Archive for the 'Business' Category

Tara Maintenance is Approved Which? Trusted Trader…

Which? are the well known consumer magazine people and every year thousands, if not millions, choose products on the basis of them standing up well in trails by Which staff or readers.

No longer is it just products that they are scrutinising – businesses offering services can volunteer to put themselves under the microscope of a Which investigator. So Tara Maintenance Ltd took the plunge.

The examiner investigated a range of paperwork including invoices, receipts,  Terms & Conditions, insurance and the workers qualifications.  She spoke to me at great length to understand how the business operates, how a job is priced, what happens if there are changes or unexpected events when the job is under-way, what happens if there are problems, even after the job is finished.  Obviously she wanted to make sure the customers’ statutory rights were being respected and the public are being treated fairly.  Finally she also looked through invoices to ALL the customers over the past 12 months and took a random sample to contact for references.

I was quite confident that we were doing everything correct and offering a really good service to customers.  Which? really have done a thorough investigation of businesses on their Trusted Trader website so customers can be confident they are employing traders who will treat them fairly and with respect.

I was keen to take part in the process for a number of reasons:

  • an independent examination of the business could reassure or point out problems and sure enough I did get some great advice for improvements,
  • passing the independent assessment by Which? will mean more to the public than simply our word that we are running a good business,
  • the Which? assessment is not just an exercise in submitting all the right paperwork – unlike many of the other schemes that you will have heard of.

I spent some time telling the assessor about the difficulties faced by small businesses doing construction work for the public.   I find it fascinating reading about Michael’s real experiences in the book trade so you readers may be interested to know about challenges Tara Plumbing face.

The public want a business that meets all the criteria of a Which? trusted trader when they employ people to work in their homes, whether it be a new bathroom or kitchen or central heating fitted or something more major or minor.

However, many are also looking for the cheapest possible price.

It is possible to shop around for materials and save a little, bigger savings are to be made by changing brands and compromising on levels of quality.  e.g. We recently quoted to replace a toilet, for this particular job we recommended a £200 toilet but the customer wanted one that was only £50 – Mr TP did not think it was a good idea for that particular home.  Whoever supplies an item is responsible for it, so he told the potential customer what he thought of the £50 toilet.  Yes he could fit it but he would not be willing to supply it, they would have to go get it themselves.

OK.  People choosing budget items is one problem: often a false economy because the things do not last half as long as an item that was only slightly more expensive (not that toilet example, obviously – I wouldn’t like to tell you Mr TP’s estimation of the life span of the £50 toilet).  Several quotes to SUPPLY and fit XXX might not be providing the same quality of item so one company may appear much cheaper than another by installing a budget range.

A greater difficulty is cheaper labour.

Time and time and time again I hear of construction work in private homes at ridiculously low prices – how did the worker make a living?  It is not that they employ cheap “foreign” labour, in my opinion, it is that they have not worked to any of the rules of our land.  They are not registered for VAT despite trading above the threshold, they avoid being VAT registered by receiving all payments in cash and similarly do not declare all their income for income tax.  This would be the only way that some can work for the very low rates and charges that I sometimes hear about.  

And those same “builders” do not work to Building Regulations and do not declare their work to the Local Authority.  The result is a new bathroom, extension, ensuite etc. that may serve its purpose but is not up to current standards and can hold a load of problems, some of which might not be obvious at first.

I doubt if those traders are insured or if they will come back to attend to problems in the future.

The problem for us then is that no matter how reasonable we are with our prices we will seem expensive, we can’t compete with those people and pay our TAXes.

I can identify with those people who employ the very cheapest “builders” because I am also a working mum with too many young children – however, those cheap builders are often cutting corners and leaving many problems behind.  The expense of getting it put right can often be greater than simply having it done correctly in the first place.

Tara at the which? Trusted Trader site is here:


will take you to the Trusted Trader site if you want to search for business.

Reviewing our estimates

You may think calculating the price for a quotation is easy, after all we do it all the time. No, if you are seeking a quote from a builder or plumber in Kent, each job is quite unique and the spreadsheet we use has space for the following items:


2. Labour

3. Fuel (hour far is the job)

4. car parking (if applicable)

5. a proportion of our overheads (you know, insurance and advertising)

6. smokers in the house? daily penalty for inconvenience. We may decline the work as we have to consider health and safety in the work place and providing a safe work environment for employees.

7. pets in the house? Possible penalty for inconvenience

8. Interesting people with interesting hobbies – price will include a discount – because we are interested in meeting you again and hearing more about your charity work, collection of African wood carvings or whatever (mostly because Mr Tara Plumbing and I are lonely people with no friends!)

9. friendly (sexy) housewife? secures discount of about 10% – the guys will enjoy working there.

10. Over the top sexy housewife who greets the workers in dressing gown or similar – add £100 per day danger money as no man can be left to work alone for his own safety. (Despite appearances, the men are frightened of these ladies!)

11. young children – usually discount – sympathy for sleepless nights, worry, single income household, etc…

12. teenage children – penalty due to obnoxious behaviour and the possibility they may destroy the work we’ve done whilst it is still in our guarantee period.

13. Messy house – may incur penalty depending on work

14. Rudeness on telephone or when we attend the house – huge penalty – we are not keen to see you again so we need a huge incentive to put up with you.

15. Invite us to a swinging couples party in your hot tub! We will come to the party but we won’t do the work in your house!

16. Then finally, add V. A. T., of course, 17.5%

So you see, it is not as simple as it looks.

Note: Item 6 & 7 depend largely on smell and there may be no charge if there is no inconvenience (& no smell).

Jingas – vegan shoes with a charity and ecology angle.

Regular readers will know that it was recently my birthday. My goodness, I dropped enough hints, yet not one of you sent me an ecard, let alone a Big Present!

Luckily Mr Tara Plumbing came up with the goods, all my desires were met! I’ve written about some of them already: dinner, theatre, books.

I just thought I should add that I have some new jingas. I discovered them in an advert in The Big Issue. Colourful footwear which is also vegan. Not that I’m planning to eat them.

Plants and even edible pants, but edible footwear, I can’t see it catching on.

The vegan claim is that they contain nothing of animal origin. They are also sweatshop free shoes which are made in Brazil and 5% of profits goes towards funding a social project in a Rio de Janeiro.

So what are they like to wear. If you click on the link below you will find that they are fairly cheap and like most things, you get what you pay for.

They are very flat, thin and flimsy, think ballet shoes, plimsolls or slippers. They are NOT for serious walking. They are cheap, comfortable and colourful. I love them!

I’m a thoroughly modern woman: I rarely walk anywhere. The only long walk I take on a regular basis is across the play ground when I take my son to school. By the afternoon I can’t face such another huge trek, so Mr T.P. collects our son!

I drive to the gym so that I can sit on a stationery bike and cycle the equivalent distance that I covered in my drive there and could have cycled for free on a real bike. On a real bike, however, there is the danger of an accident, or that I might miss the day time repeat of Frasier.  More Jenga shoes       

Jinga shoes

Get your jingas here:

An interesting feature of Jinga’s is that on their website they also claim to give a certain amount of the profit to charity. This year, on TV in an episode of The Apprentice and in Dragon’s Den, some of the UK’s most successful business people have poured scorn on some entrepreneur- wannabes’ confusion between charity and business.

Alan Sugar pointed out that it was administratively almost impossible to promise to give a % of the retail cost to a charity and also, that in doing so, you are effectively telling the consumer that the price of the product has been inflated to include a charity donation. On D.D.  Mr Balantyne (from ice-cream van to gyms), pointed out that as a member of the public, a business person or as an investor it was more tax efficient for him to give to charity personally and directly, so that the money can be gift aided.

I think what the gurus are saying is that it is better to run a good business, be successful and profitable. Then give as much money as you want or can to charity. I seem to recall the Body Shop lady say something similar, too, but I could be wrong.

Of course, if the business is a failure then charity gets £0.

2 Teas or Not 2 Teas ~ is that the Question?

We are conducting experiments on the work force. No ethics committee approval. No signed consent forms from the workers themselves. So if you see anyone in a Tara uniform, please do not mention a word about it.

The working title of the study – the correlation between sugar and productivity among workmen in Kent – a preliminary investigation.

Mr Tara Plumbing thinks they all work harder if they are force fed cakes in the morning, but I think a more healthy diet would be better, that’s why at home we go for porridge and fresh fruit smoothies.

The literature tells me that the GI composition of the two contrasting breakfasts means that the workers will have a burst of energetic behaviour after the cakes (so the boss can see they are working) but this is followed by a blood sugar dip – when they all need to slow right down or even rest – which would be around the time the boss has left the site.

Our breakfast, on the other hand, should mean we do not have highs and lows but just sustained energy until lunch time.

My preferred lunch is at about 10.40am and consists of cake!

This brings me nicely on to the subject of HOT Beverages (with the compulsory builder’s 2 sugars) : should customers provide or not?

As a company insider I can tell you it is certainly NOT expected, and between you and I, Mr Tara Plumbing would discourage any thing that interrupts the work! Slave driver!

My own view, when I’ve had people working at my property, is that is nice and courteous to offer a drink if I can, but not compulsory. Frankly, I might be too busy to make TEA or I may be out of some vital ingredient (milk, sugar, tea bags, cups).

If I want the job done quickly, it stands to reason that offering liquid refreshment in the morning may be to my personal benefit because everyone needs to dehydrate in the morning and it will be better if I have refreshed workers on site rather than dehydrated ones who need to disappear to a cafe in next to no time.

If there is one thing that annoys me it is workmen who actually ask me to make them a cup of tea – how rude. When I say “one thing that annoys me,” that is misleading. There are many things that annoy me, and they increase in number daily as I become a grumpy old women, furthermore, most of those things relate to bad manners (not the ska group, Buster Blood Vessel, long tongue, lip up fatty…).

I must end now, I’m gasping for a coffee.

Pick me! Pick Me! Said the donkey in Shrek

When composing our publicity materials I reflect on why people might choose our company, Tara, over any other plumbing or building company.

If I think back to when I was a customer, how did I select my first building contractor? I had just bought my first house, it was uninhabitable, with indoor water feature resulting from incomplete roof. I got three quotes – as recommended in all consumer handbooks. That is to say, three men came to see the house. I can’t remember the first person, but he did submit a written quotation. The second guy oozed sex appeal, more on this later. The third guy seemed really promising, it was about 6pm, I’d rushed to the house from work to meet him, and we went to the local watering hole for a drink whilst he ran through all that was involved in the work – he seemed to know his stuff, all very promising, in my mind I gave this man the job. After all that, I never heard from him again, no written quote, no phone call, nothing.

I thought it strange at the time, that chap would drive to my house and spend an hour or so of his time in ‘salesman’ mode and then not follow it up in writing. I have since found this is common, I guess 1 in 3 builders never send a written quote.

So I had a choice of two – of course, I went for Mr Sex-on-Legs. mmm! When I mentioned the builder to my friends, it turned out that all the single women in my area (Hackney) had also had this chap do work for them. “mmm,” they all said, with knowing smiles. In fact, traffic in Kingsland Road slowed down considerably whilst work was underway on my house, as women detoured from Mare Street to drive past, slowly, Ogling. Yes, women definitely do behave like that. I can assure you, though, that things went no furthering than looking ( and exchanging stories of lustful fantasies). Mr Sex-on-Legs’ benefit from the roofing contract was purely monetary and not physical.

Ten years on, I am writing content for the Tara Plumbing website. My first draft was rejected, it went something like this:

lots of builders could renovate your house but our Tara team offer a 

complete fantasy package. They are pleasing on the eye and are known to appeal to ladies and gay men of all ages!




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