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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I need some advice from some of you seasoned pros. I ran my own small painting business for 4 years, but I was recently hired by a larger small business to start and run their painting department.

We have somewhat of a unique situation. We operate in a seasonal cottage market with a high-end vacation market but a very low permanent population. The business has built a very strong brand in this area with the other services they offer but have only recently ventured into painting. Because of the strength of the brand, they get a LOT of demand for painting during short periods of the year--enough to keep 5 crews of 3-4 painters going during the 4 months of the busy summer season.

Satisfying that kind of demand requires more than a few employees and several crews, which then require middle management. How many of you out there are familiar with this sort of thing? Sales reps? Estimators? Field supervisors? etc. And if you do employ middle management, do you find that you have to price yourself at the higher end of the market? Another question I have for you larger painting companies--do you have a fleet of company vehicles?

I've found that with painters the bargains come on the top end--I've hired students and pros, and in one case two brothers I was paying $20/hr each were doing 2-3 times as much work as the students I was paying $12/hr. What are your wage scales and what should a typical markup be on top of that? I want to pay wages that are slightly higher than the average in order to attract better people.

My problem: when I try to grow our operational mold to satisfy some of this demand, costs (and therefore prices) always have to go way up. How is it possible to operate a larger painting company complete with company vehicles, middle management, an office, and a brand, while still remaining competitive? :(
 

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My problem: when I try to grow our operational mold to satisfy some of this demand, costs (and therefore prices) always have to go way up. How is it possible to operate a larger painting company complete with company vehicles, middle management, an office, and a brand, while still remaining competitive? :(
Rob, I don't have a large company but I may be of some help. The company that hired you sounds like it is respected in your area. Being that your company has a good rep, and most likely caters to high end, second home customers, you will be getting jobs on those terms and not because of price. Second, you will be doing large volume work. Your money will be made in the amount of sales. Think wall-mart if we must, cheap for us and record profits for them. Good luck:thumbsup:
 

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Seasonal high-end cottage....sounds familar

The seasonal nature of your area is going to cause problems with hiring quality people, and justifying middle management wages year 'round

You may be better off subbing out during the season, and keeping no middle mngmt besides yourself
You'll run around a bit for few months, but it could be worth it to keep your salary during the off-season

I'm not trying to be harsh, just realistic
Unless you want to dig up another two months worth of work for them, then pay the higher unemployment ins. rate for the other six
...which is not a particularly good business plan
 

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If it were me... I'd be considering what Slickshift said... I would try to have a few key guys that would directly with Subs... In other words, the key guys would be your crew/s during the slow time and then supervise the subs during busy times to ensure quality (and keep them from 'stealing' customers).

Of course, I just make the stuff... what do I know? :blink:
 

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I run into the same situation with my area, but fortunately I live in close proximity to a larger city where I work as well.

I assume those rentals are controlled by a local realtor? I have a good working relationship with several, and I do give them discounts for the volume of work I get from them. I also have several "villages" on the beach that require the homeowners to repaint yearly.

When I say repaint I mean trim, mostly white where nail heads rust thru. I do all of this in the off season, and from time to time have interior touch ups and repairs.

If you can't find work for your guys during those predictably slow times then your smartest option would be to find some subs to fill in and take a percentage.

I would work with the realtors to get work scheduled as best you could as well.

I can't imagine paying any painter $20/hr:eek: My highest paid guys make $15, but I guess that depends on the area, I am fortunate in the fact that SE-NC"s average salary is lower than average.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Wow, I definitely wasn't expecting so much response right away! I really appreciate all of the input from all of you. This is a great forum. To respond:

The company that hired you sounds like it is respected in your area. Being that your company has a good rep, and most likely caters to high end, second home customers, you will be getting jobs on those terms and not because of price.
You're right about that. Our customer base is 80% cottagers and 19% contractors who are building for cottagers. More often than not, they're fine with whatever price and usually don't even get other quotes. I've suggested that we sub out painting before, but I was told by my boss (who, this year, tried his hand at subbing out other services like landscaping, gardening, etc.) that it has a negative effect on the brand because we have no control over the quality and customer service the client is getting onsite. I like Wolverine's suggestion of employing people to supervise the subs.

Just out of curiosity, how many of you have ever used the piece-work system where you assign a budget and the painters get paid for the full amount of the bid regardless of how long it takes them (even if they go over)?

Also, do you think we're in a position where we can just stop doing quotes and just bill out everyone at an hourly rate?
 

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ditto

Around here $15 will get you a mid grade painter, not a lead man for sure.
Same here on the left coast. That painter may, or may not speak english, but will take daily direction from a crew foreman and put in a full day at the task.

Skateboard kids won't show up for 10 bucks, or must be picked up and delivered... then it's however much of the day on their cell phone.
Can't talk to them, because of the ear buds plugged to their Ipod.
Must watch them with constant supervision because they WILL occaisionally become creative!!!!!!

Now that work is fading quickly, starting pay of $15 will probably get you a desperate qualified journeyman capable of making real decisions.

With the housing bubble thingy, we're going to see some real abuse inflicted upon the painting trade... And that's what people see first, when they look at a building !
r
 

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I've suggested that we sub out painting before, but I was told by my boss (who, this year, tried his hand at subbing out other services like landscaping, gardening, etc.) that it has a negative effect on the brand because we have no control over the quality and customer service the client is getting onsite.
You are correct in that it can be trickier to control quality
Absolutely...but you do not have "no control"...you can spell out the quality in sub contracts and enforce it...and not offer them any other jobs if they are not up to par
Less control...yes....but proper sub contracts and supervision can compensate

The problem with having in-house crews in your situation is, how are you going to hire quality people for 4 months only?...and during the busy season?

I like Wolverine's suggestion of employing people to supervise the subs.
Me too...in fact, that's a QC issue with the subs...I would recommend it
....however one person can cover your 4 crews (it could be a stretch depending on how much desk jockeying they need to do)
If they each need more than 2 hours a day that would be babysitting
 

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RobM;564 Also said:
I would take that up with the boss. I know well respected company's that have in-house painters and that is exactly what they do. $35 hr per man. I live and work in the same 2nd home, tourist environment.
 

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Same here on the left coast. That painter may, or may not speak english, but will take daily direction from a crew foreman and put in a full day at the task.
I typed the same thing and then deleted it.


Now that work is fading quickly, starting pay of $15 will probably get you a desperate qualified journeyman capable of making real decisions.
r
True enough, things will pick up though, it all comes in cycles.
 
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