business coach for contractor

Are you winning the fight, but losing the war?

When I started my painting company back in Michigan, I was 19 years old and, worse, I looked like I was 12 years old. Now, that is an exaggeration, but I did look quite young.

Can you picture a young guy starting out, maybe yourself, looking much younger then you actually were, showing up to an estimate and then claiming to be a professional?

Starting out, I had to almost give jobs away just to get started, which included working for builders. Believe me! Builders saw this as an opportunity to get cheap work!

Like most of us, I started off in the trap of giving work away then hustling like a crazy person just to break even. Not that I had any idea what my true breakeven was at the time.

I figured if I made $20 an hour after everything was said and done that I was doing well. When it was $25 an hour, I was on top of the world!

The greater danger with this downward spiral is not that I wasn’t making a profit; yes, that is a danger, but even greater are the things we did just to try to break even at the end of every job. Namely, sacrificing the customers’ experience.

The greatest danger is sacrificing the customers’ experience to win the fight, but we continue to lose the war.

Starting out, the typical job went from one bad customer to the next. I couldn’t believe how they were picking my work apart. How they would go line by line over my proposal, if I even wrote them a proposal, to make sure I did everything they expected.


By giving my work away, I was fighting to make a dollar at the end of each job and they were fighting to get full value for their dollar.

Operating this way, we will continue to win the fight of getting paid for that one job, but we continue to lose the war on receiving customer referrals.

So, we continue to give our work away just to we can stay busy and the cycles continues. Can you relate?

How do we break the cycle and turn the ship around, so that we can charge what we are worth?


You have two options and they both require hard work.

The first option is to continue this grind and remain frustrated and broke. No, thank you.

The second takes longer to pay off, but once it starts, not only does it pay better (most cases, twice as much), but you will truly begin to enjoy your business and all of the fulfillment it’s meant to provide. That’s what we are talking about, right? That’s why we are entrepreneurs!

The key is to stop and consider it from your customers’ perspective. They are not out to get you, as I once thought while starting out. They are looking for two things, a properly painted project and, more importantly, a great experience during the process.

What does a great experience look, feel, and smell like to them?

Well, we can cover the very bottom basics, show up on time, dress professionally, speak with respect, no blaring classic rock, or rap music, not parking on their lawn, and completing the project on time.

If you are doing all of this, then good. You are doing the bare minimum. If this is the extent of the level of your customers experience, then don’t expect many referrals.


The key to exceeding their expectations is to ask them this powerful question at the estimate:


“Mrs Jones, what does a great painting experience look like to you?”


Just listen and take notes. Don’t suggest or assume anything. Write down what you hear next. It is your golden ticket to knockin’ their socks off! This sets you up nicely to capture a video testimonial at the end and creating those raving fans who become your best referral sources!

We think we know what they want, but we have no clue. They/we are all so different. Some are most concerned that their cat won’t wonder out the door while painters are coming and going. Another is concerned that the color they selected is spot on. And another that you will carefully protect all of their furniture.

Now, repeat back to them, what you heard them say.

“Mrs. Jones, if I heard you correctly, a great painting experience for you is that we properly protect all of your furniture and also during the process we do not let Mittens, the pet lion, escape. Is this correct?”

By asking, writing down and repeating this back, you have already made a distinct impression and position yourself to charge what you are worth.

Next, make sure the crew knows what is most important to this customer.

Then, when you or your crews are painting her home, keep the customers experience #1.

When we checked in, we didn’t ask, “How’s the job going?” or “Are the hours are on budget.” The first thing we asked our guys was, “How is the customers experience.” This kept our team focused on our #1 priority, the customers’ experience.

If you focus on your customers’ experience, you will turn your ship around, most definitely start to hit ’em out of the park, and be well on your way to Doubling Your Business, profitably while making extremely happy customers along the way.


At the end of every job, during your final walk through and settling up, ask every customer, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to refer us to your friends and neighbors?”

This is straight from Jack Welshes, GE’s Net Promoter System. What they found was: if they give you a 1-6, that means they will not be calling you again. If they give you a 7-8, that means that they will use you until another comes by with a better price. If they give you a 9-10, they are a Raving Fan!

Here is the last golden question you can ask that pays dividends, whatever score they gave you, even an 8. Ask them what you could do next time to earn one more point, in this case a 9.

What they tell you next is pure gold. They will share opportunities for you to step your game up that you didn’t even realize was important or available!


Focus on the customers experience. Ask them what it looks like to them, Provide it and more. Then ask how you can improve on it, and you too will be well positioned to charge what you are worth!


Fall is here and winter is coming…


Leads will be slowing up and possible even dropping off, but not for our members.  Not near as much anyways. 

We offer 3 levels of coaching:

  1. The DYB Café. This is where we have our marketing strategies laid out step by step $37 a month. GET IN HERE
  2.  The DYB Mastermind Group. You meet with myself and 5 other non-competing contractors every other week over a web-call going over best strategies and includes the DYB Café.  $147 a month Let’s talk.
  3. DYB 1-1 coaching. This is my most exclusive level where we really talk the bull by the horns and get things done. We meet by-weekly over a web call. This also include all of the above. I only work with one contractor per market. If this is for you, lock your market in today. $800 a month. Get started really CRUSHING IT NOW HERE with a FREE strategy call today.


About the Author

As a newly single father of two from MI, he struggled to start over as a paint contractor in FL, going door to door. His situation was so bad, even the IRS had mercy on him.

 Feeling completely hopeless, he remembered the story of King Solomon praying for wisdom. Could it be so easy? 

He felt he had absolutely nothing to lose. So, as a bankrupt, divorced, high school dropout, single father of 2 young kids, now living 1250 miles away from all friends and family, started to pray for wisdom.
 And while he continues to wait for the wisdom to arrive, what did come was an insatiable desire to learn and read books… 
Thanks to God for giving him the burning passion to read books, and attend seminars, (oh and winning the wife lottery) he not only cracks the success code and overcomes the struggle, but also streamlines his painting business in less than 3 years, published a how to book, then sold the company. Now he leads a business coaching company for painting contractors so he can help other businesses, like yours, to do the same. Hear more... Or

Cleve Dayton - May 4, 2015

Steve…this is a great article. This has been my philosophy for years. I like how you expand it with the questions you included. I’m going to incorporate them starting tomorrow (today is Sunday…or, I’d start today) Once a contractor adopts these ideas he will start on the road to success. I know my business grew once I concentrated on the Customer’s experience instead of the painting. Don’t get me wrong…we still do high quality work. But, if you make the Customer’s experience pleasant, memorable and problem free…then you have fewer problems and more referrals.

    Steve Burnett - May 5, 2015

    Cleve, Thank you and you are spot on. Fewer problems and more referrals is a wonderful thing my friend! Keep rockin’

Mike Pope - September 14, 2015

Nice article Steve. I have an estimate scheduled for Monday evening. I will ask what does a great painting experience look like?

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