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Old 05-17-2015, 12:39 PM   #1
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I started painting while I was an undergrad in college back in 1997. And no, it was not for one of “those” seasonal painting companies. I worked on exteriors from the end of April until Labor Day for three years. Once I graduated in 1999 with a B.S in biology with a fisheries emphasis, I headed off to work on my Master’s degree. At that point I was married and my first child was two months old when we moved out of state. Well, being out of state with a new baby and an extremely postpartum depressed wife did not combine well with the out of town travel and demands of graduate school. So, towards the end of the second semester, we packed it up and moved back home. I walked away from a fellowship, research assistanceship and full ride for graduate school. I went to work full time for the painter I had worked for in the summers.

I was the only full time employee and learned as I went. My employer was focusing his time on real estate, house flipping, land development, etc so I did the majority of the interior painting by myself. My employer’s father was a painter who would help out from time to time because, even though he was retired, he could not handle not working. In fact, he still paints occasionally today in his 80’s. I always enjoyed hearing stores about painting in the old days, when paint had to be mixed and tinted on site, before rollers, tying ladders together for church steeples, fire departments letting them use ladder trucks, etc. The company I worked for was very traditional in their approach to painting. There were no sprayers used for anything. I ran the summer exterior crews for 5 years before I started my own company in 2004.

Once I started on my own, I read everything I could, asked a lot of stupid naive questions on the internet, and taught myself about spraying, new construction work, wood finishing, spray stains, dyes, etc. I always enjoy reading and learning new things, so I spent a lot of time on the old PCR, ContractorTalk, and then landed here at PaintTalk. PaintTalk has been the most helpful resource as I tried to figure out this painting contractor thing. There are so many members here that share their areas of expertise from business, to internet, to cabinet work, to marketing, etc that you can’t help but learn something.

My business has grown from just myself, to myself and one other person plus some seasonal workers, to 3 full time employees and 16 seasonal workers last year. I have been in the bucket, out of the bucket (mostly) and am now back mostly back in the bucket depending on the time of the year. I actually find I am enjoying being back in the bucket painting this past winter for the first time in a few years. I have had a couple part time workers helping me out this winter from the summer crew and enjoyed working alongside them. We will have 15 employees working this summer.

We have a 3,000 sq. ft. shop with 1,000 sq. ft of finishing area that lets us do some cabinet work more easily. I would like to try to generate more kitchen cabinet refinishing jobs in the future since it is one of my favorite jobs to do.

I would say my biggest challenges in business have been finding year round employees for long term employment and juggling the scheduling hassles that go along with doing a lot of exterior work. Michigan does not allow for a terribly long exterior season and if spring or fall is cold and wet, it can shorten it significantly.

I will honestly say that when I set aside my plans to be a fisheries biologist and went into the painting field, I was bitter for awhile. It was not what I wanted to do. It was not where I wanted to be. But, 16 years later, I can honestly say I have no regrets anymore. I realize that everything happened for a reason and I am where God wanted me to be. It was not the path I would have chosen for myself, but the path ended up at the right destination. I can honestly say I enjoy what I am doing and am blessed.

My wife and I have been married for 17 years and we have 3 children. We are actively involved volunteering with the high school students in our church. We enjoy camping in the summer as a family. My main hobby is fishing which unfortunately conflicts with my busier exterior season, but what can you do. And no, a degree in fisheries biology does not help you catch more fish.
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Old 08-09-2015, 04:49 PM   #2
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Congratulations to you on the great accomplishment.
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Old 08-09-2015, 10:13 PM   #3
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Good write up. Dean and I have been doing this about the same length of time.

I thought a fisheries biology degree made you the fish whisper and they just jumped into the net. Scratch that then.
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