sw-Art Pro Focus For Growth

4 strategies to supercharge your business

In its first four years, Vivax Pro Painting grew annual sales from $100,000 to $1.5 million. The Denver-based firm has also won a number of recognitions including being named No. 292 on Inc. magazine’s 500 Fastest Growing Companies list in 2010 – the first residential painting company to make the list.

Owner Jeremiah Owen credits four key strategies with fueling the company’s successful growth:

1. Focus on a specialty

In an effort to grow sales, some contractors try to be all things to all customers. For Vivax Pro Painting, the opposite approach led to rapid growth.

“One of our first major turning points was when we made the decision to specialize in exterior residential repaints,” Owen says. “Within our own team, Logan Hall and Drew Chambers took over project management, freeing up myself and sister Jess Klein to concentrate on marketing and sales.”

Today Vivax employs up to 250 people in peak summer season. With the use of finely tuned business systems, crews paint up to 120 homes a week, while still focusing on the company’s original “one house at a time” philosophy.

2. Determine a geographic focus

Like most start-up contracting companies, at first Vivax took any jobs it could find.

“Then we got some great advice from some of our business mentors, who told us that as you expand your geographic area, business becomes exponentially more difficult,” Owens says. “So we made the strategic decision to only take jobs in Highlands Ranch.”

Highlands Ranch is a planned community 12 miles south of Denver with a population of 93,000, and Vivax focused its sales there for about three years before branching out into other areas. It was difficult at first to turn down jobs, Owens says, but it was also better for customers.

“We could hone in on what we did well and serve them better if we weren’t spending half the day driving,” he says. “By the time we were ready to branch out again, homeowners where eager to hire us based on the reputation we worked hard to build in Highlands Ranch.”

Today, Vivax has expanded its radius to include much of Colorado’s Front Range, from Castle Rock to Fort Collins.

“But we still schedule crews based on a 15-minute driving radius,” Owens says. “That improves efficiency and helps us keep our prices competitive. We’ll continue to expand into new markets as it makes sense. We’ll grow as fast as our customers let us grow.”

3. Focus on team building

For Owen, a successful painting company is all about team building.

“We are a customer service business first, and then a painting company,” he says. “We look at Team Vivax as a family, and mutual respect for both our customers and our employees is the foundation of our business.”

This team-first approach, he says, has been a key factor to the company’s fast growth into one of the Southwest’s largest residential painting companies. Making good hires is crucial – and not just when it comes to painters in the field. Owen says one of the major turning points for his business was hiring Susan Bunney as office manager.

“In just one year, we quadrupled our sales, from $466,000 to $1.5 million,” he says. “That hire helped us improve our customer service and scheduling process, and it was then that we started building the systems and databases that we are fine-tuning to this day. We get several hundred leads a week, and do up to 220 estimates a week at peak season. That creates a lot of details to track, and we would not be profitable without these systems.”

4. Focus on quality

Last but not least, successful companies focus on quality service that keeps customers coming back.

“We don’t want to just paint one of our customer’s houses,” Owens says. “We want to paint for their mom, their brother, and their kids when they have their own homes.”

To ensure this kind of repeat business and positive word-of-mouth advertising, Vivax recently made the switch to Sherwin-Williams Duration® and Resilience® as its preferred exterior paints.

“We feel strongly about offering warranties – it’s not just a marketing tactic, we stand behind our work,” Owen says. “Using these products has enabled us to increase the length of our warranties. Sherwin-Williams has always had a strong focus on R&D and introducing cutting-edge products. It gives our customers more peace of mind – they know we’re using the best paint products available.”