I painted a door

I recently painted my front door. Since I am a painting contractor, and have been one for 24 years, it may seem odd for me to make a point about painting a door. But my wife is very happy that I did so.

I rarely touch a paint brush. It isn’t that I dislike painting. I’d just rather spend my time doing other things, like writing blog posts. So, I hire people to do the painting and I spend my time on activities that are more enjoyable and interesting to me.

Some contractors fear what might happen if they aren’t on the job site. I fear what might happen if I am. I tend to make the painters nervous and distract them from doing their job. So I stay away as much as is possible and rarely visit a job site. (I think I made it to 2 job sites last month, and once was to look at additional work.)

My attitude is, if I need to baby sit grown adults then I probably have the wrong people working for me. If they can’t do the job I am paying them to do, then I should hire someone who can do the job. Of course, this is easier to say than to do. But it isn’t impossible.

I have a rather stringent system for hiring painters. My hiring process focuses more on character traits than painting skills. Painting skills are rather easy to identify–hand the guy a brush and have him paint a door. Character traits are more difficult to determine, and in my opinion, the primary source of problems with production personnel.

For example, if a painter doesn’t take directions well, or is habitually late, or is rude, or any number of other things, he can easily create problems on a job. No matter his skills, if he is rude to customers you are going to have problems. If he is regularly late, you are going to have problems.

So, if you find yourself complaining that good help is hard to find, maybe you should re-consider your hiring practices. Good painters do exist. So do good people. The trick is finding them.

Engaging your employees

I’ve previously written that employees are customers too, that we need to treat them much as we would treat our customers. After all, each can do business with someone else.

In a post from several years ago, Bill Hogg writes about Engaging Employees. Interestingly, pay levels are one of the less important concerns in the eyes of employees. Hogg lists 6 issues that every employer should address:

  • Offer interesting and varied work assignments
  • Have a clear growth path and incorporate on-going training & development
  • Provide tasks and projects that stimulate interest and give people the tools, processes and support needed to thrive and succeed, while being challenged
  • Formally and informally acknowledge your employees’ contribution to you and your organization
  • Actively solicit on-going feedback
  • Express genuine and specific appreciation for a job well done in a timely manner

Many painting contractors tend to micro-manage. They fail to delegate responsibilities because they mistakenly believe that employees can’t or won’t do the job properly. While this may be true on occasion, the problem more likely rests with the owner rather than the employee.

Of the items on the list above, providing on-going training and development is one of the most overlooked by painting contractors. We cannot delegate if we do not properly train. If we simply assign a responsibility we have set the employee up for failure. Our prophecy that the employee can’t do the job becomes self-fulling, and that does nobody any good.

Achieving job site efficiency

Efficiency on the job site does not occur by accident. It must be intentional and it requires specific actions. As with any aspect of your business, if you  want consistent results then your actions must also be consistent.

While the specifics can vary widely between paint contracting companies, certain key principles must followed. These principles are organization and planning. Without both inefficiency will result.

Most jobs are essentially the same. Work must progress in a certain order, and specific issues must be considered and addressed. While the preparation may vary, each surface requires some type of preparation. While masking and protection methods may vary, some type of masking and/ or surface preparation must occur. While the extent and type of clean up will vary, some type of clean up must occur.

The order of these tasks is generally the same, as are the specific steps taken to achieve the desired results. Problems occur when those steps aren’t followed, or are followed out of order. When those steps are consciously chosen, and properly trained, job site efficiency can increase.

With the proper planning and organization you can identify the precise steps that should be taken on any particular job. Job site efficiency then becomes primarily a matter of ensuring that those steps are followed.

Efficiency on the job isn’t an accident

Efficiency on the job site does not occur by accident. It requires specific actions. As with any aspect of our business, if we want consistent results then our actions must also be consistent.

While the specifics can vary widely between paint contracting companies, certain key principles must followed. These principles are organization and planning. Without both inefficiency will result.

Most jobs are essentially the same. Work must progress in a certain order, and specific issues must be considered and addressed. While the preparation may vary, each surface requires some type of preparation. While masking and protection methods may vary, some type of masking and/ or surface preparation must occur. While the extent and type of clean up will vary, some type of clean up must occur.

The order of these tasks is generally the same, as are the specific steps taken to achieve the desired results. Problems occur when those steps aren’t followed, or are followed out of order. When those steps are in the form of written procedures, and properly trained, job site efficiency can increase.

With the proper planning and organization we can identify the precise steps that should be taken on any particular job. The Project Manager then has the responsibility of ensuring that those steps are followed.

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