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Old 07-08-2008, 07:45 PM   #1
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Default How do you handle growth with out going crazy?

I am trying to plan out the rest of my summer exterior work. I landed more home exteriors than I expected in addition to my regular condo exterior work. Trying to keep residential interior repaint work going, plus one large new construction job just has me spinning my wheels. I am running with one year round employee and 5 summer workers for the exteriors and need to hire 2-3 more summer helpers plus another year round painter. I have 2 subs working with my year round guy on a large new construction home. I feel like I am spending all my time driving between jobs it seems.

I want to start working on some contracts for next summer, start my first advertising/mailing ever, come up with a good system for finding a good year round employee, etc and just cannot do it all anymore.

I feel like I need to re-evaluate my entire pricing structure to be able to pay a good painter enough to keep them around (beginning to think the $45/hour billing rate is not unreasonable after all, especially if it is going to take 18-20/hr with a few perks, no health insurance). This would sink my new construction work though, since most of it is done T&M( at $35/hr) and how these jobs are scheduled, it would be impossible to bid them anyway.

How have you guys got through this stage in the business? I feel like I am now at the point where it is taking off to the extent that I should be able to (and need to) spend a couple days a week doing business work instead of painting all the time and doing business work in the evening, but making that transition is hard.
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Old 07-08-2008, 07:54 PM   #2
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Dean,

First, congrats on reaching this point. It's not fun at the moment, but it's kind of like going through puberty-- lots of unusual things start happening and we aren't sure how to deal with them. Things will improve.

From my experience, it seems like you may be trying to do too much. If you need to micro-manage, you either have the wrong people or they haven't been trained well enough. It can be hard to let go if you have been on the site all of the time.

George Z once said that one day he realized that there was a lot of good paint work done in Toronto, and he hadn't done it. That's when he realized that others can do good work. (I am paraphrasing.)

We all reach a ceiling that requires a really tough decision. If we want our hands on the day to day production, our time will be stretched thin. If we can figure out a way to train/ empower others, that can free up our time.

There is nothing wrong with being in the bucket or having daily involvement in production, but it does take a lot of time. That is where we all need to decide what kind of business we want.

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Old 07-08-2008, 08:14 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeanV View Post
I am trying to plan out the rest of my summer exterior work. I landed more home exteriors than I expected in addition to my regular condo exterior work. Trying to keep residential interior repaint work going, plus one large new construction job just has me spinning my wheels. I am running with one year round employee and 5 summer workers for the exteriors and need to hire 2-3 more summer helpers plus another year round painter. I have 2 subs working with my year round guy on a large new construction home. I feel like I am spending all my time driving between jobs it seems.

I want to start working on some contracts for next summer, start my first advertising/mailing ever, come up with a good system for finding a good year round employee, etc and just cannot do it all anymore.

I feel like I need to re-evaluate my entire pricing structure to be able to pay a good painter enough to keep them around (beginning to think the $45/hour billing rate is not unreasonable after all, especially if it is going to take 18-20/hr with a few perks, no health insurance). This would sink my new construction work though, since most of it is done T&M( at $35/hr) and how these jobs are scheduled, it would be impossible to bid them anyway.

How have you guys got through this stage in the business? I feel like I am now at the point where it is taking off to the extent that I should be able to (and need to) spend a couple days a week doing business work instead of painting all the time and doing business work in the evening, but making that transition is hard.

Dean,

you are talking about 10-12 guys . . . I don't think there is any way you can remain in the field at that number. If you want to stay that big, I would suggest pulling yourself out of the field and concentrating on making that operation run as smoothly as possible . . . Systems.

Will you keep that many year round or no. It's a little easier to get away with summer help on the exteriors but if you are heading into winter interior work with that many people, I'd be thinking about a very formal training program so that everybody is 1) On the same page on a given job and 2)Accountable for the work they are producing.

I don't have near that number of employees so I'm not speaking from experience.
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:21 PM   #4
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Summer is the large crew for exterior time. Rest of the year, I am hoping to run with 2 guys plus myself for interior work. I keep thinking I can handle the exteriors, a new construction job, and can fit in the repaint interiors as needed, but the int. repaints just never fit in well.
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:26 PM   #5
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Dean,
I'd be thinking about a very formal training program so that everybody is 1) On the same page on a given job and 2)Accountable for the work they are producing.

I don't have near that number of employees so I'm not speaking from experience.
What do you guys do for training that installs accountability in ones work? Do you install a system of rewards or consequences if work is done efficiently or I have to come back and touch it up?
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:28 PM   #6
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Summer is the large crew for exterior time. Rest of the year, I am hoping to run with 2 guys plus myself for interior work. I keep thinking I can handle the exteriors, a new construction job, and can fit in the repaint interiors as needed, but the int. repaints just never fit in well.
Honestly then, I'd just wing it for the summer. Resign yourself to the fact that you will have high stress, no life, and hopefully a boatload of cash come fall . . . though I'd be very nervous with that many summer helpers out there.

Two guys and you is cake for you to stay in the field. Much different than 10.
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:33 PM   #7
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As things are going crazy and as you think you need to be everywhere,
while you are putting out fires, some customers may drive you crazy
and hiring will be a challenge...
Don't drop the ball now! Most of us would.
Spend as much, or more, effort moving forward and implementing your growth plans,
as dealing with the everyday stuff.
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:38 PM   #8
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Dean

I think its out of balance. Having 10-12 during peak season but only carrying 1-2 year round is tough. Theres not enough consistency across your labor force. If you can run that big in the summer, you need to juice up the marketing for winter and retain the best guys from the summer crews year round.

Right now, if you only have 1-2 that have been with you and 8-10 that are temporary, you must be just running around anticipating fires and/or putting them out. I speak from experience, anytime I take on new people, they are always always on a crew with at least one person who has been with us for a while. In the case of my newly formed exterior crew, that person has been me. You really cant do it all. I have seen guys locally build houses of cards and watched them fall. Plan for continuity in the field and phase yourself out.



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Old 07-08-2008, 08:39 PM   #9
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For me, the tricky part is that I need a couple good year round painters to carry the interior load from May through August without me. It also means that I need to have enough work for me plus 2 good painters in the winter, which is going to be a little bit of a challenge right now, I think for the typical late November into late January stretch. I have been fortunate that I have only had a couple slow weeks in December the last two years (for myself and one painter), but I know that could change easily.
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:42 PM   #10
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For me, the tricky part is that I need a couple good year round painters to carry the interior load from May through August without me. It also means that I need to have enough work for me plus 2 good painters in the winter, which is going to be a little bit of a challenge right now, I think for the typical late November into late January stretch. I have been fortunate that I have only had a couple slow weeks in December the last two years (for myself and one painter), but I know that could change easily.
Dean

You are looking at it the wrong way. You need to have enough winter work for 3 painters, yourself not included. I took myself right out of the bucket from about October to May and it was the best thing I could have done in many ways. Carry an extra person, get yourself out of the field. This way you come out in the spring with 3 that are acclimated instead of 2. Thats a 33% increase!



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Old 07-08-2008, 08:48 PM   #11
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Scott, Did you find that 3 was the magic number that offset what you would have made painting yourself? That looks like where my numbers are pointing right now.
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:52 PM   #12
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Dean,

I have had similar situations with the summer workers and I have learned to micro manage the summer helpers.. more helpers doesn't = more work done quicker. if your picking up guys with little exp. they can and will slow your schedule down. I am talking about my personal exp... you may be different with the guys you have.

I went from 5 helpers and 2 painters to 2 helpers plus 2 painters and got a lot more done more efficiently.

Good luck tho!
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:52 PM   #13
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I have understood for along time that a good painter will enjoy the trust and responsabilty of being considered a "profesional" When I hire a new employee I tell them what is expected. They should know all the ins and outs of painting. Be neat,clean and polite. Act like a responsible adult and you will be treated as such. We all work together, one day your the crew leader the next day you might be a painter. If you can't get along with people you are in the wrong business. If you think you know it all you are in the wrong business. I trust my guys, I do not micro manage them. I let them handle the job from start to finish. Even picking up the check. They come to me to help solve problems. (rarely). If a customer needs codling. I could go on and on. but you'll know in a week if they are a keeper. Up until last year I was still in the bucket making a pretty good living when I realized, through growth, that I would either have to turn down work or change. This seems to be a natural progression if you are doing things correctly ie. People skills. Work skills, Business skills. I looked at where I wanted to be in say 10 years and at my age its not at the top of a 24' ladder. I knew I would probably take home less money for a few years but I am investing in a future. So instead of putting money in the matress I put mony in advertising, education, website, marketing, good investments, bad investments 2 steps forward one step back. I spend most every dayl,earning, driving, estimating,learning,emailing, learning, polishing my skills,learning sometimes second guessing myself. Most important be a man of your word. I can tell you it's worth it!! I wish I would of had enough confidence to do this years ago.
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Old 07-08-2008, 09:07 PM   #14
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Scott, Did you find that 3 was the magic number that offset what you would have made painting yourself? That looks like where my numbers are pointing right now.
Dean

3 works. 4 is better. 5 is better. 3 minimum. You can cover costs, make payroll, take a salary and profit, if you are efficient about it and have good people. I would not have considered it at less than 3. Honestly, in past configurations when it was myself and one employee in the winter or anytime of year, that is the worst possible scenario.



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Old 07-08-2008, 09:08 PM   #15
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I wish I would of had enough confidence to do this years ago.
For me, that right there is a big part of the problem. It is just having the confidence to do it. It is easier to think of a hundred reasons why it will not work out.
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Old 07-08-2008, 09:11 PM   #16
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For me, that right there is a big part of the problem. It is just having the confidence to do it. It is easier to think of a hundred reasons why it will not work out.
Dean

If you have the confidence and skills to run 10-12 people half the year or more, you can take your business to the next level at this time.



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Old 07-08-2008, 09:44 PM   #17
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Dean

If you have the confidence and skills to run 10-12 people half the year or more, you can take your business to the next level at this time.

What???????
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Old 07-08-2008, 10:14 PM   #18
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What???????
I said to Dean:

"If you have the confidence and skills to run 10-12 people half the year or more, you can take your business to the next level at this time."

If you go back and read Dean's posts, this might make sense to you. If it doesnt, go back and read Dean's posts again and come back with questions. If your question is still "What???????", try to be more specific about what it is that you have a question about. Post #16 should be enough for you to grasp what is going on with this topic. If not, go back and read Dean's posts again, you get the idea...



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Old 07-09-2008, 06:45 AM   #19
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Scott, Chill man! I get it......
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Old 07-09-2008, 09:17 AM   #20
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Scott, Chill man! I get it......
Aaron

No worries! We are all in it together!



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