Noah Winkles was born and raised in Santa Maria, California and has lived his entire life in Santa Barbara County.
Growing up, Noah had a passion for sports and played football, baseball, and basketball. When Noah wasn’t playing on a team or a pickup game with his brother, he was watching one on T.V. Noah even played on the Westmont College rugby team.
When it comes to food, he recommends a few pieces of tri-tip, pinquito beans with salsa, salad, and buttered up french bread – a meal he enjoys every weekend.
For the past seven years, Noah Winkles has been the vice president of New Life Painting, a commercial and residential painting company serving California’s Central Coast.
In this interview, Noah talks about his painting company’s greatest successes, failures, the importance of company culture, and a few other pieces of advice he feels other business owners could benefit from.
Noah, how did you get get your start in the painting industry?
Well, I was pretty much born into it. My dad started New Life Painting six years before I was born. My mom has pictures of me as an infant in New Life Painting whites. Growing up during the summer, my dad had me scraping paint off the ground when I was really young, moving tarps and paint as I got older, and by the time I hit high school, I wanted to be as far from the painting industry as I could!
I worked at Costco and an ice cream parlor during my high school summers. However, during college, I did end up doing some painting for a few of my professors for some extra cash.
When I did graduate in 2008, the economy was really bad and my dad came down to Santa Barbara and met me for lunch to recruit me. He had three painters on his team at the time and told me I could take over the painting business as he was focusing on his kitchen and bathroom remodeling company.
What do you feel has been New Life Painting’s greatest success? What was directly or indirectly responsible for it?
I feel like the biggest success has been the shift from doing mostly residential work to about 40% commercial/HOA. Three to four years ago, I made a goal that I wanted to shift this business towards doing closer to 50% HOA work. To meet this goal, I consistently marketed, networked, and at least twice a month, was dropping off Starbucks cards, popcorn, and letters trying to get New Life Painting on the bid list.
After about a year of doing that we landed a few jobs, and it’s been really great ever since. We treat our HOAs like high-end residential homes, which our customers love.
If You’re Not Setting the Atmosphere, Someone Else Is
How does New Life Painting’s culture influence how your run your business?
We live by our company values which can be broken down into six parts:
- Communication: Means of connection with the team and our customers
- Collaboration: Leverages the collective knowledge of the team
- Respect: Treating others the way you wish to be treated
- Trust: It’s all about actions
- Love: Committed with heart and mind
- Fun: Work hard, have fun, stay humble
Everyone in our company understands that our culture is the single most important part of our business. If we had employees that didn’t live by this, everyone would feel it and the focus/culture would shift. If you’re not setting the atmosphere, someone else is.
Learning to Listen
Talk to us about a time you failed at work, what was the experience and what did you learn?
Listening to your team is so important. That goes back to collaboration and trust. We painted an HOA a few years back, and we had a particular product spec’d out for the job. The paint rep talked me into a more expensive product that he said would have better color retention and last longer. My project manager told me not to use it; he said it wasn’t the right product, and not to go with anything we didn’t know. Sure enough, one year later we had to redo the whole project due to peeling and fading. I stood up in front of the guys and apologized for not listening and that I wouldn’t do it again. It was an expensive lesson!
What is your hiring process? How do you find new team members that are a good fit culturally?
We hire strictly on attitude; skill is a bonus. It’s really that simple. We generally have two meetings initially with our office manager, then with me and my estimator. At the interviews we share our company values and make sure they align with theirs. We do background checks and we do drug testing, no exceptions. We don’t let new hires work on in the interior of a home for at least three months, and there is trust built with that employee.
When hiring, we let it be known that our culture is everything and that we hire on attitude. We invite people to leave when that attitude does not line up with our values.
Networking & Sales Education
If you had the chance to rewind the clock five years, what would you do differently?
Five years ago, I think I would have done more sales education and done more networking with other painting contractors. Four years ago, we started working with Nolan Summitt Services, which has 80+ of the finest painting contractors in America (plus a couple in Canada), and we have truly grown as a company since joining. I wish I would have joined earlier!
Excluding New Life Painting, what other companies or businesses do you admire?
When it comes to other painting contractors, there are definitely certain aspects of other companies that I really admire. The first that comes to mind is Chism Brothers Painting. Mike Chism is such a great guy. He’s humble, has integrity, cares about his employees, and his company is one of the most financially sound I’ve seen in this industry. While they’re not the biggest company, the way Mike runs his company is very smart.
I also admire the sales culture of Nolan Painting in Pennsylvania. They are so focused on sales and they train so much, it’s no wonder why they are one of the biggest residential painters in the country. When it comes to marketing and branding, I really like Two Dudes Painting. Their marketing is fun and catchy.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My wife, Vanessa, without a doubt. She’s strong, funny, beautiful, and an amazing mom and wife. She has faith that I haven’t ever seen in anyone ever before.
Tools of the trade – what tools are essential to the success of your business and why?
I think there have been three tools that have really helped our business the last couple of years. Number one would be the use of Smartsheet. We use Smartsheet for hours tracking on jobs, helping with staging future jobs, notes and colors for customers, communication between our project managers and office staff, pre-job walks, auditing and more. Smartsheet has been such an integral part of our business.
The second would be One Step Estimating which has really helped us set up a system for estimating correctly with job hours – plus it’s easy to convert. It’s also great because it makes it easy for future estimators to learn our system.
Last, but not least is our CRM PipelineDeals. We love PipelineDeals – we use it for recording our sales, sales statistics, and it also helps with our follow-up to potential customers.
What advice do you have for other painting contractors?
I think number one piece of advice I’d like to share is to create a culture for your employees. Like I said earlier, if you’re not creating the culture, someone else in your business is. As a company, we came up with our values as a team and we did it through a values assessment worksheet. It’s important to include everyone, and it’s your job implement and protect them.