The lure of owning a painting business

The lure of owning a business, along with a slower economy, has swelled the ranks of painting contractors. Low cost of entry, minimal equipment requirements, and the attitude that anyone can paint has led many to start a painting business. Statistically, these new contractors are facing long odds—most new contracting companies fail within five years.

The chances for long-term success for these new contractors can be greatly enhanced if they take the time to learn some basic business skills and develop systems for their business. A contracting business involves much more than putting paint on the walls. Unfortunately, many overlook the business side of the equation and think that the only skill they need is the ability to spread paint. They worry more about what ladder to buy than what accounting software to acquire. They put more effort into selecting a paint brand than branding their business.

Certainly some level of technical ability is needed, but without marketing, sales, and administration there will be few opportunities to demonstrate those skills. Without the ability to generate leads, sell jobs at a profitable price, and manage the business, there simply won’t be any jobs. Technical skills alone will not make for a successful business.

The ability to generate a consistent flow of leads is crucial to any painting business. Doing so requires more than “word of mouth” or randomly placing ads. It requires a marketing plan, careful tracking and analysis, and an adequate marketing budget. It requires a consistent message and proper targeting. It requires a long-term commitment to building brand awareness.

Selling at a profitable price presumes that the contractor knows his actual costs. This requires an understanding of accounting basics, as well as an identification of the true cost of doing business. Ignoring expenses won’t make them go away, but will make it difficult to pay the bills. Perhaps more importantly, without an understanding of financial matters the contractor could easily wind up broke and in debt.

Whether a contractor works alone or manages multiple crews, he will have tremendous demands on his time. He must be able to prioritize, focus on the long-term, and deal with many different issues. This requires time management skills, leadership abilities, and the patience to train employees. It requires systems to operate efficiently and consistently.

Neglecting these facets of a paint contracting business does not mean automatic failure. But it can result in unnecessary stress, frustration, and wasted money. It can make it more difficult for the contractor to accomplish his goals and build his business. It can add complexity and problems to what is already a difficult task.

Starting a painting business is not rocket science. But it shouldn’t be approached in a lazy or slipshod manner either. It should involve careful planning and thought. It should involve a commitment to ongoing education regarding both technical and business issues. Doing so will greatly increase the chances for success.

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