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Tips for keeping the paint flowing in uncertain times

As the country gets its groove back – and there were different levels of lost groove to recover – contractors are finding that some customers are still leery of having crews on the property, or that they’ve decided against spending money on a paint job. We spoke with two contractors who are making the extra effort to keep the brushes brushing and the rollers rolling.

Cole Palea of NOVO Painting & Property Services in Seattle, Washington, took advantage of his down time to help neighborhood artists put up murals. “Very Seattle,” he laughs. His company does a lot of ongoing work with public facilities: museums, aquariums, markets … but now with less traffic, there’s less maintenance. Here are his tips to keep that calendar loaded.

Diversify your client base: NOVO is painting more residential than usual as some commercial business is on hold. He’s been more successful with older homeowners who were planning to paint and have the money put aside to do it. Younger homeowners have, he said, been more conservative with their spending.

Offer more services: Palea purchased some electrostatic disinfection equipment which gives him an important new service, even with clients who aren’t currently in need of painting. Along with that, it helps him secure painting jobs because he can show clients he’s serious about disinfecting before and after a project (per city regulations). This service has a prominent place on his website. “I love my clients,” he said. “I’m trying to still serve them, just with a different service, but keep my door open for additional paint work.”

Be prepared: “I’m assuming worst case scenario,” he said. “If it doesn’t happen, great. If it does, I’m ready. Our approach during this time has been to get on the offensive as soon as possible. It’s such a crazy fast changing world right now. We all see the writing on the wall, it’s how you interpret it and then make the best decisions for your company that is within your comfort level.”

Stacey Spear of S&S Painting in Mechanicsville, Virginia had to shut down for several weeks due to COVID-19, but thanks to PPP she could keep the crew employed during the hiatus. As an interior-only painting company, they spent that time figuring out how to help clients feel comfortable having them in their houses.

Practice makes perfect: “I have all women that work for me and they were home with their kids, so we kept saying, ‘If we were to let somebody in our home, what would we want that to look like?’” she said. “We created new standard operating procedures for how to walk into a house for the first time, how to walk out of the house, how to unload the van, disinfect everything, and so forth.” They even did dress rehearsals at the shop, practicing the new procedures and how to work using masks and gloves so when they did get on the job they wouldn’t waste time or look unprepared figuring it out. Spear keeps her new SOPs in place even if the clients aren’t concerned about it.

Get a Deposit: “We are being a little bit more diligent in requiring the deposit,” said Spear.  A lot of customers pulled out of their contracts when COVID sneezed its way into Virginia, but clients that put down a deposit are more invested in the project and less likely to cancel.

Advertise: Spear took on a more aggressive advertising program than she had in the past. Usually S&S is booked three or four months out but thanks to COVID it’s down to one. She’s busy letting people know that S&S is open for business and what that business looks like – that customers can feel secure with painters in the house. “We are posting all over the place so that people understand that we are open and that we’re following our procedures. We post pictures of us in our distancing mode, of what we do, and how we keep everything separate. We are trying hard to over-communicate to help put people at ease.”

Takeaway Tips:

  • Communicate: Let people know all your services and practices, especially if they are new or different. Emphasize safety.
  • Diversify: This is a great time to work on expanding the type of client you serve.
  • Reassure: Make sure your clients feel comfortable having you on the job site and make sure you and your crew are comfortable as well.

Sponsored by Benjamin Moore

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