From Brush to Boardroom: Part 1
Just over four years ago we set out on a mission to become London’s best decorating company.
Our aim? To change the perception of our industry for the better, standardising the decorating process and the customer experience by seeing what could be done differently, without compromising on performance or service. And, crucially, to be as climate conscious as possible.
We wanted Paint The Town Green to be a great place to work, with a positive, collaborative culture, consistently delighting customers - and in doing so, becoming a household name.
To quote the great Chris Martin: ‘Nobody said it was easy, no-one ever said it would be this hard…’
Although we have made great strides towards where we want to be (and I have learnt more in the past three years than I did possibly in my entire time at school!), there is still lots of work to do.
One of the things I have come to realise is that it’s not the arrival at your destination that makes it all worthwhile, it’s the quality and form of your journey, your companions, and how you choose to travel that matters most.
I have no doubt that we will get to where we want to be. It won’t happen overnight - rather, it will be a gradual journey of learning and development, and it will be that journey (and the personal growth we experience during that time) that will make us all most proud.
That all said, I thought it might be fun to start to share the journey with you! Some people reading this may already run their own business, some may be thinking about it, others may have no intention of ever leaving the safe world of regular income (why would you?!). Whatever your situation, aspirations or interests, I’m hoping that there’s something in my ramblings that tickles you and makes you want to read on.
Thank you for joining me on our journey, as I climb the ladder ‘From Brush to Boardroom…’
I’ve been working ‘on the tools’ again recently.
It’s a slight double-edged sword when this happens. One the one hand, it takes me back to how the company started 16 years ago:. me, a bag of tools and a set of steps, decorating people’s houses. I’ve always loved the instant reward you get from decorating. You do a day’s work, then stand back and look at what you’ve just done and it’s uplifting. I very rarely get to do it these days but when I do, I love it. It also gives me a chance to spend time with the guys and girls on site rather than a quick fly-by visit.
The other side of the sword is it means I spend the next week or so catching up on everything I’ve fallen behind on. In that regard it’s a bit like going on holiday.
Last time I was on the tools was in March, when I went to help the team at Westminster Abbey to move things on. There was a deadline on that job that apparently couldn’t be moved (the King’s coronation). It was a privilege to work with architectural conservationists Humphries and Jones on this project, sensitively restoring and re-painting 7 sets of iron gates around the Abbey which they then gilded.
More recently I’ve been helping award-winning interior designer Clare Gaskin decorate her stand at the WOW house exhibition in Chelsea Design Centre. It was good fun -these things are always busy and somewhat chaotic, working in a small space with electricians cutting holes in walls and cornices being installed, all while trying to hang wallpaper at the same time. Basically the very scenario project managers go to great lengths to try and avoid! But at these trade events there’s so little time to get everything ready, you just have to go with the flow and make it work. We did, and Clare’s space looked stunning by the end.
Clare then kindly invited me to the opening night the following week. This was a chance to rub shoulders with the interior design royalty displaying at the event. It was great to catch up with Nicky Haslam who I’d got to know when we collaborated on our pant range several years ago, but who I hadn’t seen since the pandemic. He was as charming and sharp-witted as ever, and the room he designed with Colette Van Den Thillart was every bit as impressive as you’d expect.
Continuing on the ecclesiastical theme from Westminster Abbey we have just completed works at St Andrew by the Wardrobe church in Blackfriars, repainting - amongst other areas - their very impressive ceiling in the nave. The main contractor here was Universal Stone who we also had the pleasure of working with at the English Heritage-owned property Marble Hill House in Twickenham in 2021.
It’s been a very strange start to the year for us at PTTG. For the first time since pre-COVID things went eerily quiet for a couple of months. The cost of living, rising interest rates and the usual post-Christmas austerity combined to create a slump in the industry as a whole.
The quiet time has actually been very beneficial for us, giving us space to take a breath, look at what has gone well, what has not gone so well over the previous couple of years, and put some fixes in place.
Over the past four years we’ve quadrupled in size as a company. It’s been great and very exciting but hasn’t come without challenges. As a wise person once said to me:, “If you grow too fast you get stretch marks!”
At one point we had over 40 people working for the company which to some may seem tiny, but as a company that had rumbled on with around 10 people for several years beforehand it was quite a step up and it’s taken a while to work out how to operate at this level whilst maintaining the same level of personalised and consistent customer service we have always prided ourselves on.
There’s been a bit of trial and error but I think we’ve got a really good system now. The slightly quieter period has been invaluable for consolidating that and thinking about the future.
Now things are busy again we’re expanding once more and looking for an office manager/book-keeper, and we’re always on the lookout for positive-minded decorators.
Building a great company is all about finding and retaining great staff. Our destination is to become London’s best decorating company; our journey and what makes it all worthwhile though, is the people.
Until next time, Phil