Name: Michael Cairns.

Age: 37.

What is your business called?

Celsius Plumbing and Heating (Edinburgh) Limited.

Where is it based?

Portobello in Edinburgh.

What services does it offer?

Domestic plumbing and heating, gas boiler installations and servicing, planned maintenance and reactive plumbing services.

To whom does it sell?

Domestic customers, landlords, including Airbnb landlords, property managers and light commercial businesses.

We embrace technology which allows our team to work consistently, with many of our formerly ‘manual’ processes now fully systemised.

What is its turnover?

For the year to 31 August, it was £780,000. We set a target of £1 million of turnover in 2019 and, without the pandemic, would probably have reached that figure by now.

How many employees?

We employ 15 people and work alongside three partner sub-contractors.

When was it formed?


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Why did you take the plunge?

Just before the financial crash of 2007 / 2008 I was made redundant and, reluctantly, had gone self-employed, I was told by my former employer that I could pick and choose any jobs that might come up. Then, with my older brother as an apprentice, the crash came. From there we had to make a go of it ourselves. That was a hard lesson but one that stood me in good stead. I chose to call the business “Celsius” because at that time, as a young engineer, I was really interested in the heating side of the trade and thought Celsius was quite fitting.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I left Portobello High School and did a variety of jobs. As well as selling pies at Easter Road Football Stadium, I worked in a bank and in another financial institution where I learned a lot about how big corporates operate. I was late in starting my apprenticeship at 19, and because of the commitments I had at the time I continued to work at night, including in a city pub, which I greatly enjoyed, to supplement my earnings.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I was awarded a Prince’s Trust grant of £1,000 and have not borrowed anything since except for a Bounce Back loan when Covid-19 struck. We took on a finance director, Robert Swan, in 2017 and he, together with Alan Smith from Action Coach, have made sure we all now know all our numbers.

What was your biggest break?

In 2016 I met and subsequently signed-up with Big Change and that is where I met Serge Fagelman, who opened my eyes to how we could improve our systems. Our business has been transformed since that moment through a move to the use of tablet-based software in place of time-consuming paperwork.

What was your worst moment?

When Covid-19 hit us I could see twelve years of work and effort disappearing before my eyes. Like many other small businesses out there, we quickly learned to adapt. I did not imagine that the UK Government would step in with the furlough scheme and Bounce Back loans to see us through those first very difficult months. We also had great support from the Action Coach community. We business owners were encouraged to share our experiences and approaches to dealing with the regulations and the support application processes. Their support was what kept us going.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Money helps but it is not what drives me. I love developing people and I am proud that we have seen 14 apprentices come through our ranks over the years. We have two apprentices currently working towards their industry qualifications and seeing them develop their skills gives me a lot of pride. I know how hard it was for me to get and complete my apprenticeship.

What are your ambitions for the business?

As in 2019, we are aiming to be a £1m turnover business, We would like to grow the team to at least 20 and to be recognised as the number one reactive and planned plumbing and heating business in Edinburgh .Today’s gas boilers are very efficient and emit reduced amounts of Co2. In my view they will be still be around in the short and medium term.After that I’m pretty confident that there will be a new generation of technologies that will provide us with solutions.

In my opinion, the ground source heat pump approach does not even begin to answer the issues of cities like Edinburgh where there is a huge stock of tenements, not to mention listed buildings.

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What are your top priorities?

We work in a traditional industry and we see it as ripe for disruption. We focus on asking the right questions to our customers around delivery of the service we offer, rather than the end products we recommend for installation. We are presently working on new technologies to allow our customers to get a quote for a new boiler installation, including a finance guide, without us entering their homes. This approach has of course arisen from the pandemic but virtual quotes are the way forward.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Do more to drive apprenticeships. There is simply not enough support funding for companies to hire all the apprentices Scotland needs.

How do you relax?

I go fishing. I like the quote by Thoreau, “many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish that they are after.”