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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All,

Just curious hw many of you work alone and run a successful biz vs. with a crew. I run a three man crew right now, but I am getting tired of babysitting, and the quality control issues that go along with it. I find myself supervising too much and feel unproductive. I am thinking about flying solo for a while to get a break. It may be tough, I am spoiled by having the help.

Thanks!
 

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Hey wiz.

I started out solo, painting garages around my parent's neighborhood.
SOLO
Next, I did the "old timer" and the kid thing. He was a jerk, but I learned a lot.
ONE + ME
After a few years as foreman at a small local shop ...
ME + 4
I started my own company.​
SOLO
Things picked up, and I hired a few guys to help.​
Me + 3
Business picked up, and picked up some more. I needed 2 crews to do the work load. I turned the guys I started with into foremen. I painted a bit, and took lots of "got-an-estimate" breaks.​
Me + 8
Things started rolling along pretty good, and at my peak, I counted 22 painters on 5 different jobs going at the same time. There was so much work that I had to sub jobs out to smaller companies. I had an office girl, and she had a girl come in and help her from time to time. I just did estimates and paperwork. She did all the banking for me ... I just signed the checks. I didn't touch the tools for 2 years. Quality took a dive. The head aches rose. And I was making about the same amount of money. It almost didn't seem worth it.​
Me + 23.5
At that point, I was getting a divorce, getting sick of the complaints, and didn't want the BS any more. I fired everyone, slapped a walk-man on my head, and started scraping a garage by myself. The freedom was a welcome break. I could do quality work again, and I remembered why I was in this business > I like to paint!​
SOLO
I'm running work for the union now. It varies from solo to 14 guys. I've run the gammut, and I can tell you ... the best combination:
ME + 2 or 3!
If you are babysitting, you have the wrong people. It's hard to find the good ones! They are one-in-1000. It sucks to get rid of guys, but it sucks worse to keep the bad ones. Keep hunting! Spend more time finding the right people than you do finding work, and you will have referals coming out of the woodwork. If you have 2 or 3 guys who could run work for any company, are exelent craftsmen, smart, and will go the extra mile for you day after day ... pay them a few extra bucks and guard them with your life.
 

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I spent the better part of 7 years doing the Solo thing, with some occasional help. I've also run a production shop of 12-15 crews. No question that there is a certain piece of mind when you work alone but ultimately you have to ask the question of how long can you swing a brush and climb the ladders. It doesn't get easier as you get older. Then you have to consider profitability. Since a good part of this business is labor it makes more sense to utilize hired labor who will make money for you. The key is obviously finding the right help and training the right help.

I've moved away from production to consulting and training and am now solo again but i hope to have a few folks making money for me in the near future.

Mndrk
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the replies. I agree--the right people would make a difference. It's been tough to find them! I am sure we all share the same frustration of feeling as if we have to do it ourselves or it does not get done. It gets exhausting sometimes! I try and keep an easygoing work environment--and my customers appreciate that I am not the scream and yell type. BUt you have to have the right folks who are responsible to work in that environment and get the work done. I guess I need to take the hammer out!
 

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Epoxy Dude
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If anyone is offended by the mention of God... you might want to skip this post...

We are very fortunate...

I am a man of strong faith in God. When we need more help, I take time and pray for guidance. When I ask God for wisdom... I get it. Of course, I had to have my heart right too...

We've only had one employee in the last 6 years that hasn't worked out. He was a chemist in the lab that came from Merck. He was a good guy but... well... fell off the wagon. I still think his short time (? 6 months I think) with us had purpose.

Anyway, I know that many of you are Christians... It's so easy to forget that we can go to our God in prayer and get guidance. Simply put... that is what i do... it works!
 

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FT painter/FT dad
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Prayer is a great thing, I agree...and I do it often.

Roller, I started out as a one man show. That got old in about a year.

You are limited when you don't have anyone else to lean on...3 key ways-
1-lifting planks
2-needing to go out for an estimate(or being sick, or just needing to get other misc. things done) and progress ceases
3-a 3 week job will take 5 weeks alone, when you could have completed a whole other job in that time

for the record...I used to SWEAR on being a 1 man show forever (ask anyone in contractor talk)...but no more! It's a bad idea in so many more ways than it is good. Babysitting is not, I repeat NOT a good reason for wanting to do everything alone. There's obviously a problem if you are having to babysit. You either have the wrong people or you're training them in the wrong way.
 

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ContractorTalk Crossover
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If anyone is offended by the mention of God... you might want to skip this post...
Not to add a new tangent to this post, but I think that with over 70% of this great country being Christian, I think it is sad that Wolverine (and anyone) even have to ask such a question, or wonder if putting out a manger scene will offend someone in the neighborhood. What's next?

And it really insults me that I have to even be asked to push "1" for an english recorded message...

EDIT: Funny that I just found this by coincidence, credit to DaArch from ContractorTalk.com for the folowing link.
It's a 3.5 minute music video - Really Cool!:notworthy:

Wolverine, I applaude you and Rich for not cowering down to the pressure from the Politically Correct Police!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
First of...I am not what I would call a very religious person, but my wife and I do say some words to the man upstairs every night at dinner--it does work and my beautiful one year twins are living proof;)

I used to work alone--and I agree--it is not efficient or as profitable. Plus, once you've had employees, it is TOUGH to work alone and do it all.

Perhaps I can take this post to another level if you care to join me! (let me lay down on the couch for this...)

Not sure about you guysm but one of my frustrations is payroll. Every Friday I pay the boys--even if it means I cannot take a paycheck that week (my wife just loves me for this). I take 25-30% down on each job, and specify progress payments. But on large jobs, the progress payments can be too far between. I have been told--"make sure you pay yourself first" but how are you supposed to tell you crew they are not getting paid?

As far as my estimates go, I have been told by many prospective customers I am on the high side. But I believe I give my customers their money's worth--no shortcuts--I'm a bit of a perfectionist. If I am closing 40-50% I believe I am getting the right customers.

Just looking for some food for thought. This message board is awesome.
 

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Not sure about you guysm but one of my frustrations is payroll. Every Friday I pay the boys--even if it means I cannot take a paycheck that week (my wife just loves me for this). I take 25-30% down on each job, and specify progress payments. But on large jobs, the progress payments can be too far between. I have been told--"make sure you pay yourself first" but how are you supposed to tell you crew they are not getting paid?
I've been finding this to be an issue as well. My solution? I set up payments to be made each week instead of beginning, middle, and end. If anything, it keeps money flowing. I'd much rather get 6-$1000 payments, than 3-$2000 ones. Maybe give this a try. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I've been finding this to be an issue as well. My solution? I set up payments to be made each week instead of beginning, middle, and end. If anything, it keeps money flowing. I'd much rather get 6-$1000 payments, than 3-$2000 ones. Maybe give this a try. ;)

I was just thinkig about this--it would take such a load off on bigger jobs.
 

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If anyone is offended by the mention of God... you might want to skip this post...

We've only had one employee in the last 6 years that hasn't worked out. He was a chemist in the lab that came from Merck. He was a good guy but... well... fell off the wagon. I still think his short time (? 6 months I think) with us had purpose.
:yes:
 

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I've been finding this to be an issue as well. My solution? I set up payments to be made each week instead of beginning, middle, and end. If anything, it keeps money flowing. I'd much rather get 6-$1000 payments, than 3-$2000 ones. Maybe give this a try. ;)
You can set up a payroll account with a bank.
 

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Epoxy Dude
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OH OH... I know, we've got this new paint we've developed... it's called InvisiPaint. Only smart people can see it... it is invisibile to dumb people. It is $100/gallon but we'll give you a break if you order over 500 gallons per order. It's the most beautiful paint you have ever seen! AND, it is so easy to spread it feels just like you are spreading thin air. It doesn't even dirty the roller covers! EVERY job is a ZERO defect job!

This paint usually sells to the homeowner for $200/ gallon. So, you'll make an extra $100 per gallon just on the paint! No employee problems... :thumbup: :whistling2:
 

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Ohio Painting Contractor
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First of...I am not what I would call a very religious person, but my wife and I do say some words to the man upstairs every night at dinner--it does work and my beautiful one year twins are living proof;)

I used to work alone--and I agree--it is not efficient or as profitable. Plus, once you've had employees, it is TOUGH to work alone and do it all.

Perhaps I can take this post to another level if you care to join me! (let me lay down on the couch for this...)

Not sure about you guysm but one of my frustrations is payroll. Every Friday I pay the boys--even if it means I cannot take a paycheck that week (my wife just loves me for this). I take 25-30% down on each job, and specify progress payments. But on large jobs, the progress payments can be too far between. I have been told--"make sure you pay yourself first" but how are you supposed to tell you crew they are not getting paid?

As far as my estimates go, I have been told by many prospective customers I am on the high side. But I believe I give my customers their money's worth--no shortcuts--I'm a bit of a perfectionist. If I am closing 40-50% I believe I am getting the right customers.

Just looking for some food for thought. This message board is awesome.
Rollerwhiz seems like your on the right track with 40-50% closing ratio. Also the better guys you have the better money you make. Back in the day I used to land 60-70% seems like I was working for nothing (still does in some ways) now I land 20-30% and I no longer run myself into the ground or run around like a chicken with its head cut off. To me it seems like now that my closing ratio is down im landing the jobs I want ... the profitable ones, and my time and energy is more free to focus on bigger and better things.

At our company we request 10% down because we are booked out 6 weeks and its hard to take more than that at the time of sign up if you wont see them for that long of a time. Then 60% when we start leaving the balance of 30% upon completion

BTW nice post booger
 

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Working like a maniac

I really appreciated this thread. I've been painting for 30 or more years, but--only part time. Most of this time, I worked a state job and did mainly side jobs for friends, family, and aquaintances either gratis or barter.

I recently retired from the state job and am back to full time painting by myself. I can tell you that the outside work is really tough going alone. I am sure just about all of you folks have been there and done that at some point in your career. Even if you just worked a few hours by yourself when you needed to put up your ladder brackets and scaffold alone--that is--about 20 feet of so in the air.

Here are my problems. First off, I have enough work this year for a two or three man crew. If I could find the right help, and that is really doubtful, I'd have a worker's comp rate 10.4 percent per 100. So what do I do to cover that expense? I would have to include that cost in every estimate and pass it on silently to the consumer.

Paying off the books is a great idea until someone falls off your unstable ladder and breaks his back or something. Now, this poor fellow owns you and what you worked pretty hard to get.

Getting a partner seems reasonable, but I really don't need a partner. I need at least one good helper and can't seem to solve this problem. Right now, I am thinking about taking on partner to ease the physical burden on me. I am 56 and my hands (carpal tunnel) aren't wanting to go so fast anymore. I figure with another qualified painter as a partner, I could make the same type of living I am now and work maybe 1/3 less.

I'd appreciate any ideas or suggestions relative to this post and thread. Thanks.

JTP
 

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I really appreciated this thread. I've been painting for 30 or more years, but--only part time. Most of this time, I worked a state job and did mainly side jobs for friends, family, and aquaintances either gratis or barter.

I recently retired from the state job and am back to full time painting by myself. I can tell you that the outside work is really tough going alone. I am sure just about all of you folks have been there and done that at some point in your career. Even if you just worked a few hours by yourself when you needed to put up your ladder brackets and scaffold alone--that is--about 20 feet of so in the air.

Here are my problems. First off, I have enough work this year for a two or three man crew. If I could find the right help, and that is really doubtful, I'd have a worker's comp rate 10.4 percent per 100. So what do I do to cover that expense? I would have to include that cost in every estimate and pass it on silently to the consumer.

Paying off the books is a great idea until someone falls off your unstable ladder and breaks his back or something. Now, this poor fellow owns you and what you worked pretty hard to get.

Getting a partner seems reasonable, but I really don't need a partner. I need at least one good helper and can't seem to solve this problem. Right now, I am thinking about taking on partner to ease the physical burden on me. I am 56 and my hands (carpal tunnel) aren't wanting to go so fast anymore. I figure with another qualified painter as a partner, I could make the same type of living I am now and work maybe 1/3 less.

I'd appreciate any ideas or suggestions relative to this post and thread. Thanks.

JTP

JTP I would stray away from bringing on a partner I thought I would like to do that at one time when I first started off. One of my lead guys talked me out of it thank god... What you should do is find a great painter (s) that's on the same page as you and pay them very well. As to the workers comp charges we take our labor cost, material cost then times that by 40% to cover your overhead and labor burden. If youd rather not go the workers comp route you can require your guys to have their own insurance and pay them a little better to compinsate the difference just make sure they sign a subcontractor aggreement form.
 

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Regarding a Partner or Not

Welovepainting--you make some good points--points to consider very thoughtfully. I work in a very small upstate NY county with a somewhat depressed economy. I have plenty of customers right now--who knows what the winter will bring.

At any rate, my experience is that if you know what you are doing, you don't need to sub from me. A good painter has all the work he needs. Which sort of leaves out the subbing idea.

Relative to paying someone well. That would be fine with me. If a helper knows as much or more than I do about the business, he does not need me either unless he is totally inept at giving estimates or has a monkey on his back.

There must be quite a number of contractors of all sorts in this position. How the heck do you find someone who can perform the work, get paid well, and put some money in your pocket as well? I am totally stumped.

JTP
 
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