Must-do mind shifts for a more profitable future

Steve Talkington

As the owner of a painting business and also a business coach, I get the chance to work with painting contractors from all over the country. Without fail, the question I get asked most often is, “How can I make my business run more efficiently?” In my opinion, the key to creating long-term efficiency in operations is often a matter of shifting focus.


Many pros focus solely on immediate needs. That is, what they need to get the job done today. While that approach makes for a successful day, it does nothing for how you’re going to do in two weeks or two years. You really have to shift your thinking from the immediate ‘win now’ mentality to the bigger ‘win this YEAR’ perspective. You’ve got to find ways to look beyond managing your immediate workload and start thinking about—and acting on—what you want for the future.


Here are some of the areas where I commonly see paint contractors choosing immediate needs over long-term efficiency …

1. MEETINGS: It’s all too common for pros to say, “I don’t have time for meetings.” And, if your goal was to maximize daily or even weekly profits, I’d agree with you. But the fact of the matter is you can’t afford to not have meetings.

In our company, we have 11 regular meetings. That’s right. Eleven. Why? Because in order to be successful, you need a consistent and reliable means to communicate your company vision, core values, and rules of the game. Here’s how our meetings break down:

Monthly Meetings

  • All-company
  • Management team
  • Incentive committee
  • Estimating and production committee
  • Safety committee

Twice-A-Month Meetings

  • Lead painters
  • Painters and apprentices

Weekly Meetings

  • Production
  • Financial
  • Sales
  • Operations and training

While that’s almost 20 hours of meetings each month, the amount of money and time saved as a result is exponential.

2. JOB COSTING AND KPI MONITORING: Few people dispute the value of accurate job costs, but most don’t capture them due to the amount of time required for data entry and system setup. But this role MUST be incorporated into the job description of an employee (preferably someone in the office). As tedious as it sounds, this monitoring reveals a number of important things, such as what types of jobs are most profitable and which ones you should potentially move away from, and helps determine the type of jobs specific crew leaders run more profitably.

FYI, for our company, tracking job costs and key performance indicators (KPIs) is not optional. It’s how our employee bonuses are determined, and accurate benchmarking is essential to the pay-for-performance program that rewards our crew leaders, project leaders, and lead painters.

3. TRAINING: ‘Hire for attitude, train for skill’ has become the rallying cry of many contractors. It’s nice in theory, but without a well-run training program, attaining the desired skill isn’t a foregone conclusion. Paid training allows you to truly hire for attitude and ensures your team is producing consistently high-quality work that meets your company standards. It also sends an important message to new hires that you’re serious about their success at the company.


None of these must-dos will work perfectly the first time. Your meetings may start off clunky and job costs lack accuracy. But be patient. As IBM CEO Ginni Rometty says, “Growth and comfort do not coexist.”


Steve Talkington is the owner and president of Lancaster Painting, a residential and commercial painting business located in Turlock, CA. Successful in getting out of the day to day of his business, Steve is also a business coach for Nolan Consulting Group, based out of Philadelphia, PA, where he specializes in helping clients implement effective operating systems, training, and production management.



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