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Questions for Painters

By on November 11, 2013 in Business Practices with 21 Comments

You must get this all the time:

How much?
How long?
How fast?

How fun. Day after day, these questions for painters.

questions for paintersThat pretty much covers it. Every gap not filled in there is where your head needs to be.

It is what keeps me running a ProShot on something one day, and turning right around and putting an HVLP on the next coat.

It is what keeps me setting up 3 different size rollers in triplicate when staring at 30,000 sf of drywall. And that is only after I have had chats with every airless in the room.

It is what has us running a whole pile of specialized sanders instead of looking at the old orbitals and our hands.

Do What You’ve Always Done?

These days, if you do what you have always done, you may not get what you always got. Times change, resources change, expectations for time and money, schedules and budgets change.

For the most part, people don’t need their painter to be Picasso anymore.

They need their painter to:

1. Show up for the estimate
2. Be honest and responsible in assessment and pricing
3. Schedule well
4. Deliver a good service and stand behind it

#4 is the hardest. It is what separates marginal paint contracting companies from great ones.

questions for paintersAnd one more question…as you get better and better at what you do, can you avoid the trap of charging less while more efficiently delivering more? That is assuming that you already have sidestepped the trap of cutting corners to deliver less.

Yes, you need work and cash flow, but profitable work and cash flow are best.

The paint business, like any, is about relationships.

The KEY Relationships Are With:

  • employees
  • customers
  • suppliers

Employees

training

“Hands on” accountability is best.

The people you put in the customer’s house are critical. If customers are not comfortable with that experience, you can be sure they will not be repeat customers, no matter what your pricing is like. Finding, interviewing, hiring, training and supervising your paint crew is a management skill.

Management skills are often where paint contractors fall right on their faces. Sure, it would be nice to just send painters out in the field and have them be a self sustaining unit that just does everything the way you want it done. That takes years to develop.

You can fool yourself, but you can’t fool customers.

Customers

Finding customers who value the level of service and quality that you offer is also critical. Often, if you are delivering marginal service, customers are clear that they would have been willing to pay more for something better. That is the worst form of buyer remorse. Don’t sell on price. Sell based on your numbers, and deliver value that matches your pricing. Everyone appreciates a square deal, and that is not likely to change.

Suppliers

We all love to complain about paint. Building good supplier relationships can make your life a lot easier. If you show loyalty to your supplier, you will get best pricing and service. Find the supplier whose product lines best match the type of work you do, and whose inventory capacity matches your need to get product quickly. If they have a good field rep who takes your calls and can deliver when needed, that’s huge.

Loyalty

questions for paintersYou have to give to get. If you are loyal to your employees, customers and suppliers, you will get the same in return. That is when everyone wins. Failure to breed a culture driven by loyalty causes many a paint contractor to feel like a middle man – a conduit for money. Money in, money out.

Life is too short for this. Build strong relationships and nurture them. It is good to revisit these questions for painters once in a while and make sure you have the right answers, and more importantly, that you can back it up.

The best advice I can give is to make it fun for all involved to deal with you.

What About You?

What strategies have you found successful in building effective relationships with employees, customers and suppliers?

 

 

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Scott Burt
Scott Burt owns and operates Topcoat Finishes, Inc. in Vermont, writes the monthly "From the Field" column in American Painting Contractor, and blogs prolifically at www.topcoatreview.com. Google
Scott Burt
Scott Burt
Scott Burt

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There Are 21 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Really not much I can add Scott, you hit the nail on the head there with those words of wisdom. Now if all the painting contractors take this advice that would be a good thing.

  2. kempermartin says:

    Scott, Good practical info for any business or industry !! http://kempermartin.com

  3. Wow, that sums up how to build a sustainable business model, great post Scott!

  4. Scott,
    Your comments are right on the money! A long time client took me aside years ago and said “It’s all about relationships!” It’s so true! These are the questions that I obsess about every day. Now, I just need more work!

    • Scott says:

      Identifying the problem puts you half way to a solution. Whenever we slow down a little, I always tell myself (and our crew) to enjoy it because we always get busy again. And when we are crazy busy, we want it to slow down. We all need to remind ourselves to enjoy the situation we are in when we are in it. Thanks for commenting, Guido.

  5. This post reminds me of a short book I read earlier this year “Fish”. It had four simple points: Choose your attitude, Play (have fun), Make their day and Be present. I have made it a point ever since I read the book to make sure we strive for all four of those each and everyday. By doing so, it makes all the difference for us and our customers. Sure things get stressful and crazy, but if you remember to set having fun as a top priority, everything else seems to fall into place.

  6. In your paragraph about “Employees”, I could not agree with you more. In my opinion, Image is everything! You are 100% correct when you say, “you cannot fool the customer”. The problem with most Painting Contractors and in fact painters in general, they spend more time trying to figure out how to scam the customer than just doing the job the correct way. What I mean by that statement is, the contractor was awarded the project because he sold his company in an impressive manner. The Painting Contractor told the customer how they would do the project, how long the project would take and exactly what products they were going to use on that particular project. Not to mention, I’m sure they put all of this in their contract. Image also means, your paint crew/employees should be in identical clean uniforms on a daily basis and act in a professional manner at all times. Your customer should feel like he or she is dealing with a reputable painting company. The customer should also feel comfortable and safe. I believe in punctuality. If you tell a customer your staff will arrive at their home or place of business at a particular time to start their project, make sure you honor that commitment. I’m sure the customer made arrangements in their busy schedule to ensure they would be there. If you are late or don’t show up, customers certainly remember that. The 3 biggest priorities at Orlando Painters LLC is, Quality Workmanship, Great Customer Service and Image. All of our painting projects are supervised for the entire duration of the project to ensure everything is completed according to contract and/or specs. We take before, during and after pictures of every project we work on and send all project photos to our customers. We also post all project photos to our Facebook Business Page to show our public the type of quality work Orlando Painters does.

    • Well said Orlando Painters! That’s the way to do it right! That’s how I do too.

    • Scott says:

      Well put, Orlando Painters. Good points.

    • Oisin Butler says:

      I agree with everything you say here Orlando Painters. If you want repeat business then you have to look and be professional and deliver on time. Not sure if this has been mentioned by anyone yet so I’ll just go ahead and say one way I see a lot of good tradesman fall down is by not cleaning up after themselves at the end of the working day. Most of them say when I ask ‘whats the problem, the job looks great’ or ‘its work in progress’ or ‘ you can’t judge the job untill its finished’. Fail. In my experience the first thing your customer see’s is the mess you’ve left behind, it doesn’t matter how good the finish is, you will be judged by the mess you make.
      Cleaning up at the end of the job isn’t good enough, you must tidy up every day and at the end leave the job cleaner than you found it!
      As one man said to me recently ‘the difference between a tradesman and a craftsman is a dustpan and brush.
      One other point is to take pride in your work. Having pride in doing a good job will make you go the extra mile and give your customer the best. Its not all about making money, its also about building a strong reputation.

      These are things that drive my business, Oisin Butler – Painting & Decorating http://oisinbutler.ie/,

      Great Blog,

      Oisin Butler

  7. Great points all of them.

  8. Rudolph says:

    I am sure one of those constant questions asked of commercial painters is :
    ” Can’t you just do touch-up “?

We would love to hear what you think!

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