Fighting your cause
The Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors exists to help contractors run their business and stay up to speed with new developments in the industry, says CEO John Thompson, himself a former plumber.
John Thompson is a qualified plumber and building services design engineer who has spent his entire career in the plumbing and heating industry, starting as an apprentice in the family business in North Yorkshire in 1980.
Today, he is CEO of the Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors (APHC), where he has worked since the early 1990s – primarily dealing with education and training matters including development of qualifications for the industry – before becoming CEO in 2011.
What role does the APHC play in the heating and plumbing industry?
We are a member-driven organisation, and ever since the APHC was first formed in 1925 it has been committed to safeguarding the plumbing and heating industry, while helping member businesses succeed and gain a competitive advantage in an ever-changing and highly regulated market.
We are a not-for-profit organisation, which means every penny we receive is reinvested back into the organisation for our members. The APHC is constantly evolving with new ideas, services and benefits.
Would you say membership of an organisation like the APHC helps tradespeople win more business?
Yes, definitely. Members use the APHC logo as an independent ‘stamp of approval’ to visually differentiate themselves from competitors and rogue traders. We promote members to consumers looking for a qualified plumbing and heating engineer via our online ‘Find A Quality Plumber’ directory, which is there to provide direct referrals and is promoted through consumer-focused marketing.
The APHC actively promotes the virtues of using members via social media, and we run ‘Quality Plumber Week’ every year where we champion the industry’s very best plumbing and heating contractors, and warn against rogue traders. We hold it in the first week of October as this week is generally a busy period for plumbers, and about the time all of us switch on our central heating systems after a long summer break.
The fast pace of the industry means that products, legislation and consumer behaviours are always changing. How do you help your members keep ahead of the game?
By belonging to an industry body such as the APHC, you can gain a direct link to industry legislators, influencers and government bodies. Membership lets you shape legislation and policy. We listen to our members and use our collective lobbying power to represent them, and put their opinions across to government and regulatory bodies to help safeguard the future of the plumbing and heating industry.
Not only that, it’s important that our members keep up-to-date with industry news. Our quarterly magazine Hot + Cold is exclusive to members, who also receive regular circulars, weekly email newsletters, bi-monthly e-bulletins and daily social media posts.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for plumbers and heating contractors?
Most plumbers and heating contractors are excellent at their trade, but aren’t necessarily equipped with the skills that are required for running a business, especially the sole traders.
To relieve some of these pressures, our members can access free technical, legal and employment telephone helplines, plus they can read our comprehensive online library of business guides; so no matter what issue may come their way they are confident that a solution can be found. Members also have access to our free conciliation service, where we aim to swiftly resolve customer disputes with an amicable outcome for all parties involved.
Do you encourage members to continue their own professional development?
Yes, we offer a number of training courses. Members can develop and grow their businesses through our discounted training programme, which includes one-day courses on water regulations, Legionella cold water risk assessment and disinfection, sanitary and above ground drainage and wetroom design and installation.
The courses are delivered by highly experienced trainers who have considerable knowledge and expertise with the content of each course. What’s more, our sister company APHC Training Ltd, a registered charity, offers a reward scheme that allows a limited number of plumbing and heating companies to claim a single contribution of up to £150 towards the cost of an APHC course or an external qualifying course.
Are there any other ways that members of the APHC can access new and growing markets?
We encourage all our members to take advantage of a number of schemes to help develop their businesses. For companies meeting minimum operating criteria we offer membership of the APHC’s free Water Regulations Certification Scheme to ensure compliance with the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations.
They can also access the Legionella Risk Assessment and Disinfection Scheme to provide a means of demonstrating compliance with the Health and Safety Executive’s Approved Code of Practice, Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8).
There is also the opportunity to join APHC Certification Ltd’s Competent Persons Scheme to allow members to self-certify a wide range of work – instead of dealing with local building control and the Microgeneration Certification Scheme – to install microgeneration technologies used to produce electricity and heat from renewable sources.
Are there any other benefits that members can take advantage of?
Absolutely. We provide access to exclusive discounts and services. For example, members can save money on insurance; fleet breakdown cover; MOTs, tyres and other auto-care; petrol and diesel costs; website design; and even obtain high-street discounts through our unique saving scheme APHC Offers 4U. They can also access a specialist plumbing and heating industry pension scheme.
Plumbing and heating businesses can find out more about the APHC at www.aphc.co.uk
Since then the organisation has faced a number of battles to safeguard the oil heating industry as well as embracing new renewable technologies.
On 1 June, Stewart Clements took up his position as director of the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC). In an exclusive interview, he sets out his plans for the organisation, including his hopes for it to shape the government’s agenda
Husband-and-wife team Ben and Jo Alsop have grown a successful gas business since starting up in 2008, and the emergence of renewable heat technologies has complemented that well