A message from Phil
It’s been a long period of uncertainty for businesses, signposted by changes to our daily vocabulary. It started with ‘Brexit’ and ended with ‘pivot’, ‘lockdown’ and ‘furlough’. The last 12 months have been the most significant in the history of Paint the Town Green. I have learnt more, changed more and achieved more than in any other year. Over 50% of our office staff have joined us in the last 12 months and we have changed the structure of the operational side of the business. But most significantly to the outsider looking in, this spring we have decided to stop selling our paint range and instead focus entirely on our decorating service.
When the first lockdown was announced last March it rang a bell of change for everyone throughout the country. Habits, systems, procedures, careers, modus operandi etc, all came under scrutiny, in some cases for the first time.
We were no different. We were a business providing a service that involves going into people’s houses during a pandemic where the government were telling people not to go into each other’s houses.
Once the initial panic and confusion had subsided I realised that the time and headspace lockdown provided was an amazing opportunity to learn, assess and change things. As the company owner I set myself two challenges. Firstly, how do we keep working safely within the government guidelines and secondly, how can I use this time to change things so that the post-pandemic PTTG is a fitter, leaner, better company.
We addressed the first challenge by turning our attention to large, empty spaces where we could work socially distanced and with no risk of coming into contact with clients. We talked of little else amongst ourselves in the (virtual) office and on every Zoom meeting we attended.
We got some great results, including working on Google’s building in King’s Cross.
We were also very fortunate that a project to re-decorate the library at St Paul’s Cathedral was already up and running so we were able to carry that out once the severest restrictions were lifted. Definitely a large empty space!
At the same time we starting looking at the bigger picture. How we could remain engaged with our clients, help people who may be struggling for whatever reason and improve ourselves as a company.
I absolutely loved doing our series of “Self-isolation Decoration” videos with my daughter Amber. It was the ultimate win-win. I finally got around to doing various jobs around the house that had needed doing for ages, it was great fun filming it with my daughter, and a lot of people have fed back that they followed the tutorials and did some DIY decorating as a result! (so I guess that makes it a win-win-win!)
We also began doing FaceTime estimates for clients, allowing us to work safely and more efficiently. This has removed a lot of travel time increasing the speed with which we can turn estimates around and reducing our carbon footprint.
Of all the things I’ve learnt in the last year, the one concept that repeatedly resonated with me was the idea of clarity of message: being able to summarise what a company’s purpose is as clearly and succinctly as possible. As the American popcorn producer Orvil Redenbacher once said: “Do one thing and do it better than anyone”.
When I started Paint the Town Green I wanted environmental awareness and conscientious choices to be at the heart of what we did. I wanted to appeal to the mainstream public by offering an uncompromising level of service and finish, whilst at the same time having an offering that was ethically and quintessentially better than the established norm. This has not changed, if anything this desire is stronger than ever.
However, over the past year I have come to the realisation that we can achieve this more effectively through what we do and the small changes and choices we make, rather than through one specific product we provide.
By focusing on the service we give and perfecting our area of expertise, we can have more influence on the choices and decisions being made, as well as maximising our value to those we work for.
We have had our own range of eco-friendly paint since I founded Paint the Town Green in 2007. Five years ago we opened our showroom on Allfarthing Lane and our paint range became available not just as part of our decorating service but also as a retail offering; available for anyone to buy either at the showroom or on-line. It’s been an adventure, I’ve learnt an enormous amount and met some amazing people – not least the revered designer Nicky Haslam, with whom we created a range of colours.
However there are now so many great eco-conscious paint brands such as Coat, Edward Bulmer and Graphenstone emerging, whose ethics we salute and support. For the greater good of the industry’s conscientious evolution it seemed better to collaborate, support and encourage what they do rather than compete with them.
With this decision made, the road ahead suddenly lit up like a runway and our mission and purpose became crystal clear: to innovate within our industry with positive, ethical and honest collaboration. Whether it be with paint brands, wallpaper suppliers, interior designers, construction companies or home owners, we are now totally focused on continually improving and refining our service to become the best decorating company in the country.
Our goal is to become a household name. We want to be a trusted, innovative and modern ethically-driven brand.
Changes we have made include replacing plastic protective sheeting on sites with compostable and recyclable alternatives, getting an electric car, providing free colour consultations to clients to save on paint waste, collaborating with a paint recycling company to reuse leftover paint for good causes and providing our staff with clothing made from recycled and ethically-sourced products.
We also want to make our industry more open, transparent and accountable and improve its ‘Wild West’ image. To help with that we have created a code of conduct for our staff and a handbook for clients that guides them through the decorating process and explains some of the technical terms in plain English.
The pandemic has set in motion a wave of worldwide change, the ripples of which will be felt for months and years to come. When Covid-19 ceases to be the lead item on the news, global warming will come back into sharp focus and will further influence the evolution of that change.
The opportunity for long term, fundamental improvement has never been greater with so many ingrained habits and practices already dislodged by Covid.
As a business owner I have a responsibility not just to keep putting food on the table for all my team, but also to drive things forward in a way I can look back on and think we got it right.
In this time of uncertainty it’s not enough for any business simply to make money. They must also use their expertise and influence to make things better. For their industry, for their clients and for the future of the planet.