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It's Just Paint! When and How to Disengage

30 January, 2020

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"It’s just paint.” Oh, how we all dislike hearing that comment from anyone who is not a fellow pro. It stings like brushing over a hornet’s nest – negative words that devalue our craft. But is there a positive way to view that statement…some neglected angle to remind us why we do what we do? To help in this exercise, I chatted with several colleagues I enjoy talking with and respect to gain some insight. 
 
The question I put out to this focus group was “How do you unplug from the paint business…what else is there and how do we get there?”
 
Feast or Famine
It is ingrained in anyone who is self-employed to be aware of regional and seasonal patterns. There are times when it is, for lack of a better term, GO TIME! You make hay while the sun is shining, I don’t care who you are. It doesn’t take more than a couple of years in the paint business to gain a healthy respect for the feast or famine concept.
 
Most businesses have rushes, where you just can’t get to all the work that comes your way. I consider that normal and not something to design our lifestyles around. It can be dangerous to get greedy during feast times; it is better to plan for how to eliminate the feeling and fear of famine. Top pros create a plan and a path to stretch out the good times. 
 
So, what should drive us to bear down when it is bank account padding, while never losing sight of the reality that a year is made up of just 52 weeks? Let’s hear what our pros have to say about “just paint.”
 
Heidi Nyline, Warline Painting (Vancouver, B.C.) 
“We travel to unplug, to get excited and feel a shot in the arm upon our return. It is important to do things that will bring energy back into your life and business, no matter how things are going.”
 
Heidi reminds us that we need to remember to balance our lives – to use different muscles both mentally and physically to really feel unplugged for a bit. It is easy to get caught up in feeling like you can’t afford to get away. But in reality, it may be that you can’t afford NOT to.
 
“We are painters, not surgeons saving the world,” she said. “Keeping that perspective is important. We get too hung up on our own self-importance and think we cannot leave for a few days. That’s just not true.”
 
It is important to challenge ourselves in different ways. Variety is indeed a spice of life.
 
What Fills Your Bucket?
From talking on this topic with friends and colleagues, I noticed that it is healthy to identify non-work pursuits that inspire you – to find what gets you jumping out of bed in the morning even more than quality paint jobs and profits. Finding, appreciating and enjoying the fruits of our labor is a common theme, and something to require of ourselves.
 
Rick Holtz, H.J. Holtz and Son, Inc. (Richmond, VA) 
“I love old cars. I have a 1965 Mustang and a 1969 Bronco. Enjoying these vehicles with my wife, two sons and daughter allows me to disconnect from the stresses of running the business.”
 
Putting family first was a common theme in these chats. Remembering how to have fun in personal times can actually cross back over into your business. When you focus on the fun aspects of life, it becomes easier to decline sales opportunities that are just not a good fit…those that are just not fun for anyone involved. 
 
Rodney Paglialong, Wall-Pro Painting Services (Woodstock, IL)
“For me, it revolves around my two kids. My son will be 19 next month, and my daughter just turned 17. I started coaching my son’s baseball team when he was in sixth grade. I have been coaching football for the past eight years. Even though my son graduated in May, I stay involved with his high school team by assistant-coaching and announcing the home games. My daughter was involved in ballet, and one year I performed on percussion with her dance company. It was amazing to be on stage with her! I had stopped playing percussion in 2004 and that motivated me to pick up the sticks again. I now play in an orchestra, a summer concert band and every other Sunday in my church.”
 
Hats off to “Pags” for helping others and recognizing the benefit to his own happiness and quality of life. Anyone who has ever crossed paths with Pags can surely attest to the fact that he is a happy and fun person to be around, as well as a highly respected paint contractor.
 
The message I felt from all these discussions is that healthy non-work-related activities that make us happy are the very best medicine against becoming slaves to our own business creations. So where do we start?
 
Shane Garrett, Garrett Painting LLC (Columbia, MO)
“I find that exercising and spending time in nature are the best ways for me to unplug from the stress of running a business. If you improve your health, it will improve your business. Through diet and exercise, I feel good. When I feel good, I think better and I am a better leader. Exercise helps me handlestress and anxiety better as well.”
 
They say that charity begins at home, and Shane models a practical and healthy starting point. So what actionable strategies can we implement into our businesses to help create a culture that values a healthy and balanced lifestyle?
 
“We made a decision several years ago to just stop working weekends,” he said. “As my crew and I got older and started raising families, we decided that [personal time] was our priority as a company after 6:00 p.m. and on weekends.”
 
In addition to planting it as a shared company value, Shane crossed the threshold of allowing for “closed” hours and quickly found fulfilling ways to use his personal time.
 
“Traveling is really important to me,” he said. “I decided years ago to take my daughters on a big vacation every year. When I have a fun trip to look forward to and work toward, life is just better. My daughters and I recently took a trip in my Jeep to Moab, Utah.”
 
Let It Be “Just Paint” Sometimes
These are just a few examples from friends and colleagues whom I have respected and looked to for inspiration over the years. Separating the “church and state” of your professional and personal life seems to be a great place to start looking for better balance in your overall life. Acknowledging that it is really just paint can be a healthy move. For my own part, I could not agree more with the concept of shaking up our lives a bit and breaking out of the business routine when possible with careful but exciting planning. 
 
While all these tips and reminders are basic values, they are easy to lose sight of. You don’t need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on seminars, conventions or consultations to do simple things that will point you toward a healthy and balanced path. It comes down to habits and discipline.
 
Everything about being a professional paint contractor can pull you out of balance – mentally, physically or both. So as we head into the new year, be sure to throw in a resolution that has something to do with recalibration and balance. It may be the best thing you can do for your business and your personal life. 

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