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Old 02-24-2010, 01:36 AM   #1
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Default For all you new "painting contractors"

I have noticed a large number of new people on the forums here who are novice painting contractors. I thought I might share a bit of experience in the hopes that you will avoid the unfortunate pitfalls that contractors such as myself have suffered.

First - grow slowly.
You may be tempted to grow at a fast pace (as I was) due to an influx of unexpected work. You're better off to schedule work 3 months in advance than you are to try to fit it all in within a month by hiring more help. Your customers may not like to wait, but it's better than laying off all your staff when the work dries up.

Second - know your numbers. Many of us think we know our numbers, or that we can charge an hourly rate for our work and remain profitable. Not possible. You MUST know what every detail of every job will COST you, then add your PROFIT to that COST. It's called "markup on costs". Your cost must include your own salary, not just that of your help. Make the mistake of not adding a salary, and you will end up like I did - working 20 hours a day and wondering why you have no money.

Be careful.

Don't hire on experience.

Your employees can make you or break you. Just because some guy has experience doesn't mean he will represent you or your business the way you expect. You have to use some judgement, your own experience, and common sense here. And don't let a guy run your crews just because he has held a brush longer than some other guy.

Know your staff.

Don't do your own payroll.

Let another company do your payroll. Don't let yourself be sucked into short term debt financing - it's a black hole and once your in there's no getting out.

Don't underbid work.

You may be tempted to lower your price to get more volume. Big mistake. You get no profits from underbid work, and the volume eventually dries up because you find yourself cutting corners to make up for the lower prices, thus reducing the quality of your work and ultimately the demand for it.

Keep a minimum number of staff.

2 people are enough to do most jobs. Throwing too many people on a job results in "collective laziness", which increases your costs and reduces your production. Though it seems counter-intuitive, less is more.

Never stop marketing.

Some of you may work exclusively for one GC. Don't. I don't care if you're too busy to take on other work, never put all your eggs in one basket. Bad, bad business decision.

Remain Visible:

Be on all your jobsites daily. As long as your employees know you are checking up on them on a regular basis, they are more likely to remain productive. Also, don't be afraid to fire those who are not producing. It may not be fun, but this is business.

That's all that came to mind at the moment, and there is a lot more, but I hope all you new contractors will read this and take it to heart.
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Old 02-24-2010, 02:18 AM   #2
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Great advice!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rcon View Post
I have noticed a large number of new people on the forums here who are novice painting contractors. I thought I might share a bit of experience in the hopes that you will avoid the unfortunate pitfalls that contractors such as myself have suffered.

First - grow slowly. You may be tempted to grow at a fast pace (as I was) due to an influx of unexpected work. You're better off to schedule work 3 months in advance than you are to try to fit it all in within a month by hiring more help. Your customers may not like to wait, but it's better than laying off all your staff when the work dries up.

Second - know your numbers. Many of us think we know our numbers, or that we can charge an hourly rate for our work and remain profitable. Not possible. You MUST know what every detail of every job will COST you, then add your PROFIT to that COST. It's called "markup on costs". Your cost must include your own salary, not just that of your help. Make the mistake of not adding a salary, and you will end up like I did - working 20 hours a day and wondering why you have no money.

Be careful.

Don't hire on experience.
Your employees can make you or break you. Just because some guy has experience doesn't mean he will represent you or your business the way you expect. You have to use some judgement, your own experience, and common sense here. And don't let a guy run your crews just because he has held a brush longer than some other guy.

Know your staff.

Don't do your own payroll.

Let another company do your payroll. Don't let yourself be sucked into short term debt financing - it's a black hole and once your in there's no getting out.

Don't underbid work.

You may be tempted to lower your price to get more volume. Big mistake. You get no profits from underbid work, and the volume eventually dries up because you find yourself cutting corners to make up for the lower prices, thus reducing the quality of your work and ultimately the demand for it.

Keep a minimum number of staff.

2 people are enough to do most jobs. Throwing too many people on a job results in "collective laziness", which increases your costs and reduces your production. Though it seems counter-intuitive, less is more.

Never stop marketing.

Some of you may work exclusively for one GC. Don't. I don't care if you're too busy to take on other work, never put all your eggs in one basket. Bad, bad business decision.

Remain Visible:

Be on all your jobsites daily. As long as your employees know you are checking up on them on a regular basis, they are more likely to remain productive. Also, don't be afraid to fire those who are not producing. It may not be fun, but this is business.

That's all that came to mind at the moment, and there is a lot more, but I hope all you new contractors will read this and take it to heart.
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Old 02-24-2010, 03:00 AM   #3
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Great post!

I never got into the habit of marketing when I had my old business as much as I should have, or not directly at least.

Most people don't like how I hired people, I'd talk to them get an idea of their experience, and if I decided they might be a good fit, I had one last test for them, go and paint out that wall right there, with me watching over your shoulder.

I have to do it all the time with customers so why not your possible employer, and then based on what I see, hire/fire them and give them the wage I am able to pay.

Sure you can only get so much of an idea, but I can tell more about a painter in 30 seconds actually painting than you'd ever get in an interview.

I agree with pretty well everything I read!
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Old 02-24-2010, 08:47 AM   #4
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I vote Sticker Post.
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Old 02-24-2010, 04:57 PM   #5
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Great advice and thanks R i am not new to painting bu i am starting a new co. and really jumping in with both feet for the fist time,and will take your advice to hart THANKS.
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Old 02-24-2010, 05:24 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rcon View Post
Don't hire on experience.
Your employees can make you or break you. Just because some guy has experience doesn't mean he will represent you or your business the way you expect. You have to use some judgement, your own experience, and common sense here. And don't let a guy run your crews just because he has held a brush longer than some other guy.

Know your staff.
I learned this one the hard way. The experience I hired though was ''friends'' from the firm where we all used to work on together.

''I'll have these guys, we all like each other, they won't let me down.''
- WRONG!!!

Don't hire experienced friends - add that to your list. They all take the pi55 out of you. It can all end up bloody,,, let me tell you

Excellent post BTW, Rcon
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Old 02-24-2010, 05:55 PM   #7
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Awesome advice. If you would have read something like this when you started up - do you think the end result would have changed? Not asking if you had followed the advice but just read it. I am guessing probably not. Again, just guessing but at that stage I think we are so deeply involved with everything in our biz that our thoughts and actions are very clouded.
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Old 02-24-2010, 08:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rcon View Post
I have noticed a large number of new people on the forums here who are novice painting contractors. I thought I might share a bit of experience in the hopes that you will avoid the unfortunate pitfalls that contractors such as myself have suffered.

First - grow slowly. You may be tempted to grow at a fast pace (as I was) due to an influx of unexpected work. You're better off to schedule work 3 months in advance than you are to try to fit it all in within a month by hiring more help. Your customers may not like to wait, but it's better than laying off all your staff when the work dries up.

Second - know your numbers. Many of us think we know our numbers, or that we can charge an hourly rate for our work and remain profitable. Not possible. You MUST know what every detail of every job will COST you, then add your PROFIT to that COST. It's called "markup on costs". Your cost must include your own salary, not just that of your help. Make the mistake of not adding a salary, and you will end up like I did - working 20 hours a day and wondering why you have no money.

Be careful.

Don't hire on experience.
Your employees can make you or break you. Just because some guy has experience doesn't mean he will represent you or your business the way you expect. You have to use some judgement, your own experience, and common sense here. And don't let a guy run your crews just because he has held a brush longer than some other guy.

Know your staff.

Don't do your own payroll.

Let another company do your payroll. Don't let yourself be sucked into short term debt financing - it's a black hole and once your in there's no getting out.

Don't underbid work.

You may be tempted to lower your price to get more volume. Big mistake. You get no profits from underbid work, and the volume eventually dries up because you find yourself cutting corners to make up for the lower prices, thus reducing the quality of your work and ultimately the demand for it.

Keep a minimum number of staff.

2 people are enough to do most jobs. Throwing too many people on a job results in "collective laziness", which increases your costs and reduces your production. Though it seems counter-intuitive, less is more.

Never stop marketing.

Some of you may work exclusively for one GC. Don't. I don't care if you're too busy to take on other work, never put all your eggs in one basket. Bad, bad business decision.

Remain Visible:

Be on all your jobsites daily. As long as your employees know you are checking up on them on a regular basis, they are more likely to remain productive. Also, don't be afraid to fire those who are not producing. It may not be fun, but this is business.

That's all that came to mind at the moment, and there is a lot more, but I hope all you new contractors will read this and take it to heart.

great post and great start to a thread that I am certian will become a sticky in the near future.

I would add don't take on anything that you can't do professionally. I have a carpenter's background, so I find this very, very difficult to do. It's very hard to turn down work, but ultimately this could ruin your reputation and growth in the long run.
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Old 02-24-2010, 09:20 PM   #9
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Thanks for some great info.
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Old 02-24-2010, 10:33 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fresh coat View Post
Awesome advice. If you would have read something like this when you started up - do you think the end result would have changed? Not asking if you had followed the advice but just read it. I am guessing probably not. Again, just guessing but at that stage I think we are so deeply involved with everything in our biz that our thoughts and actions are very clouded.
Honestly, I wish to god I would have found this place a long time ago; but like many in this business I thought I knew it all - boy was I wrong.

Would the end result have changed? I think so. I think anyone who is intelligent enough to spend time being part of a community that seeks to better itself through the exchange of knowledge is intelligent enough to take the advice given and implement it (and I would have).
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