DESTINED for a career using his hands, Phil Pallister has come a long way since those early days as an apprentice toolmaker to establish Houghton-le-Spring-based 0800 Repair Gas as a national company.

Formed just eight years ago, as a subsidiary of leading UK home services firm Pacifica Group, the heating, gas, insulation and renewables firm has gone from strength to strength, despite a testing couple of years at the start of the enterprise, which Phil recalls as “the toughest challenge he has ever faced”.

“The first three years in business were definitely the most challenging,” he says. “I read somewhere that something like 20 per cent of small businesses fail in their first year, so you’re already up against it. It was all new to me, as I’d never started my own company before.”

After a short stint as an apprentice toolmaker, Phil moved into the utilities sector as an apprentice engineer with British Gas, where he thrived and enjoyed seven years with the energy and home services provider.

He continued to rise the up the chain of command to become a service manager before deciding the time was right to join his brother, Scott, co-founder and finance director of Pacifica Group, to oversee the development of its service range.

Phil said: “I was meeting a client one day and saw the nice cars parked outside his offices and thought to myself, ‘I want this kind of life’, which was the eureka moment for me to get into business. I had learnt a great deal during my time at British Gas and picked up many contacts along the way, so I had a good grasp of the industry and the new and emerging technologies that would play a huge part in its future.

“Pacifica Group were on the up and growing to become a leading home services provider in the region and nationally, so the time was right to take the plunge into business and try to help establish its heating and gas operation.”

0800 Repair has since expanded to include insulation and renewable energy services, with other members of Phil’s family onboard.

From its humble beginnings, where Phil was joined by a skeleton staff to establish 0800 Repair Gas in those initial years, it has gone on to become a major employer with more than 150 staff and is set to hit £20m turnover, buoyed by a record deal with a national energy provider.

Today, the company operates nationally, largely because of the eight-figure deal secured in 2017, which accelerated 0800 Repair Gas’ national aspirations by five years. It works with many of the country’s major energy suppliers, as well as social housing providers, landlords and the public.

In recent months it has been engaged by several local authorities to help tackle fuel poverty among the most vulnerable people living in the North-East.

Phil continued: “Going national was a defining moment in our short history. Every contract we win is significant, as it demonstrates our capabilities and credibility in the eyes of large organisations and gives the directors and I the confidence to continue investing in new technologies and to create more jobs.

“It also gives me a sense of pride and fulfilment when our engineers are working with people to combat the fuel poverty crisis in some of the region’s towns and cities. The energy efficient systems we install at these properties are helping to cut carbon emissions, while saving people money on bills.”

For someone who’s achieved great success in a relatively short time, Phil keeps his feet firmly on the ground, despite him and the company winning numerous awards over the last decade.

Phil said: “I’m not really the kind of person to show off and lap up wins and successes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be recognised, but the team is focused on the job at hand – award wins are a bonus. We’re now looking to hit record revenues this year and build on the success of becoming a national firm.”