home and having unused holiday funds to reallocate, so JPS’s involvement in these projects increased too.

As letting agents are a significant part of their customer base, they are also kept busy on Landlord Gas Safety Certificates, which is a legal requirement for all landlords.

JPS also has monthly service contracts with clients who pay them to fix any issues as they crop up.

The state of play with fuel and energy efficiency

Fuel is an integral part of the plumbing industry and Jamie cares a lot about climate change and energy efficiency. He predicts that today’s boilers, which currently work on natural gas, will switch to hydrogen in the future, to make the industry greener and reduce burning carbon.

As he explains, it’s already been proven that the infrastructure is in place for the switch, and that all the pipe work that uses natural gas can carry hydrogen from the supply source into people’s homes, BUT hydrogen-ready boilers are still in development.

There aren’t any training courses on it yet, either. Heating engineers will have to do some training to convert from natural gas to hydrogen and there is likely to be a need for a special licence to work on hydrogen, (there are already separate licences for natural gas and LPG), as each gas works differently.

Training is the future

Jamie finds it hugely rewarding to give young people the opportunity to learn a trade and build a career, as he watches them grow in confidence and knowledge throughout their apprenticeships.

He is also creating a full training manual on taking someone with no training all the way through to the technicalities of gas.
As well as still spending three days a week ‘on the tools’ with his team of engineers, managing the business and giving his attention to business development, Jamie is focusing on systemising and streamlining the running of JPS to enable him to, one day in the not-so-distant future, focus entirely on the training side of the business.

He’s looking at how they can bring ex-military into the industry, and his longer-term goal is to set up a training school for the next generation of heating engineers. Jamie feels that there is huge room for improvement in the training offered within the industry, for example there are no courses that focus on technical fault finding and diagnostics – every training course concentrates on installation rather than breakdown and repairs. Jamie’s training school would change all that!

The man behind the business

Jamie grew up in the Winchester area, loves the area and all the great relationships he’s built up over the years, both professionally and personally, and can’t see himself wanting to be anywhere else.

When Jamie downs his plumbing tools, he’s a self-confessed adrenaline junkie. He got the bug for skydiving after his first tandem skydive for charity a few years ago, and he’s now part way through his training with the Army Parachute Association, on track to get his first license. He says the first jump was nerve-wracking because they can only teach you so much on the ground. Learning in the sky, only having yourself to rely on, is something else. He loves it though!