Category: MyBuilder

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When you meet Rob Joy today, you’ll find a confident, outgoing family man, leading a team of 15 painters and decorators as the head of his company, Finishing Touch Services. But this wasn’t always the case, 10 years ago you would have met a very different person indeed.

We met Rob not on a building site, but in a charity shop and community centre in the heart of Luton. SOAR is the base of Rob’s church and charity, Kingdom Cause Community, and the ambitious project has all been made possible through the achievements of Finishing Touch Services. Like many successful tradesmen, Rob started out on the tools as a youngster, but his career didn’t always go smoothly.

“My dad had a roofing company which was quite successful, so weekends and school holidays I’d go along and help out labouring for him,” Rob told us. “ I’d be on building sites and scaffolding when I was so young that my dad would have to tell me to duck if the police came past! But I’d get my five pounds for the day sweeping up broken tiles and what not, so I was happy.”

Sadly for Rob, the happiness didn’t last. Rob’s world was shattered when his beloved dad died, and the teenager soon found himself headed off the rails. “I hit rock bottom,” he admits. It went from flirting with drugs at the weekend to going in at the deep end. My dad left me a lot of money and I threw it all away on drugs, down the pub, at the football. From the age of 16 to 26 I was in it. The drugs destroyed me – I was 8 stone, my mental health had gone, I’d been in and out of prison. I literally lost everything.”

Rob’s journey back to sobriety was fueled by faith. “My mum had always prayed for me and I didn’t want to know, but I couldn’t deny the change I’d seen in her – whether it was real or not, it had an impact for her. I remember, one night, I just said, ‘God, is there any way you can change a man like me,’ and for the first time in years I went to bed with no fear, no paranoia. I woke up the next day completely and utterly transformed. No one could tell me it was just willpower – my mind had changed, my heart had changed.”

 

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The pleasure of painting

 

Despite this transformation, it took time for Rob to build himself back up, reconnecting with his family, and getting back into work. “I knew that roofing might not be for me – all the angles and the maths were too much to get my head round! But I’d done other jobs with my dad, painting here and there, and thought I could make a go of that. One of the first jobs I did when I got straight was painting those temporary buildings that go on building sites, just one after the other, and I enjoyed it. Painting is therapeutic.”

From those small beginnings, Rob began to build his experience. “I had this philosophy, short term loss for long term gain,” he explained. “For example, I did a job repainting a door, and I thought it would be simple, half a day’s work. But it wasn’t at all, it was falling apart, I had to take it back to bare wood, do loads to it, it took me much longer. I lost out on that job. But a few months later, I took on another door job, and I realised it was exactly the same situation, but now I knew exactly what to do.”

Rob joined MyBuilder two years ago, and soon realised that the feedback system would force him to up his game. “When you’re working for family, friends, friends of friends, they can say nice things but it’s not always the most honest. When you’re winning work on MyBuilder, that feedback is real. I realised maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought I was – you have to improve.” The feedback for the business still has a negative review from his early efforts, but with more than 100 pieces of positive feedback, he hasn’t let it stand in his way.

Like many setting up their own business, it was a case of long hours and low pay. “I’d do 17 hour days, out on site until it was dark, back to kiss my kids before bed, then out to quote, writing it up before bed, then waking up realising I’d missed something.”

Rob began to build the company, eventually bringing in other people to help. “The best thing I did was take on a guy called Alan, who’s now my business manager. He’d been in the trade for 35 years, and his skills, his ability, they’re brilliant. I used to be annoyed that he was slower than other guys I worked with, but I realised, his jobs never had any snags. It might be a day slower, but it was perfect – never any stress. So I went to him and said, look, I might be the one paying you, but I want you to teach me how to be a good painter and decorator. I was humble. And so for six months, he showed me what he knew. It helped me get better, helped me understand the materials and the techniques, helped me quote on jobs.”

As he says: “You can’t be a great decorator in a few years – you have to do it for years and years, always learning. You end up breathing it.”

 

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A matter of standards

 

The business is now up to 15 men, and Rob hopes to add more in the coming year. “I wouldn’t want it to get too big, because what I’m concerned about is quality,” he said. “I tell the boys, I don’t expect them to have the same faith as me, but I expect them to work to the standards I do.”

Profits from the business go into supporting the charity, helping both in the local community, and in Malawi. “I’m all about going out into the streets,” Rob said, “I never wanted to be preached at and I still don’t. It’s about helping someone who’s starving with some food, or giving a coat to someone freezing.” In Malawi, the charity is looking to buy land in order to start work on an orphanage, with some of Rob’s team ready to go out and work on the project themselves.

“We went there in April, took some guys from work and it’s changed their life. We took loads of toys and clothes, it was incredible. It broke my heart. I came back and said to my wife, the business isn’t for wealth, for big houses and fast cars, it’s for this.”

The lads will be hands on when it comes to the orphanage: “The standards of construction over there aren’t always great,” Rob laughed. “But we’ll be able to to really do some good there. We do as much as we can. We send out money for the women in the community to buy materials and make bags, which we sell here in the shop, with the profits going back to them. And we sell second-hand clothes in here, with those that don’t sell going directly to the kids there.”

Rob doesn’t make a point of telling homeowners where the money from their jobs will be going, but when it comes up, he says they’re always happy to hear more. “The customers are amazing, so many of them are now friend, they donate, they come and help out.” He always tries to lend a hand where he can where customers are in need – through a contact at Dulux, he has access to discount paints that can be used for worthy causes or sold on to raise money. He’s also happy to hear from any other tradesmen who are keen to help out on charitable projects for worthy causes.

Through Rob’s efforts, both the business and the charity have continued to grow, but he insists it’s still the quality, not the quantity, that matters most. “One thing I always say to my guys is that it’s not the past hundred jobs that matter – it’s the one we’re working on right now.”

 

Advice for tradesmen:

  • Always be willing to learn: “I still meet young guys who come from doing professional qualifications who think they know everything, but they don’t”, Rob said. “When you’re working with people with lots of experience, there’s always something you can take from them.”
  • Prepare accurate quotes: “The biggest source of issues on any job is if there was something in the quote that wasn’t clear,” Rob told us. “A tradesman should lay out everything, materials, hours, who pays for what, so that there can’t be any quibbles.”
  • Think long term: “No one can be great at something overnight,” Rob said. “You have to think about the long term, building your skills and growing the business. It can’t be rushed.”

v2 email banner - garden comp

For the past month, we’ve been looking for the worthiest winner of a garden makeover. We know how much people value their outdoor space and wanted to find the people who most deserved to have their garden transformed into a beautiful and practical place to spend time.

We were overwhelmed with entries, with hundreds of people from around the UK sharing their stories with us, and more than 30,000 people voting for the gardens they most wanted to see get a well-earned facelift. Picking a winner from the most popular entries was a difficult process that divided the judges, but eventually we found our winner.

Megan Rees from Oxford entered the competition hoping to the change the life of her three-year-old daughter, Ariella. When Ariella was born, she was given just a 10% chance of survival, with a number of rare conditions including CHD and Nager syndrome. Her devoted parents have had to give up work to care for her around the clock, yet despite her disabilities, she has a passion for life and loves being outside and exploring.

 

Megan and Ariella's garden is in need of some TLC

Megan and Ariella’s garden is in need of some TLC

 

Megan says: “Ariella is the strongest person I know, she is always happy and takes life as it comes. If there is anyone who deserves to have a special garden to play in it would be her – this incredible girl doesn’t let anything stop her.”

We agreed, and in the coming weeks we’ll be working with Megan and local tradespeople to transform Ariella’s garden, turning it into a safe and fun place for her to play. We’ll be sharing the whole transformation here on MyBuilder, so watch this space!

 

Ariella loves being outdoors and exploring

Ariella loves being outdoors and exploring

Each month, we aim to get out and see as many of the dedicated tradespeople we have on MyBuilder as possible. Whether they’re laying paving or putting the finishing touches to a room, we love to see them hard at work, and show off what they do best. We met fencers in Forest Hill and electricians in Islington, all of whom were giving it their all to get the job done. Here are some of people we met in the past few weeks:

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Paul Jordan gets to work landscaping a back garden in Bishop Stortford

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A team of fencers led by Nadia Ward does preparation before installing a new fence in Forest Hill, London

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Lewis Sage‘s team of builders working on a new loft and rear extension in Wanstead, London

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Painter and decorator Derek Walker-Hawley adds the finishing touches to a door jamb in Fleet

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Andrew Kowalski and a colleague begin laying concrete during a build in Wimbledon

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Islington electrician David Gilbert carries out a safety inspection

gardeners-108Stephen Clarke and his crew working on landscaping in Chingford

 

We’re always on the lookout for more tradespeople willing to show off their skills and allow us to take a look at their latest projects. If you’re a tradesman who uses MyBuilder, get in touch with andrew@mybuilder.com to arrange a session.

v2 email banner - garden comp

MyBuilder is once again on the hunt for the worthiest winner of a garden makeover. The stakes are high, as this year’s winner will win a £1,000 transformation of their green space.

Research has shown that spending time in green spaces can reduce stress, enhance mood and improve health. However, creating a tranquil oasis in your backyard is easier said than done.

We want to know what this prize would mean to you. You can nominate yourself, a friend or relative for the prize – we are looking for the most worthy winner of a plant-filled paradise!

 

How to Enter

Tell us how a garden makeover would change the lives of the person or people who use that space. Make it convincing, because only the top 12 entries with the most votes will go through to our final round to be judged by MyBuilder.

To complete your entry, submit a picture of the garden and make sure to include yourself or the people who use it.

 

The Winner

Entries are open to public voting and individuals taking part can lobby in all forms of media to get votes for their entries. A shortlist of twelve will be made of those with the most votes. Entries are open until midnight on 16th April 2017. Voting will continue until 23rd April 2017 when the shortlist will be announced. MyBuilder will select the winner from the shortlisted entrants and the result will be announced through the MyBuilder website and official social channels.

 

The Prize

A garden makeover with a value of up to £1,000 including materials and a MyBuilder tradesman to complete the work.

 

2015 Winner

Back in 2015, Nicola Machin won the £1,000 garden makeover prize after her entry received over 1000 votes! Click here to read her story.

 

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Terms and Conditions:

  1. This Competition is open to any full time resident of the UK aged 18 and over.

  2. This Competition is not open to employees of MyBuilder, their family members, MyBuilder’s agents, or anyone professionally connected with the competition.

  3. One entry per household permitted.

  4. Entries to the competition will be accepted until 23:59 GMT 16th April 2017. Voting closes 23.59 GMT 23rd April 2017.

  5. Participants enter the competition by submitting a photo of their garden with an explanation of why they deserve to win (make sure to include yourself or the people who use it).

  6. By entering the contest and submitting your photograph(s), you agree to assign all intellectual and property rights to MyBuilder and that your photograph(s) and competition entry content may be used for any purpose, at any time, without any fee or other form of compensation.

  7. Participants may edit the photographs and description of their entry, up to 1 week after submitting their entry, until entries close at 23:59 GMT 16th April 2017. Once entries are closed, no amendments to any entries can be made.

  8. We reserve the right to disqualify entries, without notice, and for any reason.

  9. Obscene, inappropriate or otherwise questionable content will not be considered. We retain sole discretion as to what constitutes inappropriate content.

  10. No responsibility is taken for entries which are lost, delayed or misdirected, or cannot be delivered or entered for any technical or other reason.

  11. The prize is a garden makeover inclusive of materials and a MyBuilder tradesman to complete the work, up to the value of £2,000.

  12. MyBuilder is not liable for any further costs that arise as a result of the project.

  13. The winner will be selected by MyBuilder, notified via email and will be announced on M​yBuilder blog ​once the prize has been claimed.

  14. No cash or other alternative is available to the prize.

  15. The usual privacy policy​ terms of MyBuilder apply to all personal information we gather.

  16. The prize must be claimed by the prize winner and may not be transferred to or used by any third party.

  17. If MyBuilder cannot contact the winner within 5 working days of the prize draw MyBuilder reserves the right to determine a new winner.

  18. Entrants must be willing to participate in publicity photographs, video and interviews should they win the competition.

  19. MyBuilder is a registered company in England. The laws of England shall apply to all matters arising from or relating to this competition.

  20. MyBuilder.com Ltd reserves the right in its sole and absolute discretion to alter these terms at any time for any reason without prior notice.

  21. In addition, MyBuilder’s standard terms & conditions and privacy policy apply to this competition.

Lee Picknell - Fascias, Soffits and Guttering

Last month’s Storm Doris didn’t have the most dramatic name in the world, but when it was classed as a “weather bomb”, it felt a bit more serious. When it was disrupting travel and damaging property around the country, it definitely made its presence felt, and with April and it’s traditional showers on the way, there’s no better time to think about how your home will cope in a storm.

Fix your fencing

 

Fencing, especially when it’s old and neglected, is one of the most common casualties of bad weather and strong winds. You can prepare for the worst by checking for loose boards or panels, and making sure posts are still deeply rooted. If it does suffer damage, an experienced fencer can help repair or replace the affected areas.

 

Ready your roof

 

Another common victim of high winds and lashing rain, it only takes a small amount of damage to a roof to lead to big problems down the line. A few tiles out of place can lead to major leaks, which can mean significant redecoration. If you’re worried, consult a roofer. Danny Morgan of Morgan Roofing advises asking for pictures from tradesmen so you can see what they’re doing: “When it comes to roofing, a lot of the problems with bad tradesmen stem from the fact they can see things you can’t. I make sure I take pictures of everything, before and after, so I can show the homeowner what needs doing and how I’ll tackle it.”

 

Carl Lamon - Chimney & Fireplace Specialist

 

Gird your guttering

 

As with roof damage, a broken gutter can seem insignificant at first, but can lead to much bigger problems – if a leak is pouring water onto a particular spot on the wall, it can lead to internal damp and mould, and ruin external plaster work or painting. A specialist in fascias, soffits and guttering like Lee Picknell of LP Fascias (top picture) will be able to repair damage and replace any broken parts.

 

Check out your chimney

 

As with loose roof tiles, if chimney pots or bricks come off in a storm, they pose a threat not just to property but people too. If your chimney is old or hasn’t been inspected in a while, it can be worthwhile to have a chimney and fireplace specialist like Carl Lamon of Oxon Stoves (middle picture), or an experienced bricklayer, to assess it and deal with any issues before it becomes dangerous.

Lighthouse-Club

For many tradespeople, falling sick simply doesn’t feel like an option.

Being self-employed means there’s no one there to cover the cost of taking a day off to recover, and a longer-term illness can be hugely damaging to a tradesman’s business, as well as their health.

It’s a sad coincidence, then, that many illnesses come as a result of working in construction. Each year, there are more than 69,000 new cases of work-related illnesses that can be attributed to working in the construction industry, while over 45% of occupational cancer cases in the UK can be directly attributed to working in the trade. As well as this, there are on average 40 fatalities on building sites each year, leaving devastated families across the country.

Thankfully, The Lighthouse Club Charity is there to step in when things get tough for tradesmen. As well as providing welfare and wellbeing advice to those working in construction, it also provides emotional and legal support, and even financial assistance to those most in need. In times of crisis, they can help, with a 24 hour hotline that can also support tradesmen struggling with issues of debt, stress or addiction. They can also give advice on health, benefits and career changes.

At MyBuilder, we pride ourselves on promoting the best tradespeople and their work, helping their businesses grow and prosper. That’s why we’re supporting the Lighthouse Club Charity, kicking off with the Brainy Builders Pub Quiz next week, Thursday 16th in Clapham, London. (Too far away? Let us know if you would like a MyBuilder Pub Quiz, in your area!)

Find out more and book your place

If you aren’t able to make it to the meet up next week, but would like to make a donation to the Lighthouse Club, you can also do this via the Eventbrite page.

Find out how The Lighthouse Club helps people in the construction industry and their families in this video:


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