Guest Interview: Nick Slavik of Nick Slavik Painting & Restoration

Published On: October 19, 2021

Categories: Podcast

Painter Marketing Mastermind Podcast
Nick Slavik

Nick Slavik, a 25-year veteran of the painting industry, and host of the extremely popular webinar series “Ask A Painter Live,” shares his strategies for scaling up a painting company efficiently. Nick teaches in-person master classes to painting contractors around the country, and has developed a rigorous apprenticeship program that is greatly improving the painting industry. He opens up about his processes and how other painters can follow in his footsteps in this jaw-dropping episode.

Video of Interview

Podcast Audio

Topics Discussed:

  • What roles of your painting business should you hire for first
  • Common mistakes painting company owners make that keep them small
  • How to make your painting business work FOR you
  • The best way to hire great painters
  • Some innovative marketing strategies for growing your painting business

Audio Transcript


Welcome to the Painter Marketing Mastermind Podcast, the 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 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 host guest Nick Slavic. Nick is the proprietor of the Nick Slavik Painting and Restoration Company and is the host of ask a painter live ask up in your life, is their weekly for more than five years, instructing, answering questions and championing the trades as an avenue for freedom. His company employs 25 plus people a leadership team and operates a full scale finishing shop and training facility. Nick has been a national and international speaker on topics such as entrepreneurship, crafts person, ship trade reformation, recruiting, working with millennials, harnessing technology for trades, business, financial benchmarks, industry standards encoding science. Nick is a veteran of the army and he served two tours of duty overseas, the first in Afghanistan and the second in Iraq. He has been a craftsman for more than 25 years. His company has been awarded more than 10 national awards for craftsmanship over the last four years, including massive restoration of victorian mansions. He has created a rigorous apprenticeship program where he finds strength, inspires a mentors, young people in his craft and he is also a family member at this old house where he contributes content about his craft.

All right, We have nick Slavic of nick Slavic painting and restoration code. Nick. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast man. No, thanks Brandon. I appreciate this opportunity. Yeah, it’s definitely a treat for us to have you. We don’t get uh, not everyone who comes on as a celebrity. So that’s uh, that’s a little bit of hyperbole. But thank you. I’ll take it as a compliment. Yeah. Well, cool man.

For for the people who maybe don’t already know you and your background. Can you kind of tell us a little bit about you and your company and your background and kind of where you’re at. You got it. Yeah. So I was forced into the trade at 10 by my father did that between 10 and 18, working for the family business right alongside mom and brother went to the army for four years. Right after high school returned got a college degree business and accounting. Uh, and then I was told by my father, there was not a place in the family business. So I started my own and this was about 2000 and seven give or take. So Yeah, we are in, what does that make it? 13, 14 years of business here and the first couple of years I dabbled in employees as far as I can tell back in the records come about year two or three I took on my first seasonal employee and we’ve basically been going for it ever since. Yeah, That’s great.

Um and where are you based? We’re in new Prague Minnesota, yeah, about 45 minutes southwest of the metro area on the outer ring. Okay, great. And then what does your company have a particular specialization? Where do you guys focus on? Absolutely. So we are mainly of residential repaint company with a very specific set of skills in historic restoration. So we like the lived in houses. Uh and we like the old houses.

Okay, nice. And if you don’t mind my asking, how many employees do you guys have? Yeah. So give or take about 30 if you count seasonals, give or take. Okay. And so seasonals, are those? You use those as W2S, are they subs or how to? Yeah. All of our, all of our seasonals are high school students, college students and teachers. And it’s a it’s a great little farm team and it’s a self replicating farm team. So yeah, if you if you include those, if you’re if you’re talking about FTS full time equivalents, we’re probably at about, I want to say 22 plus a leadership team of 4-5, give or take. So. Okay, great. And then do you mind sharing revenue wise? Where you are, Yep. So we did 1. 47 last year were budgeted and on pace to hit two million this year, wow that’s a big growth year over year. What do you attribute that to? Um Let’s see. Well me getting over a lot of limiting beliefs number one because I I feel that we hold ourselves back a lot But it is having a leadership team and it’s doing all the planning. You know, if you divide all the roles and specialist, you have more time to do the planning and you know, as the visionary of the company, there’s no one else on their job description that it is to look up to 10 years out. So having that band with To plan out 1235, 10 give or take and then work backwards from there and see what has to get done. It lets you really I. D. Eight and take the time to say, well here’s how many estimates we’re going to need, here’s our average job size, he’s our success ratio. Here’s what a painter can produce. And those are just little legos and we stack them up in a certain way. It tells you how many people and how much revenue you’re going to do and that’s that’s the world I live in now.

So yeah, I love that shouldn’t be a surprise, right? You should pretty much know what’s going on if so a lot of, if I’m being honest about four years ago, five years ago, all this stuff was a surprise to me because I had never contacted another painter and nobody ever told me any of this stuff like job costing or you know production rates or SRS or things like that. And then when when I was given that information or somebody pulled me aside and said, hey man you need a job cost at all costs, just do it and you do it and then you get this base of data and then you can make informed decisions because you have data to make those decisions based on.

Yeah, that’s great. So this I want to dive a little deeper into this concept of leadership team because it’s not something I’ve actually heard from many other painters, you know, I think getting the right people in the right seats is already a challenge and you know, requires a certain kind of business mindset, right? But the idea you’re sort of taking it to the next level of almost excusing yourself completely. So you can really be the visionary, can you kind of elaborate on what that leadership team looks like and how you developed that.

Absolutely. So uh I have about eight or nine masters classes where I take different parts of our painting thing um and and sort of take data and feelings and presented to other people. My newest one which is half done now is leadership team and I’m basically taking the lessons learned and experience and data from the last three years and putting it together into this. So this is top of mind for me. Um Number one it’s um so I I should say first I haven’t completely divorced myself from everything but the visionary, I am technically the admin of the company if you look at that. So I wrote out my own job description this year and no surprises. Brandon, there’s about eight job positions. I hold Either 10% or 100% in there. So everything that we’re working for now, like true professionalization is passing the turkey truck test which is if I’m out on the road and I get hit by a turkey truck, what’s the first thing that stops happening in this business? And a bunch of years ago it was painting 100% of the production that stops. And now the first thing that my company would notice if I disappeared off the face of the planet is the admin role because I’m the only one who does that stuff so and then you can start working down into other things you do. But yeah, so for me um the continuum is I started working from the most the role that takes the most time, higher that role and then go to the next to next to the next um I’m not supposed to be a salesperson, but I’m very effective for selling for my business for what we do. So I didn’t need to offload sales first? I offloaded production first. So you know um scheduling everything from a sole job scheduling that with the clients speaking materials ordering paint, ensuring the S. O PS are followed following up. Um That was the thing that that took the most time for my week. So I hired that first and I gained back two thirds of my week instantly when I put holly in that role there, that freed me up to focus on the estimating a little more. I I refine that system and then then I hired an estimator and then I got another portion of my week back and now I’m scheduled in about eight weeks here to hire my first coordinator. So that will free me up from arguably, you know, I believe there’s kind of three main, once you get out of painting there’s the admin, the sales in the production, sales and production. I’ve offloaded and delegated, it’s that coordinator thing that I really need to for the sake of the people in my company so that it’s not all filtered through me. And then after that you kind of have to decide, you know, I’m still doing all the visionary stuff but now I can just devote more time to that. So now for painting company owners who have not really remove themselves from anything yet, let’s say maybe they have removed themselves from the painting but they’re still doing a lot of the admin work and and everything else, would you recommend they follow a similar path to you or do you think it kind of varies based on person and company? Yeah. It really does vary. And honestly if you surveyed all the people who have divorce themselves, of those three roles are now delegated and hold people accountable, honestly I think most people do admin first. It’s you don’t want to say it’s an easy higher but it’s pretty straightforward and it’s not really client facing. You know, there’s emails and calls but you’re not standing in somebody’s house. So theoretically it feels like you can get away with a lot more for a lot less than a role like that. And most people don’t like doing the phone calls, the emails, the things like that so you can understand why admin is is in there. Um I just looked at it from a very sort of like um you know, utilitarian point of view which was what can I offload. That’s the most time. Who cares if it’s the hardest to higher. So I think based on my personality, that’s what I realized that I needed to do. Interesting. Yeah. It is interesting that the admin role is the one that you’ve kept. I gotta I gotta imagine it I guess it may be allows you to to just keep a better pulse on the company. There might be some advantage to that just because you are involved with everything. Well it’s it’s really interesting because yeah, a lot of things. So we have a we have a saying in my company that when something doesn’t make sense, you’re missing information or data and everybody would say go out and hire an admin. That’s the first thing. Get rid of that first. And I took a very like utilitarian view of it. And I was looking around my company like the heck with this person do all week. There’s nothing to do. There’s about six hours worth of work to do what the piece of information or data I didn’t have was that we have we created one of the most simple painting companies that you can possibly create with the simplest systems. We never add complexity where you don’t need to. I even got rid of my phone number that was too complex. You can only get ahold of me as a new client through my website and then via email we’re happy to call after. But that takes out. I mean, how many emails can you make the phone calls? One email, six minutes is about a 22 minute phone call with a potential client. So In my business we simplified everything down so far, which I didn’t know that we didn’t need an admin at the time. But right now at about the two million mark, I now have a 40 hour week for an admin with a whole bunch of stuff. I stole some things from my estimator. I stole some things from my production team And I stole some things for myself and we created a 40 hour job which we’re going to fill soon. All right. That’s great. That’s interesting that you eliminated the phone number. I have not heard that. Well, you like that hurt conversions at all or you potentially lost business that way or not really. So two data points I can give you and I would argue that probably yes, right. You’re going to lose some of that stuff. Um, there are three clients we’ve experienced this year that have been very angry with us that they couldn’t call and talk to a human anytime they want. That’s always going to be there no matter what. And even if you have a phone number, you’re probably not going to answer every phone call within three rings and be available and have the bandwidth. So for me, I am a non compliant sort of guy. I don’t like the word visionary. But when I say I’m the visionary of the company. People understand what I’m saying. I future think and and plan out. I am not compliant. I’m not an integrator. I I don’t, I can’t run a process over and over again and be compliant with it. I like creating the new process and you can see the problem with a phone call. I’m sitting here talking to somebody and I have to take down their exact phone number. Their exact email, all their marketing information with no mistakes. And I was not good at that. Like Legitimately 10% of all people who I used to take phone calls from. I would not get their correct email. I would not get their correct phone number for some reason because I was thinking about something else or they’re thinking about their project. So I just said, you know what for me, we’re getting rid of that and you can go through my website. The two data points before I went off on a tangent are, oh, last year we did 1. 47 in production give or Take. I sold $1. 7 million. 03 afternoons a week to support my company. So you could argue that yes, there are going to be some people that slough off because they can’t call you. But it turns out there’s lots of demand in the market is good Estimator. Andy and I today, this morning we passed the $2 million 1. 47 million already this year. So if we are losing people, you can’t find it in the data honestly. Well, that’s great. I, I do, I want to push back for a second and see what your thoughts are on this because I looked at your website and you guys have done a pretty good job of differentiating yourselves as being experts at home restoration as really focusing on utilizing the old methods. You know, doing everything by hand and essentially differentiating probably, you know, showing that you’re probably going to have superior quality than your competitors. You know, would you say that that maybe people are more willing to be flexible and not being able to call you because you’re not as commoditized as maybe some house painters that that haven’t been able to distinguish themselves like that. Brandon you brought up one of my favorite arguments because not only is it a good argument, but I get to argue against myself in this thing. That is not what the data shows in my company. People think that because I’m a loud mouth on social media and I have the presence I do that I can hire as many people as I want. That. There’s a, that there’s a line right outside my door and that clients flocked to me because they know of me from the internet data points for you. Nobody I’ve hired except for one person has ever heard of nick Slavic horoscope painter before coming into this company. Um, it’s very likely that between 90 and 96% of all of my clients have never heard of me that google search to painter. They got a flyer from me and I am just another painting company to them. So I would say the data within my company shows none of the things you think make me special make me special. Uh yeah. And and honestly when people say well you can charge double because of this and that I say you know what I’m out there doing battle with the rest of the entire painting industry to everybody that I serve here. And I’m I’m open to the idea that I’m a horrible marketer and I have not exploited or use this to my advantage. I’m open to that. There is nothing out there in my data to prove that I have any advantage in getting employees are getting potential clients than any of my competitors out there. If I’m being honest internally and you you know, again we keep list to be effective. One of the things that we can do most effectively is just contact people with high velocity and aggressiveness that alone sets us apart and it’s not because of what we do or who we are. It’s because if we just answer our phone super efficiently or Excuse me not phone email. So you have a 0% missed call. Right? It’s amazing. That’s it. It’s all right. It’s incredible. Yeah. So I I want to kind of dive into you, you know, you’re not doing the phone calls but you are being efficient, you’re touching people. Um you mentioned mail, direct mail, what are you doing for marketing? Yeah. So I’m in preparation for october. We really only market six months out of the year in the winter here in Minnesota. We started doing a little more summer marketing just because we’re getting to the size where you do need to force a little more leads coming through. But it’s very likely that last year it was about 50% word of mouth referral past clients, repeat clients. And then I bought Another 50% of our work. So we did maybe 700,000 in repeat referral. Word of mouth, you know the free stuff and then we purchased another. Um I have done experiments over the last three years of marketing and again I’m open to the idea that these are horribly flawed scientific experiments and that I need to give it a better try for a longer period. But when you look at the cost of a complete, one of the things that I look at is the cost of a completed job and um google adwords, facebook instagram, all the things that we would want to work, we’re very expensive to the point of being not worth it for me, like embarrassingly expensive. And so I I dabbled in some direct mail and honestly it’s great and I don’t want it to be because it is unsexy you’re printing on paper which is a little bit wasteful. It feels dumb and scatter shot but it works and I don’t want to. Yeah, no it uh it makes sense. I mean I think it’s direct mails come back In a big way. You can’t argue with data, right? Brandon. Yeah, 100%. So what you know when you’re sending these direct mail pieces, do you have certain techniques that you find? Well in terms of maybe a coupon that’s time sensitive or anything like that? Yeah. So I I actually take a fairly opinionated stance on that sort of thing. I am I am very against discounts and things like that only because and again, this is this is when I say that I’m I usually don’t make a blanket statement for the industry because I’m open to the idea that, you know, that’s not accurate everywhere, but in my market, Um if you have the choice of we don’t do that. If you have the choice of discounting your work 10% or using the the dollar equivalent to that discount to just buy more marketing, I would just buy more marketing honestly. Because you don’t know the problem internally, like I always take a step back to make these decisions and say what if I was a shareholder in this company? Like what if I just own shares in this company and I wanted to return on my shares. How would I talk to myself about this? And if I was the knicks Slavic marketing strict strategist for this company. I couldn’t point to anything that proves that a discount moves the needle on my clients because I’m not good enough to know if they were going to say yes anyway, without the discount. And the common theory is I’ve done these experiments in the past with discounting things and you think great, here’s the knee jerk reaction. The common sense is in the winter we need to work the most. I’m going to discount my work to trigger more work. What happened every single time is that they said yes in december and they wanted it in august and that’s the worst. Have no capacity in august. We should be doubling the price of our work. And now I sold a discounted job and it’s like that happens so often that you’re assuming you’re going to get that work when you need it. That is not always the case. Yeah. So I was speaking with brad Ellison of Somerset, painting and home improvement and he had mentioned that he spoke with you and you and he was going to try some some direct mail strategies this winter, I guess. What? How did that conversation go? Is it just you told him to try it or do you have certain tactics? No. He, he basically asked the same question. Which is, he’s got a company much bigger than mine and he’s like, hey man, I feel like I feel like I’m not maximizing winter. And I was like, boy, have you found the right guy? My main mission in life is to be the unpainted company. Every painting company, every construction company shuts down in winter, get slowed, we go ice fishing, We lay off our guys and it’s like you’re missing out on a large portion of the year. And yes, it might cost more, but there’s an opportunity there. We don’t have to market in the summer most of the time. So take your budget for the year expended in six months and you get work. So he asked the same thing. He was like, he’s a really, really astute and forward thinking business person. And he’s like, I’m leaving stuff on the table and I say, here’s a data point. Here’s what I do to fill my winters. And uh, I’m very interested to see what he does with it. And then to see the data that he can squeeze out of that as well too. Yeah. He has a lot of painters that he’s trying to keep busy. Exactly. I think he’s got 40 painters, he’s trying to keep busy. Uh, so I guess for, for painting companies that are blow a million still, you know, whether they’re just starting out a couple 1,400,000 wherever they are. What, what advice do you have for them? Yeah. So number one, um, it’s sort of a continuum and uh, you know, I’m gonna pull up my, this is, this is my list. I want to make sure I don’t leave anything out here. So uh, proven product. So number one like if you’re under a million yet there’s, there’s sort of like, you know, move through this list and it feels like you’re going to do much better than most people and you’re gonna fly past a million which is have a proven product. You shouldn’t have questions about what primer, what brush, what spray tip, like get a proven product down. Then you start working on your estimating process for me. A gathering data from all that. You may not have the perfect data. You may not have the perfect job costing but you’ve got to start gathering this stuff because it’s going to be useful. You’re from now when you’re smarter and you have the capacity to look at this data, you want to start tracking your marketing stuff. Just like you talked about. That’s one of the things where it’s like where does my work come from? And even if you’re not paying for marketing knowing if it’s past clients, repeat referral, your community involvement, if their friends, if their family, if their neighbor knowing where it comes from is very important. So very early on in the business in order to get an estimate for me, you had to answer a simple question which was, where did you hear from me? And it’s not perfect because people will, I know people that said, they’ve heard about me in a newspaper and the newspaper that I advertised doesn’t get there. So you need to like trust but verify, but like it is a good thing, you can track your marketing, then you’ve got to have deliverables and standards in your company. So there needs to be, you need to start nailing down painters need to produce at this. There needs to be a certain callback rate. You know, you’re building these systems from the painter up because if you start working on some crazy marketing scheme and you don’t have any painters, why spend money on marketing, why go out there and sell all this work that you can’t do? So I took the approach just like when I offloaded production, what is the lowest hanging fruit and then start working up from there. It all starts from there. So, um, you started this big list of like, this is one of the most unsatisfying conversations I have because people say like, what do you do from go to 02 million? It’s like, it’s a path in front of you is a whole bunch of unsexy, mundane boring stuff like employer resource guide, job descriptions, a review process, like job, it’s just all that kind of stuff that like most people don’t like to do. But everybody that I look up to Bradley Ellison, things like that, they all do that stuff, you know, and that’s all behind them in their past. Yeah, building all those systems. Yeah, yeah, exactly. And it’s, and it’s not. So if you think the thing holding you back is a piece of software or an app or some amount of money being spent, you might be right, but you’re most likely wrong. It’s effort and it’s doing these sort of simple things like that. And then holding people accountable is the true thing to build that solid base because what you don’t want to do is grow this world class leadership team, get a huge marketing thing and your painter production is so unstable that blows away in the wind and then that’s just mass chaos then so for a company that is working on getting these fundamentals in order and they’re smaller and maybe they’re not getting as many leads and jobs as they want. But they have more of a limited budget. What would you recommend? They focus that budget honor? Is it really just dependent on their circumstance? Yeah, I’m a huge fan of, of solving problems with either time, effort or money and I would definitely save all the money. You can early on, I would go heavy on effort even to the point where you know, a guy can get 5000 flyers for a couple 100 bucks. I would get a peddler’s permit which you know, most municipalities now you got to go buy a peddler’s permit In order to solicit door to door and for $50 you can get this little badge you wear and for a couple 100 bucks you can get flyers and I would go door to door if I’m being honest. You if you don’t have enough work if you want to grow business, I would do that. I would also there is a there is a less cave mannish way to go about this too which is like contacting your past clients and you know reaching out to your relationships and things like that and that that is a very common question to you. Say if you had to sell a job today what would you do? I would go to the people that I know the closest and the best and I would offer a service because that’s that’s who you’ve already built that base of trust with. So if you take that thinking and build out from the people who know and love you the most and keep going out in concentric rings until you hit strangers. That’s the way I would do it leveraging your personal network to get that You already have a trust based, you don’t need to introduce yourself or they don’t need to discover you. It’s like they’re already there. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Um as you’ve grown your business, what are some of the biggest mistakes or blunders that you’ve made? Yeah. So uh I I so internal, internal things that we never want to repeat. We have one mantra that’s earn or learn, we either earn value for our clients and earn money for the company or we learn a lesson but you can’t just not do both, you can’t earn money and you can’t not learn a lesson, everything will do one of those. And one of the biggest lessons I learned from the Covid world because I feel like that condensed about seven years worth of leadership experience for me on the humanistic side into one year. And the biggest thing I learned is this I am a naive leader in a lot of ways because when a human would do something wacky, my internal monologue was certainly no decent human being would ever do that or at least intentionally turns out that’s the thing. People will do wild, irrational, crazy things. A lot of the times I I say that internally because it puts them in a worse position and I think your father, your wife, your husband, you’re a you have kids. Like that doesn’t make sense to me. Certainly no decent human being would make that decision and they do and it is what it is, humans are what humans are. So now instead of having that base naivete of, well certainly we’re not, we don’t need a system for that, nobody would do that. It’s like no you don’t assume everybody’s a criminal, but at the same time you assume that people will make some irrational choices. So as a leader I I I almost solely focus on the human side because you win with humans and that’s one of the biggest lessons I learned over the years also. So if you have to throw in like data and feelings the feelings based answer to that would be that you know like never assuming things the databases job costing. It took me about 5 to 8 years longer than it should have to start job costing consistently. And once I did it gave me all this beautiful data which all the other data is built on. It’s the foundational data in your business and every single thing, scheduling, recruiting um uh profitability, every problem. Marketing, every problem you experience in business can in some way be solved by job costing and I wish I would have done a lot sooner. Yeah I mean it makes sense. I think that a lot of painting company owners don’t really focus on profit margin enough. You know revenue is is vanity profit insanity. Everything comes back to that because at the end of the day how many dollars come through? You know we’re focused on companies that make over a million. Those companies also tend to found ways to be profitable. You know or else you generally don’t get to that size but at the end of the day the revenue doesn’t matter. You don’t take it home with you. I think margin has to make sense. That’s exactly it. And people, people need jerk instinctively react to revenue like hey you’re making a lot of money. It’s like I’ve seen if you ever want to lose money if you ever want to pay your own company for the privilege of running it grow a whole bunch of revenue real fast because that’s one of the best ways to make this, not, not, not pay you for you to pay for the privilege of running a company. So a lot of fun. So when you were, when you were speaking about people being people and trust, but verify you are focused primarily on your employees. Okay. I just want to absolutely yeah. I should say it was your clients will do that to like internally we have this, we have this rating scale called the PBC scale that people be crazy scale. And honestly we go out on all your acronyms, the Turkey get hit by the Turkey truck. Listen, I, I did not enjoy most of my time in the army. I like grenades and machine guns and parachutes and, and tanks and all that stuff. That’s awesome. But what I didn’t like is some of the super irrational standard operating procedures. You know, like There’s the proverbial one how to make your bed and they have diagrams and a 26 step thing and I’m like, this is insane. We don’t need this. But it turns out that there are some good things that I took away and if you want somebody to understand, we need problem. We have clients that sometimes get let into our company that don’t seem to be attached to the same reality. We are and they cause a lot of problems and we don’t want that for them. We don’t want chaos for them. We want them to be happy. So we break ourselves and in trying to put that out, you’re dealing with the feelings based thing. So we need to apply some data to it. So when we do an estimate or when we’re starting the project, we have a 1 to 10 1 being ideal client. 10 being Nuclear disassociate. Don’t don’t talk anymore. This person is unhinged. And if Andy and I are on an estimate and we’re like they asked a bunch of weird stuff outside of our processes will give them a three out of 10 on the PBC just to warn the team. And instead of having a half an hour conversation about this person did this and I got this vibe. We just say Shane. three out of 10 PBC heads up and that. So the army has a great way of condensing that down into a common language. So information can be dispersed quickly. Three out of 10 P. B. C. Is a very good way of getting rid of a 22 minute conversation about that client. So when you when you have a three out of 10, what do you do do you raise your estimate? And so you’re going to make more profit to deal with that customer or you price them out or just do nothing. No, I am morally opposed to doing that because if it’s just like an employee, well they’re not a good fit. But no, you just said they’re not a good fit. You should not be employing that person. So same thing with this if they’re not going to be a good client at no price, is it going to be okay because just like with owning a company and paying for it, that client has the option to be so PBC that they decided not to pay you. So who cares what you charge them at that point? So no uh our internal rating scale and we don’t mean this to be punitive to the client. It’s a way of basically saying for the painters, we don’t want you to put in, we don’t want you to get put in a situation where you have an angry client and we will do whatever we can to do that anywhere up to a five, anywhere over or five. And we immediately we catch them at the estimate phase and say, you know what, I don’t think we’re going to be a good fit. It’s not that you’re wrong, it’s just you need somebody else to help you with this anywhere between a two and a five we handed the production team. If that client says yes and we warn them, we say we have a list of things that make you PBC. And I say here’s the three things they checked off. If they check off anymore, you are deputized to break up with this client if you want. But you’re gonna have to use your gut on it if you want to proceed. You’re being bonus on this job. And it’s your job that you won’t. You may be standing in that clients kitchen listening to them scream in your face. So make a wise choice. Yeah. That’s that’s interesting. I’ve not heard this from any other painters. Um Okay so focus focused on customers and and this. You know everyone makes mistakes. All painting company companies mess up. We’re all human. What’s the biggest customer blunder you’ve made? And how did you fix it? Yeah. So there’s a very esoteric way of answering this which I will start with. Which is uh setting improper expectations. The worst client interactions that I’ve ever had, I would say are all my fault because I have set improper expectations. When you go on an estimate with a client. And they say how long is this deck finish gonna last? You say listen, nobody will give you a longer lasting deck finished. Then I will we are going to do such a good job. There’s two things inside my mind. I know that it’s 12-24 months because that’s what the technical data sheet says what that client is hearing is lifetime or 7 to 10 years. And What you need to do is set the prosper expectations saying listen you have two options here. The technical data sheet says you’ve got to stay in your deck every 12 months. That’s a lot of work. You’re probably not jazzed about that. So really, in my experience you can go 123 years give or take. That is a much better honest. Truthful interaction with a client to set the proper expectations so that honestly, if you look at the course of many years, setting improper expectations has legitimately been the worst thing. The biggest blunders I’ve done. I’ve put myself in all of those situations. Yeah, I think that’s, that’s huge. You know, making sure that the expectations are set. Yeah. Um how, how has has covid and and the supply and painter short. How has that impacted you and how have you dealt with that? Yeah, yeah. Great leadership lessons come out of a global zombie pandemic man. It’s been crazy like going from um God, the benefit of the leadership team. So last, you know, a last february in March. I mean this thing descended on us and we didn’t know what I should say. 2020 right? In 2020 in february and March, we had no idea what was going on. Like this thing could have been horrible. Everybody’s planning for the worst. We didn’t know. So I allowed my company to self quarantine and my leadership team kept working because we wanted a company to be here for the people not knowing what was happening. Um 75% of my company initial initially self quarantined and they all came back Over the course of 4-8 weeks, give or take and we’re figuring everything out. How do you do estimates safely? How do you work safely? How do we work together safely, all that stuff. Um, we had one instance where somebody self professed that they had Covid in the fall and in both of those situations, self quarantining and then uh, a self professed case of Covid. It actually happened after a company wide meeting. We opened the company back up because people love getting together and we had about 25 people in this room spaced out as much as we could. But we were all within that six ft of each other. And then a couple days later somebody said I had Covid and I pulled my leadership team together and we had a big choice to make, you know, what do you do here? Do you try to figure out a way to keep as many people working or you do not? And with the help of my leadership team, they help me with the self quarantine decision. We thought it was best for everybody to default to the painters choice. Uh, in the fall we shut the company down for two weeks because again, it’s like let’s not take any chances. Um, we based on those two things and based on the uh, the incentives from the government that either made people work or not work. Um we are taking a much different tack this year because of the different economic landscape out there and from the leadership lessons learned. So yes, lots of human lessons came from that. Um we’re taking an insanely safe pragmatic approach. We’ve condensed down CDC info and Minnesota state government info into a simple decision tree for our people. And it’s been very, very effective. There’s no if ands or buts um supply chain. Now this is this is something I don’t talk about often, but um we are not really affected by the supply chain for two reasons. Um number one, we have lists of, you know, between four and eight options for every coding that we do that have been tried, tested it. So again, if somebody’s out of something, we just go down the list. But if I’m being honest, something I don’t talk about very often is that we have a very large buying power and um I believe we get much different treatment than a single person painter. And rightly so, you know, if if if if we have a client who makes up for 10% of our work in a year, we are much more likely to do things for them than we are to the brand new client not knowing them. So if I’m being honest, uh those two factors basically helped us not be affected at all by this makes sense. And I think the point you made about, okay, you have eight different options. You know, kind of ties back to making sure that you have a refined product and that you’re not asking. All right, what should I prime this with? Or you know what? I used to coat that, you know, making sure you can deliver on it and you understand it. Well then it gives you the flexibility to adapt when you need to, yep. And, and again, it’s like some people say, well, that’s not fair. It’s like, well, If you were there with me 14 years ago where all I did was try everything on the market in every way I made it fail. I made it work so I could get those data points behind me. So I could just find the simplest system and go forward. I messed up a lot of houses that I read it for free over those years. So I would say I’ve earned those. I have burned those lists and that’s why I do that stuff. So you don’t have that problem now when you’re growing a company, yeah. You’ve paid the cost. Yeah, I’ve invested. Yeah, that makes sense. What do you have any advice for for painting companies that do have good demand? But they’re struggling to find qualified painters right now. Yeah, It’s all your fault. No one. We we are riddled with limiting beliefs about this statistically again, data plus feelings, The feeling is you ask all painters what their biggest headache is now. Oh, there’s no good people out there Statistically this very moment. There has never been more humans on this planet than there was even a minute ago or 10 minutes ago. Um, we’re going through something right now called the great resignation. Um, this is data from industry. It’s being said right now that 50% of people who have jobs are all going to be searching for another job. Somewhere within the next 12 months. You can look at to unemployment. But honestly, the last 10 people I’ve hired, we’re not unemployed. They came from another job. So I think statistically this should be the greatest time to do this stuff. Now listen, people can make an argument for, you know, the government giving people unemployment and not make him to work. But the people that use that as an excuse, I’m sure it’s affecting it, but it’s not the only thing holding you back. They had a different excuse before Covid and after Covid is done and after the government stops paying unemployment, there will be another excuse for me when I got the way I solved the labor crisis, I don’t actually believe there’s one or the perceived notion of a labor crisis is getting over my own limiting beliefs. When we put an ad out The last painter and we put out, we had 100 and four applicants and that is not, I mean that’s one of the highest returns we’ve ever got. I think I spent $75 on indeed to boot that ad. So listen data plus feelings. The feeling is everybody is using it as an excuse the data is if you try some things that real businesses do, you’re going to get a result. Now what I’m honest with people about is again I have not found a magic way In order to get 2-4 candidates of somebody in my company. It takes 50 hours of my work. 50 hours to get the ad, do the in person interviews, do the disc profiles, do the background checks, uh do the phone interviews and then make offers and then get them in and then it takes another two weeks three weeks to get them on boarded and trained and all that other stuff. So what I’m not seeing is that you know when people say I’m not finding any good people out there, what I’m hearing is I’m putting forth no effort. I’m putting forth no money doing everything that everybody else is doing. I mean Brandon think about this. Think about the most prototypical painter ad out there must live £50 must have driver’s license, must be a hard worker. I’ll pay you based on what your that is. Every painter ad that’s been around for the last 30 years. If you do anything different you’re going to get a result. All those things I’m honest with myself about we we have a R and D budget or research and development budget, we research new ways to do things and we develop humans and we spend time and money doing that. So what I hear is I’m not putting forth any effort, any money, I’m doing everything that everybody else is and people aren’t flooding my door willing to work for nothing and stay with me forever. That’s exactly what’s going on right now. We need to be honest with ourselves, there are lots of humans out there. You need to spend effort to get them. Yeah and ads that are run like that are really all about the painting company, you know, this is, this is what we need, you, you wouldn’t run a and add to prospects to potential customers saying must be willing to pay at least $5000 must be willing to wait two months for your paint job must not be a pain in the butt when we paint your house, right? Your your advertising, we’ll get your house and you know, use premium materials one year warranty your advertising, what’s the benefit to them? I think you need to kind of think employees the same way. Why would someone who is not a total, you know, dirtbag, why would someone who is actually a good person and would be a good perspective employee want to come work for you? It is, it is hilarious. I was on a podcast with another painter who’s got a similar sized businesses, me and he said this in the most beautiful, articulate way, which is every painter ad every defective painter ad is full of musts, you must live £50 you must have it must, it’s like punitive and it was like, that’s perfect. If you have must in your ad, you’re probably wrong, must accept your whippings every night. Oh, what, what as a as a potential employee I’m hearing is, wow, feels to me like you’re going to be pretty angry when I show up like what happened before this? Anyway, it’s it’s just hilarious to me because nobody has done any first principles, reasoning, everybody is knee jerking and reciting the same thing that everyone else says, which is there’s no good people out there. Mhm Yeah, if you don’t put any don’t, if you don’t put forth any effort, yes, you’re going to get no return. It just is what it is. Yeah, I love that man, I love that, that focus on accountability, you know, huge, it is your enemy. We’re all entrepreneurs, you know, we’re all running our own business is at the end of the day is a meritocracy. It is hilarious that we are supposed to be. If you read the textbook definition of a visionary, if you believe the traction model, one of the five things a visionary supposed to do is problem solve and if you were to say it’s hilarious when you think about it, if you’re amazon and you say there’s no good people out there, why even try to hire screw it, you’d be like what? That’s all they focus on is that we’re problem solvers. If you stop problem solving, go work for somebody else like this is what we do man, this gives us energy. Yeah, yeah, that’s great. And um, okay, how do you, how do you see the painting industry changing in the future? Do you see any big kind of trends on the horizon? I, so what’s interesting is I don’t see any trends, but I envision a trend where this industry gets professionalized. Um, For perspective, it’s very likely that 80-99% of our entire industry is 1-1. 5 size companies, 1-1. 5 people. So that’s basically the company that I grew up in, my dad and I worked in the summers. That’s 1.5. That is not a valued statement. That is not me saying a small company is bad, but those companies largely are very unprofessional eyes, they have no idea why they’re charging what they’re doing. They’re giving a variable product to clients. There’s not a proven product. Um, if, if you have employees, you’re much more likely to be professionalized because employees will force you to be professionalized, You will have job descriptions, you will have deliverables, you will have an employee resource guide a manual and things like that. So I’m, I’m seeing some very talented young forward thinking people doing to painting, what has already been done to plumbers, electricians and home building. Like when you think about plumbing companies, electrical companies and homebuilders, those are real businesses, their shareholders, people buy and sell these companies. They trade those companies, painters have not professionalized to the point of that yet. But I mean technically you can go and buy, you can go buy plumbing companies. You know, there’s not many painting companies you buy because private equity when they look inside of our industry, they look at a bunch of ragtag dudes who have nothing written down and they’re miserable. There may be some chemical problems and, and whenever you go that the theory is like I’ve had people try to buy other painting companies and people think that the value of a painting company is this yellow legal pad with a bunch of clients written down this is my book of business. It’s like, I don’t know that’s your book of business. Like they know you, you know, that’s not worth anything. Like, yes, you feel like you’ve worked a lifetime for this, but technically on paper that’s not worth anything. As people come into this, as people see the opportunities, which you could argue that some of the most amazing opportunities in painting right now as people do this and professionalized businesses, there will be a market eventually to buy and sell painting companies and there will be more private equity looking for this. One of the biggest problems in the finance world I hear is that sometimes people with a lot of, a lot of wealth have problems finding places to put it to get a good enough return and they will find it if it’s painting companies or plumbing companies or microbreweries or whatever they’re going to find it, but it has to be there first. So I’m assuming that there will be, I’m hoping a rapid professionalization, but I feel like over the course of the next decade there will be a gradual professionalization, which means probably fewer companies, bigger companies, better served, better, better serve clients. Honestly, yeah, that makes sense. It’s a very fragmented market. One thing we focus on with, with painted marketing pros, the bar is very low, you know, it’s, it’s really amazing. You know, we have uh, new clients come on board and they say, well my clients are blown away because I show up on time for the estimate. I’m wearing a polo. I don’t have paint on me, you know, I look professional and it’s just that, that in and of itself, you know, kind of blows people away. If my argument is just like the recruiting thing, if you even do something that smells like what a real business does, You will clean up. There is no competition. So one of the smartest humans in this industry I’ve ever met, Jason paris said these words, your only competition is your own ability to execute your business plan and he could not be better. So if you think anybody is holding you back, even other painters, you are statistically incorrect. It is you Yeah. Yeah, 100%. Well, do you have any other advice that you want to share for other painting company owners? Yeah. Mhm. So always job costing, even if you don’t know what it is, even if you don’t know how to use it for the love of God, start collecting material on labor and data. I used to collect it on the back side of my paper estimates and just write down how many gallons of paint, how many hours it took me, I don’t know what to do with that. Who cares right. It spits out a number, you don’t know what to do with it years later, insanely valuable. It’s a wonderful thing. So I would always do that. Um I would people. So I am a diehard martyred craftsman. I have bled and suffered for the love of painting and restoration my entire life And I find the craft deeply, deeply satisfying in every portion of it. I love it more today than I did even 10 years ago but I could be accused of focusing too much on brushes, sprayer tips, gadgets due dads paints this and that and less on the human side. A true entrepreneur or craft person or combination of the both will maximize and get that proven product and learn how coding science works. But also focus on the human side being the best painter in your area, not focusing on what it is to recruit onboard, develop coach, mentor other humans, coach mentor clients. You will fail miserably. Uh My father’s generation of tradespeople, it’s like I can be grumpy, I can be half drunk but as long as I’m good at my jobs, everybody’s like yeah fine. He’s you know you got to put up with some stuff but he’ll get the job done no more. This does not fly anymore. You need to be all those things. You need to be thoughtful, trustworthy, caring and you also need to do your job right? So you can’t rely on just one or the other. Don’t don’t. Yeah the best advice is it may not make sense but please start learning how to inspire humans around you. I love it. And for anyone who may be listening who may not be a member of the P. C. A. Or may not have known about you prior to this. How can they sign up for your master classes or learn more about that? Absolutely. You can contact me directly in any way. You can find me. You can go to my website, you can go to my facebook page instagram. You can even go to the P. C. A. Which I’m a member of and yeah contact in any way. Just put your hand up and we’ll find you okay. And that’s nick Slavic of nick Slavic painting and restoration Co. All right. Nick. Well thanks man. This was this was great. This was extremely insightful. I appreciate you coming on the podcast man. You are really good at this. I like this a lot man. The opportunity Brandon seriously. I like this. Thanks man, appreciate it. 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 to learn more about our services. You can also reach out to me directly by emailing me at and I can give you personalized advice on growing your painting business until next time. Keep growing. Yeah. Yeah. Mhm.

Brandon Pierpont

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