Honesty and integrity in selling paint jobs

A few years ago I met with a customer who was getting the “required” 3 estimates. After we talked for a while and walked around her house, I remarked that I really didn’t think she needed to have her house painted. A few areas needed some attention, but 90% of the house was in fine shape.

“I’d love to take your money,” I said, “but I would prefer to wait a few years for the time your house really needs painting.” To me, this attitude is nothing remarkable. But the customer was visibly and vocally surprised.

“Several other contractors insisted that we needed our entire house painted,” she said. “Why would they tell me that?”

“I won’t speculate about their motivation,” I replied. “But as you can see yourself, you only have a few isolated areas with a small amount of flaking paint. If you want to paint your house, no harm will be done, except to your wallet. But you don’t need to paint your house. I’ll give you an estimate to address these problem areas.”

I’m sure many other contractors have similar conversations on a regular basis. And I’m also sure many contractors engage in a very different conversation—my customer told me so.

I won’t bad mouth other contractors to my customers. I don’t think it’s professional or wise. I gain nothing by doing so.

But I’ll bad mouth them here. I think contractors who mislead customers are dishonest scum. I think they are short-sighted, and put the “con” in contractor. I think they do a disservice to their customers (the few they get), their industry, and themselves. And in the long run I think they get exactly what they deserve.

I don’t tell this story to pat myself on the back. I don’t need that. I tell it to provide encouragement to those who may be tempted to take the easy way. The easy way is just a short cut to going out of business.

I’ve had conversations similar to the above many, many times over the past 24 years. I sleep well knowing that I treat my customers with respect. But then, maybe that’s why I’ve been in business for 24 years.

Estimating workshop

An estimate is a projection of the labor and materials required to complete a particular project. The accuracy of that estimate will determine the profitability of the job, and therefore, the success of your company. While an occasional mistake may not ruin your business, consistently under estimating jobs will ultimately put you out of business.

In terms of essentials, there are only 2 different methods for estimating repaint projects: the “eye-ball” method and a measurement based method.

The “eye-ball” method involves looking at the project and assigning some number to it. That number may be the amount of hours or days to complete the project, or it may simply be a price. Regardless, it is simply a guess. That guess may be based on years of experience, and it may be reasonably accurate a large percentage of the time–but this is hardly the type of “system” that will help you grow your business.

Out of the Bucket.com is proud to announce the first workshop in its FREE Profits for Painters series. The first workshop will be on estimating and will present an estimating system that will allow you to accurately and profitably bid your painting jobs.

Click here to learn more.

How to estimate paint jobs, part 4

Estimating paint jobs is a complex endeavor. A seemingly endless number of variables must be considered, ranging from the type of substrate to the prep required, from access issues to surface texture. But every aspect of a painting project can be quantified, and thus estimating paint jobs can be approached systematically.

No matter what task you must perform as a part of a painting project, that task will require some amount of time. For tasks that you perform frequently, such as painting the walls in a 10′ x 10′ room, you likely have a very accurate idea as to the time required. The same approach can be applied to any task.

The time required to complete a particular task should always be very similar. This includes the impact of variables. Estimating paint jobs then becomes a process of identifying each task involved, the relevant variables, and the quantity of each.

Using historical data eliminates guessing. Using a system helps eliminate oversights. The result is more accurate estimating, and thus, more profitable jobs. And that is a good thing.

Click here to learn more about estimating paint jobs.

How to estimate paint jobs, part 3

In my last post I discussed variables in estimating paint jobs. On the surface, it might seem like there are an unlimited number of variables. However, in terms of essentials, the number is rather limited. For example, while rough-sawn cedar and rough-sawn pine are different, repainting such surfaces will not have any significant material or labor differences; a flush steel door and a flush wood door will require essentially the same time and materials to paint.

In other words, if we identify only those variables that impact labor and material requirements we can create a relatively small and manageable list. In my company, we have only two variables for siding—smooth or rough. (As with all surfaces, we also identify the height and level of preparation required.) The type of substrate— pine, cedar, etc.— does not affect the labor or material requirements; the surface texture does.

If we identify those variables that impact labor, materials, or both, and consider only those variables, our list shrinks considerably.

The exact variables a contractor should consider will vary. Residential work differs from commercial, and repaints differ from new construction. Building materials and architectural features differ across the country, and even within a city or subdivision. Consequently, it is necessary for each contractor to identify those variables which impact the work he performs and the extent of that impact.

Let us look at two common variables and how they impact production rates.

The texture of a surface impacts both material use and production rates. For the same surface area, a rough texture will require more material than a smooth surface. When applying paint by brush on a rough surface additional brushing may be required to properly work the paint into “valleys” and “crevasses”. Again, this will slow production. If the surface is adjacent to a surface that is not being painted, or is a different color, production slows further as the painter tries to maintain a straight line on an irregular surface.

The ability (or inability) to reach a surface directly impacts production rates. Surfaces that must be reached with a ladder will require setting up the ladder, climbing up and down the ladder, and then moving the ladder. While working on the ladder the painter’s reach is limited, which can further slow production. This factor must be considered in your estimating.

Both surface texture and access are variables that must be considered in every project. Each will have an impact on your costs.

In my next post I will offer some final thoughts on estimating.

Click here to learn more about estimating paint jobs.

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