Frances Duggan, House painter

Broadmeadows VIC | June 2019

What is your business? How long has the business been operating?
I’ve been working as a painter for about 3 years. I’d done 30 years in office work and couldn’t do it any longer. I needed a change and fell in with painting. I was working as a brush hand for a senior painter that was semi-retired. He wanted to train someone to send his clients to.

I worked with him for 18 months and learnt how to do high quality painting.

Most painting before NEIS was with another painter or working on small jobs. NEIS was about growing my business.

Since starting NEIS I’ve progressed into bigger jobs. Then I found out about Many Rivers. I’m really happy to get some career guidance.

What were you doing before you made contact with Many Rivers? What was your previous work experience?
I was working fulltime with another painter until he retired. I didn’t have that much work from his customers though. I had to look on Airtasker to get more customers. Airtasker has been wonderful.

Most of my bigger jobs have come from painting a few rooms and then they decided to get the rest of the place done.

Who referred you to Many Rivers? When?
I found out about Many Rivers through NEIS. Many Rivers was presented as an organisation that would consider new business loans of a small nature. The business mentoring that Many Rivers does wasn’t presented that much at the time. But Richard has been great, He’s very motivated, very positive and always available.

What services did you receive from Many Rivers? How did it help?
I was permitted to take a business loan. This meant I’d have enough money for supplies and updating equipment. I also had support from Richard as a business mentor.

What did you find the most useful about the assistance from Many Rivers?
I really appreciate Richards help. He can look at my business from several angles that I’ve never been able to appreciate. He can break down the money side.

He gives me ideas about what I can base my marketing on. Why people would want me to provide the service. He helps with social media marketing. He’s helping me combine my branding so I have it across Facebook, Instagram and website with a full presentation of what I can help with. Showing people how they can protect their assets.

Did you get a loan from MR? How did you use the loan?
Part of it was to have a float running so when I quote for a big job and get it I’ve got more options than to ask a client for money before the jobs finished. I can buy $1,200 work of paint to do a $3,000 job and not have to break that into small sections to manage my cashflow.

Previously I had to do phase quoting. That’s not always a positive outcome, because sometimes people don’t get all the work done, their house is looking nice with one part done so they wrap up there. Confidentially quoting for bigger jobs is really beneficial.

I also invested in a paint sprayer. It’s on wheels, you can move it on site, get up high, good reach, good brand name. It sprays straight from the paint tin, which saves time.

Do you have any current employees? If so, how many employees? Are they full time or part-time?
Not currently. I’m on the older scale of people doing this sort of work and in 10 years my body won’t let me do this; climbing ladders, carrying drop sheets, rolling walls is like running a hurdle race!

What I hope to achieve is to start with sub-contactors, who have their own ABN and insurance. Once I can settle on a good team and keep them in work, I’d like to be booked 2-3 months in advance and progress into being able to consult and book the job, take care of the supplies and have employees do the on the tools part of the job. I do customer relations etc.

What has been the biggest challenge to date?
I’m a bit introverted, so one of the first things is you need to relate to people in their own homes about their own homes, you need to present ideas to someone about what they want to get done and how.

Originally it was about learning the processes of applying different paints to different services then it became a decision making role. After I started working on my own I had to work out things on my own. What’s the best result and how can I make it fit their budget?

Managing a business and being responsible for those decisions. I need to be able to stand by my decisions. Some of it’s knowledge base, some of it I have to research ad hoc, I need too be able to do a high quality job that will look like a million dollars. Being really customer focused, benefits my own business. In previous office work it was different because it wasn’t my business. And there’s so much more to worry about. If I cut costs here it will have this effect.

What has been the biggest success to date?
Most of my jobs are successful, I have a great rating and reference system on Airtasker which means if people are looking to suss me out they can go there and see reports on my work and attitude. I have a 95% completion rating (average is closer to 50%) which is a great measure of success.

There are certain successes like I had a lady in England ring me up, she had a one bedroom in St Kilda, and wanted it painted for her tenants. I worked remotely with her tenants and real estate, and it went really smoothly.  Only took two days, the tenants weren’t inconvenienced, I was able to keep out of their way and the real estate got reports from tenants that it was a good job and then payment came from overseas.

I’ve had a lot of work from painting a lady’s door and she’s sent me onto another 4-5 people.

On a personal level, being able to maintain the flow of a business without ripping my hair out. I can’t wait for my business to grow, to be able to take a step back.

At the moment I’ve got end to end work. I’m never not busy. I even need to schedule days off. Success is having never ending work, but still being able to take breaks.

What has been the biggest change for you/your family since you started your business?
Changes in every single thing you can think of. Changing how and when I hang out with friends. Putting the business first no matter what. Balancing my time has been a big change. Working out what’s personal time and what’s for work. I’ve even had to schedule sleep time!

I’ve learnt I can’t auto pilot my work, I need to be switched on, presenting ideas that come to you right then and there when you’re in a space and that’s not going to happen if you’re tired.

I’m focused on being a more positive person. I’ve had a maturing there. I wasn’t depressed before I was painting, but I’d pick up on faults. Now I look for opportunities.

What do you hope to achieve in the future?
More recently I’ve taken on larger jobs and I feel like my business is going in the right direction to get a team together to take on more work.

A measure of success in the future will be having a team running and getting to the point to build a second team. It will be another growth phase that I’ll need to look at from a distance to analyse what’s working and what’s not.