Nick May | February 24, 2021
I talk to painters and painting contractors on a daily basis. Many have fallen into our industry, and many are earnestly trying to figure it all out. One day they were just a painter, the next they realized they owned a painting company. Many of us deal with the feeling of fear- fear of letting others down, whether it be spouses, employees, or customers (to name a few). For some, it is manageable, and for others, the fear is paralyzing- so many things to do, so many things to remember, and it all rests on our shoulders.
I’ve never been one to be afraid to fail and this is a gift and a strength. It has not always felt like a gift, but I have come to understand that nothing good happens by sitting back and waiting. Decisions need to be made, and we can’t be afraid of them. We must try, and if we make a wrong decision, we can always try again tomorrow.
I have failed too many times in my business to count. I don’t know who said it first, but typically any successful person is only successful because they stand on a mountain of failed attempts. Hopefully, we learn from what does not work. Hopefully, we try again, but differently.
One of my biggest failures happened not too long ago. I was convinced that the best way to grow my painting business was to have sales and project management under one person. I thought it was more efficient; one person should have a territory, sell, and manage everything in that territory. This way, they could cut down on the driving across town, and would have more time in their day.
The problem, I learned, was that sales and project management are two very different jobs that require different skills and different time commitments. Project management is a morning job, and sales is an afternoon, evening, and weekend job. I simply burned out my people, and then they all left at once. I had VERY dissatisfied customers and an unhappy field team. I had to not only get back into the field, but do most of the field activity myself. Wow, talk about some long hours! I had to re-think how we managed everything in the field, but this hard lesson led me to create what we have today.
First, we started with a dedicated project manager who, thankfully, is still with me today. Then I moved on to sales, but my first attempt at building a sales team and process also failed. I tried again, and now we have a great team leading our company with the best and highest sales we have ever had. I am confident, as we look to hire a third estimator, that our sales will continue to grow.
The hard part is recognizing when you don’t quite have it right and admitting to the problem. Believe me, when you hit the right system, everyone will know it; it will be obvious. But if I was afraid to fail and to subsequently keep trying, I would never have landed on the system I have today.
I’m so thankful for all the failures, and for the wins. Without each, there would be no success. We have to remember to keep fighting. We can lose some battles and sometimes, that’s how we win the war.