Guest Interview: Zach Kenney “ZK’s Words of Wisdom” Series: Episode 2 – High-End Clientele Mastery

Published On: October 30, 2023

Categories: Podcast

In this series titled “ZK’s Words of Wisdom”, Zach Kenney of ZK Painting will be discussing how he has overcome mistakes, best practices for serving high-end clientele, and social media marketing greatness.

In episode 2, Zach dives into how to best serve high-end customers, given their somewhat unique needs and expectations.

If you want to ask Zach questions related to anything in this podcast series, you can do so in our exclusive Painter Marketing Mastermind Podcast Forum on facebook. Just search for “Painter Marketing Mastermind Podcast Forum” on facebook and request to join the group, or type in the URL facebook.com/groups/paintermarketingmastermind. 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.

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Episode 2

– High-end Clientele Mastery

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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 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 Kenny of ZK painting will be discussing how he has overcome the stakes, best practices for serving high end clientele and social media marketing greatness.

In episode one, Zach discussed the many failures and subsequent learnings and adaptations he had to make on his journey to over $3 million per year in revenue. In this episode, episode two, Zach will dive 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 in our exclusive painter marketing mastermind podcast form on Facebook.

Just search for painter marketing mastermind podcast form 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 a particular painting company. It’s going on Zach. Hey Brandon, how are you doing? Well, man, I enjoyed our last conversation and I know we were kind of heading into this topic in depth.

We had to pull it back. So I’m excited for what we got today. Me too. High end clientele. Let’s do uh maybe like a, a quick recap before we dive full in on kind of how you ended up working with your target market and then we can get into what makes it so different. Yeah, I think I, I was always driven by the craft and um being able to deliver a high quality product and I think that was really the driver. And then eventually I realized like, wait a second, you, if you’re gonna sell paint jobs that cost more, you gotta find people who want to pay for them.

And just naturally, you know, the high end market became like where I was gonna go work because I wanted to do the highest level paint jobs possible. I didn’t get into this business to like, make the most amount of money. Um It wasn’t really what I was thinking about as much as just like, I really love the craft and like, how can I, you know, flex that muscle? I love it, man. So for you, it was a basically a passion drove your positioning in the marketplace 0003% awesome.

And now are you still doing the paint? Are you still there? I haven’t painted in about five years. But how does that reflect on your, I guess is that passion for the craft uh relevant? You can only do too much, so much with two hands and I realized at a certain point. Uh So now I, I get not as much but a almost as much satisfaction um from seeing the projects that we’re on a lot of what I do now is in the, is in the designing the scope of work and designing the process for, for getting an outcome and then coaching up and supporting my team and, and executing that.

So I still am involved in the craft. I’m not standing a door for 30 hours like I used to. Um and I do miss a fair amount of it, but I teach classes And so that’s kind of where I get to really where I get my hands dirty is, you know, every couple months we have an in person class at my shop. And so I still get to like, touch the tools and the equipment and sand and all the things. But now I get to do large scale projects with high end designers and contractors and awesome clients.

And like now it’s not, I did this, it’s, we did this and, you know, and I get to a lot of my satisfaction now comes from like my, the people who work with us make good money and they have a good living and you know, they’re happy people and they’re not being like stressed out and worried and, and it, it’s not a toxic environment to go to work in, you know, I’ve definitely shifted um what I like, like rate myself on what am I trying to do?

Like we got to the painting like we, we know how to do good painting. Yeah, I love it, man. You’ve, you’ve up upscaled kind of in some ways to the point where now you’re able to, to focus on things outside of the actual craft itself. The craft is still being done really well. But now you’re actually impacting people’s lives, your team members lives in a really positive way and you’re, you’re seeing more impact than just the craft itself at this point. Yeah, I’m a, I’m a, I love to learn.

I’m a very curious person and I really love learning and growing and, and I’m, I’m the guy, I’m the, I get the ball rolling and then I lose interest. So, like I’ve learned to harness that. Um, and I think at a certain point I learning the craft was like, all encompassing it. It fed my soul and I was all in and I was reading the forums till 3 a.m. every night and I was practicing and trying and I was obsessed, but at a certain point, like, I kind of figured some stuff out and it became more monotonous and less interesting.

Um And so I had, and then I, I was sick of being broke. And so I started, I said, I’m not gonna touch the paintbrush anymore and then you start to have a whole new set of like problems and growing and learning and, and the feedback loop and it’s running a business and then scaling quality are a new thing that keeps me super interested. Yeah. So we talked a little bit last time about the size of your projects. You know, I, I think you had mentioned a painting a paint, a front door for $8000 but let’s kind of just quickly touch on that again as we start this kind of who you serve, typical, typical size of your projects.

How long they last? All that kind of stuff? Yeah. So are like our flagship product. I guess the thing that kind of through social media got us. Um some attention was our high glass doors. They’re very Instagram and video. Um I don’t know the word they, they, they do well on social media, they’re easy to capture um and show and highlight and people get it. Uh When I show high gloss rooms, I think people don’t even have a clue what they’re seeing and, and they don’t do nearly as well.

People don’t understand them. They take a lot longer to get done. So it’s funny like high glass rooms and ceilings really don’t show the same way. So we do a lot of entry doors. That’s why I first started using gloss. First thing I ever put gloss on was an entry door. Um, you can take it to your shop, you can lay it down, you can do it in a way and, and so we do quite a few high gloss doors. Um, and yes, we, I can’t do a high gloss door for less than $7000.

Like, unless we started getting slabs, if we get slabs or we do scale. I have like 30 doors that we’re doing. And so there’s a efficiencies of scale there where we can be closer to like 5500. Um And if we had flat slabs, you know, I could be less than that because it’s the hand standing that takes all the time. Machine standing is fast. Um But then our site work, we rarely do anything under $10,000 on site. Um, that’s a small project for us. Um, most of our projects are gonna be, um, 40 to it.

It’s gonna start around 503,000 but a lot of six figure interiors, um, that’s not uncommon. Uh, we’re just finishing up a, you know, well, over 100 and $50,000 interior, we did $100,000.01 for her early, a couple of years earlier. I’m pricing out a couple of like 3 to $600,000 projects right now. Um Big lot of labor. Um A lot of scheduling and manpower and, and it’s, they get very complex and it took me a long time to figure out how to do those types of projects. Um They’re, they’re not as simple as like, oh, I know how to do one room.

Just do it times 0003. Like, it’s just not how it works. And I lost a lot of money on a lot of projects early on because you don’t really get a lot of efficiencies of scale when you, when you grow on a high end project because most of the time no one’s giving you the whole house. Hm. It’s definitely um c the custom world is like, it’s different when people start to pay this kind of money. Uh We, I just say, we just say yes all the time.

I say yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And we change and we adapt and we, you know, and then the price reflects, but I’m in the business of saying yes to people and like making their, whatever they want to happen, happen and however they want it, we’re gonna do it. So if they’re asking for something that you maybe haven’t really done before, you’ll say yes and figure it out and then price it to a point. That makes sense generally. Um Yeah, and, and before we do it, we’re going to do full scale samples in the shop.

We never try something new on projects. Um We’re gonna do it in the shop. But yeah, I’m gonna say yes, I can do that. I’m gonna find the guys that, that are great at it. Then we’re gonna go do mock ups in the shop and, and, you know, all the things that take a lot of time and money. I, I, when I took the mental, when I took the shackles of price off of the, the sales and sort of listened to a client and never said no, I just said yes.

But you know, I, I need caveats of like price or like I need the place to myself or, you know, whatever I’m gonna ask for some stuff. And I’m gonna advocate a lot of what I do now is advocate for the paint job and advocate for the process because G CS and clients are like, go, go, go, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up. And uh it’s not easy when someone’s telling you, you know, we want a lot of us. I got into this because I’m a people pleaser.

And uh I did a lot of people pleasing at the expense of my paint jobs at the expense of my budgets, my bottom line. Um And so now we, we sort of, we have some lot more experience and we can say like, no, here’s what we need to do to give you what you said you want. Yeah. And the ironic thing is you try to please people, but it doesn’t really work when you’re trying to please people that way. And so if you’re, if you’re kind of moving along or, or you’re trying to be expedited or, or do it however they’re, you know, whatever box they’re trying to put you in.

But then there’s an issue of some kind which is clearly caused because you were trying to meet all these demands. That issue is gonna be the problem. There’s not gonna be any. Well, thanks for trying, you know, thanks for doing that. It’s gonna be, hey, you suck, you messed up XY or Z. We have this very important moment that, oh man, I wish I could have learned this and we talked about this. We should have talked about this yesterday, but there’s this very important moment where we set expectations and if we are setting expectations, just like when you estimate like you shouldn’t estimate for the best practice.

Like no matter like this is, if everything goes perfect, here’s how much it will cost. I learned that the hard way, that’s how I price things for a long time. You know, when you set expectations, this is the time, right? And, and it, there’s tension when you set expectations with the client. And I’m a people pleaser and I have to get used to this tension and live through it because the pain later is so great. And if, if I have a client who goes, OK, like how long is it gonna take to have my gloss room painted?

This is the time where I set the expectation. And if I say 4 to 6 weeks and they give me push back and then I go, hm, I mean, maybe we could do it in 3.5. That’s, that’s where so many of my problems have come right in. Instead. It’s a, it’s a fascinating human psychology experiment where that person, you tell them 4 to 6 weeks in their head, they thought it was two weeks because they’re not painters, right? And there’s a tension in the room, there’s a tension inside of them. They’re, and they’re like processing it and they’re trying to poke and oftentimes we negotiate against ourselves.

I did, I was very bad at negotiating against myself and in that tension and silence period, when the client was sort of like, uh I would start to backtrack and negotiate against myself where they didn’t even open up their mouth yet. But the tension in the, in the silence in the room made me go and then next thing, you know, I’ve committed to something that I can’t do. So today I’m, I try very hard and I’m not perfect and definitely still make this mistake. But like, hey, it’s 4 to 6 weeks and then shut the fuck up.

Just can I swear, shut up. Um Just shut up and don’t, and, and like stick to your guns. I had a really painful experience with a client that I loved. Some of my, two of my best clients. They were amazing people and we were doing, it was the biggest project I’ve ever done. It was a big exterior restoration. We had, I did a bunch of things wrong, but we had a bunch of scaffolding and, and we stripped all the house and we, but we got to the point where like, and I told him, I don’t know how long it’s gonna take.

I’ve never done something this big. I was honest up front, but I’ll never forget there was this meeting and it was on an evening one night and I go to sit down and it’s the two of the nicest human beings in the world. And I was like, I went to this meeting to tell them that I need to leave their house in primer over the winter. And I left that meeting, agreeing to paint the house before the end of winter because I was a people pleaser and the people are very kind and very nice and I just wanted to make them happy and I wasn’t confident enough to say no.

Well, I then tented off this place. I ran heaters at night. I did everything until a rainstorm came. And my six mil plastic that was like making a tent on my giant scaffolding had a ceiling to it and then it rained and like 60 gallons of water were sitting on the top of the scaffolding. Six mil plastic thing I had in the middle of the night, I was trying to get water down from it and running up and down till the sun came up, trying to get water out.

And eventually the client and the client heard me run up and out scaffolding all night. And finally that morning, they were just like, get out of our house, get, leave our house. You’re done. I can’t stand this. You’ve made this so painful. I leave and I didn’t get to finish that project and somebody else got to come and put the final coats on that project and stick their sign in the yard. And that was so painful because we had put hundreds and hundreds of hours stripping lead paint like the gross stuff.

And if I had just gone and stuck to my guns and said, we’re gonna leave it in primer over the winter and come back and paint. It just like some other guy did later, but it’s like advocating and sticking to what the project to what you know, needs to happen. Clients will back to like clients will like process, process and go OK. It’s just paint like at the end of the day, everything we’re talking about is just paint. It’s like people will go OK, 4 to 8003 weeks, like give them time to process and come to this new reality and then it then busy.

People want to put something in their head and forget about it. Like, ok, this is over here, it’s doing this thing and now I don’t think about it and I think that’s really you talking about high end clients and how to serve them. We need to be that thing that they can like deal with process and then put away and never worry about again. I think a lot of what I sell is low risk. We’re not, you don’t have to worry about us. Um What is that worth to somebody that’s a high net worth individual or, or someone that’s very busy and has a lot going on and their, their hourly rate when they go to work is worth a lot.

Well, now it makes it a good idea to spend a little more to have no mental energy spent on worrying if the painter is gonna show up today or if the painter is gonna whatever, um meet, it’s the first time this client we just finished up the project with, um, she had just gone through a horrible renovation with the GC and they were exhausted and she was like, I will pay the extreme premium to have this job done very fast. And we did a full restoration of two rooms in two weeks and it was exorbitantly expensive, could have been done for almost half the cost if we had more time.

But we delivered and she was like, couldn’t believe it right because she, we just did what we said we’re gonna do. Yeah. But I think setting those expectations up front realistically because if you say 4 to 6 weeks and you get done in 3.5, you’re a hero. Yeah. But if you say 4 to 6 weeks and you get done in and if you say 3.5 weeks and you get done in four weeks, you’re an asshole and that final bill is gonna come and it’s gonna be a lot harder to get. And that blue tape we talked about this in the last episode, but the sommelier effect, the, the, the wine is gonna taste different in the back alley in a Dixie cup.

And if I’ve missed my deadline by even a couple days, that wine is now being drank in a, in a back alley in a Dixie cup, the paint job will not look the same and I’ll have to do more touch ups. It’s likely I’ll do more touch ups when I miss my deadline than if I just set up a farther deadline in the past and it’s that meet that time when you set the expectations. Uh Oh, man, I’m saying this so much because I need to remember it because it’s still a thing that’s hard to do in the moment. Yeah.

No, it’s, it’s so important too and it is so easy, you know, as you’re selling stuff and like a painter, marketing pros, we try to under promise and over deliver and it’s so common for, you know, agencies they wanna hype like we’re gonna get you a million leads, right? Million leads that you signed, man, you won’t even, you’ll never have to worry about your business again, right? And for painting companies, they wanna say best paint job in the world, you know, you’re never gonna have to worry about again and, and it’s kind of the marketing kind of plays it that you make a portfolio and what are you gonna put in your portfolio?

It’s gonna be your most beautiful projects. You’re not gonna put your mid tier or the one you kind of screwed up. That’s not gonna go in your portfolio, your testimonials, your reviews, that’s gonna be good stuff. But when it gets down to actually talking to the homeowner to talking to the person that you’re selling it to people buy on trust. So if you tell them that, hey, you’re the, the greatest thing since sliced bread. The reality is you’re probably not because there are tons of other painting companies.

But you might be a solid dialed in company that has ethics that stands behind its work. That has plenty of people. They can talk to plenty of projects they can show. Yeah, they’ve made mistakes, but they’ve made it right. Here’s the process, here’s realistically how long it’s gonna take and why? And no, I can’t create a unicorn for you because you want it because it, because it doesn’t work. But what I can do is tell you that when I do it in this timeline, it’s gonna be done. Right.

And it’s, it’s as hard as it is. It’s a lot easier to have that conversation then than to have to have the one that you had, you know, when you’re trying to, trying to get the water off the tarp and it’s the middle of the night and you’re in their house, that’s, that’s a much more difficult conversation. But it’s so easy to just postpone the pain. You know, you just wanna, you wanna get rid of the discomfort right now, but you’re setting yourself up for failure. Yeah.

And I, and I think it, to another part of this is like a lot of us. I mean, I probably did this because, and I’d still, I, I’ll lose jobs when I set the honest expectations and the clients, like I lost it, I lost the glass ceiling and it had nothing to do with price. It was a $30,000 glass ceiling and that the timeline was not ok with them. Yeah. And there’s nothing I can do. I’m like, I can’t do it any faster. I know this. I’ve done this enough times.

I’m not gonna sacrifice and tell you I can do this any faster than I possibly can. And I think a big part of this is like having good marketing is like, like we talked about yesterday, demand needs to fire out waste supply so I can look at somebody and go, no, I’m not this. I’m gonna stand my ground and say, like I said, advocate for the paint job. Here’s what needs to happen and if you don’t like it, I totally get it. I’m not here to tell you, you have to have this glass ceiling and that, that ability today where I can look at a project and I don’t need to win it.

I think that the number one thing in business for all painters is that you gotta get to a spot where you do not need to win that project. When you look at it, that’s how we charge the most. That’s how we get ha That’s honestly how we get happy clients. Yeah. And when you come in with that, that kind of hold your ground that kind of, hey, we’re the professionals. We’re the experts. You’re hiring, hiring us because we’re good at what we do. It just sets the tone for the relationship to be positive for them.

Not to try to kind of ride you the whole, the whole way. Try to get free stuff, try to have nit, pick every little thing and, and overlook over your shoulder because you’ve set yourself up as a professional and the expert and you’re being hired for that expertise and you losing that project, you know, the $30,43 glass ceiling that seems like a loss on the surface. It’s actually a huge win, which I’m sure, you know, but I wanna make sure everyone we’re listening, you know who’s listening to this, that’s a huge win and sometimes no is what you want.

Those are great because a no from the, the wrong customer from the customer that was gonna have a real problem that, that ceiling wasn’t complete and then no matter how beautiful it was, there was gonna be a negative review or, you know, who knows what came out of it. That’s a, a bullet that was dodged. So not every project, not every estimate you go to. Not every person you talk to is a fit and you, you have to accept that and be happy that you avoided a mistake because right there that was a mistake that you avoided.

Yeah, the nose are so powerful. No, the nos are where it’s at, man. It took me a long time to figure that out. And even in sales in general, even for the projects you want, you know, there, there’s the, the idea that every, every no, you one no closer to a yes, you know, when you’re making a sale. So even if a project you want, there’s a learning opportunity, business and successes of all kinds are built on. Nos, the yeses are, are kind of the, the anomaly through a, through a a, you know, a graveyard of failures and mistakes and knows and everything.

That’s how real, real success is built. Ultimately. Um You said another thing too that was really important and I think it, it’s super, super relevant when you’re talking about these really high net worth individuals is hourly cost. So opportunity cost, you know, you, you go in and if you can provide them that peace of mind, this goes for everybody, but for these extremely wealthy individuals, they’re going to be especially um attuned to how much time they’re spending on something you have to think about what bandwidth in their mind you are freeing up by the fact that you have a guarantee or you have a a you know, you can give them that peace of mind, that satisfaction, them knowing that you were taking care of it, you’re freeing up bandwidth and that in and of itself, there’s a very high monetary value that’s gonna be placed on that.

Yeah, it’s again like what we talked about, it’s like you gotta think for these, for your client. Put your head in, put your brain in the, in the position of your client and like, you know, I’m not my client and I probably never will be. So I need to like, I can’t look at my life and the people I hang out with and like, compare what they, how they make decisions and then put that onto my client. Like, no, I need to get in the headspace of, of the people.

I work for listening to the feedback that they give, like, trying to be empathetic for what is it like to be a day in their life and then build a machine that serves them? I think that’s, that’s kind of what I’ve done decently well is like, understanding what, what matters to people. Yeah. So let’s get into the, you know, we, we’ve kind of danced around it a lot but, but let’s maybe do some comparing contrasting. So the typical painting company, you know, 5000, 6000, 8000, whatever it is, their standard paint paint size for their projects versus, you know, you’re talking about hundreds of thousands, half a million dollars for some of your projects.

What are the differences? Um I mean, at, at a very base level, um you’re, you’re just gonna, it’s all time. I mean, the pricing, a lot of our pricing is just coming from sheer number of hours. That that’s where most of the price of a paint job comes from. Um So we are gonna do, we’re definitely gonna do a lot more labor on any given substrate, right? Um There are, it’s budget expectations, talking about it all the time. What, what’s your budget versus your expectations and they need to align.

And so we’re gonna find a way to make them align, whether we reduce scope or you increase your budget. Um But if you have a certain expectation, I I I’m gonna tell you how we can get there. Um I think so at, at a base, base level, the first thing is like, yeah, the paint job has to be really good. Um But, but I think crafts people, the the crafts guys out here when men and women like we probably overestimate how important the paint job is in the equation for a high end client.

Um In the sales process, we try to figure out what makes a client tick, you walk their house like this is like, you don’t point out everything but like does this bother you? Does, does this nail the fact you can see the nail holes even though they’re filled, but you can see where every nail was in this piece of trim. Does that bother you? Is the does the orange peel texture on this trim bother you? You, you point this out to them as you’re going through, you you got to figure out what makes them tick.

I try to spend a couple of hours with the client at least an hour. This is after, after the sales process, this is in the sales process because you have, you never like, gotten concerned. You’d say, hey, you know that nail, does that nail hole bother you? And that you would maybe kind of piss them off. Like, hey, why are you? It’s a, it’s a fine line like you don’t wanna, you don’t wanna go too far, right? I’m not here and I’ll kind of, you can feel it out.

It’s a, it’s a, how is this client wired? What matters to them and you know, you know, I’m not gonna point out the worst shit, the, the, the little nick stuff right away, I’m gonna pick out the worst stuff, ok? Like I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand why you fill nail holes ever. If you’re gonna see the nail holes later, like, like maybe we just don’t even fill the nail holes like basic things like in my world. Like just you just don’t, you fill a nail hole so that it, when you paint it, you cannot tell where the nails were.

That’s I think that’s in my world that’s just standard. Um Now I get that, that’s not if a client doesn’t have the budget and doesn’t care they want their trim to be white. Great, but those are not my clients. Um So in my world, you know, nail holes are a very simple thing to look at. Um How do you feel about this? Um You can look at cut lines on a ceiling, you can look at plaster on the ceiling. Does it, how does the ceiling in the wall meet?

Is it wavy? Does that bother you? Um the texture and the paint does that bother you? Um Transitions being crisp and clean, you know, you, you can point out stuff and go like this is about, hey, feel this trim. Is this cool? Do you, does this happy? Are you happy with this level of, you know, we see people put Regal select on trim all the time. And that’s a joke like I’m sorry, but you no professional painter in my opinion, should ever be using Regal select on trim cabinets.

Never get me started. But I know Benjamin Moore says you can put it on trimming cabinets, but it’s a non enamel. The paint does not dry hard, it stays sticky forever. We’ve all held that hand rail that’s sticky. We’ve all held the door that’s sticky. That’s nine times out of 10. That’s Benjamin Moore, her Regal select, which is a great wall paint, but it’s not a trim pain. And so I’ll oftentimes I’ll be in the house, but like, do you feel your sticky handrail? Does that bother you like?

Does it? And, and you start to like very subtly feel out what makes a client tick. And then, then we start to go like, what was your experience with painters in the past where there’s anything you didn’t like? You know, and that client that I was just talking about that we’ve done a few $100,000 worth of painting. Now for she, she was like, look, my husband is just exhausted with painters being in the house, with contractors being in the house. We just went through this awful experience, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Now, this is a great sales process that I talk about fairly frequently because I was called in to do to paint the walls in a, in a living room. That was it. I got a phone call. She already had wall swatch paint put up on the walls. She had an interior designer had like a, a document that had like wall ceilings and trim color already picked. And I was there just to paint the walls and the ceiling. And I walked out of that project selling $100,000 restoration of that room.

And this is not a woman who was very vocal, but I, I asked questions, I suggested things and I took feedback and then I suggested more things and I took feedback and it started with the blue ceiling and it was like, you wanna make your ceiling blue. This is spec here to put a baby blue ceiling on your, in your ceiling. But you have this like disgusting plaster ceiling. That’s 100 and 63 years old, giant cracks. It’s an old house, beautiful old house, but it’s old and that ceiling is like falling down.

He had a big medallion plaster crown, but it was all like, really old and really scarred up. And I, I just kind of was like, I don’t know, like you tell me I’ll, I’m happily paint the ceiling blue. But if we highlight this thing that’s kind of ugly. Is that what we wanna do? She’s like, oh, that’s a good point. It’s probably all she said. And then I was like, well, there are ways we can fix that. We can take the ceiling down and we could put a new ceiling up and then you have smooth and then we highlight it.

She’s like, yeah, that sounds good. I was like, but that, that obviously costs more money. Yeah. Ok. That, that makes sense. And then it ok. Well, now you’re gonna have crown molding that’s not gonna look so great and your meals not gonna look so great. I said we could try to restore it or we could have new stuff made, but that’s more expensive. No, that sounds good. Ok. And, and like I was giving options and making very clear things cost more. I’m not here to sell her on anything.

I, I would have painted the room happily and moved on. I’m here to give people what they want. But when the sales process is trying to understand. And clearly this woman price was not a thing she was concerned about. It was very clear after four or five, every time I give her two options, she wouldn’t even talk. It was like, are you talking about money right now? I, I don’t think why are we talking about money? And so it evolved and evolved and then it got to the end and then she was like, I really can’t have people in my house for a long period of time.

My husband’s exhausted, blah, blah. And I was like, give me 24 hours, let me figure out how fast I can get this project done. And she made it very clear by this point without ever saying anything that money wasn’t the driving factor. So I said money is out the window. Let me call all my subs and let me beg him to come tomorrow in the middle of the summer and tell him, give me a fuck you price, I’ll take it. And I did, I put together this proposal and she just, she simply agreed to over $100,000 paint job with an OK?

And an email. And I was like, like what? But I had now I had the healthy budgets. I coordinate everybody. We ripped the ceiling out, we ripped the crown out, ripped the medallion. I had the new crown already being made and, and we scheduled it all and two weeks later, I brought a team, a huge team from Connecticut. It’s very expensive. I brought them up and two weeks later, she came back from vacation and she had two perfectly restored rooms. They are still to this day. Two of the best rooms we’ve ever painted and we did them in two weeks, new ceiling, new crown, new.

Every, I mean, it was wild but like that’s like high end clients. Like I no longer can say no, I, I can’t put a, a money constraint on them if they say, you know, I don’t want to spend so much money in the sales process. Ok. Now I can start to like, but I’m never gonna lead with a, a constraint. Yeah. And I think that that’s, that’s the thing that was, took me years to, to learn. Yeah. And I think the, I mean, obviously for most people, you know, the price is no object is not the reality for them.

But this idea that you don’t know what your prospective customer cares about. So don’t instill your values on them and then try to sell to yourself because then, yeah, you are gonna hit the ceilings and you’re gonna be limiting yourself and, and kind of selling to your own biases. Whereas most people would, would not walk in there assuming it was possible to sell, you know, $210,2000 restoration project when the project was very minimal in the beginning. But you were open and you weren’t trying to do it. You weren’t leading her there but you weren’t saying no either.

You were open to just, hey, what, what do you want? Ok. Here’s what we can do. What do you think? And it’s not just automatically, oh, she would never want, they, they would never want to do that. And that applies to anyone everywhere. Right. It doesn’t like yesterday and is also don’t like bonet, put my own stuff, but also don’t put the last three clients or the last 250 clients I’ve talked to, don’t put their stuff on this client. Yeah. Yeah. No, it’s great, man. Keep an open mind.

Everyone’s different and, and sometimes you will be surprised because it honestly, the paint job is a part of it, but there’s so many things to go in it. So to continue down this path. Um, site protection is another thing I think we do uh as a standard at a level that’s far above what I ever did growing up as a painter. I think it’s, it’s a, it’s a sig significant portion of our budgets on jobs are site protection. Um And, and so again, like most clients don’t expect to have a paint job done and not have some dust in their house.

Like it’s crazy how everybody just expects that there’s the pain like the contractors are gonna make some dust and it’s gonna go through the house and they’ll have to clean it with with a little bit of energy and effort and time and money. Like you can mask off doors and, and stuff and you can run negative air so that literally dust cannot leave your job site, your space and go into the rest of the house. Right. I’ve had as extreme as in the sales process. The client, I had one client who was pregnant but wanted an oil based finish everywhere in the first floor.

So what we did was we ran HEPA scrubbers 2000 2800 for the entire project, sucking air out of the house. And, and so she stayed in the second floor. We sucked air out of the base, out of the first floor and air was just constantly coming from second floor down and out of the building. Now her H VAC costs were much higher and there was always machines running, but we made it so that she didn’t smell paint on the second floor, right? If you run negative air, true, negative air where the air inside the space is sucked, sucking from everywhere else, then the rest of the house’s air is gonna come into that space and then out of the house and we, yeah, for, for enough money and, and, and inconvenience of noise I can make it.

So a client never smells paint in their house. There’s where there’s a will. There’s a way. Yeah. And that happened the first time with the client who was just like my daughter has asthma and she’s super sensitive to paint smells and I was like, say less. I will set up an air machine. I’ll put it outside your house. You know, a good HEPA scrubber is can sit outside the house and I’m gonna, it’s gonna run 24 7003 and your H VAC costs are gonna go up because I’m gonna be sucking so much air out of your house 2700 2000.

But I will guarantee you that not a speck of air that’s inside my paint, the room I’m painting will ever make it inside the house. It will all go outside through filters and be blown away. You know, and if, if I don’t really spend time in the sales process asking questions and being open minded, I would never have arrived at that. I might not have won that job or maybe we would have done a different scope of work. Yeah, but by, by keeping the open mind and asking the questions and then not constraining yourself.

Um You can do a lot, you know, there’s a, a famous contractor, famous building in Newport Rhode Island happened like, I don’t know, five years ago now, maybe more where this like billionaire, wealthy lady was like really old and she wanted to build this like, I don’t know what it was, let’s just say $267 million house, but she wanted done fast and I’m gonna butcher some of this. But the story is pretty cool. The GC was like, ok, I hear you. Like with enough money we will build an enclosure.

They built, they took Jersey barriers, those concrete barriers, they like buried them in the ground. They pinned scaffolding to that. They built a giant scaffolding, ran beams across it and they shrink wrapped a mansion. So it was the weather outside didn’t matter. And I think I’ve heard stories that it was a half a million dollar enclosure, temporary enclosure, whatever could have been a million. But, and I, I’ve heard a story of a very famous tech billionaire who had a mansion in Newport and he built a multimillion dollar house on site.

So when he flew in the five times to check on the job, he had a place to stay and then he tore the house down at the end like, like there where there’s a will. There’s a way this GC was like, yeah, every other GC said I can only build the house in three years. And this guy is like, I’ll do it in a year and a half because I’m gonna literally not have a winter to deal with. So I, I think it’s that idea in the high end of, of just going like, I’m not gonna put financial constraints on things.

Um, site protection is the thing back to what we’re talking about. Like we are going to protect things in a, in a way that’s not normal. We don’t use drop cloths inside houses like period. I haven’t used a drop cloth inside a house in, as long as I can remember. Um, now that’s not cost effective. Right. Using grip, right and tape and taping off and, and then throwing that stuff away. All of that takes so much more time to protect the floors than if I just laid down a drop cloth like I did for most of my career.

But it, it’s a, it’s a better way of doing it. It’s less, there’s less dust, it’s clean. It’s neat. It allows for a paint job to be done faster later if you spend the time. Now, if these long, like, I’m not just repainting walls. If you’re just painting the walls in a room, you know, you’re not just, you’re not gonna do all the site protection that we do. Um, but we, we definitely look at site protection in a different way. Um, and, and just like the level of people on a job we’re gonna pay, pay better, have better vetted people.

Um, you need, take the constraints off for a high end client. A high end client wants to, they just want peace of mind. I think that new businesses can’t serve the high end well, because you haven’t been in business long enough to really be like, all right, they’re gonna be around the, I just got a call from like the, the pinnacle of contractors in my area. I’ve been trying to get in with them for four years. No luck. And then they called me out of the blue and it’s like because of reputation and time.

So I think the high end is also something you have to be invited into. You. There’s not really, I’ve shortcutted it. I was probably, I probably got here as fast as you possibly can. I shortcutted it as much as you could. I over delivered and I built a, a body of work and I worked social media hard and I, I did a lot of things. I faked it till I made it in many ways. Um But even still, I’m still, you know, I’m 13 years in, I’m, I’m 67 years and doing this, the level we do it.

I finally getting invited into like the, there’s one step, there’s always, there seems to be a step up. This is about as high as the steps go and it, it’s a long game as well. I think my clients aren’t calling new guys. It’s incredible. So with the w when you’re in this elite stratosphere, so to speak of the clients that you’re working with, how, how does like the day to day change? Obviously, the, the site um the site protection, you know, all the other stuff you’re doing is much higher level.

You’re removing the financial constraints, you’re not saying no to anything you’re being way more open, open minded. You understand that your clientele thinks somewhat different overall than probably the average person in the population. How about communication throughout the project? How about the sales process itself? How, how is that communication different from maybe the, the lower tiers of the market? Yeah, I mean, constant communication. We, we ask our clients, how do you want to be communicated and how often, right, not every client wants a daily update. Um Few, very few of our clients want a daily update.

Um, but I think understanding what makes them tick. Um, I think speed is something that you really can’t underestimate. Um, as far as, I mean, all people but many people don’t, won’t put their money where their mouth is about how speed is as matters, right? You wanna have their cake and eat it too. Yes. A it, it’s actually funny because this, I learned the other day the saying is have your cake and eat it too. Isn’t that funny? Because it’s, it’s like you have your cake and you get to eat it and you keep it after you eat it.

Yeah, it took me, it took me a long time to and that was what II I never like googled it or anything. I was always like, that’s a really weird saying, but I did come to that conclusion like, well, if you ate it then you don’t have it. Yeah, it’s eat your case in your belly. Yeah. Every I’ve been saying around my whole life. Sorry. I no no worries, man, all that stuff. But yeah, I think it’s like, I, I think Slavic has talked about how like his most profitable with a one man operation, right?

A one, a 11 man or two man crew is the most profitable, efficient way to paint. And that’s, I think that is very much that makes a lot of sense. Why? That’s true. Um And so again, like we’re throwing out efficiency for client experience oftentimes. And so, you know, if I put 68 guys in a room, like when we did that project that rushed project the restoration, we had, you know, I think I had seven or eight guys in a room working that’s so inefficient, like total hours on the job, super inefficient, total days on the job, very efficient.

And so when time is AAA factor, like I know when, when my, when that GC calls me other day, I’ve built a company to serve him and his types of clients, right? I know my sales pitch is honest, but it’s also exactly what he wants to hear. I have scale. I have the ability to put 25 guys on a job if you want. I have a project management. I have office staff. That’s music to this guy’s ears, right? The paint job has to be good. No one, this guy is not calling me if we don’t have a reputation for putting out good, high quality paint jobs, but that’s not enough to really serve the high end at scale.

Like I also have to be able to do like projects quickly. And I think time is one of those things that you can’t underestimate how much it matters to people. And if you’re doing 5 to $0003 paint jobs, like you’re just not there very long, but as we start to do a larger scope of work doing it in a timely manner, makes a lot of sense. So that’s another part of the sales process that I need to, to, to poke out from people because I can definitely reduce my cost if I can also extend the amount of days I’m on site.

And so I need to understand from a client where on the spectrum do you stand if I had one guy there for six months and it was cheaper, would you take it or do you want a team there for two weeks? And that’s an exorbitant team that’s super inefficient? Yeah. No, that makes sense, man. With the, with the level of, of, um, and, and we touched on it a little bit last time, but with the level of precision that you have to have, you know, I know that that’s not just it, you know, the project being really good is, is necessary but not sufficient.

It’s a prerequisite for that contractor wanting to use you, but there’s a lot more that you have to be able to back up but with the, with the level of, of work, uh you know, the quality of the work product is still needing to be quite high for you. How do you comfortably leverage a subcontractor model and ensure that quality control is where you need it to be? Um I mean, we have a school where we teach. Um So I think at the training is important. Um all, all of our subs have come through the school a lot of it just to be like, yep, this guy knows what he’s talking about or you know, just like G CS, we’re gonna start him on smaller projects first and, and learn and we’ve learned their capacities many like not every sub, not every contractor is honest with their capacities.

I know I wasn’t for a very long time. Um So part of what we have learned is like as a, as a contractor, like my job is to understand the capacities of my subs for them. I have a couple of guys where I, I can ask them and they, they will tell me honestly what their capacities are. But I also have some subs that like, they don’t quite know and they do a lot of that like in a perfect world, estimating in a perfect world. Yeah, I’ll be done in three weeks and it’s like, hey man, like, let’s spend some time.

How did you arrive at that? I, I bet you it’s more like five can we talk about? And like, you know, I have learned the hard way. Part of, part of what I learned as in the sub model at the high end is like, we really do need to heavily be involved in schedule and process and helping our subs understand their capacities. Um And, and honestly, the ones that understand their capacities and are honest with me, they get preferential treatment, right? I have a couple guys who are going to say no to me a lot and I love that because then when they say yes, I believe them.

And I have, I’ve had some guys in the past will say yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Until the world blows up. And you’re like, all right, I need to throttle them back because this is a, this is a dog that will eat itself to death. Like I need to know, OK, what can you do? I like, let’s slow down. I’ll think for you. My job in this equation is to add value to both sides, the client and the sub. If I don’t add value to this, if I don’t, if the sub wants to go work for the client and the client wants to work with the sub directly, I’ve done something horribly wrong, right?

I don’t have a business. So I think um what we do for the client is we help set realistic schedules and then we advocate for what needs to happen in a way that when I was doing the painting every day I couldn’t get out up and see it from above. And I didn’t have, I didn’t have the bandwidth too. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You’re, you’re managing at the, at the highest levels and making sure everything goes exactly how it needs to go. A lot of you. Oh, go ahead.

A lot of what we do is like, we try to think because there’s a manager on the project. We try to think two or three steps ahead for the GC. Si have one GC who reduces their markup for us because we have so much management. They know that they don’t have to, their, their P MS don’t have to spend nearly the amount of time managing the paint job or the painter as they sort of, you know, their standard, whatever, 18% markup that A GC is gonna put on the sub.

All right. Well, we’re gonna come in and, and, and this, it’s not a lot, some G CS that are slow. They want every dollar of markup so they can. But a lot of these G CS right now, the best ones that we work with, they’re all drowning in work and for them it’s like, oh, this is so nice when we hire ZK, like they’re going to be proactive about schedule, they’re gonna be proactive about colors and sampling and they’re gonna think, I think a lot of like, I, when you’re not getting paid a lot to do paint jobs, you’re not getting paid to think.

You’re just getting paid to put paint on things. And a lot of what we do now is get paid to think. Yeah, thinking man’s game. So I, I do wanna kind of touch on one thing that could be confusing to people. So you, you had said, and a lot of people do and you know, it kind of has to happen sometimes but to fake it till you make it or say yes. Right now you say yes, but you’re, it’s not faking it, you say yes and you figure it out and you actually make it work, you come back, you know, give me 24 hours, come back with an honest proposal.

So you actually make it work. Some people could be listening to this and they might wanna follow in your footsteps or do something similar and they might, they might lean towards saying yes. But then we said, ok, sometimes the subcontractors or other people will say yes. And the reality is, it’s a dog is gonna eat itself to death. They don’t really have the capacity. How do you draw that line between wanting to say, hey, I’m gonna say yes and take the leap and figure it out on the way down versus, you know, knowing your own limitations at that moment and maybe not being so prone to doing that, that question.

That that’s a great question. And I think that, um, understanding calculated risk. Right. Because you, the re, your reputation in the high end world is everything. The, the second, that’s what they, they’re hiring you mostly off your reputation. So, if you do say yes to something that if you fail at it could hurt your reputation, don’t do it. Right. I think that’s the difference. What I say yes to that if I fail at, oh, I would say now, the only thing that you really wanna do is the failure costs you money.

If, if I agree to do something and I’m taking a risk and I may be faking it. So I make it a bit. The only thing I’m comfortable losing, risking is money. I will never risk reputation or I would try not to, I think that’s the big differentiator. If I was gonna look at one, it’s like if this goes bad, are you ruined reputation or are you just gonna cost you a few 1000 or 10,000 or $50,000? Is it just gonna cost money? Because money is something that I see on my end secretly in a PNL reputation, outward reputation is what the world sees and it’s, everybody knows the saying, you know, it takes whatever.

There’s the thing about it takes years to build a reputation and takes one second to lose it. Yeah. Right. And that is so true. I think you cannot underestimate how powerful reputation is. And just do it. So, so when I see guys who are, you can’t shortcut this, you can, you can do some things to get places faster but you need to understand what shortcuts you’re taking and why. But if you look at someone like me and you’re like, oh, I wanna do that like you, you can’t do this in a year.

You can’t get to where I am in a year. I’ll tell you right now, it’s not possible. And if you’re doing it, you’re gonna sacrifice some things, you’ll be taking risks and it’s gonna blow up. I, I love the analogy of you have to build, in order to build a giant skyscraper, you have to have a solid foundation and the, the wider and the deeper you build your foundation, the higher you can build your skyscraper, you can start building a skyscraper tomorrow on dirt and you start building faster, right?

If I start going down and building my foundation and you start building up, well, you’re gonna beat me for a while, but there’s gonna come a day where you either cap out or the thing falls over. But I’ve been building this deep and wide foundation to build my skyscraper that will never fall. And life is the a long game like it just is and so slow, steady effort over time. That’s the secret. And so when you are taking on these risks, taking them on calculated the number of times I talked to someone and they’re like, so I sold my first gloss room.

How do I do it? Are you fucking kidding me? Like, dude, you’re screwed, bro. Like be because the odds are that just financially you’re gonna take a hit on. This are pretty slim. Now, some guys are at the level where they could do a glass room and only take a financial hit. But for the most part, you’re gonna take a reputational hit, you’re not gonna deliver and it’s gonna be, I mean, we took over, we’ve taken over projects where a two glass doors for eight months were in somebody’s shop and they were still a month from being done and where it would have taken me a month to do them.

And like that person just should have said, I can’t do this. Like, don’t agree to take a gloss store for six months and charge top dollar. We talked about this yesterday. If you’re gonna do your first glass store, agree to do it, tell them it might take six months and that’s why you’re only gonna pay 800 bucks. But when you take risks that could affect your reputation if they go wrong, I think that’s really the big issue. Yeah, that’s great, man. Yeah, the reputation is for the long, the long game.

Um, and yeah, being calculated in general, there’s, there’s inherent risk obviously in business and in life and business especially, but just being calculated. What is your potential downside if everything did not go according to plan, we all like to think optimistically, that’s why we’re business owners and pursuing what would really be, I think is mathematically really a logical life choice to go start your own business. But so we’re all thinking it’s all gonna work out, but don’t plan like it’s all gonna work out. Hope for the best plan for the worst.

If everything goes south on this, how screwed are you financial hit? You can bounce back from reputational hit. You might not bounce back from that. There’s a great mental exercise called a post post mortem, right? And before the project starts, you like they do this in, in the corporate world and then big, big, big business all the time. But you sit there and before you start the project, you have a meeting and you’re like, all right guys, the project went to shit. What was it that went wrong?

And now you put your, you put a completely different hat on a different lens of seeing the project and you start to go, ok. What are the weak points in this? What are the things that can go wrong? That if, if you were to flashback, flash forward to six months and the project just went to shit. What was it? I that’s a powerful way of seeing things because it takes that optimistic view and flip and switches it and now you start to see things of like, OK, where are the holes in this?

If you’re, if you’re only looking optimistically and you’re not doing post mor premortem, I think it’s called a pre mortem. That’s what it is. You, it died and you’re looking about beforehand of the dead, what killed this person, um, or what killed this project? And it being viciously honest is Steel Manning. I, I love that, that concept of steel manning an argument. Steel Manning the other side, right? We, we know Straw Manning is, is weakly pretending but viciously steel man AAA problem. All right. Be the, give me all the real honest answers of why this could have gone wrong.

And I think that that’s really valuable at, at seeing and then like incrementally grow like you can’t go from here to here like you gotta incrementally get there any time you go from here to here too fast like there, you’re not gonna, you’re not even gonna know in a premortem, the things that could go wrong if you jump too fast, right? I, I mean, I’ve, I’ve just made so many hundreds and thousands of mistakes that when I go look at this project and, and tonight I’m putting together tomorrow, I’m submitting a proposal for anywhere from like 4 to 6 or 700,000.

When I go to look through this project, I have a lot of failures and data points and things to point out and reasons why I have a lot of context to build and advocate for the paint job and the price I’m gonna put on it. If I had looked at this job 67 years ago, I could never have been able to bid it properly and then advocate for why. Yeah. So don’t go there. I, like I had, I didn’t, but I had no business doing a half million dollar paint job seven years ago.

And thank God I didn’t try because guys do it. And that’s what causes like the, like we talked about yesterday, the on the worst thing you can do in business is go out of business, just stay in business long enough and you’ll figure out you’ll make the mistakes, you’ll have momentum if life will get better. I promise, I promise you business gets so much easier when you stay in it. It’s so hard in the beginning, but you get momentum. So don’t risk anything that could ever like put you out of business. Yeah.

Don’t do a, a Hail Mary that you don’t have to do business is, is hard. But you’re listening to this podcast which already puts you in the top fraction because you’re investing into yourself and learning and so stick with it. Continue to learn, continue to grow. Look around you, there are plenty of successful business owners who are not as smart as you, who are not as good as you. So stick with it over time. Don’t get put out of business. Don’t do crazy things and eventually it’s inevitable you will succeed over time.

There’s no question. Yeah. Just don’t try to, I think the ge, this gene, the younger generation really wants everything fast, wanted it yesterday. Right. And I’ve seen, I mean, I’ve, I’ve seen guys, I’ve worked with guys. Mhm. They’re just, I’ll tell you right now they’re on a trajectory that’s not gonna end well. If, if one of these guys is still in business today, I’d be shocked and he had all the answers and he, he, he thought, you know, he had no, no knowledge of our industry and a and a very um a huge, you know, he was way ahead of his skis. Yeah.

And it was like, dude, I, you’re not, this isn’t gonna work out for you, man. Like you gotta slow down and put the work in. Like if you’re not better at your boss, better than your boss, don’t go start a company. Like the day you start your company, you have to compete with your boss. So you better be better than him because he’s already has momentum. He has the clientele. The, the merry will round is flying for him right now and you gotta be, you gotta compete with that.

So take the time. I think there, there is a definitely an issue and I’ve talked about it plenty of times in this industry of, of like not a lot of great painting companies where you can really work your way up and learn a lot. But they do exist if you’re a great, now, I thought that I didn’t, they didn’t exist for me because I was a terrible employee. But if you are a good employee and a hard working, steady person, there are great companies who are looking to hire you and give you opportunity.

And once you’ve touched every aspect of the painting business now go start one. You have a lot better chance of success. Yeah, just going out there and, and like winging it, it, I mean, I did that and I got here. But man, it was a way harder road than if I had just spent a few more years working for a few other companies and learning. I i it could have, it would have saved me so much time and energy and I where I am today would be so much farther along than where I am now if I had just not started so soon.

Yeah, skyscraper analogy is a good one, man. Really good one. All right, Zach. Well, as we wrap up this second episode, really appreciate you, man. Is there anything else you wanna add? Uh before we finalize this one? No, I think this, we covered it. Yeah, I love it, man. So next time we’re gonna be covering social media marketing greatness, I think you’ll, you’ll enjoy um sharing about that. I’m really excited for that and yeah, appreciate you, man. Appreciate you opening up about so many things and all the uh the uniqueness of the market that you serve.

But also the similarities just to people in general and the psychological kind of frameworks we box our box ourselves into that we probably shouldn’t. So thanks for getting into all that man. You got it.

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

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

Keep growing.

Brandon Pierpont

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In this series titled “Systems Beat Fear”, John MacFarland of MacFarland Painting will be discussing how to overcome what can...
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