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Archive for March, 2021
A recent poll by American Painting Contractor magazine asked painting contractors about their biggest business challenges. This is the last of three blogs addressing the most reported challenges.
In the painting contractor business, time is money – and unscheduled time is lost money.
Running a business takes money. So does paying your employees – including yourself! When you’re short of work, each empty hour on the work calendar is a missed opportunity to pay for each of those things. Light schedules can also lead to other problems. If your employees aren’t satisfied with the number of hours you’re providing them, they’ll find another employer who can provide more.
All of these stressors can lead painting contractors who are short of work to swing into full sales and marketing mode – cutting prices, increasing advertising and saying yes to more types of jobs. But while packing an upcoming month with work might offset the financial losses of a slow month, it also causes problems of its own. Boom-and-bust work cycles put you and your employees on a roller coaster of money worries and physically exhausting 60 hour weeks.
So a balanced schedule is important. But how do you navigate through customers schedules, unexpected employee absences and seasonal changes in demand to get a well-rounded weekly calendar of work? It’s no wonder that painting contractors with more than one or two teams often employ an office staff member who spends most of their time juggling the scheduling needs of customers, employees and the business itself.
Are there other ways to spread your work out? Unfortunately, nothing is going to completely get rid of scheduling challenges. But there are ways to improve them. Here are three things you can do to make schedules work out better for everyone.
Tips to Build a Better Work Schedule
Use Calendar Software
The most avoidable scheduling challenge is the scheduling mix-up. If you and your customers sometimes have a different memory of what time you agreed on, a new process may save some future headaches. Calendar software like Google Calendar or Calendly will allow you put an appointment on your calendar and to send “invitations” to customers via email for that exact same time.
Right after agreeing with a customer on a time add the job to your calendar and send an invitation to the customer as well. You’ll get a notice if they accept the invitation and you’ll know both of you have the same time on your calendar. Another bonus – calendar software will also notify you if you try to schedule two customers at the same time, helping you avoid a last-minute customer apology and scheduling shuffle.
Implement Off-Season Discounts
If you’ve ever rented a house for a vacation you’ve probably noticed that the prices can vary dramatically depending on the season when you’re visiting. For instance, if you’re looking to stay on Mackinac Island in northern Michigan, you can probably get a significant discount in January. You’ll also need to plan pretty carefully, because the ferries stop running when the waterways freeze over.
Painting has a peak season too. And if your schedule starts reaching a point when you feel pretty comfortable that it’s going to fill up during peak season, it might be a good time to start offering a fall or winter discount for new customers who aren’t in a hurry. You might not make quite as much profit on the job in the fall or winter, but you’ll avoid a lot of stress in the spring and summer. And you’ll also be happy to already have jobs on the calendar for months when work is harder to come by.
Alert Your Team to Busy Weeks
Review your calendar regularly and make sure to give employees as much notice as possible when you’re facing a busy week (or month). If employees only have a week’s notice, they might not be able to move other obligations quickly enough to provide the extra hours you need. If you already know that next month’s schedule is looking crowded (and you don’t expect that to change) letting employees know a month early gives them extra time to prepare for a heavy workload and the extra pay that comes with it.
To learn how ProPainter Websites can help your painting contracting business bring in more customers, call us at 919-424-6121 or email us at Team_PPW@ProPainterWebsites.com.
Several months ago, I had one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. During a nasty storm, I watched as a (thankfully small) tornado spawned in the cul-de-sac just outside of my house. I was also extremely lucky; while several roofs and cars in the neighborhood were crushed by falling trees, the only damage to my house was a single piece of fascia flashing that was bent and ripped off the house.
My wife’s vehicle in the driveway right after the tornado passed.
Then, something even more unusual happened – I couldn’t get anyone to fix it. I called roofers, siding contractors and even handymen. Nobody would call me back – it was too small of a job for contractors, and too high up in the air for a handyman.
I must have called a half dozen companies in the weeks before I saw three roofers on a house two doors down from mine. Their company truck was parked out front and had a phone number on the side, so after a few minutes of thinking about it, I called, and a guy picked up the phone and asked me how he could help. It only took me about 30 seconds to notice that the person on the phone with me was standing right there in the neighbor’s lawn.
We got off the phone and both took a 15 second walk to my house. After looking at my bare fascia, he said he had flashing in his garage that would work perfectly, and he’d do it for $100.
After all the time I had wasted on trying to get this fixed, I would have happily paid twice that – maybe more. I just wanted to know when he could do it. He said he was returning to work on the neighbor’s roof the next day and could take care of it then. And he did – by the time I had dropped my kid off at school the next morning, it was already fixed.
But, it gets better.
I paid him $150, and offered $50 more if he could quickly look at my roof and confirm there was no damage from the tornado (thankfully, there wasn’t). I was thrilled with this arrangement, but he must not have felt right about taking the extra money. While he was examining my roof for damage, he also cleaned out my gutters – another task I had planned to deal with later in the week.
When It’s Easy to Be a Hero, Be a Hero
From my perspective, this guy is a hero. He took care of three problems for me in one visit, and did each of them more cheaply than I would have paid for anyone else to do them. From his perspective, he made $200 for an hour of work and $25 of materials, with no travel time at all. It’s hard to keep a business afloat with $200 jobs, but if they come along that easily, why not take them?
Here’s the most important part. This business owner knew that he wasn’t just doing a job. He was marketing his business, too. That’s why he left me his card after he was done, and asked me to call when I need a new roof.
I put his number in my cell phone. Guess who I’m calling when I need a roof in a few years? Here’s a hint – it’s not any of the roofers that didn’t even bother to price my small job.
Building a Reputation the Easy Way
This story offers several examples of how to think like a growth-focused small business owner.
This contractor was on a job and could have easily screened my call. But he took my call instead and stayed focused on my problem during the conversation.
It would have been easy to tell me his calendar was full and offer to come back at a later time. But when I asked for help, he saw the request as an opportunity and not a complication.
And most importantly, he knew I was frustrated with a problem he could fix quickly and easily. So he took the time to fix it. That’s how companies earn five-star reviews. That’s how word-of-mouth marketing spreads. That’s how small businesses turn into bigger businesses.
So if you’re painting someone’s house and see a vehicle slowing down and taking an extra look at your truck (or the work you’re doing), take the time to introduce yourself. Ask if they need help. And if they do need a small job done a few doors down, give them the no-travel rate and knock it out quickly. Be a hero.
And then leave your card behind for when they – or their friends or family – need a real paint job.
To learn how ProPainter Websites can help your painting contracting business gain new customers, call us at 919-424-6121 or email us at Team_PPW@ProPainterWebsites.com.