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Trust, Respect and Steady Work

Painter’s positive outlook fits right in with the company culture

16 October, 2021

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Ruben Martinez feels fortunate — he’s got a great life as a painter. He arrived in the United States with his brother a little over 20 years ago, and after six months as a prep, cook he was offered a job with a local paint contractor. He’s been painting ever since. It wasn’t always the best of circumstances; he eventually moved into a different job that came with good pay but no guarantee of work, and for a family man with three children, unsteady hours could throw finances up in the air. “I was only working for about six months a year, and after that, they’d lay me off. Every year, it was the same,” he said. 

Just about a year ago, a friend turned him on to Seattle-based NOVO Painting and put him in touch with company owner Cole Palea. “He gave me Cole’s phone number and said, ‘Hey, give him a call.’” So Martinez made the call. “I said I was willing to do my best; hopefully you like my work,” he said. Thus, began a career based on trust respect, and steady work. 

Team Lead Martinez
Ruben and team member Isabel prepping and painting apartments for Pike Place Market.

Martinez took the opportunity to shine. He quickly moved up to crew leader, and he enjoys training other painters, provided they’re low-maintenance and seriously want to learn. “When I started with Cole, he told me, ‘I don’t like drama in my company,’” said Martinez. “He wants everybody to work together and not talk about one painter to the other. When you’re working with somebody one day and with a different painter the next, you don’t say, ‘He doesn’t know anything about paint.’” 

Palea says Martinez took to his role quickly. “From day one, although sometimes reluctantly, Ruben has trusted me on this journey of growth. It’s exciting to see him grow in his crew leader role,” he said. 

The learning never stops 

Beautiful Jobsites
Great looking office you got there! Ruben and team member Leonardo stand back to admire the ipe deck they cleaned while taking in a view of the Puget Sound.

Even with 20 years in the business, there’s always something new to learn and new to teach. “Working in paint, every day you learn something different,” said Martinez. “I’m learning different skills. Cole gave me the trust, and now I can trust myself. When I don’t know something, Cole is always there and tells me ‘You know how to do this.’ I say that ‘I’m going to tell you the truth — I’ve never worked with this type of paint.’ And he tells me,’ OK, let me explain it to you,’ and he lays it out for me. That’s a really good boss.” 

From there, Martinez can share with the crew. “I’m doing my best every day for his company. I feel like this is my company too,” he said. He enjoys the process of training new painters or teaching established painters new things. “I can share what I know about the paint. I’m always happy to see somebody learn,” he said. Being bilingual helps, as Martinez can communicate with painters and clients in both Spanish and English, which saves a lot of time in waiting for someone to translate. It gets work done faster and more efficiently. 

He also feels that the company culture allows him to perform to the best of his ability. For one thing, the people he works with actually like what they’re doing. Martinez has had the frustration of working with people who just want to collect a paycheck and go home, but he finds that by infusing painters with trust from the start, more often than not they don’t abuse it. “A lot of people, when I was working in the other company, they always were on their phone when nobody watched them, and they didn’t do the stuff they had to do. I’d never seen something like that. I say, if you don’t want to work here, why are you here in this company? Enjoy your work, feel happy when you start work and then when you finish, look at it and say, ‘This job is looking good,’ and feel happy for that.” 

Hard at work painting
Martinez quickly gained a reputation as a hard worker and a team leader.

Martinez is exactly the type of leader NOVO Painting is looking for, Palea tells us. “Ruben has been an outstanding addition to my team,” he said. “He is humble; he serves others, creates a positive work environment and understands that we work for something that is greater than ourselves. When Ruben first started, his spirit was refreshing and gave me hope that we could find people out there who really embrace the values, mindset and attitude we are looking for from our production team. He is a quiet leader who leads by example and not by force. He is able to earn the respect of those he leads.” 

Palea adds that Martinez had been a big part of keeping things upbeat, especially during these all-too-recent difficult times. “Since Ruben has come on board, the dynamic of our team and its people has been awesome!” he said. “Our culture engagement is at an all-time high. He is one of our strongest promoters, advocates and protectors of our company culture. His influence has impacted others more than I think he actually realizes. I’m excited to see Ruben grow into new leadership opportunities in his painting career that extend far beyond the bucket. We are blessed to have him on our team.” 

Quittin’ time! 

A career as a painter has given Martinez the opportunities to enjoy life off the clock as well. He married shortly after he moved to the U.S., and when he’s not rolling, spraying or training, he’s usually spending time with the family. His children are all in different stages in their lives. 

“With my family, my wife and kids, I feel blessed. My son is 12. He plays for a baseball team, and he keeps me busy,” said Martinez. “When I get home from work, he’ll say, ‘Let’s go to the park a little bit.’ My daughter, the middle one, likes to play soccer. She started right now to learn to drive, and she’ll ask me, ‘Hey, can we go out to the parking place and just start driving?’ I try to share my time with my kids and my wife. I’m always there for them. My oldest daughter is 20; she’s in college. She’s happy, and she showed me how she’s really smart to do the stuff she’s doing right now in college. She told me, ‘I’m really happy for you. You’re a hard worker; you’re always positive.’ And I felt really happy when my daughter told me that.” APC 


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