“An entrepreneur who happens to run a painting company.” That’s how Matt Shoup sees his place in the business world.
Originally from New Jersey, Shoup moved with his family to northern Colorado at age 10, and went on to school at Colorado State University. After graduation, he pursued a career in mortgage banking but soon realized it wasn’t a good fit with his entrepreneurial drive.
With $100 to his name and $100,000 in debt, he started M&E Painting in March 2005. In less than a decade, his Loveland-based company has grown from a one-man operation to over $14 million in total sales, with more than 4,000 customers served and up to 65 painters employed in peak season. Shoup shared some of the secrets of his company’s success with Professional Painting Contractor magazine.
How did you get into the painting business?
A college painting company approached me about an internship in 1999, while I was studying at Colorado State University. I spent four years working with their company learning all about the industry. I figured it would be a cool gig in college. Little did I know that it would turn into a passion and eventually lead to my own business.
You’ve gone from small startup to annual sales of more than $2 million in less than a decade. Looking back, what were the key decisions or turning points that helped fueled that growth?
From the beginning, we decided we were going to be a company that reached the multi-million dollar mark. Part of our vision and mission was to serve more people and do it better than our competitors in the industry. We wanted to be the best painters who also serve our customers the best as well. That was a huge factor in fueling our growth.
How important has branding and marketing been to your business?
It has been crucial and one of the pillars of our success and growth. You can have the best product, service, team, invention, etc. on the planet, but if nobody knows about you, you will not be around too long. You need to generate sales and cash flow, and marketing is the key to do so. I was very intentional and strategic about our marketing effort from day one. We track ROI on every piece and method of marketing we do. I continue what works and stop what doesn’t. We’re also using Facebook and Twitter to be able to interact with our customers and stay in front of people.
You recently published a book and started a consulting business. Does that complement your day-to-day paint business?
Yes, I love helping other entrepreneurs grow and succeed. My book is called Become an Award Winning Company and it shows companies the benefit of winning business awards, as well as the seven-step process to do so. The tips in that book will allow companies to gain tons of free, credible exposure for their brand and business.
Why the emphasis on winning awards?
All that “marketing” is your creative, funny, silly, serious, (fill in the blank) message directed towards potential customers to get them to call you. At the end of the day it is still YOU talking about YOU. There is much more credibility getting others to talk about you. For example, we have won over two dozen business awards. When another organization says we are the best, the fastest growing, the most customer-friendly, etc., this holds more weight in the eyes of our potential customers.
In your consulting work, what do you find is the most common challenge for most residential painting company owners?
I have found the biggest challenge is that many contractors are painters first and business owners second. They can benefit from improving some of the basic skills in marketing, selling, accounting and the other bits and pieces of what makes a company succeed. Some other common challenges are finding and retaining an excellent staff, and differentiating themselves in order to sell jobs for the price they need to make ideal margins. Every day that I am able to help another company grow, it makes me better. I learn a lot by teaching and speaking and that is the best compliment to my day-to-day business.
What do you look for in a paint supplier, and how important is that to your company’s success?
We look for a paint supplier that stands behind their product, and can serve us well. We look for a company that we can have a mutually beneficial relationship with, and that will make things right if they ever go wrong. One of our biggest expenses is paint, and having a superior company is ideal. That is why we love working with Sherwin-Williams.They fit the description to a T. They have amazing products, competitive prices, and serve like no other. We love working with everybody at our local Fort Collins and Loveland, Colorado stores!
What is the best business advice you have received over the years?
Do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it, don’t spend more than you make. You are human and will make mistakes. When you do, make it right, and never give up on your dreams.