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Neil Purrett, Neil Purrett Decorations, Guildford

Why did you choose a career in painting and decorating?

I chose a career in the trade after studying building services at school. During my course I studied decorating and I really enjoyed it, so when my neighbour offered me a job it was the perfect opportunity to get into the industry.

How long have you been in the business?

I've been in the business since I was 17, which is 30 years now. After working as a sole trader from the age of 17, I subcontracted for a number of years, before deciding to go it alone 19 years ago.

Do you work as a sole trader or for a company?

I currently work as a sole trader, but in the past I have employed up to seven employees and subcontracted for a number of different firms.

What project would you say was your most memorable?

I have worked on several memorable projects, but the one that stands out the most is a high spec block of nine flats and one town house, which I decorated with an employee. The job brief was to make sure that everything was up to the highest possible standard. As well as all of the communal areas, I needed to paint the internal flats, which had lots of feature oak and special broken colour work on the walls. The work ranged from spraying the lift shaft, to using intumescent paint on the steel in the underground car park, and finally painting the car park floor and parking lines. I ended up decorating most areas three times due to either the builder changing his mind or damage from other trades. The cost of the project was not a problem, but as I said, the finish had to be perfect.

What is the best thing about your job?

This is a tricky question as each job differs. My main aim in every job I undertake is to make sure that each customer is happy. Decorating can be a very disruptive job to do for the homeowner, so I strive to cause as little disruption as possible and achieving this is probably the best thing about my job.

And what are your top tips for someone just starting in the industry?

My top tip for anyone wanting to enter into decorating industry would be to gain as much experience as you can from a good decorator. Listen to what you are told, as these are the tried and tested methods that work, and do as you are asked. That said, no one knows everything and we should all be open to learning new practices for carrying out work. Experience cannot be bought or learnt over night and so every day is a school day!

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