Based in Wollongong and servicing clients up and down the NSW South Coast, Potter’s Premium Painting has been operating for more than 15 years. Business owner, Toby Potter, has a number of savvy approaches in place to survive the inevitable ups and downs of running a small business, and COVID-19 is no exception.

Virtual quotes to provide customer reassurance

With his business focused on the domestic market and residential re-paints, Toby is mindful that potential clients may be nervous about having tradespeople come into their homes during the pandemic. In response, Potter’s Premium Painting is offering virtual measure and quotes, based on house plans and photos.

“I use a laser measuring tool to estimate each job using house plans and photos that the client provides. I often complement this with a site visit, but I only inspect the outside of the property.”

Toby says once a client accepts his quote, he and his team run the job in such a way that they are never in close contact with the home’s occupants.

“We are being sensitive to COVID-19 and as a result, we are finding that clients are still keen to engage us.”

Implementing health and safety measures

Toby and his team have completed the National Painting and Decorating Institute COVID-19 Infection Control Accreditation training and have implemented safety measures including hand washing, using sanitisers and maintaining social distance.

Potter’s Premium Painting is also using the Dulux Trade no contact delivery service.

“We’ve always used this delivery service but now it comes with the additional peace of mind of no contact. It’s reassuring for us and our clients.”

Leveraging his client database

A Dulux Accredited program member, Toby has applied learnings from the program to his business, including generating and maintaining an up to date client database that helps his business stay resilient even during slow periods.

“I use my client database to drum up work,” Toby explains. “You can’t just sit there and wait for the phone to ring.”

“Given we paint so many coastal homes, I might email former clients and suggest some coating maintenance, often with an incentive offer. It’s surprising how many people take up offers like these, and suddenly you’ve got a couple of weeks of work that you didn’t have before.”

“On the South Coast we had the bushfires in January and now COVID-19. We also get a lot of challenging weather here that affects our jobs. My attitude is that you always need to be looking for ways to keep the pipeline of work flowing. I expect challenging times and am ready for them – they don’t take me by surprise,” he says.

Because he’s busy running jobs and managing his small team, Toby outsources much of his business admin – including database management and sending emails – to a virtual assistant, which he says is an invaluable time-saver.

Innovative marketing approaches

Toby successfully uses social media to promote his business, using Facebook to engage with clients, showcase work and run promotions.

During COVID-19, Toby came up with an additional marketing strategy, partnering with other local tradespeople – including a plumber, builder and electrician – to co-produce a magnet that features all of their businesses.

“We had 400 made and we are all handing them out to clients. It’s a word-of-mouth strategy that has cost me nothing but should help get my business name out to home owners who are considering home improvements and looking for a painter by recommendation.”

Ready for the upturn

Toby predicts an upswing in the painting and decorating industry post-COVID-19.

“I want to be ready for that, so another thing I am doing with my virtual assistant is developing a thorough business plan. That way, if the market improves and I want to expand the business, I’ll have the documentation in place to apply immediately for business lending for equipment or to hire more staff.”

Toby also plans to use any quiet periods in the months ahead to give his equipment a thorough spruce up.

“We clean and maintain everything as part of our usual routine, but I’m hoping to find time to give the brushes, sprayer and scaffolding a really good going-over.”