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Guest Interview: Tony Busnardo of Old World Painting

Tony Busnardo, Co-founder and Co-owner of Old World Painting, shares the journey he and his best friend and co-founder Kent have taken to grow Old World Painting to doing $2.5 million in annual revenue. He discusses the incredible power of the 80/20 rule, and how in under 15 hours he was able to completely revolutionize his future. Tony discusses his motivations behind Old World Painting, and how maintaining his value system has allowed him to thrive with his business partnerhip, his painters, and his customers.

Video of Interview

Topics Discussed:

  • Pareto Principle – Why focusing on the 80/20 rule will change your life
  • The importance of knowing your value system when growing a company
  • How to start a business with a friend and not have the friendship get ruined
  • Some practical strategies for staying busy during winter slow season
Audio Transcript

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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, 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 host guests Tony this Nardo Tony is the co founder and co owner of Old World Painting, a high end residential painting company based in Breckenridge Colorado that currently does $2. 5 million dollars in annual revenue. Tony and his business partner Kent have taken a unique approach to their painting company, focusing first and foremost on their friendship and always prioritizing that Tony discusses the benefits of growing a company with a good friend and how they have been able to find success in that manner. Tony also dives into the incredible importance of the 80 20 rule and how he was able to completely revolutionize his life and his future in under 15 hours. 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 Tony. Thanks for being on the painter marketing Mastermind podcast man, super happy to be here. Yeah. So tell us a little bit about old world painting, what do you guys do? Where are you based, What's going on? Uh We are painting contractors based our home bases Breckenridge colorado in Summit County. So we're in ski town. Um we currently work only in Summit County and in Chaffee County, which is oh, about an hour away from our home base. And uh we we actually used to work in Pitkin County as well, which would be like aspen in some of those places, but we phased out a couple of years ago for different reasons. Um and uh we largely work on high end homes, uh average price of a home we worked on sits between On the low end is typically around $3 million $20 million dollar homes um somewhere in there. And uh we've been in business since 2002. I keep saying we, because me and my my best friend from college do business together, his name is Kent. And uh And so I mean that's a real brief look at things. We moved up to Breckenridge in 2002 started the company then not as an the idea of starting the company, but just as a way to be together in a place we wanted to be. So wow, that's great man. Are you guys from colorado originally? Yes, Kent grew up near Vail and I'm 1/5 generation colorado kid on both sides of my family. So born in Denver, but my family actually immigrated to a town called Montezuma. It's a little mining town just above Breckenridge Back in the 1870s. Yeah. Have um Tony, have you ever tried skiing? Yes. Given in a lean year like this now I'm we, Yeah, I am outside enjoying the mountains etc. Probably 6-7 days a week. Yeah, that's, that's, that's great. Where did you go to school? I went to school in Hastings Nebraska. It's a little private college called Hastings College. So nice. Um, so you started it with your best friend from, from Hastings College and, and you guys started it because you wanted to be together and and be in a place you wanted to be. What kind of drove you to Breckenridge or are you guys ski bums or what was the focus there? Well, we weren't necessarily ski bums, we were definitely mountain kind of people. And uh, but what really drove us there is a super long story but the short, the short version of it is, we had some friends that moved up here. They were doing some cool cool things up here that we wanted to help them out with. So we were just, we just moved up to figure out a way to help them and uh and that's how we landed in Breck we were gonna be here for a year or two maybe so 20 years later. That's wild man. And and you guys are you strictly residential? Do you guys do any commercial work? We do commercial if it comes our way but we don't seek it out too much. Yeah it's almost almost all residential. We used to do a lot of new construction uh but we're pretty much out of that gig now too, we quit doing all but 11 maybe two homes a year last year. Okay And then uh where you guys at revenue wise if you don't mind sharing that, what are you guys doing? 21? We are around 2. 1 million. That's great man, congratulations. Okay You guys are for for um I mean obviously it's in a fluent area. $3 million. Low edges. Pretty, I haven't heard that before. You know we have people from California to on this show. Yeah well that's that's that's kind of the that's kind of the market that we sit in. We but we do we do work for all sorts of people you know and we also we don't limit the size of the job either. So uh you know I I looked it up recently last year, our average project costs about $10,000 but It's kind of a funny number because we had many, many jobs that we did for like 150 200 bucks. You know those are just ways of keeping in touch with clients or meeting new clients so we don't we don't spend any money on marketing and so I kind of see meeting a client as a form of of marketing so I could spend you know A few 100 bucks here and there and worked my way up to 10-10 grand or something paying for marketing or I can just work that with clients that we meet and consider that marketing Avenue. Yeah I mean the building relationships is huge especially when you guys have been there for 20 years. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah so we you and I were speaking about something pretty interesting before we started uh the filming of this and it was kind of you said you had binged all the episodes in three days um which which was pretty great to hear. But you said that that you think that you're kind of coming out this or you've you've been coming at this from a little bit of a different angle from the other from most of the other guests that we've had on the show. Can you sort of speak to that? Sure we uh like I said we're best friends from college and uh I really wanted to figure out a way to do life together and uh and wanted to do it in a place that we thought was cool, you know? And so that's why we started the business, we didn't really start, money has never been a big priority for either of us. So we didn't really start in the way of thinking like we never had goals like in three years and five years, it was just like, well we could keep the lights on if we do this. We both grew up painting, my dad was a painter and Kent grew up painting in Vail. And so uh it was a way to be together. And so one of your guests, I can't remember which said something about, you know, where you start, it's where you'll finish and that's something that I have like firmly believe. So we started with a friendship and that's kind of been what's driven the thing all the way through. So when we started needing employees, we we didn't hire employees to make more money or anything like that at the time. It was too to kind of like further on friendship and goodness between people who could be with us. So we really tried to just create a culture of camaraderie and for years if anybody said why they worked with us, they would always say us camaraderie, it's like the best funnest, you know, it's just a really fun good environment to be a part of and that is all, that's a that's just an awesome thing to hear, you know, I think it's that's such a powerful why, you know, that this is the start with why I mean, that that's it sounds like that, that why hasn't changed for you guys, hasn't evolved, it's kind of gotten stronger and you've just built it. Yeah, that's that's been the that's been the idea from the start, you know? So that's where we've ended up as well. We learned a lot of stuff along the way. But yeah, you don't, you kind of don't hear a lot of things that go like that, you know, you hear so many things about friends that start a company together and and then it doesn't work out or, you know, It's ours for whatever reason, and the fact that you guys have been running for 20 years doing over two million and and it's just gotten stronger. That's kudos to you guys, thanks. I think, uh it's it's one of those things, most folks that go into business right or wrong, they go in thinking this is how they're going to make a good amount of money. This is how they're going to make things work, you know, um nothing wrong with that. But uh when we came in with a different perspective, then we've hit bumps in the road and difficult things, but it was never like money. Well, it's just not something that will get in the way, so we actually get hired quite a bit by people because we're we've been partners for so long because they think, oh, this must be some, this must be some kind of cool thing. I've, you know, how have you guys been able to make it most? A lot of times people say like I've had three partners and it's never worked out, you know? But they started out with that. Then when the bumps come in the road, I think it's a lot harder if you start out thinking we're creating a business as opposed to we're creating a friendship. So, because if you're creating the friendship, then that's the thing that you'll value the most, you know? Yeah, man. Yeah, that's, I mean, you kind of have your list of priorities and, and the friendship will, will take precedent when things happen. Can you speak to? And I know we were planning on having Kent on this show and maybe we'll do it again when he's back. But can you kind of speak to Maybe one or 2 of the bumps you guys did encounter and how you guys work through it? Sure. Uh, let's see. Well, a big one back in 2007, something like that. Um, we're part of a construction of 10,000 square foot, like really high end homes. Probably a probably like $5 million Oregonian forest was inside that house. You know, it's like, it's amazing. And uh, we used the new product, I mean, this could speak to all sorts of stuff that we learned, but we were using a newer product um as a clear coat on all the lacquer work. And we used to really, really believe in the customer is always right. So we would do whatever we could to, you know, appease the customer, make them feel like a part of the process, etcetera. And we got into scenario where there wasn't heat in the house and everything was under propane heat um which wasn't a super uncommon scenario, but we, we didn't like doing it, but we said we'd do it because that's what the customer needed and wanted, you know? And so we sprayed a clear coat, waterborne clear coat and it was too humid in the house because of all the propane heat. We learned this later and about a month later this bloom started showing up like a whitish haze on some of the wood work. And Maybe three months later the whole Oregonian forest was pure white. Yeah, and it was a huge problem. Um and he and I ended up working to get that fixed. Uh we ended up working from like november to March without a paycheck. And we just had to work, we do our day job painting the houses that we had and then at night after we put the kids to bed from about 7 to 1 in the morning, 2:00 AM, we'd go and work at that house, Remedying that problem. But all the money we were making in the day, you know, it wasn't like it could go to anything, it was just going to pay for us to go work for free at the other place and it was it was a $30,000 problem that in the end we had the and we had to swallow um but you know, but we just we could roll with it and turn on some led Zeppelin and have a good time at one in the morning fixing this guy's house. So um yeah that's one example of something that we were able to get through without, you know, without, it really wasn't that big a deal in the end for us. So yeah, good for you guys man, it sounds like you guys are able to maintain perspective because for a lot of people that that obviously one of the questions that we ask guests a lot of times is what's your what what has been your biggest customer blunder and I would imagine that's probably yours. That was that was probably the biggest one. I and I could say that pretty much every, I mean there's been plenty of blunders along the way, but almost all of them, the lesson learned is that is has been when we've tried to help follow that idea of the customer being right are always right. Nowadays. I tell people know that I don't believe in that. You know I said nowadays we say no the customer is pretty much always wrong. That's why I don't know what they're doing especially I mean it could be a homeowner, could be a contractor like a general contractor that they're always wrong. That's why they hire us for our expertise. So now we're we push back much more. We don't you know, we have set standards, not standards but set protocols of things that will never do, you know will never work under temporary heat. For example, thanks to that job, you know, I think that's a great point. Yeah. I think I think you know everyone needs to have these sort of standard operating procedures. S. O PS. And if a project or or someone trying to push you outside of those, Ultimately you're the one on the line, you're the one who's they're spending $30,000 and six months of your life to fix it because you did something that was outside of your standard procedure. Yeah. No that's totally true. And you know it's funny, I mean in 2007 I think is when that happened or eight. I mean at that time we weren't making any money. $30,000 we lost there and I think on that year we probably each made You know a total of $30-$40,000 apiece. So it was a big deal you know. But yeah so we don't operate under the customers. In fact we we will not to say it necessarily in those words, but yet, no, you're hiring us because we're the professionals and so we don't even like to get into the details of process. It's just we know what to do. And you have to improvise so much in our line of work, especially here with the kind of weather that we have. Mm hmm. You know, as soon as you start letting clients into all the ins and outs of how you do things, they'll find some discrepancy, which is really not a discrepancy, but a way that you've learned to improvise to make things work and work well. So Right. Yeah. Ultimately they're paying you for the end result that there, you know, and the quality, they're not paying you to to learn everything about how to. Exactly, yeah. Um, so do you guys, is that your tagline now? Like did you guys have that on, on your vans? Customer's always wrong? I know. Yeah, I saw, I saw an electrician's van the other day that said, uh, it said quality electrical work, we may show up. And that was that's pretty funny. That probably works really well because yeah, that's hilarious because that's our already a big, you know, it's a big pain point. So they're kind of making fun of it. I love that. Yeah. Um, have you? So between you and Kent, have you guys? That was obviously a big blunder? You guys pulled together? Good attitude, kept your perspective, kept your cool. Um, were you guys married at at that time? Did you have families? Was there any home pressure with that? How about that? Yeah, Kent, Kent had been married for a couple of years at that point I was, I was not married. Um, he got married right out of college. So let's see. He would have been, he was probably married to three years at that point. Mm Hmm. Yeah, three years. So we were both, we were pretty were kind of gallivanting everywhere all of us. So he was, he and his wife were traveling in Ecuador for a number of months and all over the world prior to that and I was doing the same thing. I was in Patagonia at the time when we decided, you know, via email we were connecting. It's like, well let's move up to Breckenridge. So um yeah, we were just kind of all over the place. So he was married but probably not in the sense that people would think in terms of like creating a home, right? That it's not quite as tied down as you typically think. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Good for you guys. Now have you and can't ever had a disagreement, you know between yourselves on you, you thought one thing should happen or you guys should take the business one direction. He thought something else. And how did you handle that if you have had a disagreement? Uh, I mean there's been plenty of disagreements along the way. The usually we just like it's real important for us to be authentic and open and honest, so we usually can just talk through those. None of us, neither of us are guys that have to have our way. Not at all. And neither of us feel especially competitive about anything. So usually it's like a suggestion of how I have this idea. What do you think about it? And typically a little bit of talking, we tend to agree. So that's that's honestly we've never had any enormous disagreements. We've had some roadblocks come up that we've got through, but as far as disagreements and things like that hasn't happened a whole lot. He and I can be pretty similar to a lot of times though, like we have a real similar worldview. You know, obviously I kind of have to, if you're going to start a business not to make money, but yeah, I think you do. Most people don't start it for that reason. So you gotta kind of both be aligned on that one. Have you, have you ever found because there are different schools of thought with a co founder? All right. Now, first of all you guys, 50 50 on this, we're 50 50 partners, but we this always shocks people to we don't have a written agreement for any kind of, you know, if one of us decides you are a different way or anything like that. we just trust that we can figure that out together. Like we figured everything else out. So we're 5050 were an escort, but that's just the legal standing other than that, there's not much there. Yeah, got it. So, you know, there's there's kind of one school of thought which is, it's good to find people like you um you know, to start a company with and I think there's a lot there because otherwise there could be conflict, especially when you're wise are not aligned, then there's gonna be a big problem, but then there's sort of this other thought. You should really find people with complementary skill sets. That sort of compliment where you're weak, Have you guys found that you've struggled at all because maybe your worldview is to the line? Yeah, I think I think we're a bit of both. You know, there are things that we complement each other really well with in terms of tasks. Uh you know, like I think when when we were you were emailing me before and it was like, here's some things we might be talking about. I said one of the things you probably should be aware of is that I'm like a I'm like a caveman and I cannot speak the business language. So you know, if you start saying things beyond like gross or net, then I'm lost, You know, but can't can deal with all of that. So so we complement each other their uh in different ways. But where we probably got hurt is uh neither of us because of our worldview and the way we pursued life neither of us really gave business a single thought literally Until you know it was like I thought we just move our arms up and down with the paintbrush in our hand, you know, we never really gave it a thought until about 2012. So we were 10 years in um 10 years in and at that time had like 15 employees or something and you know I would say somewhere in there and I had just never thought about business and when when we started to uh it became real apparent that like we're You know it just kind of solidified our our personal opinions of ourselves that we're kind of caveman morons and things earlier. That's really funny. So he kind of woke up one day and thought oh we have 15 employees, we don't really know what we're doing, sort of. Yeah it was totally that because You know 2008 the market, you know, housing market, everything kind of imploded. Um but we found ourselves in this funny spot because like I think it was that year was one of those years, there were like 18 homes built in brick, which is like nothing because it can explode here, you know? But it was 18, we painted 12 and and we found ourselves having more work than ever, but we found and more employees, but we didn't see the numbers changing, we would never even really paid attention to the numbers, but all of a sudden we had, it was like I was working a lot, which we never wanted to work a lot. That that probably sounds funny too, but we always, we always joked around about being where, you know, uh We're like living lives of leisure and were partially retired and we're you know like, you know, we're like 27 or something, you know? But but we found ourselves to get the work done, Working a lot more with employees, having more employees, but not necessarily getting more work done and it was like, what's going on here? You know, I had, I had twins born in 2010 and suddenly found myself like I had, they had an older brother, but once the twins came it was like, wow, I'm working more than I want to, but we're not, there's like not more, we're just getting through the work, but it's not changing anything. So we decided to sit down and think about the business a little bit first time ever, but it was like, we got to figure something out and that came about about probably for about a year and a half, two years, kind of struggled through um just realizing we were working more than we wanted and it was confusing and so finally we hit a breaking point and we said, I said, you know what I'm going to sit and look at the numbers and all this. I'm gonna look at our jobs and what we've been doing and I'm just gonna see if I see any pattern and then can't we decided he was gonna go talk to business people that lived in Breckenridge that we knew and just ask them, you know, like give me some business advice, what would you advise? So we had these two different tasks and it was really funny because I sat down and I looked at the different kinds of jobs we did and I discovered that there was one kind of job namely exterior repaint at the time like re stains and repaint we did uh we made way better money on those. And it was funny because we also had a lot more fun on those. They were the funnest jobs to do. We made a lot better money and then we had like the new construction and some other jobs like that that like we hated doing but they were the biggest volume of our work by far. Um but they hardly made any margins and and I kind of noticed that. And so I wrote that down and then Kent goes and talks to these business guys and he talked to everybody and there was that we could think of and there was one guy that said, you know, There's only one rule you need to know, I can tell you all sorts of books to read etc. But really the one rule you got to know is the 80 20 rule is what he tells you. Yeah. So then we sit down together and I had emailed Kent this finding, you know, that I have found and he's like, you're not gonna believe this, but you like reinvented the wheel. And I was like, what do you mean? You know? And he's like, well I did the numbers on these jobs that you showed me and he's like 80% of our volume was new construction in these jobs that don't contribute to our margins in any healthy way. And 20% of our volume is this stuff that creates 80% or more of our profit. And he's like it's and he's like it's the 80 20 rule. And then he tells me and it was like, so then we got to make fun of ourselves a bunch, you know? And and then from that point on it became Well, how can we make our 20 or 80, you know, how could we change, how can we flip flop how we're doing that? So we made some, that's when we first thought about the business and that completely changed I think in 2012 we were probably We were probably grossing around $300,000. It was not a lot, you know, and and ever since then it's I think are the We haven't tried to grow, we've just tried to focus on the 80 And in focusing on the 80 I think are probably the smallest growth year was maybe 20%, you know, since then it's exploded because we just focused on that. So that was a huge lesson and in it was, it came years late because back to your original question, it came years later because we we're too similar when it came to thinking about business stuff. Really interesting. That's really interesting. So you guys, you started this company really focused on the why the friendship and and maybe didn't I think quite enough about some of your numbers and then just just from figuring out your numbers, figuring it and I want to not um kind of ignore the fact that you also enjoyed that work because that's important. You guys enjoyed it, enjoyed it more, but just focusing on the number's not working any harder, just working smarter and understanding your business better you guys were able from what took you 10 years to go from 0 to 300,000 In the next 10 years. Go from 300,000 2. 1 million easily and have a better life. Super. It was super easily. And it was really, it was really funny that that 80 20 principle, I actually never ended up reading anything about it, can't read a little bit about it and he's like, here's the gist of it, you know? And he kind of tells me 80 like naturally somehow 80% of what you naturally do ends up being stuff you don't enjoy and isn't helpful And the 20% is and so you try and find ways to make the 20 or 80 is how he put it. And he would read stuff where people like applied this to their whole life, you know, not just like business, But we just applied it to the business and was like well if repaint and re stains are the 20 And we want to make it the 80 then how do we find more? And we just put a little thought into that and and uh once once we put just a little thought and that didn't require any, it didn't require any money of us, which I think is kind of and we've always run the business super lean, so we didn't like go out and do ad campaigns, we didn't do anything like that, it was just a matter of how do we focus on this other stuff and and changed everything. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think, you know, we we obviously um interact with painting contractors across the country and one of the themes we run into uh is this is this idea that that they're kind of feel like they're in a hamster wheel, you know, like they're really busy but but they're they're not they're not living the life that they signed up for, you know you start your own company and I know you guys started with the focus on friendship not money first but but you also wanted to have you joke kind of a semi retirement, a life of leisure. I mean I think everybody almost everybody wants to have that financial freedom that security, nobody wants to feel trapped in their business and you were trapped sort of you know you guys were working so much, you weren't seeing the results and you had to take the time focus on rather than in your business, understand your business better made up and you freed yourself. What was Yeah it's totally true. What was funny is I mean we did we had a year and a half, two years where I still wasn't working full time but I'm not I can't work full time and I'm just not built for it. You know when I do work like when I was a painter I used to freak out my employees because I worked so fast and so hard and I was like running up and down ladders and they was long you know, but it was just like I just have a lot of energy you know? But but for like two years it was like yeah there was it was a lot more working then we wanted you know I got mountains to climb and use music to play and that kind of stuff. I didn't you know that. Yeah so we uh we uh you know the funny thing is it didn't really take like the fear was I still remember being at a coffee shop I sat down and I was just like I was looking at all this stuff and I called Kent and I was like this is this is stupid man, I should be out there painting, you know what I mean? It was like I should be out. But all it took was like three hours of my time, literally it was no time. It was just like it took three hours of my time. And then you know kim was like no you have to do this, you know you have to do it. And I did it and then we find out that you know we like invent the wheel again and then and then uh it took like 30 minutes of my time to come up with a plan and you know, a little bit more, I mean less, it probably took less than To to work, it probably took less than 15 hours to bring our company to something that just naturally grows by 20- 35% a year. And I wasn't and we weren't even doing it in terms of thinking of growth. It really was in terms of efficiency, that's all we were looking at because growth isn't really on our radar like you know if you're gross, 10 million but you're inefficient then it's awful. And at two at 2. 1 were super lean this year, we'll do like to five I think we're not focused on growth. Um but we'll grow, you know, that's a still a substantial amount of growth in a year I think. Um It's only because we're focused on efficiency so it's like um how can we continue to push the 20 into the 80? And we now we've totally flip flopped that were more like 90 10 in the in the positive direction, you know, and we just kind of applied that to everything, whether it's bidding or customer relations or anything like that. Um how do we make it, how do we make it have the most bang for its buck kind of thing so we can um be out adding good things to the world and other places besides just business, you know? That's great man. Yeah, good for you guys. Um and it was, I'm also glad that you brought that up that it it was unnatural. You felt like you shouldn't be doing it, you need to get back on the hamster wheel and run a little faster and and unfortunately you did have a business partner who did have a little bit of a different perspective at that moment. Yeah. Yeah and that came up more than once. You know the most beneficial thing we did in light of that information that we that we discovered was create a like a current customer. Um Proactive maintenance program. It was like, well if we want to have more re stained re paints, what what's some, what's one way we can do that? And the first thing that popped into my mind was clients always contact you too late whether they're new clients or existing clients. Yeah. You know where we live? Most of the homes have like a transparent or semi transparent staying, But we're at 10,000 ft so it just doesn't last real long no matter how many coats you put on or whatever, the sun just burns through it, you know? And then of course we've got a nine month winter and all that kind of stuff. So it's just really hard on these homes. So typically people will call me when their homes like way down river. So the first thing we realized is that we have a client base and they always call us too late and they were trying to fix problems that aren't always fixable or they cost more. This is not a good thing. So we created a program where I contact the clients have a spreadsheet when whenever we do a job that just goes into spreadsheets for different years and alerts me to say like, hey, it's been three years and they're south side probably needs some help. So I contact them and let them know. So, but all that to say, um, you know, Setting that up was another 8-hour venture you know and the whole time I was like this is stupid, why am I doing this? I need to go paint you know and Kent was like no, no you gotta do it, you gotta do it. So yeah, there's all you're always fighting that things need to be done kind of thing. Yeah, I think things are always going to need to be done, especially coming, I mean my dad was a firefighter and painter, you know that's what he did for his work, Kent's dad was like a pastor and then side job stuff you know like whatever he could figure out on the side, we're both just like blue collar, you know, so you come from that realm and you think like just get it done, you got to just get it done and so like you keep saying the hamster wheel you can, it's so easy to be on that so Yeah, yeah, good, good. Yeah, it's good that you guys were able to to kind of work that out as partners, you know and have a different perspective there. So you had mentioned something pretty interesting that that you guys, I mean obviously you're some of your average ticket value tends to be pretty high, you know you're working on a pretty nice homes but you said you'll do a variety of jobs for a couple $100 and you view that as sort of your marketing or relationship building, can you speak a little bit more to that? Sure. I mean I know like a lot of the other paint, I talk a lot with painters up here you know and a lot of them though like I don't touch don't touch something if it's less than and they've got some number, you know $2,000 or whatever. But um it's it's like a direct contact with a future client If you're going to do a job that's $200, I have some some provisions on that. Like if somebody calls me and they're like the client that says like I couldn't reach this window, you know, it's like well that's not you know that's not worth your time because they're not going to be a future client. They're doing stuff on their own. You know, I'm not looking that's not that's not gonna help me or really them in the long run, it doesn't create a relationship. So but if I get somebody who says oh I just you know we had a pipe burst and that happens all the time up here, you know in in my laundry room and I need like I need this patch done and you know I go and look and it's like oh I mean It's a handful of hours of work. It's like three hours of work, I'll I can charge them 300 bucks or whatever, 400 bucks, you know like I will totally do that because they can't find anybody that'll do that, nobody will come and do that painter handyman, Nobody, you know, and if they do find somebody, they're going to be, they're just not going to be like a real reliable person or like a real, you know, it's not going to be a real relationship, it's just like a struggle for them so I can show up and have somebody go do that and then they'll call me in the future, you know, plus I'll have them in my system. So every time uh you know, I'll have in my system I'll look at the exterior of their house and I'll contact them, you know, however many four years or whatever it is down the road when I looked at the exterior and I was walking in and be like, hey probably time to look at your exterior. Would you like me to take a look or we went up there? I'll say, hey have you checked your window sills lately? You know, most of the homes are lacquered and stained up here so it's like you, you know those windowsills break down under our UV ah From the sun and because we get condensation because it's so cold outside and then you gotta heat transfer inside. Like this morning was 27 below. So um yeah, so there was just like layers of ice on my windows, you know that message. So I'll say like, hey I'm here to do that patch. You want me to check out your window sills. People miss this. I can do every one of them for a few 100 bucks or if it's too late and you're like trying to play catch up, it might cost you 8000. So you know, you create a relationship where you're taking care of them and letting them know you're like trying to proactively be something. So it's a good way to connect with people. I think it's like a super, I think it's a super smart investment to do 300 bucks. Yeah, I agree. I mean ultimately people need to know like and trust you to to really want to do business with you. And like you said the your competitors, if you will not really, you don't really care about those jobs themselves. But the only people who are really willing to do that are Kind of for, you know, people who are sort of desperate, you know, like, like people who don't really need $300 and they're not, they don't really have a business that that's really going to be able to add substantial value to that customer. The fact that you don't need that money doesn't really matter to you, but you were willing to help them out in a pinch. So they didn't have to, To hire some random person who just needs $300 Now they love you now now if you come in and and even if you quote 20% higher they're still probably gonna hire you down the line now it's totally it's totally the case. It's completely true. And we I mean we are fortunate enough I we run a lot of guys and so I have a lot at my disposal you know to make that sort of thing happen where it's not an interruption. And then because Kent and I have have set up our scenario for what we do for the business really efficiently. We You know most weeks are working 20-25 hours a week maybe. And so I can always go do it if I need to. It's really rare that I do any paintwork or anything but it's not. I love doing paint work. I've been doing it since I was 12. You know it's fine. So if I could go do that I make the connection, I meet the client. You know it's a great it's a great deal and it creates that relationship. And it and it also pushes to like uh when I look at our quote like when we do quotes for people Um you know I just sat down and looked and last year we won 60% of the quotes that we did. Uh but uh that's actually that was actually a lower percentage than normal. And we hired recently a good friend to do most of our estimating now. So we just got one estimator. He and I shared it last year. We both did it part time, made about 60%. But then he was teasing me because he said, yeah, I saw that 60% but I'm over 70 you know, so, so, but all of that is because you know, I can, I could do some shotgun thing and try and hone it down a little bit like on, you know, any of those things out the home advisor or something like that. Any of that. But the percentage, I don't like it like it's just going to have me going, I want to, I want to win minimum 60% of the bids that we do and now we're pushing more like 70 And, and that's, that's where I want to be sitting. You know, ideally I'd like to be up at like 80 or 90%. I don't think that's too far out of the question either. Just as long as we build that rapport. So yeah, that's amazing. Yeah, the paper lead services tend to be a scramble, you know, in those leads tend not to be quite as good. Yeah. Um, so I want to, you know, we, we have been emailing a little bit about your employee model and you guys had had done some pretty interesting things in terms of benefits and, and a whole lot of benefits that you seem to offer that are a little unusual. And then you guys recently made a switch. Are you open to speaking about that transition and and kind of how that whole thing played out? Yeah, 100%. We let's see by 2005, we had a handful of employees, probably 6, 7 employees or something like that. So three years in. Um and we just started thinking about how can we care for these guys, not just in terms of being friends and creating like that whole scenario that can't. And I had and kind of furthering that, which we did a lot of, but how can we also care for these guys in other ways? And um, and so we started looking at the employee benefits. So maybe Sometime in 2005 or six, the first benefit that we put on was healthcare. So we started, we started a group plan back then, um, you know, and like I said, we never thought about the business itself, so that wasn't a business decision. So we actually didn't look to see if we had the money to do that. It turned out it turned out we did, you know, it's good. Yeah, we have money to do it. You know, it meant, uh, you know, probably just meant we had no profits or whatever, but we never looked at those either. So, um, we just have a guiding guiding light. Yeah. So we, we created a healthcare group plan for everybody and then we started doing profit sharing when we, that was a journey at first we would profit share per job real quick. We realized that wasn't a good idea because that we didn't think about the business, we did track how we did on each job. And so if you profit shared on a good job, then the next job maybe didn't go so well. And it would have been nice to have that money to help cover it to some degree. So we started profit sharing on every trimester. Um, we would sit down and be like, okay, where are we sitting? And we'd give a profit share. We did. What else did we used to do? Um, oh, we started doing paid time off and we had a system, you know, they worked so many hours kind of the normal kind of thing you'd have on some other job, paid time off. We gave guys really flexible hours because it was always important to Kent and I like the most important thing was getting to do the things that we like to do here in Breckenridge, like skiing and climbing mountains and all that kind of stuff and traveling to lots of trips. So it wasn't like we told guys, you have to Work 40 hours a week, you have to be here. It's just like, Oh, you can do, you can basically take off whenever you want, as long as you let me know. You know, and I mean once I told one guy on one powder day, you know, it's like that's not gonna happen today, we got to get this done, but otherwise we had enough guys, we can make it work to be a part of the benefits. You had to work uh 30 hours roughly in the summer, so um and then you had to be a full time around, not full time but around the year employee, but we never had full time work for those years in the winter either. So we did that, we started adding Affleck as well as like a supplemental gig. Um all of that was always kind of changing a little bit depending on the crew and the season that we were in and that kind of stuff. Um But um We changed the model completely last year, at the end of the, at the end of 2020 we sat the guys down and said we think it's going to be better to move to a subcontractor model. Um We had been a hybrid. We had had already some subcontractors that we started using first one was about nine years ago, mainly because we couldn't keep up with the volume that was coming our way. Um by hiring, it was just too intense, the training was too intensive and the kind of work we do is so uh dangerous in terms of detail and and clients um you guys are playing at a high level with with yeah, just you know, so it's like to train somebody really, they've got to be working for you for a year minimum. You know, and the other, it was so it was a real endeavor to train people, but the way the volume was coming, we couldn't keep up. But I knew of some crews that did really good work and I knew that I could train them all the more if they needed it and they were, they were good guys and good crews. So I just talked directly to them and said what if I got you? You know, the majority of your work and you have to think about all the other stuff but doing the work right? They loved that idea. So we had some subcontractors starting about nine years ago and we just as we, you know, we're paying attention to the business. It was like, um, it was becoming apparent that the subcontractors were really thriving. They were making unbelievable money. Um, but they didn't have any of the stress that comes or any of the confusion or distraction that comes with being a business owner. Um because you know, I took care of finding the clients, figuring out the colors, dealing with the clients, they just showed up and did a good job. So they got to be focused and when you're focused like that, it was like a whole new game for subcontractors. So we had started flirting with the idea maybe this would be a better way for our guys to, to just tell them, hey, let's why don't you create your own business? You can have employees if you want. You can create a business with some of the guys who are part of the crew, you know, which some of those, some of the guys that they went into business together. Um, Other guys just wanted to be crews of one. Um, and but they all loved the idea. And so we said, we're going to try it out this year if it doesn't work, we can always just come back to what we were doing. But so a total subcontractor model now, the the crews that were employees for us, well, they would never go back now. And part of that too is because of the kind of people probably that end up here. It's like, you know, outdoors super independent, like the, That kind of stuff at 20 some years in started to get a little exhausting for Kent and I too like manage the interpersonal stuff with the guys. Like we could always have a really great time outside of work, but they were starting to get at each other's throats a little bit in work because they all wanted it their way. Right? So switching to the subcontractor model turned out to be a really great thing for everybody. Less on my mind about being a mom to everybody. And and it was really shocking. One of the first conversations I had to have had to have with each guy just because it was so curious to me was these guys are all like really, really good painters. We trained them from the ground up and I've forgotten more than I know about painting. You know, it's been, I've been doing it for so long and these guys all took to it really well and we're really amazing painters. Um, and they would do good to make a good profit turn, you know, when they were employees. But as soon as they were Subcontractors, they literally were 40% faster and more detailed. Just they were they were, you think of that, that they were motivated for the motivator? What do you think? Yeah, Well I, I, uh, you know, one is, they weren't paid by the hour anymore and, but the, when I sat down and talked to me like, what's going on? Like you, We used to have three guys on a 6000 square foot home and we'd finish, it you know. In 3, 4 days. And I was like, now I got one guy on that same home and he's finishing it in five, like what's the, what gives, you know, and they all have the same answer there. Like something really changed when I actually own it. Um, It really changed everything for them to be the actual owner. I mean, and it's not like we're 1099 in their true subs. They have all their own stuff. They find work on their own as well you know um but it really changed for them to own the business and all those benefits we used to give, I was really glad to give those but they just kind of became entitlements for those guys. Maybe they appreciated it in the beginning but then not as much kind of yeah and it then it just kind of became an entitlement thing and and uh and then Kent and I are too nice so we just kind of rolled with it, you know, You seem pretty cutthroat. Yeah. Yeah I bet I do. Yeah but they you know I had guys going from making 50K. As an employee and having those benefits which are really nice to him to one guy last year just by himself, no employees Working, didn't even work full time, you know, made 127 grand. That's awesome. Yeah so obviously a better scenario for him. So really reinforced the idea of creating like what's the best scenario for our company to create ownership for people and yeah, so that's that's really what that journey was. Yeah. You really, it sounds like you really enabled a lot of people yeah and and kind of setting them up for success to, you know, it sounds like you guys sort of sort of help them get set up what they need to do and and you know sat down and talked with them one on one and guided them through the process. Yeah, totally. We did. We, we we literally sat down and said, here's how you create your company, here's what you need to do, here's what we recommend, here's what to write off, here's how to write it off. Like we really held their hands through the whole process and it really was, there was benefits for us in terms of like I said, I'm not babysitting the interpersonal stuff anymore, that's the main benefit for me uh man, because it was getting so exhausting, but the uh I was more counselor than boss, you know, and and which was fine except it just was starting to get exhausting. But um we held out their hands, you know, all the way through the whole process. They were a little shaky at first because they didn't trust it. It was hard for them to trust it. You know, they thought maybe it's a big change. Yeah, but as soon as they started turning jobs, it it really changed quickly for them. They thought this is the coolest thing. So most of them, you know, say like, you know, thanks for changing everything for us. It's been great, That's great. And I think it's important for anyone who's listening who's, you know, thinking about making this kind of switch. It sounds like you you really need to be willing to to recognize the fact that there will be uncertainty, there will be fear from your employees and you have to guide them through that for this to work. You can't just say you're, you're going to own your own company now. Okay, go ahead and expect to see this kind of result. Yeah. Well, exactly. And, and I mean especially so for us because like I said, the whole thing was about friendship. So these guys were friends, you know, and it's like we have every good intention towards them and want the very best that they could have, you know, when they were employees. We one of the main goals, it's really hard to own a home here, you know, And so we would try to figure out ways to help guys get homes and we would do loans, interest free loans to guys and all sorts of stuff like that to help them get in. So we helped quite a few guys get into homes, you know? Um, but this would be hard. I mean they only started around $5 million. Yeah. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Well they fortunately there's some, there's some stuff called deed restriction here that's like for local living that makes it possible to get into something sometimes that's pretty tough. But uh, You know, a deed restricted home is still like $700,000. So it's but um having said that like this turned out to be an even better way than an interest free loan to help them get into homes. It's just we figured out a way to help them have more earning power. You know, which really just had to do with them owning it. So yeah, scary for people to make the change. And then the other thing too is, you know, a lot of other painters up here, they use like a subcontractor model, but they're not really subcontractors 99 just 10 99 and that's a very different scenario and that's something I'd recommend at all legal. Your, your yeah, it's a yeah, a lot of people roll that dice but you, I mean you care, you know, I think that's kind of what I'm taking away is is you care and so you, you, you go sort of outside of what most people would consider the scope of your job or your responsibility. You're willing to go outside of that. And I think it it's, you know, the universe or however you perceive that it's sort of coming back and paying you back. Yeah, I think so. It's just trusting, trusting that, I mean we were really focused on trying to add good things all around us and trusting that goodness is, is being given to us even when we don't know it and trusting that even something scary or difficult that there's good things there. So uh yeah, that's definitely part of the gig for us. Yeah, this is great man. So we, you know, you guys have, you said negative 27 degrees nine month winter obviously, you know, there's a reason that you guys are kind of one of the ski capital of the world basically. Um do you have any advice on how to combat winter? Slow season? Yeah. Well, so we just how I just said that guys that are here tend to be pretty independent. I think that makes a little bit different scenario than some guys might experience. Like you know if you lived down in Denver or or someplace with much milder weather um because people are used to seasonal realities here, they might ski be like a ski instructor in the winter and in the summer there you're a landscaper or you know, there's a lot of like seasonal realities and that's just how it is. So we have it a little easier in terms of that because if uh if guys want to, there's plenty of ways to figure out something else in the winter and we definitely have had that scenario in the past. But uh huh. The other thing is increasing the guys earning power in any way that you can when you're really making a So you know I said that guy made 120 some grand last year but he worked part time and he probably had two months where he didn't work much at all combined in the winter last year, you know what I mean? So you increase that earning power and the kind of people that are up here most typically are like, oh sweet, I'm going skiing today instead of painting, you know what I mean? Yeah, they value that, that freedom. Yeah, so that helps. But then you do still want work and you still want to keep the relationship going with your clients and with your guys that are doing the work for you. So uh I basically just contact all of our clients every year um with a couple of maintenance realities that you know like the window sill thing I mentioned or like you know, a lot of these homes up here have enormous trusses and beams everywhere in the house and when a home is built, those beams shrink over the next couple of years because our climate is so dry so they tear away from the drywall. So then you end up with gaps. Sometimes it could be a half inch big or whatever. Um so I have some form letters that I've created that I send out, I tweak them a little bit every year But we have a client list of over 600 clients. And I just send I send a note to them saying, hey, have you considered, have you looked at your window sills lately? Here's what they look like if they're starting to break down, you know, and I let them know how important we think of proactive approaches to things. So you know, it serves kind of two purposes, it helps drum up some work in the winter and then it also keeps us in touch with our clients. So usually I put on either some kind of discount. Say like if you have us, if you have us do this between november and the end of april, Then I'll knock off 10% or um or I'll say something like if you have us, if you have us do this, then we'll paint, you know, one wall in the summer on the next year project for free or you know what I mean? Just like yeah, so that usually gets us a decent amount of work. And then I always, if somebody ever has interior work, I always offer a discount to do it in the winter. So they called me in june and they're like, yeah. And I was like, well if you can wait, I'll knock off, You know, 5% or whatever it is, which doesn't sound like much except, you know, we're currently doing an 80,000, almost $90,000 interior That's a lot. 5% is a healthy, healthy chunk of change. You know, so people, people will wait often for that sort of stuff. Yeah. And I think, you know, you're obviously being really proactive in the marketing world. We we call it, I think it's a ridiculously complex phrase, but we call it data based reactivation, which essentially just means reaching out to your past customers and kind of remaining your remaining top of mind. And and you, I think it's also important that you understand your region very well, you understand how the houses, they're very well what can happen. And so not only are you creating work and not just B. S. Work, you're creating actually work that's actually helping people. You're also further positioning yourself as the expert because how many other painting company owners are saying, hey, did you know that this is going to happen with the trusses? And and have you checked this? And I mean you are you are the guy now. Yeah, no, totally, that's exactly right. And it Proact it's funny you mentioned productivity because when we came up on that 2080 principle, it was like, oh we whatever we can do to be proactive about anything that makes sense. And so Our company, if I were to say like there's one practical like day in day out aim, it's like how can we make things proactive as soon as we find out whenever we're reactive, it's awful. That's like the worst places problems, you get caught flat footed. Yeah. And it's it's just like you then you're putting out fires, you know, so it's like that's why we got out of new construction, it was a long process, we've been wanting to get out for seven years, but we were too nervous to do it because of the volume, you're like, wow, well there's so much volume, you know, we've just been slowly switching that volume to the to the repaint and thinking once we get to a certain point, maybe then we could pull the trigger and we just never felt like we were going to appoint last year was like, look, we're about pro activity. The new construction is the most reactive business in the world, like new construction in the presidency, those are like, you know, who wants to do either of those, So, so you know, getting out, we got out of it just because it was the most reactive business is terrible, um and you're at the mercy of all everybody else's react and yeah, you know, you're at the far end of that Mr fix it, fix it every time. There's an issue that the schedules late, everything the plumber didn't show up for two months, you know reactive reactive awful business. So we, you know, so anyway, yeah, all of that contacting with clients, everything that we try to pursue on a practical basis is what can we do that's proactive and that one of the biggest ones that really can change. I think anybody's business is just having a true relationship with your clients where you're you know, I don't like the idea of newsletters um or like a monthly something or other because that's just like it's too commercial. It just feels like you're just putting your face there, it's like, hey, I know that this can be a problem with your house, your window sills, you know, and I know that I can fix it Proactively for $400 Or I know that you could wait until it's way gone. And I've had some, like I had a guy and it was $10,000, you know Like seven years earlier, he could have paid $400, but now he's paying 10,000. So it's like, I know the things that we can do that proactively will help you and they will also keep us front of mind for clients, you know, in a relational way as opposed to just like some form, right? Not not as transactional. Yeah, the, it kind of reminds me of the old rolodex, you know, people of the role of your basic positioning yourself and every homeowner's roller dex, you know, for all these different kinds of needs. It's funny how it takes no time to, it really doesn't. Like I'll sit down at 600 and some clients, I'll sit down and Some of them we've become, we've been working with for 20 years and you know, some of them are friends, some of them at the very least are close acquaintances and things like that. So I'm not going to send them like a the same kind of, you know, I'm gonna, I'm gonna send him like a personal thing, how's your dog house? This doesn't, it just doesn't take that much time now Tony. Do you, do you have any advice you would give to other painting company and I know that it's kind of a big question, but anything you wanna say, yeah, I think of any way you can to be proactive about contacting your clients. Uh think about how you can do it in a lean manner. I don't think that you need to spend much money if any on it. It's more just spending a little brain energy and a little time and whatever you could do be proactive to in terms of how do you use your bids? How do you find your bids? How do you write your bids? Um you know, be proactive about how you maintain somebody's house. Um anything you can do to be proactive and not reactive And then that 80 20 principle, you know, um is such a good tool. Like Take the stuff that you're most profitable and turn that into your 80 because it's also that it's weird but it's the most enjoyable stuff, you know, not because it's profitable, it just happens to go inside with it because it was always most enjoyable for us even when we didn't know it was more profitable, you know, so use that, that's all, that's just another pro activity thing. And then if you can do it with a friend and you can choose that over the business, then I think you can really thrive. I think it is excellent advice, I appreciate you sharing all of that. I think it definitely will give our listeners a lot to think about you. You certainly um you certainly have approaches from a different perspective, especially with the, with the friend and the friend first and and your why is very powerful. So I do appreciate you sharing all that. Um well Tony, thank you so much man for coming on the show. This you definitely provided a, an extremely unique perspective focusing on friendship first, the y and and all the other um the way that you approach your business. Thank you for sharing all that. Yeah, there's been a lot of fun. Yeah, absolutely man. I think our our listeners are going to get a whole lot out of this and, and we'd love to have you back. You and Kanan and I would definitely like to do a follow up with you both. That would be great, Kent would love to be on it to you just had the last minute go to another country. So Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'd like to, I'd like to touch on that two on the next one. Yeah, we need to be happy too. Yeah. All right, well thank you Tony. Alright, take care you too. 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 PainterMarketingPros.com to learn more about our services. You can also reach out to me directly by emailing me at Brandon@ PainterMarketingPros.com and I can give you personalized advice on growing your painting business until next time. Keep growing.