In the beginning I would agree to paint a birdhouse if you asked me.
A rank college dorm that smells like urine and stale beer?
Of course, we will!
The outside of a run-down chicken shack? Why not!
I think you get the picture…
When I started my painting business, I resolved to find any and all customers I could wrangle at any angle.
I had the painting skills necessary and a proclivity for customer service and sales,
but I resisted the idea of a niche within S. Peek Painting.
I was determined to succeed, and the thrill of navigating life as a fledgling entrepreneur provided an energy that if distilled and bottled could probably fetch a pretty penny in some back-alley deal!
In hindsight, I do not regret any job we have done whether it fits our 3 P’s (People, Profit, Process) or not.
School has been in session everyday since opening shop and it has been worth every mediocre report card because we have experienced a lot of “wins” as well!
“Wake up, shower, shave and answer the phone” was my motto day in and day out when I was ramping up my first year in business (Honestly, that motto is still the flavor of the week).
I would get a call, provide an estimate within 1-2 days and we would do the job no matter what it was, who it was for,
even if we didn’t have room on the schedule, we made it work.
The perils of Superman (or “yes” man, whatever you prefer).
Enter: The General Contractors. The first few GC’s we did work for I fervently sought out.
After all, the pinnacle of being a successful painting contractor at the time in my eyes was custom built legacy homes.
Houses that would make our portfolio burst at the seams, never mind just pop!
The bigger the better! I wanted our company to paint all the awesome mansions being built in our area, but we had to start by getting our foot in the door with smaller remodels and modest spec builds. I was also infatuated with the idea because at the time the largest dangling carrot to me was a filled calendar and steady cash flow.
The bigger the project, the bigger the invoices, the more work booked for employees.
It was the perfect plan…
or so I thought.
After trudging through a handful of these projects our first year, we started getting calls from bigger builders and plans began arriving in my inbox from some of the well known architects around.
It was exciting…it was what I wanted.
The truth was revealed on the first few projects that the deadlines and the bottom line were never meant to be easily achieved.
The GC was always needing to delay or bump us forward in the lineup.
I found myself stressed like never before.
The unrealistic expectations of scheduling from the GC’s, coupled with staying on track with my normal lineup of repaints created chaos in my professional life that bled into my personal stress levels at home.
I had to constantly chase the calendar, rescheduling single family repaints and the like, due to run-overs on GC work from change orders or schedule chaos.
Beyond the stress of scheduling, profits were slim on these projects due to jobs being over budget in the end as a result of multiple starts and stops for each phase and change orders up the wazoo.
I know, I know…Change orders are meant for the added costs and aggravations brought on by client requests and other trade damage, but after a while requesting change order after change order in order for us not to have a profit loss would create tensions among myself, the GC and the client.
What was included and what wasn’t became a battle for many clients who would argue they didn’t expect to pay so much over budget and the headache would oftentimes not be worth the battle so we would just “repaint some walls” a different color on our dime. This is only one example…
In the end, even if we did (and sometimes we did) make a healthy profit on a new build or remodel, the stress during the process was not worth it in my mind!
In my decision to divorce myself from new construction and remodels, came a peace of mind knowing the repaints we are taking on now were much more controlled in their factors.
Budget hours, buy paint and build teams to knock them out…
I have never felt more at peace with the day to day of my business as I do now.
I am in no way saying that some may figure out the perfect system and niche to navigate the world of the GC,
but I find that world to be a major hindrance to the growth of our company and the sanity of our leadership.
Oh, and my team leaders and team members are extremely happy to be out of that environment as well…
They were extremely happy when I let them know of our exit plan.
After all, their happiness is the bedrock of our company culture.
So anyhow, now we push forward focusing on the jobs that make us the most profit and create the best atmosphere for our team.
Thanks for reading my take on this often-controversial subject. If you have made GC work and have been profitable, my hats off to you!
I’m happy to stay over here focusing on our repaint market, meeting and creating raving fans.
PS – If you’d like more information on how to charge what you are worth, you can read this article here.