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How Painting Contractors Can Survive (and Thrive) During a Recession


June 25, 2019

The construction industry was among the hardest hit during the last recession.  The damage was also long-lasting; in 2014 (five years after the recession officially ended) construction spending was at only 80% of what it was before the recession. Unfortunately, because so many painting contractors rely on new and previously-owned home sales for business, what was bad for the construction industry was bad also for painters.

It could happen again soon. A recent survey found that half of all Chief Financial Officers in the US believe we’ll be in recession within a year.  And while construction won’t likely be hit as hard as it was last time, it’s always one of the first industries to feel recession pain.


So what do painting contractors do to prepare for it?

Here are three things you can do to prepare:

  • Aim for more leads than you can possibly serve. For many painters, too many calls are just as frustrating as too few.  When you’re fully booked for weeks, there’s no immediate value to answering the phone again and again only to hear that the customer wants it done before you can get there.

    But you’ll want to have all those extra leads coming in when the number of people calling drops 20, 30 or 50 percent.  For now, it’s worth the extra effort to build a system that generates more leads even if you can’t serve them – just make sure you’re prioritizing the most profitable requests you’re getting!
  • Diversify while business is heavy.  It’s much easier to add other services such as power washing, hanging lights, or gutter cleaning when you’re busy than when you’re not.  That’s because you’ll need extra equipment and marketing to get into these services.  If you wait until there’s not enough painting leads to make your move, you might not have enough money to establish yourself.  That makes it harder to generate leads for those new services when there’s a shortage of painting business.
  • Try to repay debt before the recession hits. Starting a painting company, like starting any business, requires spending money before you can make money.  New painting businesses need to purchase transportation, equipment, and marketing, in addition to business licenses and other filing fees. 

    A recession is a bad time to have that debt hanging over your head.  Not only does it make it that much harder to break even, but credit lines often get cut during a recession.  If that happens, you’ll still owe the money, but can’t borrow any additional revenue to pay interest if you have a tough month.  This is how so many companies get squeezed into bankruptcy so quickly during recessions.

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