How and when did you start decorating?
I started decorating when I was 17. I went to college for a year to study “A” levels because that is what you are told to do. I hated it and dropped out. I was lucky enough to get a job at a local decorating company almost straight away.
This was early eighties too, we were in recession.
The company was called Dennis A Kehoe Ltd (They have been bought out by Seddon, so they do not exist anymore) and they employed about 30 decorators. The firm did the full range of decorating work including domestic decorating, schools, hospitals, churches and much more. The skills that the company offered including painting, spraying (yes even back then), wallpaper installation, signwriting, gilding and decorative finishes such as graining.
This was great for me because it gave me a rounded apprenticeship and I am grateful for the experience that the company gave me. I was sent to college one day a week for 3 years to get qualified. I really enjoyed this and always fancied maybe teaching one day. Oh, little did I know what the future held!
What’s your favourite part of the job?
I love spraying, I have been doing it for years and it still puts a smile on my face, its just so much fun! To think I get paid to do it as well. Amazing. Another favourite is the job satisfaction that you get when you finish, and the customer is over the moon. It’s priceless. You don’t get that with many jobs these days.
What’s your least favourite part of the job?
Good question. Carrying tubs of paint around. I am working with a contractor at the moment doing some on site training and we are spraying out apartments. Each apartment can take 4 or 5 ten litre tubs of emulsion. The job is massive, and, in some cases, we have to hump it quite a way from the basement. I work with another contractor and he has an apprentice who places all the paint I need in one place on each floor and its heaven.
Your new book is on the horizon. What’s it called and can you tell us a little about it?
Before I answer this question, I just want to say a bit about why I write the books. I wrote the first one on spraying because I was doing some training for a number of companies. I felt that it would be good at the end of the training to give them some reference material.
Maybe a book.
I looked around and found that there was nothing out there! Amazing.
No choice then, I will have to write one myself. It was a steep learning curve and I have made many mistakes along the way. However, I have found two things: –
- Decorators love reading them, I get emails thanking me for writing the books. This means a lot to me.
- I love writing them. I really enjoy the process. When the first proof copy comes through my letter box the feeling is amazing or maybe that is just me. Probably.
My latest book is called “Fast and Flawless Systems”
This is going to be the last in the “Fast and Flawless” range. Not my last book though of course. Here is the description from the back cover; –
If you are a decorator, then there are three things that you need to do to increase your earnings.
- Firstly, start pricing correctly. This was the subject of my last book Fast and Flawless Pricing.
- Secondly, you need to start spraying so that you become more productive. This was the subject of my first book Fast and Flawless.
- Finally, you need to put systems in place so that you are running your business like a well-oiled machine.
This book looks at systems for decorators.
It covers all types of systems from commonly used products to what order you should spray a room. The book also covers aspects of decorating that you may not be aware of, such as painting uPVC, recruitment systems and marketing.
If you have read the other two books already then this is one is a must read, if you haven’t then this book is a great place to start.
I am hoping to publish it on Amazon at the end of July.
As someone who not only has experience of being a decorator, but as someone who has also taught P&D at a college, what changes have you seen in the industry and what do you think the coming years will hold for painters and decorators?
I taught painting and decorating at my local college in Preston for over 20 years full time and over that time I have seen many changes in the industry.
The structure of decorating companies had changed, and the industry is more polarised now with really large firms at one end and small one man band businesses at the other. This is not great for training young people in the trade. Large firms tend to do a lot of one thing and small firms only really do small contracts.
Another change I have seen is the amount of “kit” that you need to be a decorator. Dustless sanders, pasting machines and sprayers are all now part of a decorator’s tool kit. This is good in some ways because it makes it harder for people to enter the industry in competition with you but on the other hand you have got to buy all this stuff to keep up!
Finally, the array of products out there. There are so many new products on the market and a lot of them are amazing. You need to test them for yourself to make sure that they are what you are looking for. We all get a bit lazy with paint and stick to what we have always used.
It’s Macpheresons for me.
I recently tried some Andura water based satin. It was supposed to be good to spray I was told. When I opened the lid, I was sceptical. To my surprise it sprayed amazing and was dry in an hour. Unbelievable. One to test yourself, I think.
Tell us a funny story about a job:
This is not really funny but looking back maybe it was. I was only 18 and a neighbour asked me to paint their outside. It was in a mess and needed burning off (remember those days?)
I started, as you do, on the soffits and facia boards. I stopped at brew time and looked up to admire my work only to see some smoke coming from under the tiles.
The homeowner was out so I ran up to the loft hatch and went into the attic. I could not find where the smouldering was, and the space was too narrow in the soffit area to get close. I had no choice.
Call the fire brigade.
Two fire engines arrived, sirens blazing. Followed closely by the home owner. Oh, the shame! The fireman went up my ladder, lifted a couple of tile and removed the smoking nest. It took them seconds and the crisis was over.
The fire engines left. Lucky for me the home owner understood and was quite impressed that I had took responsibility for the mistake and done something about it.
They paid me too once I had finished. No tip though.
If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would be the first 3 things you’d do with the money?
If I won, the lottery I would do the following.
- Go on a cruise for 3 months to reflect on my good fortune and decide what I wanted to do next.
- Buy a Ford Escort Cosworth, I have always wanted one.
- Invest in my training academy so that we could change the industry for the better without financial pressure.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
I have given this a lot of thought sat out in the sun this lovely Sunday morning on my deckchair with a cup of tea.
It would be great to be able to cure cancer by just touching the affected area. It would be fun with breast cancer patients too. On a serious note I would give my power away for free. The look on a parents face as I cure their child of cancer would be priceless. It has taken me all my life to realise that helping others has its own reward which is worth more than money.
Although I won the lottery in the last question, so I am OK.
If you weren’t a decorator, what would you be?
My dad was a boat builder and I love boats. I have built my own steel barge and fitted it out and I really enjoyed it. I have written a book about it too although no one seems interested.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice to make you a better decorator, what would it be?
Enjoy your life.
The best things in life are free. Friends, family, food, sex, alcohol, sleep, sunbathing, swimming and laughing. Stop chasing what everyone tells you to chase and follow your heart.
Where to find Pete:
If any of you haven’t already read Pete’s books I read Fast and Flawless pricing recently and loved it. Easy read and packed full of useful ideas to help your decorating business. And no he’s not paying me to say this! You can get the book from Amazon here. I recommend it to any decorator.
Thanks again to Pete for answering my questions. Another great insight shared.
I am looking to talk to as many decorators as possible over the coming months so we can share knowledge and hopefully raise the profile of the industry as a whole.
If you would like to feature in ‘An interview with a decorator’ please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org , DM me on social media or via the contact page on my website.