This week we catch up with Chris Gray of Gray Dec Painters & Decorators.
If you’d like to connect with Chris, you can find his Facebook business page here: https://www.facebook.com/graydec/
How and when did you start decorating?
11 years ago I was plodding along in job in retail, when girlfriend’s (now wife) dad told me I needed to get a trade.. I’d trained as a mechanic and a plumber and decided I didn’t like either so I thought I’d give decorating a go. With no previous experience I joined my father in law and his brother…combined they have over 70 years experience and taught me the trade from the ground up.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
It’s got 100% job satisfaction of turning a tired room/ building into something beautiful. I also love doing that thing when you drive passed a house and say… see that house? I painted that. Nobody else cares and you get that groan, but I enjoy it.
What’s your least favourite part of the job?
- Relying on others to get a job done. Not everyone has the same standards or respect for time keeping and being where they say they are going to be when they say they are going to be there.
I’ve been let down countless times and I find it quite stressful letting customers down
- Customers without social boundaries. Calling at all hours, my wife’s office hours end at 5.. I could be looking at jobs at 7am or 7pm and taking phone calls at 9/10pm at night.
What’s your favourite decorating tool / piece of kit?
My sanders. I’m reasonably new to the world of dustless, buying my first Mirka 3 or 4 years ago. I now have half a dozen Festool and Mirka sanders and if one broke I’d replace it the same day.. aaand my purdy 10-1 knife.. always in my pocket.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made on a job? The biggest ‘oh sh*t’ moment?
Driving a boom lift around the back of a house straight into a 10 foot deep soak away that have been shoddily built.. the boom was partially extended and knocked down a garden wall
If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would be the first 3 things you’d do with the money?
- Buy a boat – I’ve always wanted to own a boat buy my wife won’t let me as every time we hire one I either crash it, hit coral and write off a motor or run out of fuel 3 miles off a Greek island..
- Take my daughter to a toy shop and tell her she could anything and everything she wanted… aaaand go!
- I’d buy a bigger house.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Magneto is pretty cool.. I could see metal manipulation coming in handy
If you weren’t a decorator, what would you be?
I’d more than likely be middle management in a hotel, restaurant, retail… something really boring
If you could change one thing about the industry to improve it, what would it be?
CSCS: I get it, I do.. But I’ve had dozens of people work with me and for me.. and a 3 year
apprenticeship to get your bit of paper to say you can decorate does not make you a good decorator yet this seems to be the criteria to get on to sites.. not that I’d ever want to get on site as it looks awful but it’s nice to know I could if I want to
Imagine you moved your business to a new town. You have no existing customers or word of mouth to fall back on. How do you generate leads and get yourself up and running?
Checkatrade has been good to us in our area, it’s not for everyone but for us it generates £50-75k of work a year. I’ve also recently started contracts with management agents.. tendering for works cost the company nothing so I email or call asking for tenders and if after 3 or 4 I’m not what they are looking for I move on. Management agents are in every town. You just need to find them.
What do you get up to when you’re not on the brush? Any hobbies?
Family man. I really enjoy doing stuff with my daughter (she’s 3). Farms, soft play, adventure parks, peppa pig world, jigsaws etc etc.. she really does make my day every day. It doesn’t really leave much ‘me’ time. I’m not sure what I would like to do given her opportunity.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice to make you a better decorator, what would it be?
Don’t invest so much time helping others. When they wouldn’t do the same for you.
Thanks again to Chris for taking part. Some great stories and ideas here.
Remember, 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.