Location, location, location. That familiar real estate mantra could also be applied to professional painting contractors. At least that's how it worked for Sean Braney.
Originally from Syracuse, N.Y., Sean began painting in the summer while attending UMass Amherst. He started Mad Hatter Painting in 2000 in South Boston, working 60-plus hours a week behind the brush for three years.
He married in 2002 and moved to Cape Cod, where he had to start over with a new workforce and customer base, but it was there that his business took off.
With a reliable crew and a solid base of residential repaint work, the company has grown to more than $1 million in annual sales. The Cape's workforce is less transient than its big-city neighbor, Sean says, and the higher retention rate enabled him to promote trusted employees to field supervisor positions so he could focus on sales.
"That freed me to start bidding on new construction and commercial work." He adds that the Cape has not been as negatively affected by the economic downturn as some areas. But building has slowed even there. Last year, he strategically trimmed staff to 10 (from a high of 17) to focus on providing the highest quality service on the most profitable jobs, while keeping his company healthy until the time is right to grow again.
He looks for the same excellent service in his paint supplier. "I like Sherwin-Williams because they're focused on the customer," he says. "They've bent over backwards to assure my company stays on track and on time. They have three stores on the Cape, and I get the same pricing no matter where I go." Free delivery to jobsites saves labor on everything from multi-unit projects like the New Seabury golf community to a 12,000-square-foot home repaint in Osterville.
"The success of your business is not about your gross sales, it's about your net profit," Sean says. "It's about your ability to do your jobs right, at the right pace, and still enjoy the lifestyle you want."
See more photos of Sean Braney's work at madhatterpainting.com