When Jeff Havlik drives into work, he organizes his day. He figures out who’s going to do what, when and how. “I know a lot of the painters’ strengths, some of their weaknesses and who would be better at certain jobs,” he says. It’s the same on the way back. “When I drive home, I think about what got done today and what can be done tomorrow.” Then he’s done with work. “I just leave it at that and enjoy my wife and kids.
I would say in my current position, I am the most content that I've ever been in my life.
Havlik is one of the top foreman and the longest- serving team member at Allied Painting Contractors, a commercial painting company based in Elgin, Illinois, and mainly serving northern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin. Talk to Jeff — or better yet, listen to Jeff — and from the tone of his voice, you can tell he’s happy and at peace; that’s the attitude he brings to the jobsite every day as he’s driving in for a 6 a.m. start. “I’m very easygoing,” he said. “I treat everybody with respect. I don’t yell — and that’s in my personal life too.” He often trains by the watch-and-learn method. “I’m more of a quiet type, but a lot of the painters watch me. If I’m teaching a crew member how to spray, I’ll say, ‘Just watch me for 10 or 15 minutes to see what I’m doing, then you take it from there, and I’ll guide you in the right direction if you need a little bit of assistance.’”
A 6 a.m. start is pretty early, but it pays off with a 2 o’clock quittin’ time that allows Jeff to maximize time with the family. “I’m big on family,” he said. “I’ve been with my wife almost 10 years now, and we have two little boys, 5 and 3, so that keeps me very busy. I enjoy playing tennis in my free time when I get it, and I love watching my kids growing up and experiencing new things.”
When the ATM is empty
Havlik didn’t wake up and decide to paint — he started painting because he needed a job, and fast. “I went to school for computers, and I was basically fixing ATMs and computer systems for Walmart and places like that,” he said. The company downsized, and Jeff was suddenly out of work. “I was about ready to do anything, and then a friend of mine who was a painter offered me a job,” he said. “I worked with his company for 10 years, and now I’ve been with Allied for nine and a half years and it’s been great. I started out as an apprentice and worked my way up through the system.”
After two decades, he feels confident and knowledgeable about what goes on a surface and how it gets there. “I’ve painted just about everything that you can imagine,” he said. “We only do commercial and industrial work, so some things can be challenging at times, but I always seem to figure it out. A lot of the crew come to me and ask what we should do in certain situations, and I usually have an answer for them.”
You can imagine that getting going at 6:00 in the morning might not be the most popular idea, and that’s where Havlik needs to put his foot down — and preferably not in a roller tray. “We’ve had some issues with painters being late, and I’ll just say you gotta be on time and there’s no exceptions. I feel like if you’re not early you’re late, so I try to get to work at least 15 or 20 minutes early every day, just so I’m here. Hopefully everybody else follows suit with that. I don’t like them pulling up right at 6 o’clock.
Allied made the transition from residential to commercial work shortly after its founding, and Jeff was on board for the change. He’s happy with how things played out. “It’s a lot nicer doing commercial work — we don’t have to deal with homeowners anymore, where there is always somebody looking over our shoulders,” he said. “We still get that every now and again, but mostly people want their business painted and painted right. They see what we’re doing, and they usually just leave us alone.”
Nice work if you can get it
He likes the variety of projects and places he gets to work; better yet, he feels well treated by the company and by life in general.
“I would say in my current position, I am the most content that I’ve ever been in my life,” he said. “I’ve got a great family, great house, great surroundings and a great group of friends. I feel like Allied is a great company to work for. I’ve known company owners Jon Doyle and Justin Poole a long time. I’ve worked with them throughout many, many projects. We’ve gotten pretty close, and I consider them friends. It’s very enjoyable coming to work and then … also leaving! So all around, I think life is pretty great right now.”
Any final advice?
“Oh … yeah … don’t cut corners.”
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