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How do we get our employees to take ownership? I’ll get to that, but first…

I want to share a quick story with you.

Yes, what you are about to read really happened.

I’m sure you have similar stories; please laugh and enjoy!

It’s Friday night 6pm. Martin’s crew is finishing up a job… so I thought.

My phone rings, it’s my crew leader, Martin: “Hey man, I’m sorry but we are not going to finish the job today, the paint does not cover good and the homeowner changed her mind on the color after the first coat so she bought us some new paint to use. We had to paint more coats to get it to cover. We need to come back another day to finish.”

My brain went fuzzy…… I had just got home from an extremely long day that had started off with a senseless act of random vandalism the night before, involving a knife and a company van set of tires. Expensive start to the day, loss of time working on the job, cost of new tires and tow truck…. I had a tough start to the day. Now this…

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Knifed Tires ESP Van


I felt my blood boil, my temperature rising…

Thinking to myself while still on the phone: Martin knew that job was a tight budget job, really tight!

Why did he not plan better? Or communicate better? I was doing a favor for a good friend, helping her out by giving her a good deal on painting and now I’m feeling taken advantage of!

Shouldn’t the client know it costs extra to change colors in the middle of the project?


I was angry!! I was also blaming my crew leader and crew for painting so slow, blaming the client for changing her mind on the colors halfway through the job then things got worse…..


One of my lead painters at the job site takes an off balance step while reinstalling the blinds over the kitchen sink and SNAP! He catches himself, avoids personal injury but the damage was done.

Kitchen faucet is broke! Yes, actually snapped the neck off it! Clean off!

It’s now go time, fight and flight entered my body simultaneously.

I hung up the phone with my crew leader Martin, jumped into my truck and raced to the job. Thinking to myself while driving: “I am going to fire the crew! Make my painter pay for the faucet! Demand a large change order from the client for changing her mind.

How quickly my ego had taken over, I had the right to be mad!! Everyone else is wrong but me!!

I was in the right! Wasn’t I?

Fortunately for me, the job is a 20 minute drive away.

After many deep breaths, that big shot of adrenaline wore off and I realized

this was my fault.

The buck stops here!


I was the one to be blamed.

I was the one who needed to take ownership.

I needed to be the example: not blame or give excuses.


I had to own it, I knew it.  Was I above the line on this one? or Below the line?


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I was the one who had given the bid with a really tight budget. I knew the owner was going to provide their own paints. I should have stipulated how many coats of paint was included in the bid and the extra costs involved.

My bid was not descriptive enough stating any changes in color mid project will add costs. I had not reviewed selling change orders with my crew for over a year. I had not trained my crew on better communication when things are taking longer than expected.

I pulled up to the job site, ready to take 100% ownership.

What I found was that my crew had immediately owned breaking the faucet; thankfully, they had seen my past examples of ownership and had listened to me when I talked about having ownership in everything we do.

I was proud, my crew had done right by the homeowners, notifying them immediately of what had happened, not placing blame but promising to fix it and replace it.

The homeowners themselves were happy with the work and crew, not seeking any reimbursement cost to replace the faucet but overjoyed at our attention to detail on the paint job, service and especially owning our mistakes.

As I write this, the job has been completed, a testimony has been given, a happy client has been telling their neighbors about us (whole neighborhood needs repainting!), a van has a new set of tires and a crew has more integrity and ownership.

How do we get our employees to take ownership? You lead the way and be the example, they will also rise with you.

Teach it, Train it, Hire for character.

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