This Management Mistake Costs a Painting Contractor Plenty


Would you ever let one of your painters throw away a perfectly good, fresh, unopened gallon of ceiling paint? Would you ever let them convince you that it’s okay to paint a house, then prime it, then pressure wash it? Would you ever allow one of your painters in the field to say, “Well, leaving this big pile of garbage on Mrs. Johnson’s front porch when we’re finished is just how I do things.” Of course you wouldn’t.

I’m Brandon Lewis with Painters Weekly and Painters Academy, and I have been on the phone recently with dozens of people after our Painting Profit Summit and after PCA EXPO who are enrolling in our programs. As I walk through their diagnostic, I hear things like, “Well, we have these sales processes, but I can’t get my estimator or my salespeople to do them. Well, we really need to reach out to our past clients, but the process of getting your customers in a database and reaching out to them, it’s just more than my administrative assistant wants to do. We need to get this paperwork back from our crew leaders and make sure that they come in on budget and using a Save Labor Bonus program and an Ultimate Crew Leader packet, but he’s just not really good at paperwork.” These are mistakes on the operations, sales, and admin side of your business, and unlock most of your simple mistakes that may cost you a couple of hours in labor on a painting project, maybe 50 to $75, these are huge, impactful, neglected systems.

Let me just walk you through a few of them. Number one, for example, if you don’t have an answering service or if your admin people aren’t picking up the phone, most calls that go to voicemail are abandoned at 65% and it costs the average painting contractor about $438 to miss that call. If you have a closing rate of 30% but it really should be 40 or 45%, that means you now have to go see almost 50% more estimates than if a sales process that was very persuasive was followed. Not only does it drive your cost of sale up by almost twice, it ends up reducing your average transaction size. It makes it to where you can’t charge $65 an hour, but instead you have to charge 55 or even 50, and that can translate into of thousands of dollars a year in lost revenue.

If you have a list of a thousand past clients and all they get is a Christmas card once a year and there’s a million dollars worth of working and expending there, but you look at your repeat business alone for 2019 and it was 250,000, that means you’re letting 750,000 worth of work be abandoned and those people to forget you so that your past clients can then do work with your competition.

Let me tell you that most of the money that I see lost in painting businesses has nothing to do with how the house is painted, maybe a little on the operational side with labor budgets and material budgets and job costing, but primarily where all the money is lost in a painting business and why people can’t get ahead is because they don’t have systems in place, or worse yet, they allow their staff people and their folks in the field to sell them on the notion that they are too busy, that it’s not important, that your way doesn’t matter, that they’re not going to be compliant and they have sold you. You’re supposed to be selling them.

Do you allow your staff, both in the field and in the office, to sell you on not doing things and it costs you an inordinate amount of money? If that’s the case, you’ve got to stop, train them, equip them with the tools, templates and processes necessary for them to be successful. You need to emulate that and show them how to do it. You need to allow them to do it, and you need to watch them and coach them and give them feedback. Then you need to let them go and do it themselves while monitoring and measuring their implementation of it through documentations, checklists, rewarding them at meetings, one-on-one, publicly, privately, financially, and emotionally.

Are you allowing your employees, that are field staff, to do things that you would never let your painters do on a project if it was a technically-specific task? If that is the case, I’d like to encourage you to do what you really got into business to do and that’s be a manager and be a leader. If you need help managing or leading your company this spring or if the systems are absent or you just need a little help, get on the phone with me. I’d be happy to do a diagnostic call, take a look at your business. You can reach me at the office, 423-800-0520, or email me, Get your staff compliant, because if they’ll take care of you in the company, you can take care of them. Take care.