Do you ever think about the careers advice your parents gave you and wish you had listened more attentively? Well, John Davidson can cast his mind back with some satisfaction. His father advised him to learn a trade that would provide the basis for a lifelong career, and John followed that counsel to the letter.
At the age of 15, the Belfast boy became an apprentice electrician, acquiring the practical skills that, three decades later, would prove vital in setting up one of the country’s most successful franchise operations.
Pioneering gas and electrical inspection
Gas-elec was born in 1996, offering a testing and inspection service for both gas and electricity that could be performed by one engineer in a single visit, saving landlords, tenants and homeowners time, inconvenience and money. Back then, the idea of a combined safety inspection was nothing short of revolutionary – so revolutionary, in fact, that one year after opening its doors for business, the company still didn’t have a single competitor.
At which point, John had what can only be described as a brainwave: he decided to turn his thriving business into a franchise operation. As he puts it: “getting people to directly invest in their own futures, is a great way to grow a business further still.”
“We split the UK into 20 different regions to allow our engineers to become franchisees,” recalls the managing director. “Then we invested heavily in putting it all together. We were a couple of years out of the recession and many people told me I was crazy – who, they asked, would invest in the venture when the country was on its knees?”
The UK’s premier gas and electrical safety inspection company
But the one-time electrician’s business instincts proved to be spot on. Plenty of engineers were prepared to invest in what is now the country’s premier gas and electrical safety inspection company.
Almost two decades later, gas-elec has 103 franchisees across the country and 15 regional offices coordinating their work diaries, sales and marketing. Those franchisees have provided services to more than 1,000,000 customers, and the company has enjoyed year-on-year growth.
But the reasons for that year-on-year growth have changed over the past two decades – and that, too, is testament to John’s business instincts.
At the beginning of the company’s life, franchisees spent their working days carrying out gas-elec’s pioneering combined safety inspections — mostly in the residential lettings sector, which was enjoying growth as the economy began to expand, providing housing to those unable to obtain mortgages at the time. Before long, the engineers started doing attendant remedial works, too and annual boiler services. Soon after, a homebuyers’ inspection report on gas, electricity, heating and plumbing was devised by the company, and the document proved so useful that it became something of an industry standard for surveyors.
Carbon monoxide alarms, energy performance certificates for rented properties and fire risk assessments for HMO landlords were each added to the company’s list of services.
9 million renters in the UK
Fast forward to 2015 and private renting is not just enjoying growth – it is fast becoming the new normal. In England, the sector is now home to more than 9 million people and 1.3 million families. For the first time in modern history, more peoplerent privately than rent their home from the council or a housing association. And nearly a third of renters expect to be living in the private rented sector for the rest of their lives.
Gas-elec does what it always done: it responds to the market. With this growing numbers of renters, many of them young people and foreign nationals, comes an attendant army of private landlords: between 1.3 and 1.5million, a goodly chunk of them subscribers to this website.
Our 6-Pack which has been specifically designed to ensure landlords meet all their legal gas and electrical obligations, and are also covered for household emergencies such as boiler breakdown, mains electricity failure, lost keys, pest infestation, plumbing and drainage. And we can perform risk assessments for legionnaires’ disease which landlords are, of course, now legally required to carry out. When it comes to properties, it is no exaggeration to say that gas-elec is a one-stop property shop.
And, crucially, the company is a Green Deal Provider, Assessor and Installer which means it can arrange and fund energy-efficient improvements in rental properties.
Ah, Green Deal. The words don’t generally engender unbridled enthusiasm. And since its launch in 2013, it is fair to say the programme has been shrouded in misunderstanding. But, actually, the Green Deal concept, can be summarised quite succinctly. It is a long term scheme to make Britain’s properties more energy efficient.
And with very good reason. The UK has some of the oldest housing stock in Europe: poorly insulated buildings which leak heat through their walls, windows and roofs, and which consume too much energy. The government is determined to sort it all out and build a less wasteful society in which people can get their energy bills under control.
Frankly, it has little other option. On average, household energy bills are rising at between seven and ten per cent annually.
Like the concept, the mechanics of Green Deal are also less complicated than is sometimes assumed. Energy-improvement works are funded by a loan repaid through the property’s electricity bill. In other words, they are not paid for upfront, or with very little outlay. And once they are complete, the tenant’s heating bills reduce because they are living in an energy-efficient home.
For landlords the benefits are obvious. You can market your green-up investment to tenants as a home with reduced energy bills and you have upgraded your property. And the difference between forking out, say, £100 rather than £150 for utility bills every month, means a lot to the average tenant, doesn’t it?
And, of course, the landlord is not paying to look after the long-term investment that is their property. Cavity wall insulation, a new boiler, new electrics – whatever the energy-saving works the Green Deal assessment recommends, the landlord is either paying very little outlay, or none at all.
What’s not to like?
0800 587 999: for overall landlord services
01895 420 777: for Green Deal enquiries