Header - Article - Southern Exposure Painting
Originally published in PPC Magazine.

Southern Exposure Painting has been trusted to paint some of South Carolina’s largest residential projects.

Covering 84 square miles off the coast of Charleston, S.C., John’s Island is the fourth largest island on the east coast of the U.S. Only Long Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Maine’s Mount Desert Island are bigger. It’s here that Ben Havens and Chris Berghoff have staked their claim for a highly successful career in painting.

The two met swinging a brush for another local outfit, and broke out on their own in 2003 to form Southern Exposure Painting. Their mission: Provide long lasting, high quality painting services to the finest homes in the area.

Despite the challenging economic climate of the last decade, they’ve grown their company every year and now employ 14 full-time painters year-round. They’ve been trusted to handle the coatings on some of the largest residential projects on Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island, Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms.

You guys were in your 20s when you started your own company. How were able to compete with the more established firms in your area?

Customer service helped us build our reputation more than anything. We take a lot of pride in our work, and we made a decision at the start to take the same approach to customer relations. We make sure we always have open lines of communication with our clients, whether they’re builders, interior designers or homeowners. Our clients know we will be there when we say and fix any problems we encounter.
How does your business break down by market? Right now we’re about 80 percent new construction, 15 percent residential repaint and 5 percent light commercial.

With such a large percentage of new construction work, how did the recent recession affect your business?

Luckily we work in a niche market where housing starts weren’t quite as hard hit as in other parts of the country. There were a lot of custom homes and high-end multi-unit projects that were conceptual in 2006 and 2007 and then were painted in 2008 and 2009. We protected our relationships with our builders so when the plans came available, we were their preferred painting contractor.

What role has your paint supplier played in the growth of your company?

Sherwin-Williams is a large part of our success. Not only do they answer all of our questions at the stores, we have an assigned sales rep willing to meet and discuss any problem. Another great asset is their twice-a-day delivery service, which cuts man-hour costs dramatically.

What’s the best business advice you have gotten over the years?

Don’t have your business live on borrowed money and take care of the clients you have and the business will grow. Don’t grow too big too fast.