He wasn’t thankful to be in painting… and why I am


I hope you’ll take the time to listen to this entire message because there’s something very important at the end. You would probably find it very interesting to be a fly on the wall in my office. I’ve conducted over 600 business assessments and when I talk to people who are in the painting industry, in particular, owners of painting businesses, often when they’re on the phone with me, they’ve gotten to their wits end and they’re frustrated at the amount of money they’re making, at how stressful their business has become, at perhaps hitting a plateau or whatever. Often, people will lay it at the feet of our industry. People happen into the painting industry, often not wanting to be in it, but instead accidentally ending up there and making a living for 10, 20, 30, 40 years.

The other day, I got on the phone with somebody and he was very upset about being in the painting industry, about being a painter turned business owner. He blamed the labor market, he thought the customers were bad, he thought it was just a bad business to be in all the way around, he blamed the providers. I mean, just really unhappy about our industry.

I’m here to tell you that there is so much to be thankful for as a painting contractor. I mean, loads. I’m going to tell you a few things that you could be thankful for this Thanksgiving and I hope you agree. Then I want to tell you why I enjoy working in this industry. Then I’ve got something that I want to tell you specifically and personally about Thanksgiving at the end. I hope you’ll hang on.

Here are some reasons you should just be ecstatic to be in the painting industry, maybe reasons you’ve forgotten. Number one. Our costs are variable. I’ve got friends that are in buinesses that require them to build restaurants, and warehouses, and office buildings, and auto mechanic stores, and it’s amazing how much risk they take on in the capital investment. We have none of that in the painting industry. Remarkable that we can just walk out there and start doing what we’re doing by stopping by the local paint store and a pawn shop. Remarkable. A wonderful reason to be thankful.

Number two. Our margins and our transaction sizes are tremendous. Imagine if you were in retail, imagine if you were in the restaurant business, and you had to make your living off of tons, and tons, and tons of tiny transactions with a lot of fixed overhead and capital investment. Our average transaction sizes are three grand, nationwide, thereabouts. Net profit margins should be 20 to 30%. That is awesome. Fantastic. Not many industries can say that.

Our customers, if you will communicate with them consistently, are loyal. They will buy from you again, and again, and again, and again, so long as you don’t keep them in the dark, and as long as you spend some of your marketing budget consistently on a monthly basis to speak with them. People will refer you with little prompting. That doesn’t mean they will refer you without any prompting. Paint stores, other home service people, realtors, interior designers, with a little bit of money, and a little bit of effort, and some programs, you can be a superstar in a small audience of people who refer.

Commercial work is laying all over the place, I mean, just laying on the ground. Nobody calls on these people, everybody gives up too soon, and no one stays in communication with their commercial clients once they buy. Challenging to break in, almost impossible to lose your space once you get there, as long as you do the marketing and sales functions you need to.

The labor market is easy to recruit. I know you hear labor shortage, labor shortage, labor shortage. Bull. A shortage of owners who have recruitment and hiring systems, yes. A shortage of labor, uh-uh. Most people have never been recruited by an owner directly. They’ve never been treated like a human. They’ve never been talked to in ways that are meaning to them in their current situation. They’ve never had anybody take an interest in them personally, in their career, and then stay in touch with them until the time is right to hire. It takes a little effort, it takes a little money, but it’s easy to do, because nobody in your market likely does it.

You can increase your closing rights and process with a few words, electrons, and a few pieces of paper. Raise your process by 10, 20% overnight. Easy. People show up, pet the dog, talk about the bowling trophy, walk around, email an estimate, barely follow up, and never talk about the things that clients are concerned about. If you do that, you’ll win easily. Your competitors are lazy and apathetic when it comes to business, not work.

Almost every painter I know that does halfway decent will get up early in the morning, and stay late at night, and work themselves crazy, work their fingers to the bone. But when it comes to learning how to do the marketing, sales, management, operations, recruitment, hiring, et cetera, of their business, nah, that’s something that can wait for later. Next year, another year, another time for somebody else. That won’t work. My business is different. You’ve heard the excuses.

The painting industry’s awesome. Every problem in this industry has been solved. It’s not like we’re trying to figure out how to do three-dimensional printing. It’s not like we’re in the aerospace industry. It’s not like we’re trying to put a man in another universe. We’re just painting houses and buildings. Every problem that you have has been solved already. And for the most part, all you have to do is outrun your competitors, not outrun the industry. Those are some huge reasons to be thankful for being in this industry. I think it’s a great industry.

Let me tell you why I’m personally thankful to be in painting this Thanksgiving. I work with some amazing owners. We’ll start out trying to solve a problem, fix something, we’ll put a few simple systems in place. The next thing you know, somebody’s doubled their personal income, bought a new house, got themselves out of debt. Now they go to their Thanksgiving dinner and instead of the father-in-law constantly berating the son-in-law about never having made any money or done anything with their life in painting, now the son-in-law is the one who’s paying for Thanksgiving dinner.

When those transformations happen, when a man gets a feeling of accomplishment or a woman gets a feeling of accomplishment out of running their business, and they feel good about themselves again, and they’ve got lots of financial benefits to show for it, that’s what gets me up every day.

I’m thankful that we have owners who will work hard to fix things in their business. I see life-changing impact in their lives, but I get the selfish benefit of meeting some really cool people that I care a lot about. When I get to see them succeed, it makes me happy. Extraordinarily happy. It’s what my wife and I talk about at the dinner table at night.

I love, in the painting industry, how it’s so easy to transform a business. Everybody’s got about the same 10 problems, really more like 5 problems. We fix those problems over and over again. Everybody makes more money. Everybody’s happy.

That’s why I’m thankful. I’m here in the office, every day I get to work with Jennifer, and she cares about our members, and it’s just like a fun little family here at the office.

There’s are all kinds of reasons that I’m thankful. If you care to hear it, I’ll tell you why I’m thankful for things outside of the painting industry and outside of the Painter’s Academy and Painter’s Weekly. I’m sure you’ve got lots of these things to be thankful for, and I think you should. I have a sweet, beautiful, long suffering, and patient wife who is a wonderful mother to my beautiful daughter. She cares for her, home schools her every day. Silvia’s just a delight and a joy to be around. She’s fun. She’s my friend. I have the best friends any man could ask for. People that I’ve known for 20, 30 years. And people that I spend lots of time with.

That’s what you’re really going to think about toward the end of your life is who are my friends and have I spent time with them? Who are my family? Have I spent time with them? My mother, nieces, and nephews are healthy. My wife, daughter, and I are healthy. I married into a wonderful family. There are no shortage of jokes about people who dislike their in-laws, but I got a really good arrangement. I couldn’t have been any luckier.

My home is dry. When it rains, I don’t get wet. It’s comfortable. It’s simple. It’s paid for. We can get to where we need to go. We’ve got cars with four wheels that roll. Wonderful. I can afford a decent cigar and a bottle of wine by a fire. That’s great. I’m just happy. I’m very happy this Thanksgiving.

But that’s not all. Thanksgiving can be tough for a lot of people. Maybe you don’t have anywhere to go. Maybe you have somewhere to go but you don’t want to go there. This year, maybe it’s been challenging for you. Death, a divorce, business concerns, health issues. Maybe you’re just not feeling it anymore and maybe you’re not feeling very thankful this Thanksgiving. I understand. I’ve been there.

Now, let me tell you what I’m most thankful for this Thanksgiving. It’s something that does not require me to feel a certain way and that’s the fact that I have a place to eat forever at my father’s table. My father passed away when I was 19, but I have a Heavenly Father that has chased me all of his life. He may be chasing you now saying, “Son, just come eat. I’ll give you rest. Be with me.” It’s a table that you’ll never be dis-invited from. It’s a table that is a glimpse of what eternity will be like for those that trust in Him.

Here’s the beauty and it is quite amazing. There’s only one thing you have to do. You have to trade your shortcomings, your inadequacies, your doubts, your fears, your worries, your mistakes, your sin for His Holiness and His Righteousness. What a deal. What a deal. You don’t have to feel it. You don’t have to have some kind of cosmic experience this Thanksgiving. You just have to ask him, “Lord, I believe. Can you help my unbelief? I need some help this Thanksgiving.” Or maybe you need to renew that feeling of gratitude and appreciate in your faith.

Now, listen. Occasionally, I get push-back, because a few times a year I’ll talk about my faith, but let me tell you this and then let me ask you a question. If I didn’t take the time to tell you about what I know to be the truth, given what it could do for you, what would that say about what I think of you? What would that say about the value that I put on you? It would say I didn’t value you very much at all.

If a little bit of criticism and a little bit of push-back and a lost opportunity or two kept me from telling you about this wonderful truth this Thanksgiving, well, you wouldn’t mean much to me at all. But you do. So, this Thanksgiving, from the Lewis family, from the APPC family, from Painter’s Academy, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Believe me, we have a lot to be thankful for.