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Matt Carlson

Guest Interview: Matt Carlson of M. Carlson Painting – Round 2

On this episode of the Painter Marketing Mastermind Podcast, we welcome back guest Matt Carlson. Matt is the owner of M. Carlson Painting, a residential repaint company based in Orono, MN that now does $5 million per year in annual revenue. Matt shares significant changes he has made in his business over the past two years that have propelled him to rapid recent growth, and he also discusses very recently opening his first satellite location in another state. Matt shares his secret sauce to hiring and retaining good talent, telling us how he has cracked the code to the labor force problem that so many painting company owners struggle with.

Video of Interview

Topics Discussed:

  • Labor force code CRACKED! How to hire and retain great painters.
  • The 4 major changes Matt made to allow him to start opening painting locations in other states
  • How to make networking part of your culture, and why you should
  • Why Matt now runs a “sales and marketing company, that offers painting services”
Audio Transcript


Welcome to the Painter Marketing Mastermind Podcast, a show 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 pc, a 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 on this episode of the Painter Marketing Mastermind podcast.

We welcome back guest Matt Carlson Matt is the owner of M Carlson painting which is a residential repaint company based in Orono Minnesota. In this episode, Matt takes a deep dive into significant changes he has made in his business over the past two years that have propelled him to doing $5 million dollars in annual revenue and that have allowed him to open up his first satellite location in another state. Matt shares his secret sauce to hiring and retaining good talent, telling us how we cracked the code to the labor force problem that so many painting company owners struggle with. 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 you are L. Is painter marketing pros dot com forward slash podcast Matt, thank you for coming on for round two. The painter market master my podcast man, you are very welcome, I appreciate the re invite. So yeah man, you're you're you're a great guest so thank you kind of refresh us on M Carlson Penny. What do you guys do where you're based? We are based on the western suburbs of Minnesota Minneapolis surrounding area. We primarily work Residential repaint, that's what we do quite a bit of. We are a 5050 interior exterior company, you know, so we get really busy between May to November. We stay steady in the slower months. It's Minnesota's unique place, you were just here, you got to experience that, it gets pretty cold. People kind of shut down so it's it's not, it's almost like two separate worlds as you've got the summertime where it's booming and it never stops the days last forever. It's hot, it's humid and then it gets cold and dark so our residential definitely slows down but we stay, we we stay pretty steady with the repaint. We've got a couple contractors that we do some work for, we're starting to branch out and do a lot more new construction. We're getting into. We've always done quite a bit of like multi family property management work. So that's really picked up in the past, I don't know why that is but that's been good and our residential stay steady so we we Sprinkle a little commercial on there, that's just not what we do, I would like to get more of it, but we're plenty busy with the residential. So do you have any advice about how you maintain a fair amount of work over the winter for other companies that struggle with winter? Slow season? It's a great question. Well, like most companies, we did the same thing. We didn't, we weren't really preparing for the future. You know, we would go into typical season is, you know, busy for all of us here May 15 through November 15. That's just what it is. And then you get to the holidays you got thanksgiving Christmas new year's and everyone just expects that it gets so well. I know a handful of commercial painters that that's actually their busy season, that they are extremely busy trying to get stuff during that time. And so we've looked at it this way is that if we can go, if we could take exteriors from last year and carry them over to this year, we should be able to do that with interior painting. Maybe not to the same degree because You can paint interiors 12 months of the year where exteriors in Minnesota, you're limited to maybe six months, ironic. I mean it realistically you're looking at four of decent weather. So for us now it comes down to, it's just like if you go into any into a target, you know, before any holiday, they've already started marketing for it. So for us we're going to start marketing for interior work? Pretty much start in the middle of the summer into the fall. So we're getting those people calling and getting them on the books and thinking about it versus not thinking too far ahead and just trying to get through our busy season. You get to the fall, then it's done and then it just stops and that's it's just a terrible way to run a business. It's a terrible way to, you know, our our agreement with our painters is that we do everything we can in our power to keep them busy and by not doing that were kind of letting them down. So that's we've really taken that on to, we owe it to them to keep them as busy as possible. I mean can they stay as busy in the summertime maybe? I mean we're gonna try to we're gonna try to prove that true. So. Sure. Yeah, marketing uh I would say it's a leading indicator of success for most painters. I don't think we do that. We end up just, we get so much work and we get so busy and we're so focused on all the work that's in front of us. We're not thinking about okay, when this slows down. What are we gonna deal? Yeah. So it's that feaster famine. It's it's typical in the trades. Sure. So when you are doing this marketing bleeding up to winter, what are you typically doing? What do you find most effective? Well 2021 was our, was our best year. However, we got very lucky as far as the right people kind of coming on. We got very lucky with the, with the wrong people leaving and so we're able to capitalize and this is the first year that we've gone into the following year with, we've got quite a bit of work. I don't wanna say we don't have any, but not compared to what we did last year. And so we already started this january february marketing to all our past customers, which to me is the smartest thing you can do if they're happy with your work. I'd rather go after. Somebody who's already worked with us understands how we do things they're more likely to hire us again than trying to send out a bunch of flyers to anyone else while everyone else is doing that. Um We've picked up our social media a little bit. We finally redid our website which was huge. Um that's starting to get a little bit of traction. I'm spending a lot more time doing the networking um, things that I enjoy doing more so than the day to day stuff so that that's helped out. But we're also asking for the sale were also turning everyone on our staff into. Networkers not so much salespeople, but just just networkers, hey, who do you know, talking and always kind of promoting the business and stuff like that. But we've got a good team right now and we're kind of spread out through the state, um About 20 miles west of our office, and then we're also now right into Hudson, Wisconsin. So we kind of have the entire line across the state, which helps plus, you know, being in business as long as we have with a pretty good track record, you know, the initial organic behind the scenes, just the phone brains, just because, but to me it's like we can always be doing a better job, but marketing should be always be the first thing we're doing no matter what. Yes. So this idea of turning your team into networkers, I would love to learn more about that. So years ago when we moved, when I moved to the farther western suburbs, we knew that we had to get two things an address, a local address in the area if we wanted to be part of the community, and then I needed to get super involved with the community. So I ended up joining A B and I, which is a business networking industry. Yeah, I don't, I can't remember what it is, but that was great. You know, that kind of got me into a lot of little local businesses that were doing well and stuff like that. So you really learn to network, you learn to Do your 62nd commercial every week. I mean that's quite a commitment. But the key is if you have a good sphere is what they call it. And I had an interior designer, a wallpaper next to your contractor and interior contract. I mean, so I had everyone feeding me work and so that really taught me how to utilize a network and go out there and you know, ask for referrals, ask for the business and stuff like that. So right now we've got a couple of our guys, one's in Wisconsin doing it and then another one is farther west from us. And so that's, that's been great. We've teamed up with a lot of good other companies plus right now the demand is so high that you just have to ask people, you know, do you need a good painter? Do you need anything done? And years past people would tell, you know, now it's like everyone needs something to. So, um, so we have like, we've done a couple of the trade shows, nothing major, you know, it's kind of the smaller ones and stuff like that. But um, really anyone on our team, you know, has to put on that networking hat all year round because it just, it needs to be constantly asking, you know, who do you know, or this or that or hey, you know, I worked with this realtor, you know, as my parents friend. So let's talk to them and stuff like that. I mean, it's, it's amazing how far that goes that you can really open up a lot of opportunity by just going around and doing those small little things. So you, I mean, is this, is this officially part of people's job roles? Have you said, hey, I want you to go out and join this, B and I are this chamber of commerce and, and always, you know, be network and you reward people for that or is this kind of more unofficial cultural? Both. So we've got a couple of different positions here. Um, my my role is to pretty much bring in leeds, build the network and then also always be looking for for painters. That's kind of the position that I've been pushed into besides kind of overseeing the different divisions and different team leaders and stuff like that. So that's, that's my main focus. And so as we brought on guys, two angles to do like the sales estimating project management, we've been asked them, hey, we'd like you to join one of these groups, which they've been Eager to do and it's been great because they're really seeing it kind of payoff. It was a little scary at first because if they were intimidated and stuff like that, like having to get up every week and give you 62nd commercial and kind of put yourself out there, but you talk to any of them now and they really enjoy it and it's also one of the things to where it's a huge time commitment. So if you're not if you're not getting a return out of it well you gotta cut bait and go I mean it's just it's not worth your time. So we've got a new position that we hired actually husband and wife team for. Um one of them we call him a hunter, he's out kind of doing the same thing I am and his wife then does the project management, she does all the designs for us and stuff like that. So it depends on the personality too. We're not asking everyone to go out there and join a B. And I grew up and do it because Christy our office administrator. I mean she's here she's she's answering the phone and she's doing all that stuff and then Marissa who runs a schedule like she's in the office. So if you're in the office all day we're not gonna ask that you go to a B. And I you know at seven o'clock on a Tuesday morning and then try to get in here. It's just it's not worth it. But our other guys who are out there you know we want them and it's all about relationships in this business. I mean if it's a relationship that you have with your cruise with your clients, with your contact. I mean all that stuff. I mean it's it's got to be a good partnership and so this is teaching those guys to build those partnership, those referral partners with other designers with roofers, ciders with, you know, age, bad guys with all that stuff that especially now there's, there's just so much opportunity and people just need somebody they can rely on. And that's pretty much kind of where we put in our, we put ourselves in that position to be, I don't want to say that the go to guy, but a good resource. So when people call us like, hey, we've got three or four different refers that would be a good fit for you. Hey, we've got a handy man. Hey, we've got somebody that can kind of do this that can fill those needs because everyone's busy right now. Yeah. Yeah. So you, I want to kind of dive into one thing you said if if you're not seeing the return, then you should cut bait. And one of the things I think people tend to do is cut bait a little bit too fast because they went to one B and I and, and all of a sudden they should magically just have a big book of business. How do you, how do you gauge when you cut bait or or you know, how long does this take typically? So for me, I'm, I'm, I'm a Heidi. I like to move fast and stuff like that, but I've made those mistakes. Um, not giving things enough time. You know, just doing postcards one time doing a bunch of Google ads and it's like if it doesn't work well you have to have some patients. So I'll tell you I did it for 24 hours. I mean isn't that long enough? Yeah. If that's even too long for me, you know, it's like, hey man, if it's not ready in an hour, I'm done. I tell them six months. And the reason I say that is because Minnesota is so seasonal is that it takes awhile. Plus Minnesota is a very unique place where it's very cliquey. People have been there have been here. You guys are a special breed from my, I love you guys, you're definitely a special breed. I was born in D. C. When I was young, but I've been here my entire life and I still feel like an outcast. Like I just, I'm not passive aggressive. I still I've got great friends that I went to kindergarten with. But I've I've branched out and I've met new people and I've moved around and I don't live in my parents house or I don't live down the street from my parents. Uh And there's nothing wrong with that. Um I did, you know married to Minnesota girls, but you had, it takes a long time to kind of crack the code here is to get people to trust you. But once you're, once you're in it's pretty good. So and all that takes time. And Minnesota is very passive aggressive, so people won't come out and say, hey man, you did a terrible job, This is what you did wrong. I want to give you another chance. They'll just tell you, oh, everything's fine and then they kind of, I won't use you again. So building that trust, that that takes time and it should take time. I mean you don't want to go into any business or any relationship now, you can jump right into it. So especially for us, because the type of work that we do, we're inside people's houses, so people really have to trust us to refer us going into, it doesn't matter the dollar size of the house, we're still going into their home. So once the trust factor is there, then there's no stopping you. And that's where these guys are really starting to see the leads come in, the jobs that, you know, they're starting to get stuff, they're really starting to, I feel like they're part of something bigger than just going in there and just trying to beg for leads. Sure. Yeah. So you you have to get the homeowners to trust you, but then you're also you're forming these partnerships with interior designers and and other people in the B and I and and you're approaching it from the perspective of someone you can, that, that they can rely on you right, that you're gonna be there, you're gonna be solid because people are so busy and there's so much stuff going on. You want to basically, I guess serve that need in a way. And I think it's important for everyone listening to kind of recognize how you're approaching this. It's not just, hey, do you have leads? Hey, can you give me leads? It's okay. I'm gonna make sure that I'm, I'm, what you need and what you need is is someone rock solid. You know, that, that the painting is gonna get done, it's gonna get done right. And you don't have to worry about it well and it takes consistency and it takes a long time. And that's for me. I was fortunate because I was the lead painter. I was the salesman. I was all that stuff. And so that was as, as we've grown in transition. We found the right people that have that where let's just say a high end designer. Well, she just doesn't want to refer anyone to go into a client's house because if that painter does a bad job, well then that that falls on her. So it's very, it's a slippery slope because you've got to do a good job. But you can't just be a good painter. I mean that, that those days are done. I mean maybe outside you can get away with it if you just focus on the exterior, but even then not so much for our clientele, I mean, these are nice homes and even though you're outside, there's still cameras, there's still, I mean there's people, there's dogs, there's people running around. So you have to bring a whole another level of you're also promoting yourself like, hey, yes, we should be good paintings were professional painters, but we actually care about your property. We actually are gonna take our shoes off, we're gonna come in, we're gonna be trusted. We're not gonna go through your drawers were not going to steal things. And it's interesting. I've been talking to so many painters over the years and this guy grant that we're talking to in Alaska, we asked him, you know, how are you, why are you, why do you think you're so successful in Alaska? And he goes two reasons people like me and they don't think I'm gonna steal from him. And he's like, honestly, that's, that's it. And unfortunately the trades, he's got a bad rap and the bar is pretty low and people automatically assume that whatever trade you're in, you're beneath them or you know, you, you, you don't understand that how nice their stuff is. I mean, there's all these emotions that play into it. So you really have to get people to trust you and to feel good about referring you because that's the name of the game. Yeah. So yeah, I want to dive into that because you and I were speaking before we started this recording and your mindset has kind of shifted, I think a bit from not being a really a painting company, you said you're you're basically becoming a marketing company that offers painting and I love the, I love to hear um more about that. So we've always had the problem of having the best painters do amazing work and not having the infrastructure, not having the leadership, not having the knowledge on how to run a business. It was, it was much easier when it was just me doing the work. Then it was easy when it was me and a couple of cruise and then it got a little more challenging and then it became very challenging when you've got somebody trying to run a schedule, you've got, you know, project managers and salesmen and all this stuff. You've got all these moving parts until things kind of, you're just reactive, you're pretty much putting out fires. That's what I did for the past six years, I put out fires, never worked in my business, so I was never really trying to go out and capture new business. I would get what we needed. So we were putting out a good product but we weren't able to keep up with it. And so that's the scales started to tip is where, especially when things got really busy, that's when we noticed our phone was ringing a lot more, but we weren't ever really set up to handle that much volume and do it well, so once we, once we figured that out, which was an extremely painful process and expensive process. Once we got that figured out and we were able to get through the work because we always had more work than we needed. So we never had to market for new works. We just couldn't find the guy actually that could set, I wasn't able to train the new people on how to do it. Like I would, I just didn't have the patience and not, not a good manager in that sense. So once I was able to get really lucky and find people that can do that for me is now we've got great systems, We've got the right people in the right positions that can take the anywhere in the project and step in and have the same expectations the next person. And so now once we got through all our work last year, we realized we need to market, we need, we need more leads. Like in years past, like we were, we were doing everything we could and I hate to admit this. But we were doing everything we could to delay the work because we couldn't get to it. We were telling people, oh, we can't get to you because of cold better. Oh hey, you know every excuse in the book. Oh man. It just, it was talked about embarrassing and I felt like an absolute failure because I was like how can like this is such a good problem to have, but how can I not figure this out? Like what? We've got great painters, we've got a great product we put out, but we just cannot get to it all. We cannot figure out to take this demand. And in the years past I would hire anyone with a pulse, I would hire anyone that said they were a painter, we'd put them on our jobs and it was a nightmare, absolute debacle. You know, there was no way of really vetting these guys out. There was no way of like really, truly seen what kind of work they did. You know, there was no real true interview process. And so we've scrapped all that and we've done some amazing things to change the whole system and that's why we're able to go to Alaska now in Utah and find guys invent them out before we even start doing it. So once we figured out the labor force and the consistency. Now the next problem is it, you know, how many leads do we want? You know, and here in Minnesota were set up for now where we can really, we could do whatever. There's, there's nothing holding us back as far as manpower schedule and all that stuff. It's now going into other states where We're not going to have 30 crews in Utah, we might have two or three crews right now that we like, so how do you go about finding leads? How you know, do you, What happens if you send out 10,000 postcards and you get 100 leads? Well that's a lot of leads in a quick amount of time. So you're not gonna be able to do it. So you've got to kind of figure out how much do you turn the faucet on when you turn it on, when you turn it off? And so that's what I've been playing around with the marketing piece right now of where's the demand? Where is the need? Summer is coming up? So most of the country it's going to get busy no matter what. Sure. So you said you've figured out the labor force and, and it sounds like you've really systematized your business. So you basically got fulfillment figured out. So now with fulfillment figured out and you're being able to perform more jobs faster. Um then you obviously can sell more. How did you, how did you figure out the labor force because that's a common problem for, you know, I'm sure a lot of people listening, they would love to be able to say, well I figured out the labor force issue secret sauce man. Well I'm asking about it and I'm happy to share it man. I honestly, uh Consistency. I will, I will say that right now consistency. I've been doing this. I've been painting exteriors. I started in 94. I'm old. I became a corporate in 2001. I was never a very good painter. I couldn't stand it. Um, I'd like the sales piece, We ran employees for a long time and that was nice. That was, that was good because we could really kind of control it. But every time I would step away to go do bids to the paint store, the production would slow down. I went to go work for another company because I was absolutely burnt out. Um, I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't sell, I couldn't paint, I mean I was working too much young kids at the time. Um, that's where I first was introduced to the whole subcontractor model, which terrified me. Um, because it's M Carlson painting, it's, it's matt Carlson and it's all that stuff, It's all about me. And so I was able to see totally different business model that I didn't, I didn't know if I agreed with, I didn't, I didn't, I was kind of on the fence about it and then once I saw it kind of an action and I got to meet some of these crews who, this was 2007. Um, these guys are still with me to this day that I met there and it worked out because it, it really is, it's a partnership with your painters. Knowing that hey, my expectation of you is to go up to this job and knock it out of the park, do the best job, you can represent yourself, represent my business, do all the things that you would do if it was your own job. So that's where it gets a little slip because a lot of these guys look like it's gonna do it myself. So I would never work with you, which fine, I get that. So to me, I've always been open book, we do things different probably than any other painting contractor out there. A lot of guys say they will or they say they do, but they don't, our crews, they get that bid that we give the homeowner. They know exactly if it's a $10,000 job, we're getting $10,000 for it. They know the expectation is they get paid their certain percentage for their labor, they get paid a certain percentage for the materials, No questions asked if they decided to do something off script. Well, it's on the same thing with the homeowner, so it's taken me, So we moved that from 2007. It's taken me about 15 years of constantly going through trying to find guys stuff like that. Um, being honest, I mean, I'm not the easiest person to work with, but I'm very fair and I just believe if, if it's good for me, it's got to be good for them. Sure we, we have now, had it set up to where I can prove without a doubt that guys that come work with us in our system will make more money working with us than on their own. We pay them at the top end that we possibly can. But how it's set up the expectations from them is extremely high, which means two things, which means they become better painters, but they also get better business owners. So we come in, we do all the stuff that they don't want to do. It's a great fit. And if we find guys that are like, hey man, I'm tired of being the painter and I want to come in and I want to do sales for you. Great. We can put them in our system and they can do sales, they can still keep their business going. Um We've got all these different options for guys that we tell them, keep your business open, come work with us. But as far as the labor force, It wasn't until 2021 that I spent 100% of my time. We had so much work, I didn't need to find any leads and I had guys going to do the work. So I knew at that point that if I did not increase our labor force with good guys, that my business was gonna tank. There was no way we were, we were underwater with all the work that we had and the phone was not would not stop ringing. So I spent every single day stopping by job sites hanging out at the paint stores talking to any painter that would come in. I mean I went after all my paint reps. I went after every single pane trap they knew and I wasn't here to poach anybody's guys. But I also had the opportunity for them. And one of the best resources was us just asking our cruise guys that we have working with us if they knew anyone. And they were like totally open for it. Yeah. And it was just, it was just one of those things where it was like we never wanted to ask them just because we kind of felt like they might think that, that we were trying to replace them or whatever it is. I mean, until you ask it, you don't, you don't really know your mind plays all these tricks on you. So we did. And all of a sudden we went from 12 crews and June of 20,- 28 at the end of July. And I'm gonna say this to everyone else guys. If you don't treat your guys well, they're going to come work with us, I can tell you that right now, I more, we've got more guys from other competitors because of how our system is we pay them the top end and they've all, they all said the same thing. Their number one issue was, they didn't get treated very well as human beings. They didn't get treated very well to me. That's, that's not okay. I see it day in and day out. Um, they might be latino, they might be from eastern europe, they might be americans. It doesn't matter who it is, but every single person said the same thing. And then the second one was money, but the first one was definitely, we don't get treated very well. So we figured that out. We try to treat them well, which I know we do. That's, that's the one credit I will take. I try to, I was a painter and I hated it. So if I can find somebody that's really good at painting that can take that off my plate and do it, I'm gonna treat them very well. Why would I not? And I love these guys. I mean they're, they're, they're like family to us. And so it's, it's really, it's important that you take care of these guys and once you're in, all of these guys are very close knit family. Um, So now they have a cousin or a brother or an uncle that's also a painter. And so all of a sudden now, I mean every week we have probably 3-5 new painters come into our office wanting to work with us outside networking, networking, networking. They know what they can expect, install another. Another thing was these guys weren't getting paid enough, which I can look at other payment structures that my competitors are using and they're ripping gentlemen and they're ripping the guys off their way. Underpaying them, There's, they're not, they're not spending the money where they need to, to me your painters on the job five days a week for the salesman. He might be on there twice the project manager depending on who it is. Stop there at all. So now you're telling me that you're going to beat up the painter and pay them less, but they're going to be your source, your point of contact on the job site. Yeah. It's a poor business. Um, so once we figured that out, once the guy saw, hey man, this is the scope of work. This is what I'm getting paid. I know I'm not being told I'm getting paid this. And these guys are smart. I think people think because they're painters that they're not very smart. They actually are. They get it, they know how much paint it should take, they know how long it should take and they're looking at these numbers and there's like there's no way They only got $2,000 from this job. It's going to take us a week and a half to do it. Like we know we're getting ripped off. Then we showed them that that and that's easy to prove because it's, it's right there and then the scheduling, we were able to keep these guys busy more than anyone else they show up on the job site and it's ready to go. So how do you guys set up your compensation structure with, with them and the sales estimator, the project manager, how do you guys set it up. That's different. That works better. So are Our business model is, let's just use a $10,000 job. $10,000 in labor to any crew. We know that We know there's a five that 50% of every job should go to labor. We might, we budget for 15% for materials. We want the materials to come in about 10% depending on what we're doing. Your painting stock, gold staining, you know, cedar shakes, it might go up. But if it dips, if it goes above 15 then we have a policy that can come in, we can sit down with the salesperson and we can go over anything on the job. So we give them two options. We can either pay them 65% of the job and they pay for all their own materials and they pay for all their labor or we can do 50% and we'll cover all the labor. Our business savvy guys who are awesome Take the 65 every time because materials usually come in at 10% while now they just made 5% on the job. If I can make an additional 5% on every single job that I sold. I take it and they know if we do a job And it's under bid for materials coming at 2025%. We will, we will, we will cut them a check for the difference. As long as we know that hey, they didn't spill 15 gallons of paint or they didn't over by, you know, that's, that's happened in the past where guys have gone in and they over the, they weren't used to buying their own materials and they bought too much and it's like, well that's unknown. But for us, if it's good frost, it's gonna be good for them. So the sales guys know too, if they go and they underbid every job just to get it. Well they're not gonna get paid on it. They're gonna have to end up paying out of pocket to make it right with the cruise because I'm not going to tell them, Hey, I'm gonna pay you 50% and 15% and then decide that after the job is over we're gonna change that deal. But it's never gonna happen. Do you, do you pay a commission to your sales reps and your project manager? How does that work? I have, I've cut this thing up so many different ways. I'm trying to figure out how this works. And so it really wasn't until I brought on my business coach is my business partner and we were able to, with the help of his boss really break this thing apart. Start to pull and the help of our bookkeeper who is now our CFO is pull all the numbers out. I'm not a numbers guy and anyway I just I'm like a bull in a china shop man. I just want to get it done and move on. Um but once we were able to start pulling the numbers out and to see exactly ok how much can one person sad. But then we also had the the dilemma is that what is the definition of a salesperson salesperson to me is what I do. I'm gonna go out and I'm gonna cold call, I'm gonna knock on doors. I'm gonna go like put myself out there. I'm bringing in business that the business never would have had. What we have here is because this business is well run however has been doing well run. It's starting to be well run our phone rings. We have a lot of a lot of this organic people searching us but we have so many past customers and clients calling us that really what these guys are doing is just taking a leak. So we figured out okay how much can one person, how many jobs, how many leads can they take? Can they estimate? And can they run? So we figured out that minimum was about a million bucks for one guy. So then we can take now out of that. You know because I was always comparing myself like I could do it well most of the business owner, this has got my name on it. So I'm gonna push myself a lot harder but trying to tell somebody else to go out there and work with as much passion as I do. You mean? I'm very lucky because we have people like that now on staff that are better than I am at what they're doing and so they're more, they're definitely passionate. So we knew If you can sell $1 million bucks And run $1 million 4% on the lead on that piece and then 4% of the project management. So they're, they're able to get 8% of the total sale if you have the same person doing both of those doing that. So we've had, we've done it every single way. We've, we've realized that because of the percentages that we do in our business model that you really have to have one person that takes that lead, puts that lead together, presents it to the customer, sells it and then as your project manager. Mhm. But as we at this as this has evolved and we pay the top end, we've trained them on how to be even better project managers. They are appointed contact. They are a lead guy on that job. The project manager is really just the guy in the middle that's checking in via phone text message or stopping by if it's convenient to say, hey, MS homeowner, how's everything going? Hey Mr painter, how's everything going? You know that that person that kind of bridges that is now letting people know what the next step is once that piece was done. So then we were able to figure out and we guaranteed one of our guys that year were like, we're gonna guarantee you $100,000 because you end up in a contractor. So we were paying him five and 5 and he said there's no way you'll never, I'll never be able to manage, I'll never be able to sell and manage $1 million dollars with the business. Well he did one two 20, himself. He made a lot of money. And the best part about Brandon is that he has owned his own business since he came over four years ago and we've helped him build his business, he's actually tripled his own business. So it's it's crazy now he's now become an employee just because we had to do that in that sense. Um He had his own crew. So now we've kinda shifted everything away but you know with the employee now we can get you a car. Now we can start to do health insurance. Now we can start to do all these other things versus these guys as independent contractors. They've come and go over the years. So um we knew that that threshold was $1 million $80,000 a year, you have to manage $2 million dollars worth of business. And if you want to just be a salesperson, a hunter, you've got to sell at least $2 million. Well we know if you spend your time selling and management, you can do at least a million bucks and then we just figured, okay, easy math, we can double that and it's worked out. So these guys now know every single job that they sell and run, they're getting paid on it. So matt kind of shifting gears a little bit. When you came on the podcast, last time you had talked about how you were going to um, opened a new office location. I think it was your, the first time you've done that, right? So your 2nd 2nd and you were looking at a Salt Lake city metro area, you said it's pretty similar to Minneapolis. You like Utah, what's going on with that? So I've been going out there for quite some time and it's, it's a great place, man. If anyone likes to ski go there, they got some of the best skiing, it's an easy flight from Minnesota. It's, it's, it's a two hour flight from Minneapolis to Salt Lake and then it's a 40 minute drive to the base of park city. So that always intrigued me. But I've been out there a lot and then um, unfortunately after all the riots and stuff that was happening Minneapolis, I was thinking, man, you know what, like, I gotta have an exit strategy. I wanna, if, if, if it keeps getting worse here in Minnesota, like when my kids are old enough, I gotta, I gotta get out of this place. So that was my first motivation. And then we started doing, we started looking at our business model once it kind of, once it started clicking up until that point, I was never leaving. I was, I was stuck in Minnesota, I was stuck in my chair. I was going to be putting the same fires out the same headaches every day. Once. I was just like, I woke up one day and I was like, oh my gosh, this thing actually works. And it was, it was interesting because It wasn't until July of 20, I was at my dad lives in Virginia beach, I was there with my kids and my wife and out of my business partner was camping I think somewhere in Wisconsin and he calls me and he goes, guess what? I was like, what? He goes, we have 28 crews not working today. I was like, you gotta be kidding me. And he's like, yep, he goes, I'm scheduling it from, from my tent. I'm literally scheduling it from my tent. I'm able to get on to our software, I'm able to do everything I possibly can. And we've been working, working behind the scenes and then all of a sudden everything started clicking and we came back from vacation. We're like, oh my gosh, like this, this actually works. And so we jumped online and we're like, okay, hey, best places to open up. A small business in Utah was like six out of the top 10. So I called my friend who's been out there forever. She's been great. We flew out there, it was the first time I've ever been there in the summertime and there's three Sherwin Williams in Park city alone. So we met with Sherwin, we did all the things that I've been working on for years and we knew the moment we got off the plane, like, hey, this is a great place to do it. So we started looking for what we call the customer experience manager, somebody to be out there to run the leads, find the cruise, all that stuff, but we weren't really sure how this would look. And we did find gentlemen that we hired in october train, flew him here. We trained him for about two weeks. Um, and he did a great job. As far as finding cruise. I was going out there every single month trying to drum up leads, but really working with him because the market is so hot there. We literally thought people were gonna be throwing money at us because there was so much work. Well there is, but we're also the new guys. But we put all our effort into finding cruise because that was that, we knew just, we kind of believe what everyone else has been saying, oh, there's no good painters, There's no, everyone's too busy. This is that, it's not true. It's not true. I mean, I'm gonna tell you this guys, there's a lot of guys working for people that are miserable where they're at and they're happy to go somewhere else. Yep, We knew that once we started talking to guys out there, it was the same, the same conversation. They weren't being treated well, they weren't being paid enough. Um, it's not that they weren't getting paid enough. They weren't getting paid what they thought they should have been paid for these jobs because they weren't being told the truth. Their schedules were all over the place. You know, a lot of them were working for franchise or other businesses. There's no leadership. These guys, they're just, they're bidding jobs. They throw these guys out to go start a job. Well, there's no color selected, there's no product, there's no real scope. So now these painters show up to a job and nothing is ready. I mean, I did that for 10 years. We would start jobs, no contract, no money down and no colors. Yeah. And we still would not get out of the park. So getting rid of all that stuff. So Utah has been a little interesting. And the gentleman, we had working for us for about 90 days. We just weren't seeing any, there was no sales and so we kind of really looked at this and so we started putting a lot more parameters around like what he was doing, we started implementing them here like okay, hey every week and our sales meetings you gotta come to the table and say you've reached out to this many people because everyone's gonna tell you, I'm so busy, I'm so busy busy doing what, sitting at your desk playing Tetris or whatever you kids play. I don't know um word all. So once we were able to hold him accountable, um he quit and he left left us high and dry. So now we have no point of contact out there. Um and reached out to my shirt, my shirt, one rep who has been fantastic. He introduced me to a painting contractor in Utah that's actually from Minnesota. So I called him up and we have now absolutely taken off. So it took us that guy leaving to kind of put the fire underneath us and get back out there and there's a lot of guys out there looking for a change, looking to work. So we now know going into our next state, Exactly the type of person that we want the expectations. Um exactly. We know how they're gonna get paid, you know, so trying to talk to these guys about how much they got to do because a lot of the guys that were talking to our owner operator, they might be doing $200,000 or $400,000. And the numbers don't, it doesn't matter. Um but we're trying to show them that Any place that we go, the expectation is that new business does at least $1 million. Business year one, yep, It has to and that's the only way that works. And so trying to get guys to think about that and believe that they can do it is the challenging part. But that's the fun part too, because they've got to take a risk. They gotta take a leap of faith with us. But we're also investing a lot of time. A lot of money getting these guys set up to where once they do it, it's it's fairly simple. Yeah, you're providing a really a life changing opportunity for a lot of, you know, painting, you can't do it forever. It's it's it aware on you. It's hard, it's excruciating. You know, the guys we talked to there, like most of us and they're like how I was, I wasn't only the painter, but I was also the bookkeeper. I also didn't do payroll, I had to pay share when bills, I had to do all the scheduling. I mean all the day to day stuff that it's extremely taxing, especially when you make your money putting paint on the wall, You're running the schedule is costing you money, you're out doing 10 bids and only getting two or three is costing you a ton of money. You can't, you can't ever really get out of that. And so that's where we're able to step in and say listen, we can help you make your business more successful. Put you into our system and make everyone's life a lot easier and make everyone a lot more money. Yeah. So for people who are listening, who are interested in opening a second location and kind of following um your path here, what would be some of the most important advice that you would want to convey to them, whether things that they should do things that they shouldn't do, how they should think about it. I would say the first thing is is make sure your business wherever you are is solid. Like we use the Minnesota one is like is our corporate headquarters. But it wasn't, There was 20 years of me never thinking I was gonna ever get out of the same position I was in. So making sure that you as the business owner can leave and not be in your business would be the first thing. Because if if most business owners there, the bottleneck of their own business, they don't realize that until until you actually get yourself out of there or you quit and go work for somebody else. You realize it's you you're the problem and no one, no one can do it like them. So they'll they'll just take care of it Exactly. And that's that's the hardest part is letting that piece go. But for me I have been in so much pain over the years of just the ups the downs all this different stuff where I was ready to let it go and so it took me that stepping off the ledge to where it's like I'm so glad I did it. But it was scary man, it was it was definitely terrifying. He is find a good team, pay them very, very well. Um you're gonna get betrayed, you're gonna get lied to, you're gonna get people to quit on you but you can't ever give up but there's good people out there and as long as you are true to yourself and honest about what you want and I think the biggest thing too is But why why why do you want to, why do you want to own your own business? You know, I mean 99% of the guys out there right now, they're not business owners, Very few people are true business owners. These guys, their self, their owner operators, they're good technicians and so it's like there's a pride thing that comes down to it, but at the end of the day like if you want to help grow something or get out of the business or have it work for you, you've got to know what's making you sure motivate you to do it because your finger what is your why? Oh man my why is I've always believed you know as a younger kid that I just wasn't I wasn't good enough for it so I'm kind of proving it to myself that I can handle this you know having having two young kids that was the kind of thing too. I mean everyone's got like oh my parents got divorced or this or that like to me everyone's parents are bad yeah and just to me it was more myself push myself just believing like you know what I got this, I can do this for myself that no matter how bad it gets I've always got myself to kind of figure it out and so now now that I'm able to do for myself like I want to help other people do that to me that's what brings me the most joy, it's helping these guys more gals who are in bad spots you know they might have a business and they're making you know 100 and $6200 a year but they're miserable, they're working 100 200 hours you know all this stuff they don't get to see their kids, they don't this their marriage is on the rocks because they're never around like don't have to live like that so there's a lot of good people out there that are motivated and you know self employed as what they are but to be a true business owner it takes a lot more and that's, its never ending. I mean, it's talked about having to learn stuff every single day and push yourself to be uncomfortable all the time. And I think a lot of guys get complacent, you know, they've got two or three guys or two or three crews and they like where they are, but they don't ever want to grow and that's what we're seeing right now is guys just don't want to take that risk. They're happy where they are, but they're not, they're miserable and you can't always sustain it. You can only do so much. So you're eventually if you're not growing, you're dying. That's pretty much the way I see it. Yeah, yeah, you're improving or you're getting worse. But no one and no businesses ever just staying the same. That's a fallacy. Well, what I see right now too is that everyone is raising their prices, but they're not putting on a better product. And it's, it frustrates me to no end where it's like I get increasing the cost, just the cost of living the cost of gas, all that stuff. But guys that are just like, I'm gonna start charging this. Like in fact, your product is even worse than it was before. So you don't you're not allowed to raise your prices that much, which is great because that's where we come in every all our stuff is metric pricing. We know to the square foot foot to linear foot how much things should cost And you can always tweak it but we know going into our bids that we are right on track. We know exactly because everyone is accountable for it from the salesperson to The painter, all that stuff, we know exactly where they should be if it's a $10,000 job and we did it for that. We know that's what it should be. Sure somebody could come in and say we'll do it for seven or 15. But we know without a doubt we are right there. Yeah. So now it doesn't have to be a numbers game. Now. It doesn't have to be like we're gonna lower our prices to get the job. We know at that point we don't want. And if somebody does it for $7,000, they're either gonna do a terrible job or they're gonna stick the homeowner with up charges to get it to where it needs to be. So with this Salt Lake city, the second location is this, is this where it ends? Or are you thinking about opening a third? No, we've got one, a gentleman from Alaska Anchorage. He just flew in here last week tim and his wife. Um That one will be a go lucky enough one of the guys from Minnesota lives in Hawaii. So we're gonna strike a deal with him is that he opens up the hawaii office. We take all his stuff here. Um That'll be a good one. They there's yeah, well that was just, that's that's that's a no brainer. But we've we've already started started talking to people in phoenix uh Denver, we've got some people in bozeman, I mean we can go anywhere. We want, my dad's out in Virginia beach, I was out there talking to the city manager and the store manager out there. I mean it's really wherever we want to go. How is the hawaii out of curiosity? Because I I interviewed someone on the show who works in Hawaii. How is that one? A no brainer. That one seems don't seem tough to me well. So this company here, the owner has been living in Hawaii and he was running his painting business here and that's actually kind of what started this whole thing off and and his lead guy is now working for us and that was, it was totally fine where we, we worked together, they refer us a lot of exterior work because they don't they don't, that's not their thing. So we've for the past four years we've been their exterior labor force so we'll go out there, they might go bid the job but we'll take care of all, we'll do everything, we do all the scheduling all the color consultation, the warranty, the carpentry, all that stuff and then we just pay them a fee, which is genius. It works out really, really well. So that's kind of how the whole relationship started. The gentleman has been out in Hawaii for four years and he's not planning on moving back here. So he's been remotely running his business from Hawaii here. So the more business we're doing, we're like, listen, we'll take over Minnesota. Yeah, you focus on Hawaii will come out there, we'll, we'll get set up, we'll find the crews will do everything that we do here. So he never has to worry about anything in Minnesota except for his paycheck. So more networking. Man networking is huge. Really that easy because he had to come in town last winter to do touch up. He had to fly from Hawaii because the customers like, no, you have to be here. So it's just like to me, logistically, it doesn't make sense where he can still do all the marketing, he can still do all the stuff behind the scenes. We are the labor force here and we were doing the same thing for him there. We would be generating the leads, helping them find those guys. And if you're running projects out there, so we're just putting his day to day is seen on the beach working from there. We're taking all the stuff here, man matt. This is, it's so exciting to hear everything you have going on. I feel like we're gonna end up having you on this podcast for a third time and be like, oh, we're we're in eight states, opening another nine now. you're taking this, you're gonna blow up. Well, it's time. I mean, we knew the first one would take a while and to me it was like, I was already committed to to salt lake and that's thing too. It's like if you're gonna go somewhere, you really gotta want to be there and it's, it's cost me a fair amount of money. I mean, have been paying for an office space. I paid a gentleman for 90 days, you know, salary to not produce anything, any, any work. We got, we got stuff out of it, We got crews, we got this, so it wasn't a total waste, but it's, I haven't, I haven't made a profit out there and it probably won't for a little bit, but, and that's okay because it's, it's, we're figuring out what works there because now we're seeing all the things that haven't worked in Minnesota and now what's really working here, now we go to the next date, get that set up, turn that into the next one. And what's cool about it anywhere. We go, we don't need to be doing tens of millions of dollars at these sites. We can start off as low as we want. Yeah, so you know, Utah doesn't have to be a $3 million business year one. It could do $500,000 and it's still fine because headquarters are here, we do all the scheduling, we do all the marketing, we do all the bill paint, everything comes out of Minnesota, so that overhead now is not on the burden of anywhere else we go. Sure, yeah, so I think it's important to kind of have, it's like a flagship location and that's a little bit of investment fun, so to speak for new locations, but that, that took me a long time to get it all kind of set up and running and it's just having the physical location to house as many people to do this type of work. But it also was, I could never afford any of this stuff. Two years ago I was losing money left and right, so it was like until we kind of turned it around became profitable until they really got me out of it. Um now it's starting to work because I was still like the lead salesman, I still was doing this, I still was doing all these other things that I enjoyed doing, but I was kind of holding things back so until I really got pushed out of the way and in the things that I enjoy doing it, it was, it wasn't going anywhere. Yeah, yeah, so I see a couple of huge themes here, man, you systematize your business. So you got the processes of the fulfillment really dialed in. You have made networking, constant networking a very big part of your company's culture and even your job roles and that helps you get more jobs, it helps you get better employees or subcontractors and it helps you find these business partnerships where you know, you're actually opening different locations with different people around the country, you've removed yourself, so you're working on getting out of your own way because entrepreneurs oftentimes end up being their own bottleneck. Um, and then really you, you kind of have have shifted, As you said from being a painting company to largely a sales and marketing company that provides painting services. Would you, would you say these are the primary themes that have been really driving your success over the past couple of years? 100%. And I'll say this the systems, I'm not a systems guy, that was my biggest problem is that I shoot from the hip. Like I just, I go like everything is just kind of classic entrepreneur, oh man, the Heidi person, I don't want to be told what to do, I didn't want to put stuff in my calendar, but I could never, that was my biggest hindrance. I went system, uh, systematized stuff and even though I could keep track of all the stuff in my mind, every job, all these things, it was like, okay, this should be done on paper, like all these different things. So it wasn't until then where I realized I'm the problem, this is, this is because of how I've been doing it is the reason why we're here and if I don't change this, if this isn't something that we can solve, it's never going to change and that was very eye opening, but also a hard pill to swallow or it's kind of like, okay, Like you look at something like, hey, I've taken this thing for this long and they always joke here that they can't believe how far I was able to take this thing from running it the way I was, it was sheer grit and willpower. That's all, it was just like every day I just got manhandled and I think, oh yeah, you know, I like to be damned and I'm just like, no one was going to tell even myself, even though I knew it was the right thing to do. I still was just like, I'm not gonna listen to you. Yeah, you do whatever you want. So now it's, it's good because I've got people, you know, I've had people that I had to fire, that I didn't want to, I've had people, you know, quit on me that I never thought would quit on me. So it's like the idea that once you get to a certain spot of business that it's all rainbows and butterflies. Oh man, this is still, it's harder work than it's ever been. But I enjoy it so much more. It's stuff that actually I enjoy doing versus before I was tired of putting out fires and the, he said, she said and getting put into stuff and having to swoop in and you know, walk the customer off the ledge and saved the day and all that stuff and I'm like, I hate that. I don't, I don't want that anymore. I don't want to solve those problems because those aren't problems. Those are like, I don't even, I can't think of a word to do it where it was like they were just like such a consistent part of the day to day that it just, and I think a lot of guys are like that too where it's like they don't want to get up and go run that job because they don't want to see what's there or they don't want to go do the bid because they don't want to be told that they didn't get it or they don't want to answer their phone because they're too busy. I mean the business should be able to run by itself and you should be able to do the things that you want to do in your own business if you truly own your own business. So yeah, I love it man. Do you have any other advice? Any other things you want to say before we wrap up? It's all about mindset. Um, I find myself, you know, when, when things are good. Um feeling really good about everything and then when things aren't going good, you start to resort back to, oh, you know, there's not enough work or oh I can't mean the little things everyday self talk the, you know, and that also comes down to your why, you know, if you can understand why you're doing this, it really makes it bearable to get through those really tough days, those tough phone calls, the feeling like you're never gonna get out of this. Um, but you also stay humble enough to realize that we don't know what we're doing, I'm gonna admit that I have no idea what I'm doing, 95% of the time. And the only reason I do know what I'm doing because I did it wrong 100 times before this. So being, being open enough to make mistakes and admit it and try to figure it out. But and also the growth mindset where it's not fixed because you've been doing it a certain way. It doesn't mean it's the right way um trusting people, you know, I mean, I think there's, we could, we could talk about a whole another session about, you know, the, the right mindset, the right people out there, but just let everyone know like there's so much opportunity for everyone that there's, there's so much work, there's so much money that we don't need to be competing with each other, The only person that anyone should be competing with themselves, you know, don't don't look at some other company and be like, oh well they're doing, you know more more in volume than I am in sales and who cares, none of that stuff that, that to me, if you're doing yourself and your business and your customers a disservice. If you're competing with another company, then you should go work for that company, get yourself, you know, make yourself a better person, a better leader, a better painter, whatever it is, if you, if you answer the phones be the best phone answer you can do. If you are the best, if you're the painter be the best painter, you can do all that stuff, bring that level up and then there's, there's no competition. You know, if you compete with yourself, that's that's what makes it fun because you don't know what these other guys are doing, it might not be profitable, they might be saying anything to the customer, you know, it's google reviews, that's always the biggest thing that I see coming across all these other companies got this many google reviews and it's like how can you prove that they're actually getting them, you know, so it's one of those things like the customer gives us a google review. Great, that's it. We don't need to compete with anyone else because they've got twice as many or five more, one more like we get our google reviews for the work that we do not, we're not bribing people were not, you know, all the different things that people do, you know what, at the end of the day man. Carmen will take care of that so well matt man, this was this was incredible. I feel like you have a you have a motivational speaker future ahead of you somehow here because you're you're good at this. Yeah, it's interesting if you talk to people, I mean I'm a huge introvert so it's like, I don't really, I like to, I get recharged by doing things alone like so, but thank you, I appreciate those kind works so yeah, well, thanks for coming on the show again. Thanks for inviting me again man, I'm always happy to be here. So yeah, awesome. 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 you are l is painter marketing pros dot com forward slash podcast. 




Hey they're 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.com to learn more about our services. You can also reach out to me directly by emailing me at Brandon at painter marketing pros dot com and I can give you personalized advice on growing your painting business until next time. Keep growing.

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