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How I Built My… with Adam from On the Tools

Adam Barrie talks to us about his journey from being a labourer to running the hugely successful On the Tools website – read on to find out how he went from on-site to on-line.

Adam, we’re pretty chuffed to have you. First thing’s first: how did you get started out in the trade world?

I started out as a labourer for an interior refurbishment company when I was 18, I was a labourer for 12 months then taken on as an apprentice. I worked mainly on government funded projects like hospitals, schools and prisons which I found exciting as a young apprentice. Maybe not so much in the prisons…

Right. So how did you go from being on-site to on-line?

I was a shop fitter working up and down the country when myself and a childhood friend, Lee (the MD) came up with On the Tools.

Like most great ideas it involved alcohol! We were sitting in Lee’s garden having a drink and I was complaining about a lack of plasterers on a job I was running – after going through my phonebook and asking around I’d hit a brick wall.

Lee said surely there is an app for that, but we looked and nothing existed. So On the Tools was born! We talked for hours about how a recruitment app would work and decided the best way to launch it would be to create a following on social media.

We thought if we posted some funny videos and photos on Facebook, we could maybe get 5 to 10k followers by the end of the year. We actually got nearly 200k.

We launched an online shop in February 2015 selling trade merchandise and due to its success, Lee started full time in April of that year and I left my job as a shop fitter in July.

What do you think makes On the Tools one of the best online resources for tradespeople (apart from BOB, obviously…)?

On the Tools is the best online resource for tradespeople because we connect the industry like no other. We do this by providing tradespeople with real value. We publish content they actually want to see and that they can relate to, we have created a community they can engage with on a daily basis.

We will always provide more value to the tradespeople than we receive and we think that by doing this the community will continue to grow from strength to strength.

What do you do on there day-to-day? How do you find/make your content?

I take care of publishing all the content on our social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and our website. We have more than 800k followers across all social channels.

The majority of our content is user generated and sent to us by our followers. We license all our videos and photos before we publish them to make sure the content we post is current and hasn’t already circulated. We’ve recently started creating our own content – we’ve published a few comedy sketches and competitions that have gone down really well on the FB page.

Quick! What’s the funniest video you’ve ever featured?

This is a tough one, as we’ve had so many.

The funniest in my opinion would have to be the apprentice that gets sent for a long weight. The guys he was working with sent him to the fish and chip shop for a long weight, he came back still unaware the joke was on him holding a battered sausage that the shop gave him out of pity.

If you had to choose, what’d be your favourite bit of kit?

When I was ‘on the tools’ my favourite bit of kit would have to be the multi tool. Let’s say it got me out of some tricky situations!

How do you unwind off-site? (off-line?)

I don’t think I’ve been able to unwind since going full time in July, but I try and split my time between my beautiful wife and two kids. If I’m lucky enough I’ll get a round of golf in or watch my football team (Villa…) get relegated!

What are you most proud of?

The thing I’m most proud has to be how we’ve connected the industry through our social channels. We have construction workers from Australia, Denmark and Iraq all commenting on the same thread. To think there are people from nearly every nation across the world laughing at our content is unbelievable.

We think you’ve earned a brew – what’s yours?

It’ll have to be a coffee, one sugar

Finally, what’s your top bit of advice for tradespeople who want to improve their online presence?

If you’re a business owner and you want to increase your online presence you need to offer value: content is value and value is key. You should be giving more to your followers than you take – people switch off if all they see is advert after advert. Offering something different and standing out from the crowd will help you draw in more attention and pick up work. Post something every day if possible.

The problem is companies still don’t understand how people use social media. No one goes on Facebook to buy things, they go on there for entertainment and value. Once they’re there and you’ve offered them value, you can then try and sell to them.
Builders are beginning to pick up work through Facebook; the more creative ones are the ones that are succeeding. I’ve seen builders documenting their work from start to finish, before and after photos. Offering advice on DIY and smaller projects.

We are always open to offering advice to any tradespeople on any matter regarding web and social media presence, please feel free to contact [email protected] and we’ll try to help.


If you’d like to speak to BOB about your business for ‘How I Built My…’ say hello on [email protected]
There might be a free site radio in it for you!