Build a recipe book for your painting business

Would you expect your painters to bake a pie and not provide a recipe? They might squander many hours mixing ingredients attempting to find the combination that creates a tasty pie. And in the end, you could finish up with a sticky mess that tastes nothing like what you anticipated.

A similar thing can occur with your painting business. Without operating policies and procedures, your workers can waste hours attempting to carry out a task, only to discover that the results are not what you sought. You can labor conscientiously and meticulously, only to discover that your “recipe” was mistaken. But what happens if you actually do use a recipe in its place of “winging it”?

A recipe offers step-by-step directions for baking a pie. As long as you stick to the recipe, the results will be consistent. Indeed, anybody who follows the recipe will turn out a pie that is quite comparable in flavor and texture. The same is true of your small business.

Consistent actions generate consistent results. Written policies and procedures–when followed–produce consistent actions. With operating systems and processes, you can get dependable results–the results that you desire.

A policies and procedures manual provides your business with a “recipe book.”. It provides step-by-step instructions for the tasks you and your workers carry out. When the procedure is followed, you will achieve predictable results. It is just like using a recipe to bake a pie. Except a great deal additional is at risk with your business.

Perhaps you have made hundreds of pies and don’t find a need to use a recipe. You understand which ingredients to use and in what quantities. You know how to combine them and how long to bake the pie. And the pie comes out of the oven flawlessly each time. But is the same true of your employees?

Odds are, they have not baked as many pies as you have. They might not recall precisely the amount of of each ingredient to use, or how long to mix it, or how long to put the pie in the oven. And the results will echo that fact-they will be lacking consistency. But if you provide them a recipe to use they should be able to make a pie just as tasty as yours.

Consider further than the operation of your company consists of much more than baking a single pie. You must prepare cocktails, appetizers, a soup, and an entrée. And these might be different each day. Lacking a recipe book, is it any surprise that your company struggles to attain dependable results?

If you wouldn’t ask your painters to bake a pie-let alone a four-course dinner-without a recipe, why do you desire to run your business without a policies and procedures manual? Regardless what type of painting business you own–residential, repaint, commercial–policies and procedures will help you consistently get the results that you desire.

Systems for the one-man band

I hear a lot of contractors object to developing systems for their business because they operate alone. They have no employees and don’t intend to have any. They are happy and content working by themselves. Why I should develop systems? They wonder. Unless they have an unlimited amount of time (which they don’t) systems can be beneficial.

For example, we all have to pay bills and do some basic accounting for our business. Would you prefer to do this as efficiently as possible, or spend hours spinning your wheels in frustration? Would you prefer to have accurate records that are organized and easily accessible, or would you prefer to dig through boxes of receipts to prepare your taxes? Having systems in place for these procedures will allow you to perform these tasks quickly.

I seriously doubt that you would approach a painting project in a state of disorganization. You have certain steps that you follow so that you can complete the job efficiently and well. Why should this be limited to only one aspect of your business? It shouldn’t be.

Certainly, if you are a one-man band the depth and scope of your systems will be different from a company with 50 painters in the field. But the same basic principles apply, no matter how many people you employ. Efficiency, accuracy, and organization are beneficial to every business.

I have many tasks within my business that I perform only a few times a year. I often forget the exact steps required. However, I have these steps written down and easily accessible. Rather than wasting hours trying to re-invent the wheel, I simply consult the written procedure and the task is completed efficiently. Over the course of a year, I save myself countless hours and a ton of frustration because of this.

Personally, I have better things to do than try to figure out how to set up a new email account or file my tax reports online. I figured it out once, and see no need to repeat that process every time I need to do it.

Setting up systems is not as hard as you might think. When you perform a task, write down the steps you follow. Then put the task in a binder, which you can have divided into sections for particular types of tasks, such as accounting, marketing, and sales. Then when you need to perform that task in the future you will know exactly where to go to find the procedure.

So unless you have lots of time to burn, systems will save you time, effort, and frustration. And then you can spend your time doing things you really enjoy, like putting paint on the wall or playing with your kids.

Good in theory is good in practice

We often hear someone say, “That is good in theory, but it won’t work in practice.” The intended meaning is that some idea sounds logical, but in the “real world” it just won’t work. But the fact is, a theory that won’t work in practice isn’t a very good theory. Good theories make good practice. Ideas are our guide to action.

Many people—and contractors are certainly no exception—are loath to try new ideas. They get locked into a certain mindset and often refuse to consider new alternatives. They may not like the results that they are getting, but the comfort of the known is more powerful than the unknown of trying new ideas. When they hear a new idea, they are quick to reject it as “good in theory”.

I see this almost everyday. One of the most common examples is the claim by some contractor that his market won’t bear higher prices. “You don’t understand my market,” they argue. “My customers simply don’t have the money to pay $40 an hour for painting services.”

Such contractors often concede that they must charge $40 (or more) an hour to make a decent wage, but they refuse to consider methods for doing so. On paper (in theory) they agree that they can’t make money charging $25 an hour, but in real life (in practice) they can’t charge more.

Consider what this really means: The facts indicate one thing, but I am going to ignore those facts. I choose to cling to my old ideas, even though I am going broke. All of your fancy math formulas won’t change anything. Your ideas are good in theory, but they won’t work in practice.

If we consider the rate we charge in complete isolation of other facts (or consider only a few other facts), this might be true. But our selling price is not an isolated fact, divorced from many other considerations. Our selling price is a consequence of many factors; the market in which we operate is only one of those factors.

As an example, we have many options when it comes to buying a hamburger. We have McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box, and other fast food restaurants. We have upscale burger joints like Fuddrucker’s. We might have local establishments as well. Each prepares their food differently, uses different condiments, and might even bake their own buns. In other words, each tries to do something different to differentiate themselves. If they didn’t—if their burgers were exactly the same—the price they charge would become the only difference, and consumers would make their choice solely on price.

But the fact that they offer something different adds another element to our choice. When choosing where to get a hamburger, we have other considerations, such as the flavor of the meat or the sides offered or the condiments used or the entire dining experience. We are willing to pay more for a burger at Fuddrucker’s than a burger at McDonald’s. And we expect more in exchange.

The same principle holds true of painting contractors and the prices we charge. If the paint job we offer looks just like the job offered by our competitors, price does become the deciding factor. If our company looks just like everyone else, then price is most important.

Now, you might think that this sounds good in theory, but the fact remains that your market simply won’t bear higher prices. But how do you know? Do you believe this simply because that is what others have told you? Have you truly tried to differentiate your company? Have you tried to become the Fuddrucker’s or are you stuck in McDonald’s mode?

The truth is, if you regard the theory as good, then you must put it into practice. A good theory leads to good results.

Business Coaching

Do you want to build systems and spend more time working on your business? Do you feel overwhelmed and not know where to start? Our Business Coaching programs are designed to provide you with expert assistance in building your business, developing systems, and creating the type of business you want to own.

Our programs can be customized to meet your specific needs. The program begins with a detailed survey to determine where you are in your business and where you want to go. We will then create a program to help you tackle your biggest priorities.

We offer coaching in the following areas:

  • Sales
  • Estimating
  • Production Management
  • Administration
  • Marketing
  • Finance and Accounting

We offer a number of different coaching programs. Coaching will occur by phone, with additional email assistance. This is a monthly subscription service. You can cancel at any time and owe nothing further.

Programs and Pricing

Bronze Program
Includes: 2 60–minute calls each month, Getting Out of the Bucket Business Building Manual, Operations Manual Templates, and 4 emails per month
Price: $150 per month


Silver Program
Includes: 2 90–minute calls each month, Getting Out of the Bucket Business Building Manual, Operations Manual Templates, and 4 emails per month
Price: $225 per month


Gold Program
Includes: 4 60–minute calls each month, Getting Out of the Bucket Business Building Manual, Operations Manual Templates, and 4 emails per month
Price: $300 per month


Platinum Program
Includes: 4 90–minute calls each month, Getting Out of the Bucket Business Building Manual, Operations Manual Templates, and 4 emails per month
Price: $450 per month

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