Guest Interview: Chris Lalomia – Handyman Lessons for Painters

Published On: November 17, 2023

Categories: Podcast

Chris Lalomia is the founder and owner of The Trusted Toolbox, a handyman and remodeling company based in Atlanta, GA. In this episode, Chris shares his unique insights into how to effectively build and market a painting company, having successfully founded and grown a large company in a similar industry. The insights shared here are unique, deep, and absolutely worth listening to!

If you want to ask Christopher Lalomia questions related to anything in this podcast series, you can do so in our exclusive Painter Marketing Mastermind Podcast Forum on Facebook. Just search for “Painter Marketing Mastermind Podcast Forum” on Facebook and request to join the group, or type in the URL facebook.com/groups/paintermarketingmastermind. Again that URL is facebook.com/groups/paintermarketingmastermind. There you can ask Chris questions directly by tagging him with your question, so you can see how anything discussed here applies to your particular painting company.

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Handyman Lessons for Painters

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Welcome to the Painter Marketing Mastermind Podcast. The show was created to help painting company owners build a thriving painting business that does well over one million and annual revenue. I’m your host, Brandon Pierpont, founder of Painter Marketing Pros and creator of the popular PCA educational series, Learn, Do, Grow Marketing for Painters. In each episode, I’ll be sharing proven tips, strategies and processes from leading experts in the industry on how they found success in their painting business. We will be interviewing owners of the most successful painting companies in North America and learning from their experiences.

In this episode of the Painter Marketing Mastermind Podcast, we are doing something a little bit different. We are going outside of the painting only industry and we are hosting Chris Lalomia. He is founder and owner of the trusted toolbox. It is a, a handyman and remodeling company based in Atlanta, Georgia. They’ve been in business for some time. They were doing quite a bit in revenue and he has learned a lot of lessons along the way just like with all other podcast episodes. If you do want to ask Chris questions directly, you can do so in our Facebook group.

So if you’re not a member of the group, search for a painter, marketing mastermind podcast form on Facebook and request to join the group or type in the URL facebook dot com forward slash groups slash painter, marketing mastermind. Again, the URL is facebook dot com forward slash groups forward slash paint Mary mastermind and tag Chris with your questions there. Just, just a brief back story and how Chris and I met and, and how we have uh Chris on this podcast. He was referred by a mutual friend of our coo Fresh Coat.

Um He hosts his own podcast which is a whole lot more fun than mine. I’m gonna tell you that because I was a guest on it. Uh Guys drinking, making jokes that are, you know, quasi appropriate. Just a lot more fun than what you guys hear me do. So, I’m a little bit jealous, but that’s ok because now I drag you down to my boring podcast, Chris. I’m looking forward to making it even more exciting. All right. Well, we’ll do it. I, I love it, man. So let’s, let’s get started with just some background of, of you and the trusted toolbox. Yeah.

So I’m a corporate refugee. I left the corporate world to start my own handyman business and decided to do it on my own. Didn’t do the franchise thing. Of course, I did it in 2008. And if you remember when that time was, you’ll know that it pretty much stunk. Uh So I have the worst timing in the world, but I was able to start as a handyman company. I’m pretty handy myself. Uh, but able to grow to where we are today where I have an office, uh, just outside of Atlanta, in a suburb of Atlanta, we cover all of Atlanta.

I have 19 handymen that do work around the house. I also have a remodeling division now where we do larger stuff, decks, uh bathrooms, kitchens. Uh So we have a remodeling division and we’ve opened up a branch in Athens, Georgia. Uh So now I’m a little more hands off, well, very hands off when it comes to doing work in the field, but uh able to continue to promote our brand. We’re the largest handyman in Atlanta, pretty proud of that. Um But it’s been a lot of bumps and grinds over 15.5 years, gonna be 16 in April. Yeah.

So the uh we, we talked obviously about painting companies, you know, when I came on your podcast, um the painting company markets highly fragmented, you know, a lot of owner operators. I see the same thing with the handyman market, potentially even more. So I feel like it might even be more difficult to build a sizable handyman company. How do you feel about that? I agree 100%. I think, you know, when you’re, when you’re talking about painting. Uh, you’re doing one trade, uh, when you’re a handyman, you’re doing a lot of different trades and you’re bouncing in between when, when you talk about what’s the definition of a handyman?

It is all across the board. When we ask ourselves, what’s the definition of a fireman? I think we could all draw what a fireman looks like and what they do when a handyman it’s really all across the board. You know, they think you’re gonna be an expert in all things in the house. You can hang a ceiling fan, but you could also wire up uh the entire house and then you could turn around and you could uh plumb the whole house or, and it’s amazing how wide and varied the descriptions or what the expectations are of the customer.

And that’s a really hard thing to serve because, you know, there’s no such thing as an expert around the house. And that’s why as I built the team, you gotta find out what their specialties are and their skills are and really market towards that. Yeah. So why did you decide to start a handyman business? Because I’m an idiot. I uh I’ve always enjoyed it. I felt like just like you said, it’s a fragmented industry that also is not very professional. And so my spin at the trusted toolbox is to put a professional spin on somebody’s coming in to work in your home and back in 2008. Really?

Uber wasn’t around very much yet. Um, when you talked about what people outsourced in homes, a lot of people at the time were outsourcing things like lawn maintenance, lawn care, um, dry cleaning, uh, cleaning of their own homes. But when it came to outsourcing things around the house, it has really taken off in the last 10 years where people are rather, would rather spend time with their families and enjoy themselves and then pay for somebody else to do the work around their home. So I felt like that was a good opportunity for me to take care of a fragmented market and really kind of capture one, especially in the metro Atlanta area. Yeah.

So let’s get into, I guess your journey started 123. Sounds like you were maybe doing some of the field work. I thought it was, yeah, I feel like uh there’s two ways to go about it, right? You could buy a business and, and never have done it. So if you’re a painter listening to this and you’ve never painted a house, could you manage cruise and do it? Absolutely. Um I felt like for me, I was an experiential learner even though I’ve been, you know, in the finance world and I had been in uh consulting work and uh I felt like I had to feel it to be able to define what I expected out of the business and what I was doing for our customers.

So I worked in the field for about four or five months and then I quickly became our estimator scheduler quality assurance person. Uh And let the other guys do the work mostly. Yeah. And what were some of the difficulties that you encountered those first couple of years? First couple of years is again, you’re not an expert in everything and people ask you to do things around the house and with the moniker handyman, I think it also means cheap. Um So they’re not expecting to spend a lot of money when you think about painting your house.

Uh, especially at the time when I looked at this and I’ve known a lot of painters. I mean, you’re expecting to drop anywhere at the time between three and 5000 today. You’re probably, it’s a 5 to $10,000 purchase depending on the size of the home and what you’re doing with it in painting. So I think you already have a built in uh barrier of entry if you will and if you can educate the customer the right way with handyman, it’s very low barrier of entry. Hey, I can find a guy off Craigslist, which is what I was competing against when I first started today.

Um You know, obviously Craigslist has gone, I think, uh almost obsolete. I don’t know anybody who’s doing that, but they expect when a handyman comes in that they’ll, you know, pay a couple 100 bucks and you can take care of a lot of things around the house and that just, I think they get devalued with the skills and the knowledge and the experience that these guys bring to the table. Yeah. So how do you, because the, the handyman thing, I, I think that issue is definitely still very much alive and, you know, you can get someone on thumb tack or, or, and, or kind of wherever, right to come in and do whatever kind of job you have.

How do you differentiate to the point that you’re able to afford overhead that you’re able to hire good talent that you’re able to run a professional company when you are competing against these sort of, you know, lower priced alternatives. Yeah, 100%. We, we actually have, uh, uh, we have overhead. I have an office. I have four ladies to answer the phones. We do it through service, follow up. Um, you’ve heard it before. We’ve all heard it, you know, I’m just, I’m just happy you guys answered the phone and I’m like, yes.

Uh, so, uh, we do that through, uh, the way we present ourselves from the way they call in to the way we show up to do the job, uh, texting two hours before we get there, uh, explaining what we’re gonna do before we get started making sure that they sign off on what we do. And again, putting a professional, uh, spin on it raises the bar and the expectations and it starts to put it away. Uh, and that is the idea that I can go bake you guys off against others.

I mean, this year we’re tracking again to 42% of our business is repeat customers. And, uh, that’s, that’s been pretty consistent for the last 4 to 5 years, which is pretty cool. But that tells us that we’re doing things the right way. They can, they know what to, they know what to expect with our experience. And sometimes you just need a handyman to fix a, fix a fence gate and you don’t care if he’s background checked and you don’t care if he’s fully insured and you don’t care if he hurts himself and, and maybe he’ll take that chance because it’s a lot cheaper than with us.

But what I’m also finding is that some of these, uh, individuals price about the same place we do sometimes not much less because they know they can get it. Sure. So you, what, what are you guys planning to finish this year in terms of revenue? Where do you think that’s gonna end? Oh, great question. Uh I’m happy to share it. Uh, we’re ending, we’re looking like this year will end at 1003 million. That’s in 2023 calendar year. Ok. And then how many team members do you have? So, I have 37 today, 19 handymen and then the support staff in the office and then the project managers and remodelers.

And I also have five estimators that go out and do estimates when on site estimates are required. 24000 personnel and 2100 of them are handymen. How many are remodelers? 2100 remodelers, five estimators and then some project managers and support staff this entry? OK. And what do you find with that? I mean, that’s a pretty sizable team. Are they W-220 or subcontractors uh predominantly W twos that’s 25000 W twos. Uh The subcontractors that help us in the remodeling space uh are specialists in their field and then there are subcontractors. Got it.

So you have 212 W twos, that’s a fair amount. What do you find most difficult today running a handyman company of that size? Probably the most difficult thing is number one, if you, if you can’t figure that out, it is an expensive model to run the way I do. But my net’s not gonna be as attractive as a lot of people who can run uh leaner and meaner than me. Uh But what that has allowed us to do is that I’m willing to give up a little of the net uh to ensure that I have a quality assurance program that the people will do it my way.

So my biggest challenge is getting all of those people to act like the face of our company and to be like me. So I want them to act and, and treat our customers like I would treat them and how is there a specific way that you hire or train to make that happen? Yeah. Uh, we have an on boarding process that’s pretty rigid. Um, in our interviewing process we go through a lot of things. It’s hard to, you know, I don’t, I don’t have them come show me their work.

I don’t have little vignettes set up where they can go show us how to do that. They do it. What we do is interview them and make sure that they, if they can explain the lingo, then we can tell what’s going on. If they’re willing to show you pictures of the work that they’ve done, then you know that they got a good shot, but they will train with one of our guys for two weeks just to learn our ways and the way we do things that sets us apart from others.

And then we have consistent training where we go uh twice a month or every other Wednesday. Uh We end up doing about 2012 trainings, 22024 trainings per year where we bring them in for just an hour, but we’re speaking their language and these guys aren’t classroom learners, they aren’t gonna sit there and listen to me blah, blah, blah about customer service. So we make it entertaining. Uh It’s contest oriented. Uh It’s upbeat. It’s usually telling them a story and then punching home the quality assurance things that we want or more importantly, the customer experience, we also, every time we get together, always train her on something technical, either a new tool that’s come out.

And for painters, I would say at least twice a year, we have our Sherman Williams rep come into our office and we talk about painting or we talk about caulking or we talk about not only the materials they offer, but the right time to use the materials here in Atlanta, you know, it’s gonna get cold for a couple of months. So we switch the cork we use. Uh We also make sure that we know to paint in the right weather uh times. So we bring them in to help us remind us how to do that. Yeah.

So ongoing training, consistent training. How do you find your team members? You post job ads or we do? Um I have found a recruiter uh in the last year and a half that has really helped who really knows our industry. Uh It has been a lot of different things in the beginning. You post one thing on Craigslist. I got 22.5 and 2100 resumes here and especially during the pandemic, you couldn’t get these guys to show up at all. Uh because if they’re good at what they do and they can actually talk with customers and take care of their business and keep track of their invoicing and their billing.

They really don’t want to be part of this team. But what we do is invite these lone wolves to come into our wolf pack and tell them, hey, look with us, we’re gonna help you guys do better for your families and provide for yourself if you follow our systems and our process than you would have if you were on your own. So right now it’s zip recruiter and indeed job posting boards, but a lot of these guys aren’t really looking for jobs. And so the, the um compensation that you give them, you know, you’re taking them out of the wilderness, so to speak, pulling them in, you’re telling them it’s gonna be better for them.

Are you paying them a, a salary hourly? Is it some sort of commission? How does that look? Yeah. Uh all of our guys are on commission with bonus incentives. Um And we, we incent them around the way we want our customers to be treated. So, number one is that they know what their job uh is worth for them that day. Uh They know if they finish it quicker, they can put more money in their pocket. However, to get it finished, they have to get a sign off from the customer, uh making sure that we hit the customer’s expectations.

So that’s one if they produce so many labor dollars in a month, they get a bonus based on uh based on revenue and throughput, they also get a bonus based on customer experience. So if they get a good review, a five star review, we get an extra 25 bucks. Um and that doesn’t sound like a lot, but all I’m doing is saying, hey, at the end of the transaction, ask for that review because if they’re willing to give it to you, at that point that tells me as the owner sitting in Norcross, that the person in Atlanta Dunwoody or wherever the city may be is happy with the work you did.

And then, so that’s where they get their, uh, additional bonuses. Yeah. And that can add up, you know, it might not sound like a lot, but you get a couple of those a week or a couple of those a day, potentially, it can definitely add up. Yep. Ok. So the, let’s, let’s get into some, some sort of painting painting crossover, I guess, you know, when we’re looking at the handyman business, we know that our listeners are painting contractors, right? So what do you think is the same, I guess between the handyman and the painting business?

And then what do you think might be different? Because obviously you’ve taken a business model that I would argue is more difficult than the painting business model and you’ve succeeded in it. So there’s, there’s, there are lessons to be drawn here, but I wanna make sure we draw the parallels as closely as possible. That’s a great question. So, uh I think number one, we all have to start the transaction and we have to end the transaction. So we both have to do the same thing when you get there.

Uh I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of a number of studies and one of the things that customers rate higher than even the price they pay is if the contractor is going to tell me what they’re going to do and you set their expectations for them before you start, they want to know the plan. So, if you’re a painter and you’re showing up, I mean, what’s the first thing we do if we’re doing an exterior painting job? Right? We’re gonna go out there, we’re gonna pressure wash the home, we’re gonna prep it and you’re gonna go out there and you’re gonna take care of maybe potentially some wood rot.

Um, but you’re gonna ca all your joints and you’re gonna have that thing prepped. Did you tell the customer that? Because a lot of times remember these customers and again, I’ve been part of a lot of studies and one of the things I put in my book when you show up to paint that house, they think the job’s done. I think you’re gonna have that thing painted in the day and you’re like, oh, no, I’m actually exterior wise, I’m probably gonna be here for at least two, if not 3 to 4 days.

If you don’t set that expectation with the customer, then you haven’t done your job because if you can’t set the expectation, you can’t exceed it. Uh And a lot of times when you get there, a lot of you, when I’ve heard this from painters too. Oh, well, we use Sherman Leaves paint. We’re gonna prime, we’re gonna use uh super paint and we think that that’s telling the customer everything they want to hear, they don’t know what that means. What they wanna know is that you’re gonna prep their house and then you’re gonna put a good coating on that surface and you’re gonna prep it correctly so that it’s protected from the elements and you’re protecting when we talk about this at our company, the number one asset in most people’s portfolio, which is their home.

So that’s where we draw a lot of the same parallels. And when you finish, did you walk the job yourself? And what are customers looking for? Well, they’re looking probably you, we’re thinking they’re looking to make sure that you coated the exterior and you painted the trim with nice tight lines. Oftentimes here’s what I see from customers. They wanna see. You didn’t splatter a bunch of paint on their porch. They wanna see that you didn’t clean out your brushes in their favorite uh water pat uh where the flower pots are.

They want to see that you didn’t leave a bunch of stuff and plastic sitting around. They wanna see a clean house that’s done. And so they’re looking for cleanliness before they’re even looking for the quality a lot of times. And it’s been amazing where you’re sitting there going. Yeah, look at how good this job is and the customers like, well, look at all this drywall dust here and if you go inside the house it even exponentially goes up because now you’re not only invading their time, you’re invading their space Now, your client in their house and they’re, they’re, they’re worried and especially if you’re doing prep drywall dust is as you know, when it goes everywhere. Yeah.

Such a, such an interesting point. The fact that, that the painting company would be really focused on what they’re doing, which is painting and the quality of the project and a homeowner that might not actually be their first concern. And this idea that we’re taking our mindset, potentially even our values or our, our view of, of this project and we’re transferring it to the homeowner and we’re assuming it’s the same versus a more empathetic approach, which is recognizing that, you know, as you said, you participated in a lot of studies.

So you’re familiar with that. There’s actually some weird, weird anomalies, not really anomalies, but there’s some different perceptions here than what would be commonly, um, thought. Right. And so the homeowner is actually gonna come in. Their first thing is, hey, did you screw up my house? Oh, no. Is it is it, is it safe? Is it ok. Did you, did you miss, oh, you didn’t mess anything up? Ok, great. Now, let’s actually look at what you did now that I know you didn’t screw up what was here beforehand.

So that, that’s, uh, that, that idea of customer service, of trust, of taking care of them. And then focusing on really what is essentially the widget, right. And that’s where the, the handyman or the painting is. The widget focus on that after the priority of actually taking care of the homeowner. When they hired us, the quality is assumed. Um, and, and to draw that parallel, they think that all painters will paint the house the same way, you know, whereas one guy might, it’s a commodity where one guy might not do any of the prep.

You might just throw some bleach on the house, say I’m good and then start spraying and blowing and going. And other guys are out there going. I would never do that. I always spray and back roll and then I go and I hand brush all of my trim. Well, as we know, that’s a better coding and better answer. But, um, when the customers looking at the quality is assumed and then they look for the cleanliness. I can’t, I can tell you one where we had a tile guy do a job.

Uh, and he used their outside hose to clean off his stuff and he put the hose back, but he didn’t put the hose back where they had it and he had grout all over it, uh, which we had to go out there and clean the hose off because they were more, more worried about that. Even though we were doing a towel job in their master bath towel job looked amazing, but they weren’t happy because the hose got touched. And that’s the one that she used to water all of her plants in the front of the house with. Yeah.

Yeah, it’s, uh, it’s good to know, man. So the, this idea that quality is assumed and this idea that that handyman is a commodity, painting company is a commodity. You’re gonna come out and you’re gonna put paint on the walls, right? And, and as painting company owners that the, uh, the natural progression is to think about all the things that you do different, you know, the, the, uh, the way that you apply that’s better than maybe chucking a truck and why it matters and this and that, but the homeowner might not super matter.

There, there becomes a component of educating the customer and, and kind of demonstrating the difference in there. But let’s talk about this quality is assumed if quality is assumed and, and obviously there needs to be, there needs to be quality. But where’s the line? Because you probably don’t need to do fine paints of Europe. So how do you calibrate? That’s a great question again because you’ve gotta ask the customer, what are they trying to accomplish? What do they think? Because quality is always in the eye of the beholder.

We’ve heard that phrase, but they’re the ones who are gonna tell you what quality is. You may have. You may paint two houses next to each other and the first house, they’re thrilled with the job you did inside. You painted their crown molding, you cocked it up, you threw flat plane on the walls. Paint looked great. You go to the next house. They want satin or eggshell on all the walls. They have the same house, the same bones and that customer is sitting there going, wait a minute.

You did such a great job for him. Why are you not doing such a great job for me? Well, did you ask that question up front? What were you trying to do? Well, I wanted to have accent colors and I wanted to put deep dark blues in this room and we all know that that takes, uh, usually not only a primer and two, but maybe a primer, sometimes three coats just to get that color change. What are you doing to help set that expectation with the customer and what quality looks like?

And so you can figure out where it is with them because you’re right, you can’t bid the perfect paint job every time. I mean, if you did, we would all be not just charging 10 grand to paint the inside of the house, we’d probably change, charge 30 because they’re looking for everything to be perfect. But, you know, we wanna do a great paint job. Um, but you gotta find out what their quality is and what their hot buttons are and that’s the big thing. And as you go through your needs analysis with them, what are their hot buttons?

If it’s, hey, look, I want you guys to paint my house but you guys can’t paint between two and four because that’s when I put my baby to sleep. Oh, well. Ok. That’s a hot button. Ok. That’s really gonna kill my production. My, my ability to do what you want me to do. Um, another hot button for somebody. Maybe I’ve got family coming in this weekend, I’ve got to have it done. Um Tell me what’s gotta happen and are we allowed to stay a little longer? Because if you’re OK with that, then I’ll do that.

So see, hot buttons aren’t always about the quality. Um And then you’re educating my about what you do and how you do it. A lot of us use Sherwin Williams paint. Um I, I’m assuming, uh because I like it, it’s been the best paint for me across the board, uh, very consistent and they’ve done a great job, at least educating us on how to paint with it. Um, but sometimes when you, uh have customer supplied paint Oh, boy. Look out. So, it’s those kinds of things. Yeah.

No. Customer supplied paint is no good. So, with the needs analysis, with the hot button, do you have this as part of your sales process? Do you have it as part of your kick off? What does that look like? It is part of our sales process first with an on site estimate. Um, if we don’t do an on site estimate, it’s a smaller job. Uh It’s what we call our time and materials jobs or our half day or full day rates, then it transitions to our technicians who make sure that they go through what’s going on identifying hot buttons, but also giving them the plan, the customer, the plan and what we’re gonna do.

So it’s gotta start with the sales process. I’ve seen some great painting contracts out there. There are two and three pages long that are really good. Uh We don’t have that in our world uh here at the handyman company and sometimes it’s come back to bite us, but in your contracts, it’s gonna talk about how you do it and what you’re doing. And, and why if an additional code code is required, why it’s gonna be additional money? So setting those expectations starts from that initial phone call to the on site estimate.

Ok. So I want to dive into this a little bit. I was talking to you about how I like to like to dive into things, right? And, uh, I want to really go into this one a little bit. So the, because there’s some interesting stuff here. So you’re basically saying, lay out the process, get super clear on what you’re doing so that the, the homeowner knows the plan because they want to know what the plan is when you’re saying that or how technical should the painting company estimator, let’s say how technical should they be going?

Should it, should it be more of a? Hey, you know, this is gonna take us two days. We’re gonna start pressure washing. We’re gonna do XY or Z or should it or should it be really like, hey, here’s, here’s how we’re gonna prime it. Here’s a primer we’re gonna use here. You know, here, here’s the order in which we’re gonna go like, how, how far down this rabbit hole should they go with the homeowner back to understanding your customer and their hot buttons. We’ve all had that customer that says, hey man, nice to meet you.

Hey, buddy, what’s going on? Hey, I need these three rooms painted in my house. Yeah, go take a look. Let me know how much it’s gonna be and walks away. You’re like, well, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, I get, come on back and then you have the other homeowner who goes, they got two pages already printed out from the internet. Um, I went to, I know exactly what book there already. Yeah, so you got to identify who you got as a customer. Um, so, and, and that’s hard.

We use the disc profile here, uh, at the trusted toolbox to identify not only how do we like to talk to people, but when we meet people, how do you identify how they like to be talked to? And it’s, it’s hard. I mean, that’s the beautiful thing about our business is we get to work with all the crazy homeowners, uh, and help them with expectations of what’s going on. But in general, I would tell you, if you start hitting them with too much jargon, you will lose them.

Even the ones who got the book printed out, they’re just trying to show you, they know what they’re talking about guys. They don’t, they, they don’t know the difference between an adhesive bonding primer versus a regular primer. They don’t know the difference between a drywall primer versus a wood primer. They don’t know and you don’t need to tell them that you gotta tell them and get them to get the qual, get that assurance that you know what you’re talking about because they want to know like and trust you, you’ve used that line before and to know like, and then eventually trust you, they gotta know, you know what you’re talking about, but you don’t have to tell them everything. Sure.

So convey enough, you know, again, depending on the person, the person who says, hey, give me the price. Let me know for that person, you’re probably really gonna wanna just be focused on the experience, the relationship, you know, the timing, things like that. You don’t really need to go technical at all. Uh For someone who’s, who’s printing out the pages wants to look very, very involved, very much like they know what’s going on, whether they maybe do or not. Uh For that person, you’re probably gonna want to go a little bit deeper, but you still don’t want to get sucked into this trap.

That a lot of painting, painting companies get sucked into what is thinking that the homeowner needs to know all the, all the technicalities of what they’re doing and, and kind of use it as part of their se selling process, which I think is, is actually a crutch, you know, say, hey, we’re gonna, we’re gonna come in this room, we’re gonna do this and do this and do this and they think that, that the homeowner that, that makes them different, the homeowner doesn’t even know what they’re talking about.

So it’s kind of in one ear out the other. I sort of glaze over like, ok, great, ok, great. You know, but, but you’re meanwhile, you’re losing them and then the next guy who comes in who’s just basically forming a relationship, setting expectations, timelines. So here’s what we’re gonna do. Here’s how long it’s gonna take, you know, and maybe he’s actually not even gonna do as much stuff as what you’re gonna do. But the homeowner is more likely to choose him because he didn’t totally confuse the heck out of the homeowner.

I think one of the biggest things, uh, we want to talk about in the sales process that we use here is, I don’t know what, I don’t know, as opposed to me coming in there and proving to you I have mommy issues and I’m trying to prove to you that I know everything about what I’m about to do when they don’t care, you don’t know what you don’t know. And I think when you’re asking open ended questions in the beginning, have you ever had a painting project done?

What did you like about that experience? What didn’t you like? And sometimes they, they, they wonder why you’re asking because you don’t know what you don’t know. And you might hear. Oh, yeah. The last time I had a painter come in he told me he was going to be using this paint and I caught him using paint from another person’s house, but there you go. You find this an issue. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I think that that’s the, the hard part, especially when you’re in there because if you immediately try to run up to the top of Trust Mountain and start going, well, here’s what makes me different.

I would do this, I do this or do that. They don’t even know like, and how, how are they possibly gonna trust you yet? And so, and if you don’t know what their biggest trust hurdle is before you start launching into your sales process, then you’re missing the boat. And again, like you said, you’re falling back on your crutch. Yeah. But then there’s the opposite. I think the estimator who goes in and, and just tries to become your best friend, you know, goes in and starts talking about golfing or see something on the wall or, you know, fishing, whatever and just, just starts talking to like your best friends and, and ultimately actually rubbing the homeowner the wrong way for the other reason, like, dude, I’m not your friend.

I, I just want to know whether you can complete this project, whether I can trust you, whether it’s gonna be a reasonable price. How do you, have you seen that? Oh, yeah, I, I’ll call myself on this one. So I went to do an estimate with one of my estimators, um immediately identified that my daughter went to school with one of their daughters in high school. And so I completely derailed, the conversation, started talking about the high schools and all of this going on. And I didn’t pick up the cue from the lady that she had to go and she just needed to have all the details answered and she wanted to hear all the details, not want to talk about what I thought about the high school and sports programs and I went off the deep end and we lost that job because of me because I, I whiffed and we had already done a job for this lady too. Yeah.

I mean, that’s powerful example there because same high school as you think you’ve already done a job and you can’t lose that. Right. But, but you can, if you go down the wrong path. Yeah, I love the fact you guys use dis dis is huge. We’ve talked a lot about this with different guests. Jason Phillips is one that has come on and spoken about it quite extensively. How do you employ that? So obviously, people, people take it, I took one recently myself and then my wife took it and that was really interesting to figure out how, how the marital dynamics work out with that.

But how do you actually use it at your company to, to train your team? So we have four avatars that we use for all four of the disc areas. So disc is a high driver. Um They are talkative but also very detail oriented. You have the eyes who are very talkative but also very emotional and not as detail oriented on the less uh talkative people. Those are the introverts, those are the s and the CS, there are some that are very detailed and some were very emotional and so we actually put faces to them and put those up and tell you visual cues.

So for example, we’re in football season as we’re talking about this thing and we’re in the Southeast and Southeast. College football is King. And you, you see a flag flying when you get in there and all you see is all their diplomas and everything they got and their whole house is painted after their school color. Probably a high eye if you’re there to paint it in school collars, this is a sign that’s a sign. Yeah, then uh there’s a great example of uh, you may walk into a house that’s a busy family of four, which is a lot of what we do.

Uh And there may be toys and you may like, wow, look at this place is very unkempt. No, it’s very ho home warming. You’ll see things like bless this house or bless this mess or you’ll, you’ll see cookbooks open in the kitchen table. So you know that they’re high. So what we do is we give visual cues to our team so they can start to pick it up because let’s face it when we’re talking about this with sales people or our contractors. Um It’s a pretty heady concept of disc profile.

I mean, it’s a lot of psychological mumbo jumbo, but you gotta distill it down into little cues so you can figure it out because when you walk into the ID, he’s the one who’s got the earphone in. He’s got the earpiece in. He’s got a conference call going on one. You walk in, he’s got the diploma of his school, but he could care less to talk to you about college football today. He just wants to know how much and when, and you tell me if you can get in a couple words edgewise on how you are different, then you, you can hopefully get that idea on your team.

So, the, do you have any resources, any books, any trainings for how someone could take, I guess, dis right, the disc and how you, how you would actually, because I, I’ve spent some time on this, I just went to a conference, spent a couple of days on it and I don’t know what you’re saying. I don’t, I don’t know, like, hey, if you see the diplomas and if you see all this stuff or if you see toys on the ground in a cookbook, like, how do you, how do you learn it?

How do you get these cues? So, I’ve been using it for 10 of my uh 2.53 years. Uh We developed it internally uh where we have. Uh So we put together powerpoint presentations on this and continually re educate the team on what to look for. Um Because the hardest ones, especially for me as a high D and uh I person is to work with introverts because a lot of times with introverts, you are asking those, I don’t know what I don’t know, questions trying to get them to draw out.

So you can figure out if they’re really detail oriented or they’re very emotional. And so with those introverts, what are some of those cues we’re looking for? So for example, we show up a picture of, if you see that this lady has a china set prominently displayed in her dining room, then she is probably while she’s quiet, she is probably about family. And if you see a, a lot of pictures of family around, then you know, she’s gonna be a little more emotional and a little less detail oriented.

And so that’s where we go because I wish everybody could fit in those nice boxes like that. But we use the extremes and tell everybody that the extremes are what you look for. But you also have to play to the fact that most of us are in the middle. True. Yeah, we’re gonna be gonna be some combination of all of it. And then do you guys do role play or how do you actually do the training? Uh So that’s a great point. I do role play with my estimators and my project managers.

I do not do role play with my uh technicians. Uh Just think about that. If you got painting crews, you try to do role play with your lead on each of your painting crews. Probably not gonna be a lot of fun. They’re probably gonna feel pretty weird. I know a lot of guys, uh, who have implemented that with subcontractors. I have not done it because I couldn’t find a way to make it. Not weird. That’s honest. Right. Ok. The, uh, yeah, I think if you do it effectively with the estimated project manager, maybe office staff, you know, if someone answering the phone, I think those, those are gonna be really the, what the customer is looking to as the primary point of communication with your company.

Yeah, back to answering the phones. I do uh record almost all of our phone calls, not all of them. Uh but we go through those occasionally and just talk about while, while you’re on the phone. You have to realize you are our customer service first touch superstar for a lot of these people. If they actually pick up the phone and call you is the first time that they’re actually getting a live voice, that person on the phone is your brand. And if you’re not spending time with them right now and you’re just kind of passing it off to your wife or to your daughter or whatever and you’re not giving them the training.

You are missing out on a lot of things you could be doing in the beginning to make them feel like they chose the right company by calling you, man. How huge is that customer service, first touch superstar, that person on the phone is your brand. So compare this to, you know, the 90% of painting companies that don’t answer the phone if you call them, they’re just not gonna pick up. So the brand is dead or the, you know, kind of the, the really good case scenario, which I’m actually not opposed to, although most are not very good.

So I, I recommend a higher vetting than seems to be being done typically. But its call centers, you know, at least someone’s answering the phone but make sure call centers do record calls, make sure you’re listening to those recordings because you would be appalled at how they are handled at, at certain times. But let’s let’s kind of back up. Yeah, that the daughter, the wife, you know, answering the phone is better than no one. But again, there should be some, some structure, some training, some something to it.

How did you do this when you started? I did it bad. Um I did a horrible uh yeah, so, um the very first lady I, I hired into my office is still with me today. Um So we have grown together and much better at it. Now we have three others answering the phones along with her. Um, what I do now is I meet with them every other week and we talk about that based on some phone calls we’ve listened to and letting them know more about what we do because one of the things I’ve had to train the people who haven’t been with me as long is that they know more than the people that are actually calling us.

You gotta, you gotta believe it, you gotta know it. You gotta make sure that they, they feel they, the customer feel like they have chosen the right company that they want to move forward with. I’ve also tried a call center and it went horribly. So I’ve heard people say, you know, a phone that’s not answered is a lost sale. I’ll tell you what a phone that’s answered horribly is definitely a lost sale and a referral killer. And that’s been the thing. You’re right. Vetting a call center.

I was not good at it. Uh So I chose to keep it internal. It’s more expensive guys. I’m not gonna lie. Uh but I can control the customer experience better and I also incent them with the same thing. We start out with you by customer service first touch superstars. What are you doing to help them and make them feel better that they call the right people? Yeah. So the, yeah, these call centers man. So we, we use tracking numbers and then we, we run it through a software and, and we go in, our team goes in each week and listens to the calls to actually figure out what’s going on with our partners and the, the difference between what painting companies oftentimes think is happening with their call center and what’s actually happening is kind of terrifying.

You know, the story we’re getting is, oh, no, the call center they answer first ring, you know, always within two rings, we’re listening 45 seconds later. You know, person just hangs up who’s calling or they answer and, and you know, the recording is essentially have a call center agent seemingly upset or annoyed that they were disturbed at their call center job. Like this is not a good impression for your company. So we’ve actually not that we go out and try to do it. But for us, we’re a marketing agency.

So if the call center is killing their business, it’s not very good. So we’ve gotten a number of call centers fired. But yeah, guys, you, you need to, they record the calls. If they, if we’re not gonna let you listen to the calls, then you need to, that’s a sign right there. You need another call center. Yeah. And I, I say, uh I’ve come a long way with this. Uh, I don’t have it all figured out. Uh, even today, probably while we’re talking a phone didn’t answer the way I, I would have hoped.

So I talked to them about is that I want them to be the face of the company. People hear that smile coming through there and, and in the post pandemic. Um, I think we can all agree. It’s not a secret. People are a lot shorter with you, uh, a lot quicker to blow you off a lot quicker to forget that we’re all human beings. Um So you’ve got to be even more ready for that uh customer because they may call in and they may sound like a high d on the phone and I go out there and do the estimate and say, oh no, this person was really introverted and really just quiet.

But they were trying to project the fact that you’re coming into my house and you’re gonna, so, you know, pe people feel like they have to do that or else they won’t get good service, they’re gonna get steamroll. So your uh your call center tactics are definitely a big part of this. Yeah. So the, what, what do you mean when you say, when you say post COVID, everyone’s shorter. What do you mean? What do you mean by that? Yeah, I think, um I think a lot of us have forgotten how to talk to people.

Um A lot of people come socially, socially, uh nonfunctioning. Yeah, I think so. I mean, I, I use myself, I’m a pretty, I’m a hugger. I’m an Italian guy. Like, you know, I love slapping people on the back but I’m also the primary shopper for my family. I go into the grocery store during the pandemic. I mean, you put your head down because you want to give anybody COVID and you don’t make eye contact and then, you know, even today here we are, you know, three years past or a year past where you want to call it, you’re still in there, you’re still kind of hesitating, even I’m hesitating to come up and, you know, don’t want to hug you because I don’t want you to feel like I’m giving you cooties or, or COVID.

But a lot of people uh have forgotten how to interact with people because we also have those devices that we call our cell phones. And our social network now is uh Facebook and Instagram and it’s not talking with people again. And so you gotta remember that people when they’re calling, um they’re usually in a hurry. Uh And you gotta know that and your call center agents should know that your lady or your and I said, ladies, I don’t mean to be sexist guys answering the phones and if you’re a painting contractor and you have your husband answering their phone and he’s not doing it the way you want, then you’re really blowing it. Yeah.

So then the another interesting point you made was having your, your people who answer the phone, having them be confident. So when you, when you say you want them confident, are you actually training them some on, on the services you offer and how those work or what do you mean by that? Great. Uh For us, we have a lot of different things we offer. And so when people call in, uh and we’ve all had it Right. Uh So if you’re a painter, I just have a little bit of painting to be done around my house.

You get out there and I said the whole house inside. No, like what you define as little. And so what I explained to those guys is, hey, send us a picture of what you’re looking for. What are you trying to do in our case? You know, I wanna change out some attic stairs. I wanna change out some lights. Well, changing out lights can mean a lot of different things, right? It could be just your porch light going into your house. It could be your vanity light in your bathroom.

It could also be your two story chandelier that weighs £4000. 4000 is a little bit too much about it. But um it’s across the board. So we asked those questions of what they’re trying to accomplish, what they’re trying to get done. What’s their time frame look like? Um Because we’re usually not a same day service in our world. Uh For us, the other thing for us in painting and handyman that we have in common that I forgot to bring up. We’re not a necessity. We’re not an urgent necessity.

Uh My house doesn’t have heat. My house doesn’t have air conditioning need. Yeah, my house doesn’t have hot water need. Uh Oh, my house needs some painting done. Not really, really a need. It became a need today. So what are we doing to help them and why they tried to, uh, attack that need today? Yeah. Yeah, definitely more of a want than a need. It’s also kind of interesting because at least for painting, at least a viable substitute is really the homeowner doing it themselves. They might not do it as well, but they’re probably not going to install their H VAC system themselves.

They’re probably not gonna, not gonna replace the roof themselves. They can’t legally. So, but they could paint the interior of their house. No problem. So, the, the, uh, you know, it is a one, it’s not a need. Although typically if you are targeting a certain demographic, you know, upper income demographic, usually that’s not a, a true substitute in, in the homeowners mind. Usually they’re not gonna spend the time to do that. Right. But they would live with the house, not being updated and painted for a month, um, or for a day.

But they’re, they’re willing to wait for you to come out to talk to them to evaluate options. Yeah. Yeah, 100%. I think this idea of the, the person picking up the phone having confidence. I don’t think I have in, man, we’ve done like 100 20 podcast. We’ve done a lot of podcast episodes and I don’t think I have heard somebody say that what we thought we’ve talked plenty of times about how they pick up the phone, being professional getting the information qualifying this and that. But actually being confident like being the expert on the phone, even though they are, they’re technically, you know, internally maybe not viewed as the expert, right?

They’re, they’re kind of the appointment setter however you wanna, you know, you wanna describe them, but the homeowner needing to feel like they are talking to the expert right there. That’s a key point, man. Yeah, I think an expert could be as simple as this. Hey, I’m gonna have our owner of our company come out and take a look at your home specifically. Now, you sound like an expert that you know that they’re so special that they have to have your best guy. And when I tell those guys who they’re setting uh the appointments up for is that every one of their estimators, they have confidence that their guys going out there can take a look at a whole list around the house. Yeah.

So you don’t have to be the expert painter, expert car, but I do show them how to do some of the things just so they know what it takes to change garbage disposal um or what it takes to change out a sin picture or even a vanity light. Yeah. So having some, just a little at least a taste of it, a taste of the work that’s being done and then probably a script of questions that they need to ask. But, but after some role place of confident, doesn’t sound like they’re reading something and then really just letting the homeowner know, hey, there, there’s all kinds of different projects or, hey, we’re gonna need to come take a look at this for you, you know, because your project is special and different and it’s not gonna be the same as everyone else.

So I’m gonna go ahead and send my best guy out there. Don’t worry, you’re in our kind of like all state, you know, in good hands, we got you, we’re gonna take care of you. Don’t worry, I’m gonna get someone out there for you and that’s where the confidence and expertise comes in. They don’t need to know that there’s eight different scenes of paint or six or whatever it is. Uh, it doesn’t matter. They, they just need to know that they got you, you, you called me, you called the right company.

I’m gonna get you taken care of. Here’s how I’m gonna do it. Yeah. So there we’ve talked about not answering the phone or, you know, answering the phone, maybe not in the best way or using a call center but not keeping them accountable. What other common mistakes do you see? Painting companies make? So, uh, one of the ones I will see is, uh, is that you go out and you’ll do an estimate. Um, and it’ll sit there and if you get a good sales process, you might follow up once, maybe twice and then you get the win and then what do you do to communicate with them to get them ready for the job in today’s world?

I said every short and post pandemic world. Well, there’s also another demographic that’s coming online now and we call them the bad word. Millennials. And all those people are horrible. They, they want something for nothing. They’re all lazy. By the way, we heard that I’m a Gen Xer uh as well. But check this out. What these guys have grown up with is instant communication. These people are willing to get food from a restaurant and have it driven to them using Uber and they’re willing to pay for that service.

They just wanna be kept in the loop on when the service is about to be provided. So what does Uber do now when you get an Uber driver, you get him tracked, you know, exactly how many minutes away he’s going to be. You’re in the know, you’re not sitting there wondering when they’re going to show up. And one of the biggest things I see with painting contractors is that if you’re doing exterior projects, you’re always battling weather, you’re always battling crews showing up or maybe taking longer.

So you’re always worried about where your schedule is going to be. And so what do we typically do as contractors when, when there’s bad news, we usually run from it and hide from it as opposed to attacking it up front and just communicating with people. So those millennials need to be communicated with, you need to communicate with a lot more than your baby boomers who we think have all the money. What I have found is that millennials have the money and are willing to spend for the service and the experience more than they are their parents.

And what I mean by that is they don’t need to have the 5000 square foot home with an acre of property. They’ll take a smaller home, but they want a better experience because they wanna go travel or they wanna experience their friends more and they’re willing to pay for it as long as you can prove that your experience is gonna keep them out of the dark. Yeah, that’s, that’s fascinating. I think about the, the food, you know, that I order and how they let me know, you know, Sean is, is on his way to pick it up.

Oh, you know, the, the Chinese food restaurant is still making the food. Ok. They’re done making the food now, Sean’s picked up. It’s like way over communicated. I’m like, man, I, I personally don’t care. I’m like, just give me a rough estimate of when Sean is gonna be at the door. I don’t really care like whether the chopsticks have been put in the bag yet or not just just send Sean to the door. But some people, man, the fact that that’s showing up on more and more platforms is right.

A lot of people probably do care about that because they can plan their day. One of the things we can all admit, uh, is that we’re all very busy. We’re all busy, busy with our lives. We’re not willing to sit around and wait between 12 and four for you guys to show up. I’m not willing to, uh, not know when my paint job is scheduled. Uh, it’s two weeks out. Ok, great. Well, we had three weeks of, uh, rain in a row. You’re now out. Four weeks now.

I’m mad. Well, I, yeah, but I told you right away and so I know you’re mad that we’re, I’m gonna go find somebody else. Well, they can’t paint any quicker than I can because it’s been raining. Um, so, right. But they do that if you go dark and if you run away and hide from it as opposed to just attacking. I, yet I yet to have somebody yell at me on the phone saying I can’t believe you called me to tell me that you’re not gonna be coming on Friday and it’s Wednesday.

Yeah, they go, oh, I just took off my entire day for that. I’m like, I, I know I apo, well, can’t we get somebody else? Well, this was the right guy for the right job. We’re trying to see if we can’t do something. My scheduler does that on a day in and day out basis. But while you’ll get a little bit of a shorter answer and people probably aren’t happy. They’re gonna be even more mad if you go ahead and cancel that job Friday morning. Yeah, 100%. Yeah, that, that’s just a good life lesson right there.

Don’t, don’t pump on bad news. Yeah. All right. Cool, man. Wow. Chris, this has been good. You’re, uh, you have a, you have a wealth of not you. It’s almost like you thought through some of this stuff. I might have a little bit, a couple of things. Yeah. Yeah, you have some depth here. That’s very, that’s very obvious. So let’s talk about your podcast because I went on it. I had a good time and obviously the people listen to this like podcasts and I think they could derive value from you from yours.

Let’s talk about it. Go ahead. Yeah. So I’ve got the small business safari. I do it with my co-host Alan White. Both of us are entrepreneurs. Uh We both left corporate America and started it. Uh a and I have a good time trying to educate people, educate but also entertain. Uh because if you’re in the car listening to us, we wanna make sure that, you know, you might be chuckling a little bit while you’re at a stop sign or somebody cuts you off. At least you’re laughing a little bit because of what we’re talking about.

But you’re also picking something up and getting better. So, what we try to bring is while we’re home services focused, I’m looking for people who are either thinking of starting their own business or trying to scale something. Uh, we bring people in from all different industries because I think you can learn a lot from people outside of your own industry. Uh We’ve got, we’ve had guests. We’re about to have, uh, I’m really excited about this one. We’re about to have, well, we’ve had you on, that was a lot of fun.

But we’ve got an economist from Northwestern who’s gonna talk about 2024 and what the home services industry can expect. And I’ve listened to him talk before and he makes economy exciting, man. That’s boring. That’s hard. Right. That’s hard. Yeah, I wanna listen to this guy. Yeah. So we’re hoping that we’re gonna have some fun with him. Uh But we bring those kinds of people on, we’ll talk about everything from uh marketing like we talked about with you. In fact, I’ve already uh told two different people that we gotta listen to your episode when it drops because I don’t care if you’re in painting or not.

I know you’re totally niched on painters. Uh You can still pick up great points on how to digital market. And so we, we bring on uh other people like that. We try to bring some people on here locally in Atlanta because we have a lot more fun. Uh, having a beer with them in studio. But, um, we’ve also had people on from as far as way as Australia, England. Uh, Germany. Uh, so it’s been a lot of fun with that too. Just talking about different industries and how they, they look at people in other countries. Yeah. Yeah.

Your guys, your guys podcast set up is very nice. It’s, I was missing the alcoholic beverage. I didn’t know I was supposed to bring one but next time I will, I better, I better start putting that number one. Make sure the first rule. Yeah, because I primed up one of our guests with, uh I told him I’m like, he’s a bourbon drinker. I said, all right, you’re coming in, got him primed up with bourbon and probably uh this guy spouted off more knowledge. Uh I, in fact, I, I talked to this guy once a month.

He runs my mastermind group that I’m part of and I learned more on that podcast that I’ve been with this guy for 2.5 years because he is such a wealth of information and we try to bring out people know what they’re talking about. Yeah, I love it, man. Is there anything else that you wanna add before we wrap this up? No, hopefully, uh hopefully you got something out of this and enjoyed it. And uh you know, I stop with all that trade stuff. Just gotta go out there and do it, man.

You know, that’s why I share as much as I can because this, this business is hard. I don’t care if you’re painting handyman gutters roofs, whatever you’re doing, uh home services is hard business and you just got to be able to execute it better than others. 100%. Yeah. And you can tag Chris. Chris la la la Mia, like mamma Mia la la mia in the Pan America Mastermind podcast for on Facebook. You can ask him any questions, any follow ups that you have here, Chris, I appreciate your time, man.

This was a lot of fun. We’re definitely gonna do something again together because I like you and in your wealth of knowledge. Yeah, man, I look forward to it. I enjoy it. I’m gonna come down there and bother you at Saint Pete someday too. Do it, man. I’m gonna hold you to it. All right, brother. Appreciate you, man. All right. Talk soon.

If you want to learn more about the topics we discussed in this podcast and how you can use them to grow your painting business, visit painter marketing pros dot com forward slash podcast for free training, as well as the ability to schedule a personalized strategy session for your painting company. Again that URL is paintermarketingpros.com/podcast.

Hey there, painting company owners. If you enjoyed today’s episode, make sure you go ahead and hit that subscribe button, give us your feedback, let us know how we did. And also, if you’re interested in taking your painting business to the next level, make sure you visit the Painter Marketing Pros website at Painter Marketing Pros dot com to learn more about our services. You can also reach out to me directly by emailing me at Brandon@PainterMarketingPros.com and I can give you personalized advice on growing your painting business until next time.

Keep growing.

Brandon Pierpont

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