A Passion for Paint!

15th March 2019

Posted In: The Interview

Paint is very much in my blood. My parents met in the paint laboratory of a major paint manufacturer in Cork back in the late 1970’s and paint has played a huge part in my life ever since.

Words: Kate Gaynor, Advanced Coatings

I have worked in the paint industry long before I was of a legal age to do so and I now feel that there is very little in the industry or the products that I don’t know at least a little about. I travelled to the UK on a number of occasions to study paint (there was no-where in Ireland to do so) and I became the first female to qualify as a level II Paint Inspector with the British Institute of Corrosion. I am one of only a few female paint inspectors in the world. It is very much a male dominated industry.

As a woman in her early 20’s working in a sector that has extremely few young women in it was initially difficult but my passion for paint, business and people saw me through and eight years ago I took over the family business that my father set up in 1995. Advanced Coating Technology Ltd. (‘Advanced Coatings’) is an established paint manufacturing company based in Carlow. We operate nationwide and sell industrial and decorative paint for metal, wood, cladding, glass, plastics and other specialist substrates to businesses (B2B). The primary focus of the business has been the supply of industrial paint, but now we are diversifying into mainstream decorative paint products with an edge on quality.

Since my father’s retirement I have made considerable changes to the business, the most recent one being the development of a retail side to the business. We have just opened our first store ‘The Paint Hub’ in Carlow Town and hope to open more retail units in the future. Expansion is definitely at the forefront of our business goals over the next 5 years.  Within 18 months of taking over Advanced Coatings, revenues more than doubled which I attribute in no small portion to the team that I had developed. I never liked the ruthless or unethical side of business. I have always had heavy socialist leanings and believe that everyone should work hard to get justifiable rewards (i.e. living wages as opposed to minimum wages). Also happier people perform better!

“People that are happy at work are 50% more productive, 50% more motivated, 108% more engaged”. Jessica Pryce-Jones (2010 “Happiness at Work”).

My strategic focus on HR has had a powerful impact on our business and played a significant part in growing the company to the level that it is at today. All too often businesses and business owners lose sight of the need to be fair, kind and look after their employees and colleagues as they would want someone to look after a family member of theirs.  The recent opening of our biggest company investment to date – our state-of-the-art retail store in Carlow town – sits the company at a place where we have a truly incredible team; 18 highly motivated, driven, compassionate and intelligent people that know paint and the paint industry inside out and can provide incredible service to any customer.  This sets us apart.

Our team comprises of a Chemist, Paint Inspectors, and Colour Consultants. Over the past 24 years we have become the go-to company for accurate, reliable paint advice. Our strong company image is based on having superior quality products that are supplied by a team of paint experts. We have a very clear vision to be the number one paint supplier in Ireland; selling a range of high-end decorative paint products with an expert, unrivalled level of customer service.

Although we are an established business, it’s important to push the boundaries – to compete, to promote, to find alternative sources of funding and to continuously learn from others. In 2017, I applied for Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) and won in my category “Established Business” at county level (Carlow) and at Regional level. At the time I was through to the National Finals and I was heavily pregnant with twins and went into very early labour (I wasn’t due until May but had the twins in February, a week before the finals were kicking off!). So I was unfortunate at not getting to compete in the Nationals, but fortunate to have beautiful twins, and to have secured the funding boost from the Local and Regional levels of the competition.

The training provided at the boot-camp stage was second to none. You get the opportunity to network with and spend time with fellow entrepreneurs in a relaxed but energising environment. At the competition stages I won €15,000 for our company which we spent on valuable marketing supports for The Paint Hub, Carlow retail venture. Funding from the IBYE competition enabled us to buy brochures, POS displays, photography sessions, training days, painting master classes, etc. and all of this went towards helping us to realise our goal of opening up our specialist decorative paint shop. I cannot recommend the IBYE experience highly enough.

If I was to pinpoint one thing that has really helped to make our business the success it is today, ask yourself this question: “Have you ever received good customer service from someone who was unhappy?” and the answer is always no. So it’s clear to me that my no. 1 job is to ensure that my employees continue to be happy and well looked after, and this, I believe, is what makes my company successful.