Painter shares the secrets to his success

This month, we talk with the painter behind Hopkinson Painting, an award-winning painting company from Geraldton, WA.

Established by Michael Hopkinson more than 24 years ago, Hopkinson Painting has gone from strength to strength, with a thriving customer network based on repeat work and referrals.

At last year’s Master Painters and Decorators Australia Awards For Excellence, Hopkinson Painting won five awards, including Master Painter & Decorator of the Year [Small Business] and Business of the Year [Small Business], which they’ve won three years running.

But the success of his painting business is no accident.

Team culture built on maintaining a high standard of workmanship and delighting customers has been the key to Hopkinson Painting’s success.

Here’s how Michael’s done it:

Hopkinson Painting’s Anne Marie and Michael Hopkinson at the 2018 Master Painters & Decorators Australia Awards of Excellence, where they won five awards.

Market and Marketing

Hopkinson Painting focuses solely on the repaint market nowadays, painting a range of residential, commercial and heritage projects, and for them, repaints are where the profit is at for his crew of eight painters.

Not only that, word-of-mouth exposure is powerful in the repaint market.

As Michael explains “you get to deal with the customers, you get to interact with them and create a relationship with the client who then recommends you to other people.

“On new work, your client is the builder – often the owner doesn’t know who painted their place.”

Their key marketing tool is “making customers happy”.

“I know our clients and understand what they want – as soon as I meet them, I start working out what they want,” Michael said.

“We do very little advertising – our work is almost all repeat business and word-of-mouth.

“We also use site signs out the front and signage on vehicles and trailers.

“And we do occasional sponsored ads on Facebook to stay front of mind with our customer base.”

Michael used to advertise in newspapers and Yellow Pages online, but tracking leads and budgets from those sources, he found that the profit on the work won from the newspaper ads didn’t even cover the costs of those ads. And leads from Yellow Pages, which were tracked via a different mobile number, resulted in calls mostly from call centres rather than clients.

To help streamline his business, in 2014, Michael worked with a developer to create software that tracks jobs from quoting to budget tracking, logging hours and creating reports.

When using the software, the first step to creating a quote is to specify where the lead came from – so right from the beginning, Michael is tracking the success of his marketing strategy.

The quotes are written with pre-populated and editable specs, and are finalised and emailed to the client before he has even left the site. He also has a portable printer in his vehicle, and can hand deliver a printed copy of the quote, and discuss any confusion immediately.

“It saves me so much time. I enter the details in the car, email the job or print in in the car and walk back in in five minutes,” he says.

One of Hopkinson Painting’s award-winning jobs, the Grantown Guest House.

Colour Help and Success Story

When it comes to colour, Hopkinson Painting’s clients are offered a free colour consultation with Michael’s wife Anne Marie, who is an interior designer.

Michael explains how colour will look different from room to room, and gives clients small sample paint boards, about 30cm square, so they can move the colours around the property.

He offers digital overlays when his clients need help imagining new colour schemes.

“We offer overlays when people aren’t too sure how it will look, when someone really wants to see the difference, and when people can’t visualise it.

“Overlays give the client an idea of which way to go.”

Digital overlays were part of the full service last year, when Hopkinson Painting painted the heritage building Grantown Guest House in Geraldton.

This was the job that won them the recent Master Painters and Decorators Australia award for Repaints: Commercial up to $100K.

Winning this award was no small feat; judges personally inspect the nominated work, even using a mirror to view hidden surfaces like the tops of doors, and going over in detail how jobs were completed.

Grantown Guest House was a large job, which took two weeks to prep and five coats of paint.

But the effort was worth it.

“The clients are really happy,” said Michael. “A lot of work went into that one.”

Crew Responsibility

Michael says the reason for his success is the culture that is cultivated in his business and his crew.

“They’re an awesome team who know how to paint and know the finish we need,” Michael said.

“They take ownership and I can leave them to do their best.

“They know the level of quality we need to achieve – because if they do a great job and the clients are 100% happy, that’s how we win more work.”

Michael says he regularly discusses expectations of quality with his team, and listens to his crew when they tell him what they think is needed to achieve best results on given jobs.

“I believe it’s setting the standard at the beginning,” said Michael.

“It’s important to grow that culture.

“Explaining, sitting down with the guys before they even start working with us and talking to them about the level of quality required, about the awards we win and why it’s important for business to thrive, about the things that must be done to achieve the quality we need.

“I explain about taking responsibility. I let them know if I pull them up on something, not to get defensive, this is about the good of the whole.

“The things we overlook is the standard we are setting.”

Crew Story

“A client whose house we painted about 5 years ago called us up about some blistering in the paint.

“It wasn’t our issue, it wasn’t their issue, but we went there and fixed it up anyway.

“Even though it wasn’t our mistake, I didn’t charge them to fix it. 

“When I was looking through the week’s hours, I noticed the guy who did the job hadn’t put any hours down for the repair, so I phoned him up to ask about his hours, and he said ‘how much have you charged the client?’ and I told him we didn’t charge for it, and he said ‘if you aren’t going to charge him, I’m not going to charge you’.

“This tells you about the culture of our business.

“The guys care about their work and care about making customers happy.

“And I put some hours down for him anyway.”