Ten years! And it seems like yesterday!
It's been just over ten years now since I started actively operating Picture Hanging Solutions. The anniversary passed un-celebrated and un-noticed at the time. It was only a few days ago the realisation dawned and my first reaction was quite a normal one; my how time flies.
But then, as I began to think about it, I came to the conclusion that however belated it might be, there was much to be acknowledged and much for me to be very grateful for as we have come a very long way.
This picture hanging business we work in is, and probably will forever be a rather niche profession. It is so niche in fact we don't even have own our own business category. For example in the old Yellow Pages book, and the Sensis on-line that replaced it, we always get lumped in with picture framers (quite a different profession) and in any government questionnaire or employment category we always end up in the 'Other Professions' section.
I must confess that when I first thought about starting a business to hang pictures I really saw its potential as being no more than a niche part of my working life, a part-time job to help keep the wolf from the door whilst trying to run an art gallery in what was turning out to be a very difficult location in Docklands (it seemed like a good idea at the time!).
My first toe in the picture hanging water was also in Docklands. Some of those customers who had purchased paintings from my gallery would not only get me to hang those but would also ask me to hang their other pictures as well. I also placed a small picture hanging advert in the local Docklands newsletter (the area was not yet big enough for its own local paper) and slowly I started picking up small hanging jobs in the various precinct apartment and office buildings.
Eventually my partner's son Matthew built our first website and slowly we started gathering enquiries and getting more installation jobs. Very early on I remember getting really excited when I managed to get a large private home job in Prahran that involved hanging over 200 pictures! It was the first time I was challenged with sorting, positioning and grouping such a large number of pictures in the one place all at the same time. Of course back then I was working on my own and still honing my skills so everything took much longer than it would today - I think I ended up spending nearly a week hanging all the pictures on that job, but I remember to this day how thrilled my clients were with the end result (Mick and Simon's email is still proudly displayed in our website Testimonial page).
As time rolled along, I became busier and eventually I decided to employ an assistant. Young Will joined me and for the next two years, with his help, the business continued to grow. We began to gather a loyal group of clients who would book us to hang their pictures, often multiple times. Sometimes our return visits were to hang new acquisitions, on other occasions we were returning to the same client but in a different home. I actually have one client who has moved four times in the past ten years and each time we get the phone call to come and hang them again! Many of our previous clients would refer us to other family members or their friends and some of the networks of referrals became quite large. One young lady rang me up one day asking if we could come and hang her mirror and when I asked her where she found out about our service she said her parents had all their picture hung by us, as had her older sister, her grandparents and even the neighbours of their grandparents (in a retirement facility).
Then there was the street in Kew where we went to hang one picture in a home, but as we were going back to our van their neighbour asked for a card and had us back a week later to hang all their pictures. They must have been a social lot in that street because word got around and we ended up hanging pictures in six of the homes in what was a rather small street! As more time passed we employed Mark and my son Daniel and as I had previously done with Will, I spent a great deal of time and teaching them both the fine art of positioning, grouping and correctly hanging pictures. I am obviously very proud of my son Daniel because he has now reached a level of proficiency where I have not only appointed him my lead installer, but his ability in complex design work (groups of pictures often referred to as Salon or Paris hanging) is second to none. My partner Sue also became my business administrator (or as I jokingly refer to her 'The Hand of the King') and her son Matthew was more formally given the position of our official IT consultant. Keith recently joined us as a part-time installer and after Mark left, we employed Gary to join our happy team. Above all I believe I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have great people work for me and with me, and without them we could not have had the success we have had.
I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all our wonderful clients, over the course of ten years, more than three thousand of them! We are very fortunate that the work we do generally engenders a happy, even excited response from those we do work for. We have always said in our marketing that "we turn your house into a home" and whilst it might be a snappy catchphrase, it is also the truth. Every day we walk into houses that have often just been moved into and we are immediately confronted with bare, lifeless walls. Pictures and mirrors will often be stacked forlornly on the ground, sometimes sitting on the floor in roughly the position to hang, on other times stacked in uneven piles, waiting judgment on their suitability to hang (or sometimes even if there might be a place for them to be hung).
However generally by the time we leave, each precious artwork, print, framed photograph, piece of memorabilia and mirror has been carefully positioned and hung in exactly the right position to bring warmth, colour, perspective and life to each room. So many of our clients, unprompted will say to us, "now it feels like our home". That is what correctly hung pictures can do, and that is why we have a great many very happy and loyal clients, and for that we are eternally grateful.
So as I noted at the beginning of this blog entry, the last ten years does seem to have flown by. And remembering back to when I first started Picture Hanging Solutions, I swore that I wasn't going to do this job unless it was work that would make me happy. So I guess maybe the real answer as to why the past ten years has passed in a blur is the old saying , 'time flies when you're having fun'!