9 contractors reveal their “Aha!” moment
While there is no one-size-fits-all ticket to success in the painting industry, many contractors have had a very personal Aha! moment early in their careers that continues to inform and guide their business decisions.
Here are some of the most memorable pieces of advice shared by contractors profiled in Professional Painting Contractor magazine in the last 10 years.
Don’t sell yourself short
The hardest part about running the business was figuring out how much to charge my family and friends. I tried to give everybody a deal. My dad sat me down one day and he said, ‘I know you love the work you’re doing, but you have to make money for it, too.’
–Sharon Brown, A Touch of Class Painting, Watertown, NY
Don’t avoid adversity
I was always told to face all adversity and those tough customer calls. You cannot avoid the calls of customers with problems. As difficult as a customer is, right or wrong, you must address them and put the fire out. This exercise builds maturity and character, both personally and from a business standpoint.
–Paul Gallo, Magic Brush Painting, Rutland, VT
Don’t leave ’em hangin’
Always be honest with your customers. Tell them the truth – they will understand. If something comes up or you are going to be late, make sure you call. Communication is a must. You just can’t leave them wondering what’s going on.
–Phil Schoen, Schoen’s Painting & Decorating, Inc., Sheboygan, WI
Strive for balance
Once I asked someone how to avoid getting too high when things were up and too low when things were down. He said if you want to have any sort of a balanced life, you have to know the difference between possible and probable. To be great at this business, you have to try to paint every single apartment complex that ever goes up for bid. To stay sane, you have to admit you’re not going to get them all. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.
–Jason McCool, Executive Coatings & Contracting, Inc., Denver, CO
Do only what you do well
A friend in business once said to me: ‘If you don’t do the work in the office, don’t do the work in the field.’ When you run a painting company, your clients can ask for a lot more than painting. We have been asked to refinish furniture, grout tile floors, and do electrical work. “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is almost a daily mantra I repeat to myself. Every time I have wandered off course to work on something that is not in our scope and expertise, we’ve lost money. It becomes a huge headache, and worse, it can tarnish your reputation. Do what you do and do it well. It is that simple.
–Jonathan Zawacki, Hands On Painters, Baltimore MD
Know when to fold ’em
Grow at a comfortable pace. Be sure you can manage and handle the jobs you have. The worst thing is to be underfinanced. Even the best contractors will not survive if cash flow is poor. Try to make a profit on every job. That means knowing your costs! Be willing to walk away if the job won’t make you any money.
–Allen Pinchot, Frank Novak & Sons, Inc., Cleveland, OH
Every job matters
Probably the most important lesson my dad taught me was that every job is important, no matter how big or small. The $5,000 job is just as important as a $50,000 or a $500,000 job. They all work together to bring in revenue.
–David Arthun, Arthun Painting, Inc., Anchorage, AK
Persistence, persistence, and more persistence
Never take no for an answer, and never give up.
–Dan Foster, Foster’s Painting & Wallcovering, Inc., Phoenix, AZ
Put down the brush!
The most important part of good business advice is to actually follow it. I made a huge pivotal change in my business approach when I was told that to be really successful, you have to take the brush out of your hands. Some of my other favorite bits of advice have been:
- Keep your costs down but don’t bite off your nose to spite your face.
- Surround yourself with good, positive people.
- It’s not so much if you make a mistake, but what you do to fix it.
- Pick your battles.
- Perception is reality.
–Garret Abeyta, Abeyta Painting, Tucson, AZ