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 PCA educational series, Learn, Do, Grow Marketing for Painters. In each episode, I’ll be sharing proven tips, strategies and processes from leading experts in the industry on how they found success in their painting business. We will be interviewing owners of the most successful painting companies in North America and learning from their experiences.
In this series titled ZKS Words of Wisdom, Zach Kenney of ZK painting will be discussing how he has overcome stakes best practices for serving high end clientele and social media marketing greatness.
In this episode, episode one, Zach will be discussing the many failures and subsequent learnings and adaptations he has had to make on his journey to over $3 million per year in revenue. In episode two, Zach dives into how to best serve high end customers, given their somewhat unique needs and expectations. And in episode three, Zach will cover his keys to social media marketing greatness and how your painting company can begin implementing these tactics today. If you want to ask Zach questions related to anything in this podcast series, you can do so on our exclusive painter marketing mastermind podcast form on Facebook.
Just search for painter marketing mastermind podcast forum on Facebook and request to join the group or type in the URL facebook dot com forward slash groups forward slash painter marketing mastermind. Again that URL is facebook dot com forward slash groups forward slash painter. Marketing mastermind. There you can ask Zach questions directly by tagging him with your question. So you can see how anything discussed here applies to your particular painting company. What’s going on Zach? Hey, how are you, Brandon? Good man. I’m excited for this series with you got a lot to cover you too.
So mistakes. Steaks is one I’ve personally never made any. Fortunately thank God. You know, I hear made like a bunch. Yeah, enough for both of us then. Yeah. No, I’ve made, I’ve made many, many, many um but mistakes, I think it, it’s great if you can ever hear someone else’s mistakes and how it happened and you know what they did about it and then you don’t have to make the same mistake. That’s always a blessing. Yeah, there’s, and there’s a that saying about um knowledge and wisdom or something and knowledge is learning, learning the hard way and wisdom is learning from others, mistakes or something.
There’s some saying about that. Yeah. Well, definitely does seem wise to learn from other people’s mistakes. But before we dive in to this, just give us some a breakdown of ZK painting. You know, where you’re located? General size. How long you’ve been in business? Who you serve all that good stuff. Yeah. Um So Zack Kenny from ZK painting, I started the company 153, 13 years ago, um with a, a little giant ladder in a dream. A little different than the paintbrush in a dream based in Paris, little giant ladder.
A couple paint brushes. $1000 Ford Taurus. Um but we’re based in Boston. Um We have a shop just outside of Boston and town called Waltham, but we don’t really do work there. Um Moved the company to Boston a couple of years ago. We have uh we run a mostly subcontractor model. We serve the ultra high end of the market. Um We um sorry, someone called me and I, I have extreme ad D and I get distracted easy. We’ll get through it, man. It’s annoying. Laptop gets the phone calls too.
Um Yeah, so we, we are uh a high end residential painting company. Um I moved the company I started in Rhode Island. I’ve been painting since I was 14 years old. Um Love the craft of painting. And uh I’ve, I’ve definitely obsessed on the craft of painting for many, many years, made a million mistakes. I thought like many people, I think, uh, I wanted to get a raise and, uh I thought the best way to get a raise was to start my own painting company. Uh, that was not probably the best way to do that.
Um, but yeah, I, I was working as a painter. I never even became like a, a lead. I was just a painter. I was not a good employee. Um, but yeah, that’s, that’s sort of where we are now. We, we did a little over 3 million in revenue last year. Um And it’s just been a wild ride. Yeah, that’s great, man. I’m excited to get into the ride. So you serve the ultra high end clientele. What does that mean? Exactly. I, I mean, our people with were like just like, it’s a pretty crazy amount of money that people pay for paint jobs.
Um because I think people say the high end of the market and like, I, I think the standards are so low in our industry that even when you’re in the high end of the market, you’re just like kind of playing for professionalism and like a decent paint job. Um We are working with uh we sign a lot of ndas, we work for billionaires and, and, and really high net worth individuals. Oftentimes sometimes not sometimes people that just really value craftsmanship but where the a like the paint job, I mean, is a, is a good example.
Our average front door is like $8000 to paint the front door. Right. That’s not a thing I’ll ever probably be able to afford. Um, it’s definitely not a, um, I wouldn’t call that high end. I, I think there’s something past that where, you know, we’re getting paid to, to do something at a really high level, but also the, uh, deliver an experience that matches the level of paint job that we offer. So, I assume if a front door costs $8000 I mean, you’re probably doing projects routinely that are in six figures.
Yes, very, very common. I, if you took out the doors from our projects, I think our average job size is, is probably close to six figures. Wow. Would you recommend that market kind of before we get into your journey and how you got there? Is it a good market? I, I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it. No, I would say um I’m a big believer in like harnessing your biology and like following like how, how, what, how you’re wired and what makes you tick. And like for me, I’m a bougie dude and I like nice stuff and I’m like, I love all this stuff.
I love thinking like my clients thinking for my clients. Um I really love extreme craftsmanship. Um And I, I like newness and chaos and, you know, custom problem solving. Um I’m not, I mean, Jason Pearson, I have different brains. Like I, I think he’s got this an amazing brain for, like, systems and processes and, I mean, I don’t know, I don’t want to speak for him but, like, I don’t know if he cares about a paint job. Yeah, I, I’ll speak for him. I don’t know if he, like, cares about a paint job, the level of finish on a paint job nearly the way I do.
I’m, I’m, I just, I love human craft and what we’re able to do if you were to give us budgets to put human craftsmanship into like they are, my clients are like patrons to the arts back in the day. Right? And um if you’re not wired like me, I don’t know that my, my part of the indu industry is for you. Um It’s a very uh stressful, I don’t think it’s like extra lucrative by any means. Um I think that people with a lot of money are very smart about how they spend it.
I think if you’re gonna spend six figures on a paint job, you’re gonna be pretty intentional and pretty, you know, you’re not gonna be an easy client necessarily. So like large ticket items. Um They also like, we don’t get a lot of at bats, right? If we bid something wrong, it can go real wrong. We don’t get a lot of iteration the way. If your average job size is $5000 you can figure out you’re doing something wrong pretty quick and you can iterate and get out of there pretty quick.
So it’s not like it’s a market, I would say it’s not for the pro, it’s for profitability sake and like sleeping at night and scalability, it’s not the most attractive market. Um If you want to be like I did that, it’s fucking cool. Yeah, it’s a pretty good market for that. Um And I think I’ve had to really change, I’m working to change a lot of the dynamics of my market to try to turn it into a profitable business. Um So what is your typical gross profit margin on your projects?
Uh We try to be between 40 50%. OK. So fairly, we try to be um we again, we with the few number of jobs and large job size, you don’t get a lot, you don’t get to iterate very quickly and learn from your mistakes very fast. Um You know, you might lock in the sale cycle is pretty long in what we do. So, you know, it’s like it’s everything takes a long time to figure out if it’s working or if it’s not working and theory to actual practice can be a long, you know, you’re not getting that fast iterating. Yeah. Yeah.
OK. So I, I wanna, I don’t wanna go too far down this path because I know in the next episode we’ll be talking about serving the high end clientele. But I, I do have one question. I just wanna make sure we ask you’re using subcontractor model, which to me would immediately kind of raise concerns. You know, people are concerned about quality control and stuff. Obviously, the level you’re playing at the quality control is the highest that it could really possibly be. How do you handle that? It’s really, it’s hard.
I I would say the main thing is, is uh having big budgets, right? It’s selling projects for what it really costs to do the work. Um So it starts in the sales process, it starts the sales process also is a very, a lot of what we do is is set expectation. So we’re gonna do a lot of control samples, a lot of um setting expectations so that everybody kind of understands. Um And then, and we, a lot of what we do is sell process, right? Um Not everyone loves that and some clients give us push back about that.
Uh especially on a new construction, which we don’t do much of, it’s fairly standard, but like on a restoration project, I can’t really, it’s, it’s not very practical to sell outcome as much as it is processed. Like how many times are we gonna do a certain thing? I can estimate and sell that if you say I want my trim to look perfect, that’s a different thing and that’s really hard to, to quantify and to build for. So if we had, if we ever do have clients like that, which are very rare, you know, you need to do something that’s like a time and material basis type of project.
If, if, if the end result is what everyone’s so hyper focused on. Um, yeah, I kind of lost my train of really interesting that, that’s kind of the, um, the opposite of how we operate, you know, as a marketer. You, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t want to sell on deliverables, you’d wanna sell on results. But you’re saying essentially because you can’t always control these results, you know, 0003% especially with the restoration and things like that, you’re basically gonna sell and you’re gonna do World Class in terms of your deliverables, you’re gonna, you know, I guess, put in, into play the, the best possible scenario to get the best possible result.
But you can’t guarantee exactly what it will look like at the end because some of that is outside of your control. Yeah. And because there’s budgets, there is still, I don’t, I don’t care if I’m working with a billionaire, they still have a budget. Like people with money, you’re smart about how they spend their money. So if we’re on a three or four or $500,000 paint job, like it doesn’t mean that there’s not constraints on us. Um, there, there are, and oftentimes there’s a lot of constraints and a lot of eyes and a lot of schedule and a lot of, a lot of things that like, yeah, it, it can be difficult when people are like, well, I want an outcome.
Um that just means like, because paint subjective, you know, when you look at a paint job, it’s like wine, it, it tastes different in different situations. And so it, it makes it tough when you have a, when you’re trying to deliver a subjective product. That makes sense, man. And yet people do have that misconception that extremely wealthy people, they just throw their money around when it’s actually typically is the opposite. They got to where they got by not just doing that, you know, and, and also there’s a phenomenon that I’ve noticed.
Like, so let’s just say, let’s pick a made up number, but like $100 a square foot is uh you, you charge $100 a square foot to paint one room, right? And the room is 100 square feet. So it’s 10, yes, $10,000. That’s right. Math, I think so that the clients, I found like clients will pay $10,153 to paint a room. But now if you take that $100 a square foot and you multiply it over a 10,000 square foot house right now, you’re in a million dollars, right? I think so. So like that million dollar ticket is a way harder thing to digest.
But you could have painted a bunch of $10,000 rooms to get there in a way like large numbers make people think of things differently. And I think that we often struggle with that where clients, as we get to the larger numbers, um, the, the, the magnifying glass comes out even more. Sure. I mean, at some point they might be assuming, you know, economies of scales or, or like a discount or, you know, however, but let’s get into some of these mistakes. You made a lot of mistakes. I’m the king of mistakes.
King of mistakes. I don’t know if you, if you want to do it chronologically, I don’t know if you, you want to do it in like the, the worst to the least mistake. However you wanna walk through this, I think for my brain it’s probably gonna be easier if we just do it chronologically. Um And II, I didn’t sit here and like do a bunch of homework and have a bunch of bullet points. But like, uh I think if we just start at the beginning, um, there’s quite a few, uh there, there’s just so many, I will never be able to think of all of them, but I can highlight the ones.
I have a very poor memory as well. But um I think they stuck in your brain. They were, they were probably, they’re still, if I can still remember them from 12 years ago, it hurt, it hurt. And I mean, I, we can start with, let’s, let’s start with a lot of them I get, yeah, I think failure, let’s just start with like overall, I think failure is incredible. It’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a very valuable tool, right? I was watching Billions the other day, one of my favorite shows and like that saying came up of a failure is not a destination, right?
And, and I, you know, sayings until you get them in context, you’re feeling something that they sometimes they just go in one ear out the other. But if you’re in the right mood, the right context, your more emotional state saying can really like connect. And I think that that saying it really connected me at the, at the time the other day when I saw it and it really is like failure is not a destination. Failure is it’s a data point that gives you uh it, it points you in a direction even if that direction is don’t go this way, that’s better than no direction.
And in life as I’ve tried to navigate business and you’re going through this woods that’s infinite and can go in all directions. You start a business, you can do anything you want. We’re in America like it’s infinite like you, those those um data points to say like, hey, don’t go here can be super valuable. It’s, it’s like playing battleship like as you’re in the dark and you start to see the world more those those nos are just can be just as valuable. Um So I think, and I don’t know that we exactly grow up in a, in a society and education where failure is looked at that way.
I think in standardized testing and all these things of, like, I’m gonna tell you exactly what’s on the test and like, now how close to perfect can you get? It’s not a great, um, proxy for life. And I think I’ve had to learn through reading books and talking to entrepreneurs and just being a dude who just didn’t had like had desperation on his side. Uh I learned that mistakes are something that like are really valuable. And if you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not stretching yourself very much and, and I’m staying safe and so learning to hedge your, your bets, right?
Don’t put them all, don’t go all in on one thing because if the, if you make a mistake there, it can, you know, I think the secret to business is don’t go out of business. And I think someone else way smarter than me has said that, but like, stay long, long, stay around long enough. I, I think I did not understand when I first started how powerful momentum in business is. And when you’re 10 years in business man, life is so much easier than when you’re starting out when you start out.
And that merry go round on the playground has, is stopped. You gotta push really hard in only one direction to get that thing to spin. But once it’s spinning fast, like good luck, don’t touch it. Like there’s a lot like that momentum thing. II, I wish I would have understood more. So, yeah, back to the failures. Like I now try to embrace the failures. I try to make calculated risks. Understand if it fails, what will happen. Right. You know, don’t just blindly take risks that without being calculated about it.
But like, hey, knowing, oh, this is like, this is, could fail. Like, and that’s ok because if it fails, it can give me information. Um, so I, I mean, but talking about failures that II, I guess I learned something from every failure. But famously I painted the wrong house, uh, a long time ago before I was working for myself. I, I painted the wrong house. Um, that’s like the first one of the first big ones. Yeah, it’s pretty embarrassing. It’s one of the biggest ones I’ve ever heard.
That’s, that’s pretty wild, man. It’s pretty wild. It was a rental property. So the tenants, they didn’t know any better, they didn’t know their house wasn’t supposed to be getting painted. It was a three day trim only job on one of the ugliest homes known to mankind. Um, it was like asphalt shingles that, like, it was like, shaped like a square and the asphalt shingles came straight down the house, like to almost like sh, like shoulder head around the whole house and then they just had like cutouts for windows.
So it was, and then it had a soft underneath that, that kind of went under and then down to the house, it was one of the ugliest house you’ve ever seen. And this was back in Mapquest days. And uh my dad had showed me a picture of the house and gave me a set of mapquest directions. And so we were driving to the house one morning, me and 11 of my guys, one of my brother, I might, my brother, um me and some guy were in the work van driving to this house and you get down to like the last mapquest direction and like you kind of, there’s the ugliest house in the world like I could never miss it.
How could there be two? There was two. So we got set up, we scraped, we primed, we painted the trim over two or three days. Um And then like a week or two later, my dad was like clients. Like, why didn’t you paint the house yet? And my dad, we painted that house and I’ll never forget Fourth of July. We uh we made a trip down there so I could prove to him that I had painted this house. And sure enough, we drove by the house that I had painted to get to the second ugliest house in the world and it had not been painted. Man.
That is, yeah, that’s a story So, what did you, I guess. What did you learn from that? What do you walk away from? Um, I mean, I learned on my, like, really? You that at that time I was far too young to learn from mistakes. I, I mean, I was so full of myself. I was a terrible employee. Um, my dad should have learned to be more thorough in his management of his employees, that’s for sure. He, my dad was a terrible business, terrible paint. He owned a paint company for a couple of years.
It was not successful at all, but I learned everything not to do from him, right? All his failures I guess were a big teaching for me. Um I think most importantly from that, that experience, it’s hard to really say. I don’t, that’s more of a funny one. But um I learned from my dad and my dad was passionate like me about quality and I had no idea how to price things. So I think I was very hypersensitive to under pricing myself from the beginning. Um I watched my dad just massively over deliver on projects and lose his shirt.
But if and he didn’t do job costing or bookkeeping, Nick Slavic. Um And so he just had stacks of receipts and, and, and like I did for many years, like he managed his painting business by like is there money in the bank right now? Like that’s my metric on I am I doing well or not. You know, that is, if anyone is wondering, that’s not the way to do it. Like job costing is the answer. If you don’t know if you’re not making money on the job, don’t go to work, like, learn the jobs you don’t make money on and stop doing them.
I wish that took me a decade to learn. Um, it was not a coincidence. I was broke for a decade. Um because I didn’t ever look back. I think I was too afraid. I was too afraid to look back at the numbers and see if I made any money because I think I would have had to face this brutal truth that I didn’t. And I was very idealistic. I think craftsmen are very, can be very idealistic about painting. I know how to do a level of craft.
So I’m going to do it. But what if the client only paid for half that level? So I think, and Nick is very eloquent about all this and, and talks about how like, OK, the client pays for this level, let’s deliver here and we win anything past that you’re an asshole like you just aren’t like, what are we doing? We’re not martyrs, we’re not nonprofits. There are people who deserve our charity far more than people who can afford a paint job. Um I, I wish I would have learned to separate my ego away from the craft like uh my ego I, I was very self conscious about being a painter.
Um And so if I was gonna be a painter, I was gonna be a high end, high quality painter. And, and I think I did all of that in spite of, like, in flying in the face of my best interests in, in making any money at all. Um Even making clients happy, I massively over delivered on projects but made it a very difficult experience for the client and they didn’t want that. They just wanted their walls trim painted and, like, get out of my house. Exactly. Please leave.
I’m not done. Are you kidding me? I can make it 10 times better. Like, yeah. Um, I wish I would have just started doing job costing sooner. Um, I think another mistake I made was, uh, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to over deliver early on, in business to like, get to another level of clientele. I don’t think that’s bad at all. Um, I did it many times. I’ve, I’ve given discounts or whatever, over, over delivered on scope to either practice myself to have a body of work that says I can do this.
Those are all great. Uh But what I, what I didn’t understand and what I wish I, what the mistakes I made during that and what I tell people now is like, if you’re going to over deliver, do it at the end of the project, don’t go do something for free early on in the project. That’s one of the worst things you can do. You, you paint an extra door for a client on the first day of a project. Watch that project blow up because people don’t wanna be indebted to somebody else when you, when you paint a door for them and don’t charge them for it and don’t ask, they feel indebted on day one.
No one wants to think about. We all have those friends who manipulate us by maybe, you know, hopefully we don’t have these friends, but we all know people who will do stuff for you as a way to then have leverage over you later. And it’s like I didn’t ask you to go out of your way and do these things. So I think doing, um, free or extra stuff early on a project is very dangerous. The client is great and the project goes well and you want to paint their mailbox at the end. Awesome.
And, and it’s, it’s, it’s a win, win and everyone’s happy. But I think oftentimes I was doing that extra thing for clients as a way to have to buy some leeway later on to, to have a little bit of buffer and be able to make mistakes and be able to show up late to a job one day and feel like, yeah, well, I painted their door for free so like I can do this. Um, I think it was very selfish giving. I think it’s very dangerous. Um, and you’re finding, rather than getting more grace from the client, if anything they were kind of turning around and, and being a little bit harder to deal with.
Oh, absolutely. It’s a, it’s, I think anyone who’s ever done it can, can attest that like the result you think you’re gonna get is the opposite of what you get. And when you really break down the human psychology of it, it kind of makes sense. I like nobody wants to be forced into owing somebody something. Yeah. And I don’t care what you say. If you do something for free, for somebody, they’re gonna feel a sense of debt indebtedness to you. And how would that come out? Would that come out is just, yeah, I mean, just being, I guess more um detail oriented or having more of an issue with some of the work that you did or how would that manifest?
I think there’s, it’s, it actually loses trust, right? I think pricing in our industry is, is already a, a low trust situation where people are like, did you just pick, pick these numbers out of the sky? And like if I can move my price be if I, if you clients like look, I really wanna hire you. But if you can take $203 off, like job yours and if you could just take $1000 off, like was the price just like made up out of the sky, right? Like maybe they would have taken $1500 off if I asked them, maybe it would have been 2000.
And it’s like this inner dialogue of like um is this pricing even real? Am I or am I just getting taken advantage of? I think that starts to creep in where like if you go, I know my numbers here are my numbers, here’s the price and if you want $1000 off, you gotta give me something flexibility of schedule, um ability to market the job, whatever. Like even if I’ve made shit up, I pretended like something was a credit. I just needed the job, but I would never take money off a job for no reason that I think makes the client feel like they’re paying for a thing that didn’t, maybe it wasn’t the best price.
So if you needed the job and you could do the job whenever and someone approached you with that, hey, I really want to give it to you to take $1000 off. You would advise the painting company owner, estimator to basically make something up potentially like, well, hey, you know what we, we can do that, we actually have a really tight week for the next two weeks. If you can hold off and we could start on this date, then I can do that for you because that’ll fit in really well with their schedule. Yeah.
Or can I market this? Can I have, can I make videos, like, now maybe I see. Cool. But can I make videos about the project while we do it? Yeah. Like I was probably gonna do that anyway. But now they feel like they’re giving up something to get that discount and now they’re ok. The price came from someplace. But I think a lot of clients have a hard time believing that pricing is real with painters because I think a lot of us just are making shit up.
I mean, I did most, I still do. I mo most of like, you know what I do is hard to really quantify because it’s so custom that a lot of it is kind of like portfolio estimating like all right, you win some, you lose some because I don’t know, I can’t possibly know all the things on a $400,000 paint job, how everything’s gonna go right the way you can on a $5000 basic exterior repaint. Um You know, my linear foot and my square foot pricing. If I look back on projects, it can vary so much based off of so many design details, scheduling G CS, uh parking high if you worked in high rises, like it adds so much to cost.
There’s so many things right? But I think generally clients have a hard time believing price, especially if you, if you all your prices end in 000, like 103, 3000, 4000. Like, I’m sorry, but nobody believes your prices are accurate if you’re like, I think it’s important even if they’re not to start putting in some weird numbers. So people like, um, like, cents, would you get to that? I’ve never done cents. That, that seems exorbitant to me. 37 cents you go 37 cents good on you. Um, but I, if I’m charging, you know, 30,000 plus and I’m getting into cents, that starts to seem unrealistic from the other, other side, the other side, right?
It’s like, what is this fucking guy doing? Um But I think that there really is a lot to be said for the trust in the sales process and how do we build it? And, and so I wish I would so back to my thing. Like if I’m gonna upgrade a paint job, I’m gonna make sure I get two caveats and I get them in writing. I’ve learned this the hard way. I’m gonna have a, a flexible schedule, right. I’m gonna have more time. Ok, I’m, I’m doing my first Glow store.
I need to have an unlimited amount of time. I’ve never done this, Miss Jones. How can I tell you how long it’s gonna be? And I’m probably gonna fail it three times. I need time. Right? And I need, but people will say, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. When you tell them they’re gonna get something for free. You gotta get it in writing. I had a client who told me I could document an entire project and then at the end, um acted like we had never talked. It was so bizarre and I could have gone to court and done all these things, but instead I just had to move on and learn my lesson.
Um And then the second one is I need to be able to document this. I need to be able to take photos and videos. I need to have clients be able to come over and see this. If I’m selling my next job, I can’t tell you how many big projects we sell by taking clients on tours of our old projects. That’s a very valuable thing. Well, if I have a client who wants privacy and wants me to sign an ND A, which we’re on a big project right now.
We had everybody sign ndas. All right. Well, they’re definitely not getting a pricing discount because I can’t even tell the world that I’m doing this really cool shit that I’m gonna do for the next year. Yeah. You know, I, I think it’s, it’s understanding like if I’m gonna give something, I’m gonna get something um in there and the client’s gonna give something up. It’s an interesting, uh it’s not something you really hear typically taking a potential client and walking them through a previous project. That’s definitely an ultra high end thing.
Yeah, that’s a thing if you’re about to pull the trigger on a $400,000 paint. The, the last one we did was like $450,60003 paint job. So you would recommend five, you know, the, the middle market that they just selling $5000 paint jobs. I, that’s, people don’t, I don’t think they care. No one’s gonna, like, take a day out of their, their, especially my clients are taking a day out their Saturday to go look at a project, like, you know, because they’re making big decisions and, yeah. No, for sure. One thing you said during all that, which was really interesting is that you had desperation on your side when you were starting for a long time.
I think desperation is a powerful tool too. But can you talk more about that? Yeah, I mean, I don’t come from like a family that was gonna have like a safety net of any type financially. Um, that was very clear. Um, so it was like, I think I, I just didn’t have a safety net and I didn’t have anything and like, when I moved home and, like, started working by the hour, I mean, when I started my business when I was working for $15 an hour with a little giant ladder to a Ford Taurus painting a flip house.
Like, I just, I didn’t have, I could not eat, like, I couldn’t put gas in my car, like, if I didn’t work and I think that that level of desperation and I, I’ve kind of had that for a very long time. Close to a decade, I think now, maybe, maybe eight years of, of just like living check to check, pawning tools to make payroll, um, payroll. Yeah. To, to pay people cash at the end of the week. That’s what I did for the first eight years. Another huge mistake.
Uh If we want to talk about mistakes, if you want to build a real business, uh and have great employees, I, I’ll tell you right now, great employees don’t work for cash. They just don’t. People who great employees are steady and they want steadiness and, and safety in their lives and people who work for cash aren’t those people. And I, I think I waited way too long to get on a payroll service because I knew once I got on a payroll service now I’m, I have to have all that money in the bank.
I gotta pay all those taxes, all that workman’s comp, I got all that money is coming out on top of what I’m paying this person. Right. And I have to have that money. I can’t wait a day. You know, the number of times I’ll, I’ll get, I’ll pay you on Saturday or I’ll pay you next Monday. Cash gave me flexibility and I paid guys cash for way, way, way too long. Beca and what it meant was I, I was stuck with subpar employees. So that’s definitely a huge mistake I made.
How did you go ahead? How would you try to fix that? So if you’re, if you’re feeling like you are worried about making payroll, you know, or, or you know, what would be payroll, right? But in cash and you think you probably have a team of subpar employees. You are kind of in a chicken in the egg scenario backwards, you gotta go back to being just you working and until you can get a charge rate, that’s high enough in a business to tie. Because honestly, you could make great money painting by yourself.
That’s if you can’t make great money paying by yourself, stop painting and go work for somebody. Because if you’re like, when you’re doing all the things and you only have to keep one guy busy this year, like time is on your side, you can raise your prices. You can hear no, a lot. You don’t have to sell many jobs and then you’re super efficient. So if you can’t as a painter, owner, operator, if you cannot like make good money as a single painter, don’t hire employees, employees reduce efficiency, right?
You, you’re I think that I just did not know that another huge mistake. I grew way too fast. I hired way too many people. Um I think it’s this, this the concept of like a minimum viable product or like what is the, at what point can this thing sustain by itself before I can scale it? It needs to be a net positive entity. And like, I just didn’t understand that I was chasing like I had more revenue, I had more jobs to do. I don’t want to do all this work.
So I’ll just put more people and if I have people working, I’m obviously making money. Like, what do you mean? Of course. Um And man, that’s a miserable, miserable existence, like slow down to go fast. Like you gotta, it’s gotta work. Just want me and me and one guy. So this, if it’s just, you, you know, you’re saying you should be able to make good money. And so one thing I try to do in the podcast is always try to nail down specific. So if people listen, what?
So I go, you know, I’m making like 40 grand, I think maybe it’s time to hire someone. What would you define as good money? Let’s, let’s say this making the money that you wanna make. So let’s say I, I estimate a job to take 10 hours. Ok. What’s my hourly rate? I’m multiplying by the 10 hours. Well, people I used to think I was getting paid $18 an hour. So if I make 25 I’m killing it. And that’s not true. Go to a PC A event, talk to anybody. You’ll find out like I would say if you know, 45 $50 an hour, you wanna be able to charge 303 $50 an hour.
That’s gonna cover all of your things. Right. So, now, ok, you do the job in 10 hours, that’s $500 to the job plus materials. Ok. Now, do you do the job in 215 hours? Do you make that $2000 an hour that you estimated if every time you estimate? Oh, I asked my, your hourly rate, $215 an hour. But do you go double the hours on every job you estimate? Well, then, no, you’re actually earning $220 an hour, right? And so I think it’s like different costs of livings mean different things. Everybody has different expectations.
So making good money is probably not a good way to say it. It should be more of like, are you doing what you wanna do? And are you turning a profit? Like if you’re gonna pay an employee, you know, $210 an hour, then you’re gonna pay all the things on top of it. You need to be charging $26000 an hour for that person. Are you making $103 an hour? I, is that, is that what you’re actually producing? And if you’re not, then you need to figure out how to get it so that you are before you start adding people to this equation because when you add people to the equation, it becomes harder and harder to make profit to be efficient.
Your efficiency goes down while you’re trying to increase efficiency. So, if you’re looking to hire, you should, you should know that your hourly rate covers somebody that you still make money. This should probably be a little bit of margin for error that that employee is probably not gonna be as good as you are. You know, they’re not gonna care as much as you do and then you should probably have quite a few leads that you either weren’t able to get to or that told you no, but you think you could have probably gotten them to say yes or you know that there you have XY or Z marketing channel you could tap into to get more leads because when you pull yourself out now of a sudden, what are you gonna be doing?
If you’re not, if you’re not generating more projects with the increased workforce, then you’re basically just maybe working less. But you’re also making a lot less money now because you’re paying for someone else. I think you need to vis visualize, removing yourself from that role and I wouldn’t stop painting until you have four guys painting for you, right? I think that’s generally where you wanna be, right? I I to, to not paint and have one painter that works for you too fast. That is like, I mean, the numbers to make that work are wild and they’re not practical and like, that’s crazy. Right. Yeah.
So you put four as, as the minute until you have four, you should say four. You know, and, and I think everyone has their own tolerances for. What do they want to make themselves? What is their market bear today? Like, what can they command dollar wise, price wise? Um, but it’s, I love this basic economics equation of supply and demand and it’s, this is the most tried and true thing of all time, supply and demand. If demand increases and supply stays the same price increases, it’s the simplest thing.
Don’t hire more people. Stay, you and a guy. All right, we’ll build demand, get more people to want to hire you and don’t hire any new people. Well, you can start to raise your rates. I think it’s when we first start painting companies. At least my experience when I needed every job I bid to eat. I had to win that job. That is a horrible, horrible position to be in. It’s the absolute lack of leverage. I, I’ve done everything in my power today to, I look at every single job and I just do not need it.
I’m apathetic. I’d like to, I’d like to win this job. But on my terms, right, it’s like dating, like, I’d like to have a partner. But on my terms, like, yeah, I’m sure you could have a partner no matter what if you just completely changed who you were. And, but like, that’s not the answer. The answer is like, hear, no and get used to hearing no. And as long as you have enough work to keep working and you’re hearing no, like if you’re not ever hearing no, you’re not charging nearly enough. Right?
Everybody knows. I mean, that’s a, that’s a very common thing. Right? But it was really hard for me to hear. No, I’m a people pleaser. I want everyone to like me all the time. So I think getting used to. No is, is huge. So the best way to do that is to stay small because what I hear all the time people go. Oh, I’m so busy. I’m so busy. All right, we’ll start raising your prices, man. Start hearing. No, like it’s very, very simple. But I think a lot of times when I first start, when you first start a painting company, you have all me have the worst, the worst clients, the worst clients are the ones who hire new painting companies, right?
You do? Yeah, it makes sense. My clients would, the my best clients and all my clients, but my best clients, they would never hire a new painting company. Right. Yep. All the best clients are already being served by a painter today when you start your painting company, assume that all the best clients are already being served that day. Now, tomorrow somebody might move to your town and not have a painter already. Ok. There’s a good excuse for why they might a great client might call you. But like for the most part, I think when you first start out, I couldn’t believe someone was gonna pay me to paint something.
But really you have to look at like, why is this person gonna pay me, Joe Blow with no reviews on Google and no experience at the Like, why are they gonna No, they’re trying to take advantage of me. So oftentimes we start those early data points color our view of business. Oh I have clients will never pay X or clients. They’re like this or clients are like that. Yeah, all the worst clients are like that. And when early business I was getting all the worst clients and I was making these, I was starting to develop AAA framework for the world that was really fucked up because it was based off of all these bad clients and bad feedback.
So I think getting to that position where you can say no, like I know guys guys have come to my school who is one man operation, he’s 210 and $2100 an hour in his first or second year in business because he started doing side work first built up his side work and with side work, you have a full time job. Like I don’t wanna come work on my weekends and not make good money. So you can say no like no, here’s my price but if you want me, I’m here, call me.
And that, that mindset of like when you’re small, it’s like here’s what I’m worth. Here’s what I wanna make, take it or leave it now. If you have no options, you’re screwed. Right. That’s the demand side. We need to increase the demand side. But you go hang out at the paint store, talk to G CS. There’s so many ways to build demand. If you’re a one man painter, that’s when you gotta get your hourly rate up. The only way to raise your hourly rate is when you’re small.
Once you have a huge team of people, you have to keep busy, that’s way harder to raise your rates. Can’t be quite as picky at that point. Yeah, that’s a really interesting concept. I don’t, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about that and I think it applies a lot of businesses. But, you know, we’re talking about painting here. I think the idea that when you’re starting out, why would someone take a risk, so to speak on you? And then, you know, every purchase or every, every buying decision is really an exchange of value in some way.
So the value that you might be lacking in terms of experience or portfolio or referrals on Google reviews you could potentially have in terms of them paying you less money and kind of taking advantage of you. Maybe they’ll try to get you to do additional work and expand your scope because they know that you were desperate for the job and you need the review and um and that might be, again, it might be something that you’d have to do. It might not be ideal but, but those exchange of value, hey, I, I want a review, I’m willing to do this, but I want, we’re gonna do it together.
You’re gonna leave me a review or a portfolio or whatever. Um But, but recognizing that that is a certain segment of the population that you were serving, that is not everybody. That’s where you are as a business and you’re just in kind of a crappy spot, but you’re there because you’re starting and everyone starts there usually. Uh and then not letting it taint a forever kind of put a glass ceiling upon what you can charge and what you can do with your company. I think that’s amazing way too much and in, in contractors, in the comments and like they like those early years will taint their whole view of the market.
And it’s like no man, you just had bad data. Yeah, man. Then that, that’s uh that’s wild. It’s like the Jason Phillips, the, you know, contractor prison, that’s where you get kind of trapped there. Yeah. And you, and, and then it’s a self fulfilling prophecy man. Like because then you start to have to, you start playing, you start playing because business is on some level business is listening to the market and giving it what it wants. Definitely, I had to learn that the hard way for sure you can’t be idealistic and too idealistic in business.
But also we need to be understanding of like, what market are we listening to and what market are we trying to solve? And like, until I was a fine paints of Europe certified painter and I went to Vermont and I met these people who were working for billionaires and who had these crazy clients. And you know, one guy only used fine paints of Europe. And I looked over and I was like, are you fucking kidding me? You have a business and you only use fine paints of Europe.
Like my mind was exploded. It was a four minute mile. All of a sudden this guy telling me they’ve run the four minute mile. Yeah, do it too. And, but until I like was exposed to that stuff, I didn’t know these people existed and because they were already being served, all the best clients in your market are being served by a painter today. Why I, I’m gonna have to do some my, if I have a great client, I’m gonna do everything for them to make them never wanna call another painter.
So that’s always like the thing. It’s like why the great clients aren’t calling new painters unless they move towns. Their painter retires. Like there’s a very few handful of reasons why a great client’s gonna call somebody to ask for a paint job. Let’s kind of, and, and it doesn’t have to go all the way to your level. But for someone who’s earlier on or they’re listening and they’re like, man, you know, I, I think I do have bad clients overall. I’m not really happy with, with who we work with generally.
What would the process be to sort of move upmarket? How would you recommend they move up market? I think it’s, it’s if you build it, they will come. Like there’s definitely a level of that. Um It is doing your best to put yourself in the shoes of somebody else, right? I think that was really hard for me. And I vividly I tell this story a lot. I vividly remember the day where I was, what was happening when I had the epiphany of like, I am gonna charge what I’m worth here and not what I think this person would pay or what I would pay and what all these bad clients have been paying.
Like I got my first opportunity to bu to bid this like $2000 million beach house, sick house on the water. Amazing clients. They called me at a time as a through a referral. They called me when I was like drowning on another job and I was like, oh I can’t even get there to look at it. I was just like, I don’t fucking talk to me, I was like, I can’t even get there for two weeks to look at it. And I, so I already sort of like, I, I was like, I’m overwhelmed.
I can’t, I went to the job. I noticed like, this is my wheelhouse. Like I was offering product systems and solutions for them that no one else was going to. And I like, really love what I was doing. They loved me still one of my best clients to this day. Uh Almost, I don’t, can’t remember maybe seven years later, eight years later. And my first client and I, I remember I, I did the bid and then it, I’m making up numbers to spend so long. But it was maybe it was like $28,000 to do like a lot or $38,000 to do a lot of work.
And I remember I put like, I wanted 15 or $20,1003 I just added to the bit at the end and they said yes. And it was the first time I probably ever made a dollar painting alchemy. Yeah. And, and, but I just, I, I, somehow it all happened where I realized like, wait a second, this person has a $4 million house. They’re not gonna paint their house very often. I just brought every solution in the world to them. They’re not gonna make or break their decision off $15,000. Now, what I didn’t know like in hindsight, my pricing was laughably low that I added the $15,000 to.
Right, because I was used to working for 15 $20 an hour. Yeah, that’s where my pricing structure was coming from. So, it, it worked that way too. But, like, when I started to understand, like, there are other people out there who think differently than I do or the people I grew up with do and so start to think about, well, what are the businesses that serve those people? And how do those businesses work? And, and some of it is just imagination and like, putting yourself in the shoes of other people and like, taking the constraints off of like, what I would like, I don’t, we don’t say no to anything on like an extreme level.
We never say no. But like I talked to a lot of guys and, and I think a lot of people are like, well, no, that can’t happen. And what they mean is, that’s so expensive. I’ve never had anybody that would, that’s willing to pay that. That’s what they really mean. But they don’t say that they say no, can’t do that. They don’t even allow themselves to, like, think about what somebody else might do that had a little more money or maybe wanted, had more money, but also valued other things, right?
Maybe peace of mind is something they really value. And like, if you’re the owner of the painting company and you’re gonna be there every single day, all day. Maybe somebody would pay more for that. Certain people will pay more for that than they’ll pay for my company where I’m not gonna be there all day, every day. And I think the way to get to the next level is to a, have the opportunity to say no to stuff, start pushing your pricing and see where it goes and then you have to, you have to deliver more like you have to, you can’t just charge more, you have to deliver more and oftentimes delivering more can just mean like answering the phone and submitting a proposal quickly.
Yeah, or you know, it just, it’s, it’s these like little things that when I was a painter, we were just like go, go, go, go, go all the time and you never stop to think about what is this like for the client? Yeah. Um that, that concept of delivering more. So, you know, for, for painter marketing product, we’re good at what we do. We deliver good marketing results, but one of the ways we deliver more is communication. And so it’s something a lot of marketing agencies don’t think about.
They think about, well, the only, it’s only results, it’s a results doesn’t matter how you communicate, it doesn’t matter how you treat, it doesn’t matter if you have a monthly call. It that doesn’t all they care about is leads and the results. But actually they get a whole lot of value out of the communication out of being available, right? It’s one of the one of the most positive feedbacks we get about painter, marketing pro with a painting company that communication, like you said, obviously the bear like kind of ridiculous basics of answering, answering your phone.
That’s absurd, right? It’s absurd that, that, that you have to say that and that, that’s so common. But showing up on time giving people you leverage automation. There’s so many different automations that make it so easy, leverage automation to let them know, hey, remind them you’re coming tomorrow or remind them, hey, your estimates upcoming, make the journey easy for them. It’s just you put these few key pieces in place to make that customer journey so much easier for them so that they know exactly what’s going on and all of a sudden you, you are delivering way more and you’re delivering in a way more efficient way than if you think.
Oh my gosh, like, well, how do I make the paint, the paint project? Like, be so much better magically or how do I, how do I like? Oh, maybe I do like another code or maybe I add some extra. That’s not what it means. Deliver more and that’s where that transfer of value, you know, especially if you are an owner operator. If you’re a single painter for you, your whole focus at least a large part of your focus is on the actual project, the actual technical, you know, fulfillment of what you’re doing.
But that’s not the focus of the homeowner. So don’t value exchange. They’re buying. Let’s be real. It’s not what people are buying. Yeah. And it’s just that as painters, we, I was, I was an employee and I was a painter and all I thought about was painting all day. And then one day I started a painting company. Well, I didn’t change my thinking. All I thought about was paint. That’s all, that’s all they care about. They’re just buying the paint on the wall. That’s it. You kidding me?
They’re buying the paint on the level of the room when it’s a new color. Yeah, they’re buying the peace of mind of what happens when you’re in their house. Yep. They can change the color at some level. Like they’re buying a bunch of other things and the paint job happens to be one of them maybe. But when you’re a painter it’s hard to, like, not see through the lens of paint jobs. And so I think that, that if you want to go to the next level, you have to think like the people at the next level and it’s, and almost undoubtedly it’s gonna be about customer experience and it’s, it’s not gonna be about high, delivering a higher level paint job.
Yeah, the, you know, there, there’s all this stuff about mindset. Right. And all that stuff and, and some of it’s kind of like hoopla, you know, kind of whatever. Some of it’s actually really good. Um, but for people who listen to this and, and they’re like, yeah, you know, I, I do probably think, or maybe I think, I don’t even know if I think too much about the paint job. I’m listening to this, but it’s possible how do you fix it? Like, is it just, hey, go in a room and just sit there and meditate and try to figure it out.
Is it, hey, go talk, maybe the PC A, go talk to other people get exposed to people who think about it differently. How can someone who thinks they might be trapped in this kind of mentality? How can they break through to the other side? Uh I mean, so I had to do it the hard way. That’s why I was excited to do this podcast. And that’s why I picked this topic is like I learned all this the hard way I, I had the world beat me over and over and over again until like, I couldn’t do anything but admit I have to change.
I think that like that was the first, like I had to do that the hard way I, I delivered the best paint job of all time on a project. It was truly not, there wasn’t an ounce of this trim that was not freaking cabinet grade. And throughout the whole edition it was freaking flawless. And they didn’t call me to bid the second phase of the project. I was, like, blown away, like, truly to this day, it’s probably the most thorough paint job I’ve ever done. I mean, it was wild but I was there till like 10 o’clock at night, listening to music, standing away all by myself with the client.
At certain times, it was a, just a wife at home alone. The husband would be out of town and I, I would be in the other part of her house on the other side of some plastic and I’d be listening to music and standing till nine o’clock at night, you know, just crazy shit. Super unprofessional. Yeah. And, you know, I, I think I just looking inward about what can I do to change, you know, losing the idealism that I had about. Well, the paint job should have been enough, you know, I think, yeah, going to the PC A changed so much for me.
I mean, it helped me. That’s, that’s what I understood. I, I didn’t know a thing about running a painting business until I went to the PC A. And like, all I wanted, my sweet spot was like, let’s talk about sandpaper grits, sprayers, viscosity, how to apply paint orange, peel all that. I, that, that’s all I want to talk about. And I, I get the PC A and these guys are like, dude, shut, no one wants to talk about it. I don’t think we’re talking about it. Right?
Guys, I remember I met my business partner like the first time and this and he comes, Gary comes up to me, I’ll never forget what he’s dead and, and he starts talking about like, it was gibberish to me at the time. Net profit. I don’t remember exactly what you’re saying. You’re saying like probably talking about net profit, gross profit revenue, cost of all who knows? And I was just like, dude, I paint $6000 doors, man with mirror finishes. You don’t even like, I was so clueless. I was so clueless.
Meanwhile, this guy is freaking absolutely killing it. And I’m broke as a joke. Like, you know, I think until you are, you surround yourself with people who are better than you and are thinking differently, you know, because the four minute mile, there’s a, there’s thousands of four minute miles that exist in a painting business and, and when you know that someone else has run it, the, the and for anyone who doesn’t know the story of the four minute mile, the guy ran. No one thought it was humanly possible.
The guy did it. And like within six months, like 30 more people in the world had done it and it was just like the power of the human brain knowing that it’s possible, you know, all of a sudden you can go do it. And so I think it’s definitely like getting at it being I’m so happy saying, I don’t know. And like, I fucked up my bad, like, get really good at that. Like, I’m pretty good at some stuff and I know I know some stuff, I’m an expert in a few things, but I’m also really comfortable telling you I don’t have a fucking clue or, I don’t know, or I fucked up and like, I don’t have any ego wrapped around that.
Like I’m a human. I mean, all the Yeah. And the only way I’ll get to the next level is if I admit where I really am, like, see yourself honest, I think true self awareness is, is hard to come by. But when you have it, you can like you can play the game. It’s just like we were talking about if you don’t do job costing, you don’t know the world you’re playing in, you’re playing in a fake world and you’re making decisions and you don’t even know what the outcomes are because you’re not looking at them.
Like if you don’t have real data, what like you’re just playing a made up world that do your own thing, man. Yeah. And, and yeah, great. Now this is, this is when we start to point at everybody else. See all of you, this is this person and this and this is no, no, no. It, all of my success in life is any of it has all come from looking inward and I change and I adapt, not trying to hope the world’s gonna change for you. Good luck.
Yeah, man. This is uh this is deep, man. I appreciate you going so deep. I’m excited for the, for going into serving the high end clientele. I think that’s gonna be really awesome and then your social media marketing greatness. But as we wrap up this first series going into mistakes, you know how you, how you’ve learned from them, overcome them adapted. Is there anything else you want to add before we wrap it up? Uh I, I barely got into the mistakes. We got across the high level stuff.
I think that’s important. But um I think it, I think really the, the takeaway for me is what I wish I knew sooner was like, surround yourself with great people. Um Don’t be afraid to fail and it just be real a any amount of, of inauthentic inauthenticity. I guess that’s the word, any lack of authenticity or, or like not being real or not playing with real data. It’s, it might get you through a moment but it will never be good. Like the more you can just be real and then go from there the better but like faking and, and pretending like, unless you are very aware of it and you know that I’m just faking this for this minute and I’m gonna go change this tomorrow like it, it can get dangerous to not see yourself for like the truth and be vulnerable and like the who cares if you make mistakes?
Still stop, stop making. I wish I could tell myself, stop making the same mistake 10 times before you finally change. It’s not the world’s fault. Nothing is the world’s fault. I don’t care what’s happened to you. How bad of whatever the world did to you. Even if it is the world’s fault, thinking of it as the world’s fault is always good. Victim mentality is never the answer. Even if you’re a victim, right? There’s plenty of studies that show that’s just not the way. Even if you’re a victim, don’t ever see yourself as a victim.
Well, the same thing in business, like, even if the world and you really did have an asshole client, like II, I had a bad client. Uh Yeah, I’ve had hundreds of them many. But like last year we wrote off $100,000 worth of bad debt. People who didn’t pass and it’s so easy to look at a person and go. This person didn’t do the right thing and they broke the law or whatever, right? That is great. But it’s not useful. I can’t learn a thing by pointing the finger at someone who broke the law or lied to me and then didn’t pay me.
But what I can do is I can look inward and go all right. What could I have done? Desperate if we’re talking about this. What, what could I have done to prevent this? Well, at, at the first thing was, like, were there red flags in the sales process that I ignored? Yeah. Oops. Like I have control over things and then I, I don’t have control over a bunch of things. It’s a serenity, understanding that I have control over me. And next time, what could I do next time to prevent this horrible thing that happened to me that was, didn’t feel like it was my fault.
But what could I do to prevent it? All right. Well, next time I could listen to red flags, you know, very rarely do, do horrible things or bad things happen to us that we don’t have some way of learning from. That’s not pointing the finger at the person who did wrong to us. That’s not helpful. Yeah. Uh, but it’s hard to do it. It might not be your, your fault entirely, but it is your responsibility to try to learn from it and correct it. Moving forward. You’re only in control of you.
So stop pointing the finger, stop talking about other people and start looking in. I, I wish I knew that suitor. I love it. Zach. Thank you, brother. I’m excited to talk about more about the high end clientele in the next episode. Really? Appreciate you, man. This was awesome. And, uh, thanks for coming on the show, brother. Absolutely.
If you want to learn more about the topics we discussed in this podcast and how you can use them to grow your painting business, visit painter marketing pros dot com forward slash podcast for free training, as well as the ability to schedule a personalized strategy session for your painting company. Again that URL is paintermarketingpros.com/podcast.
Hey there, painting company owners. If you enjoyed today’s episode, make sure you go ahead and hit that subscribe button, give us your feedback, let us know how we did. And also, if you’re interested in taking your painting business to the next level, make sure you visit the Painter Marketing Pros website at Painter Marketing Pros dot com to learn more about our services. You can also reach out to me directly by emailing me at Brandon@PainterMarketingPros.com and I can give you personalized advice on growing your painting business until next time.