He was supposed to be studying economics at Roehampton University. But he was inspired to drop out and take a plumbing course after watching Charlie Mullins on television. And that was before Raymond Onovwigun stepped off the plane in Nigeria and came up with the idea that would become Romco Metals.
He had to be a little economical with the truth to his mum in Clapham, too. Growing up, he used to help her clean houses. She was a great traditionalist and had urged him to go to university and become a lawyer or a doctor. “How are your studies going, Raymond?” she would ask. “Fine, Mum!” he would reply, omitting the fact that he was now plumbing the mysteries of taps and pipes. Being 6’ 7” tall, he realised that he was never going to be a natural at cramming himself under sinks, and concentrated instead on building up the business and recruiting a lot of shorter men to do the work. “I was good at the sharp intake of breath when you’re inspecting a job – it’s the first thing they teach you.”
His mother noticed that, considering he was a student, her son seemed to be getting a lot of calls early in the morning. Finally he confessed that he had switched to plumbing and heating, and revealed that the business already had a turnover of over a million. She asked, “Is there a degree in it?” He said he’d do it for a few years then go back to college. “She still thinks I will,” he says, laughing.
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