David Baines, our technical specification manager – key accounts, based in Birstall, the UK, tells us about some of the varied and interesting customer projects he’s been to visit during his career at PPG. For him especially, our prestigious JOHNSTONE’S® Trade Painter of the Year (POTY) Awards are a great chance to celebrate those people who rely on our Architectural Coatings products on a daily basis.
The World of Painting and Decorating
Prior to joining the company, then known as Kalon Decorative Products in 1998, David worked as a self-employed painter and decorator. Kalon later became the SigmaKalon Group and PPG then acquired the company in 2008. From that time until today, David has had a variety of roles, the majority of which have been in the technical department.
“The last few years since becoming part of PPG have been by far the most beneficial and enjoyable. Working for one of the largest coatings companies in the world gives us far more opportunities to expand our knowledge and pass it on to our many clients."
David works in a strong team of five, all of whom have a decorating background and are responsible for providing technical specifications and advice to our key accounts, architects and various decorating contractors across the UK and Ireland.
I’ve been involved in this type of job for many years now, and I never tire of it. It’s a bit of a cliché, but I never get out of bed in the morning thinking, ‘Oh no, I’ve got to go to work!’.”
Protecting the Company and the Customer
David’s responsibility in his role is twofold. Firstly, to ensure customers get the most out of our products, whether using them individually or as part of a coatings system. This is possible by offering technical advice and producing technical specification documents (including detailed surface preparation guidelines) that ensure the best environment for our products to work. These documents can also protect us when customers try to claim that our products are faulty.
The other element of his work is risk management. The team physically surveys large projects to ensure they meet the essential criteria for our products to be at their most efficient. For instance, some of our products play a big role in helping with flame retardance, so it’s vital to ensure they are applied correctly.
“We cover everything. 75% of our time is spent surveying different types of surfaces such as concrete floors, masonry, façade trims and broad wall areas."
“With Customers, It’s All About Honesty”
David explains that customers come to them for advice about large decorating projects, and the team visits the site to give the customer a cost-effective solution. We’ve developed a very good reputation not just for our products, but also for our services.
“It’s all about honesty – being upfront from day one and not trying to sell them anything they don't need. We’re available throughout the project, so if any problems crop up, we can sort those out as well.”
This approach is much valued by our customers, and David feels strongly that we should continue providing this level of service while constantly trying to improve it.
Johnstone’s Trade Painter of the Year
In addition to his day-to-day duties, David has been an integral part of Johnstone's Trade The Painter of the Year (POTY) competition since its inception over 30 years ago. Each year, up to 100 or more customers enter their projects and David is part of the team who visits them all and gives them a score out of 50.
“We’re interested in the quality of workmanship, the types of products used, and how difficult it was to achieve. We give marks on the merits of the job, and we are quite strict with it.”
The team then collates the results to determine a shortlist of around 25 projects. These are assigned to categories as they usually vary wildly (residential, commercial, education, historical, healthcare and hospitality and leisure). The finalists are invited to a ceremony where the audience chooses the overall winner.
During the last two years, POTY entries had to be evaluated mainly from photographs, but David and the team are looking forward to being back on the road again next year.
I've built a lot of relationships with customers through POTY, and some have turned out to be good friends. It's all part of generating and regenerating business.
Next year will be the 39th POTY, and it will be held at the Royal Hall in Harrogate, which is interesting for David as he worked closely with the decorator during the refurbishment of the hall a few years ago. It is also a former POTY finalist.
David: A High-Flyer and a Long-Timer
David has had the privilege of visiting many prestigious customer projects around the UK. He particularly enjoyed being shown around the new American Embassy in London and Hopetoun House in Scotland and especially climbing the 60-meter-high scaffolding in the dome of the Belfast City Hall (which he did in a collar and tie, no less).
Doesn’t he miss painting and getting his hands colorful? Not when he can join in with local COLORFUL COMMUNITIES® projects! He volunteered at the Forget Me Not Children's Hospice in Huddersfield earlier this year. Not only did he enjoy wielding a paintbrush again, but he loved sharing the expertise he’s acquired over his many years in the job.
I’ve been fortunate to be one of many people who have been at PPG a long time, and that reflects what a good company it is to work for. I love what I do. One day I will have to stop, but I'm not thinking about that yet.