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Success Starts With People

Jeff Dupont builds his business with the right people in the right places. It’s people who matter the right people, of course — and Jeff Dupont’s career has been one of putting the right people in place to help him meet his goals of growth, success, and, just as important, freedom. And, of course, those people get plenty of opportunities as well. At 34, Dupont just marked his company’s 11th anniversary — but he’s not alone. Dupont’s wife and company co-owner, Lindsey Mueller, is right beside him, doubling as office manager.

17 January, 2024

  Jeff Dupont    Family, painting, and success aren’t new to Dupont — he followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps in painting. Both Dupont patriarchs had  wielded the brush, so when it came time to make a choice, he decided it would be just as much trouble to start his own company as to go and work for someone else.

     Sound Painting Solutions of Seattle, Washington, currently hovers at about 38 employees, including crew, crew leaders, and office staff. The business paints about 40% light commercial and 60% residential. Dupont estimates that about 8% of company revenue comes from carpentry. It’s not a significant facet of the company, but it is a necessity, he suggests. “I don’t want to be a general contractor, but if you don’t have someone replacing boards and windows on some jobs, it can be a nightmare, “he observes.

     At 23, Dupont learned a lesson that all great leaders realize: They don’t and can’t know everything. So, he made the wise decision to invest in people who could fill those knowledge gaps and partnered with a business coaching enterprise, Nolan Consulting. “I love them to death, “he says, and if there’s any “Sound Painting” advice he shares, it’s to get a coach early in your career. “If you get the coach, you have a game plan. You’re paying someone to look at your business from the outside while you’re looking at it from the inside.”

     If you’re a small business, make sure you get a coach to match. “If you’re a $400,000 business, you don’t need a $20 million coach, “he says.“But if you get someone in your corner early on, you’re putting the right foundations in place quicker. That doesn’t mean I don’t have some stuff I need to tweak and change, but as I went through the process, I was able to make those changes earlier, when we were still learning.” Punctual, Polite, and Professional Beyond a good paint job, company values are simple: Treat people well and do what you say you’ll do. But Dupon acknowledges that as easy as it sounds, many in our trade find this a challenge. “We’re hands-on. We practice what we preach because a lot of people will say they do a lot of things and they don’t,” he says. “We’re not doing anything more super-magical than anyone else, but we live the values that we set and do good work. We hire good people, and we pay them well.”

     Another thing that keeps Sound Painting sound is handling problems immediately before they metastasize into unsolvable messes. Even with living the values and fostering the culture, disagreements can develop, and unwell-work issues can sour an afternoon. “Part of being a leader is to have a good pulse on things, be proactive, and deal with issues as they arise, “says DuPont. “The biggest thing for us is not letting things fester but just handling any difficult situations daily and weekly.”

     Hiring is an issue for just about anyone in paint these days, but Dupont has some bilingual crew leaders on the team, opening his company to some very talented Spanish-speaking painters. This gives Sound Painting an advantage in a tight hiring market. About a dozen employees speak only Spanish, including some of his top painters.

      He’s helping them bridge the language gap, as there can still be communication issues when the crew and the client or even the crew and the boss don’t speak the same language. “I’m trying to encourage them to take English classes, and I pay for it, “he says.

     Linking Up on LinkedIn Like many contractors, Dupont has found some success with LinkedIn. He uses the application like a Facebook page chronicling the success of Sound

Painting and raising awareness of fellow business owners who may be in the market for his services shortly. But Dupont is mindful not to post every time someone fires a spray gun, limiting himself to a highlight reel of the month’s greatest accomplishments.

     This methodology resonates, as he’s accrued nearly 8,000 connections — many of whom interact when he does post and enjoy seeing his completed projects. Potential clients such as property managers and retailers can see his work, and Dupont estimates he’s done about $600,000 in business through LinkedIn over the years. He was even offered a job painting for a restaurant chain throughout Washington and Oregon through connections on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, the logistics of the job forced him to pass on it, but the value of his LinkedIn connections is irrefutable.

     Success Won’t Wait One way he keeps the company on track is by watching the calendar and, like a master chess player, planning 10 moves. With the recent supply chain issues largely solved, Dupont argues,” there’s no excuse not to have all the products and equipment ready to go before arriving on-site.” On larger jobs, crew leaders will visit the site as much as a month in advance to determine what equipment they might need to rent. This approach ensures his crews are ready to work the moment they arrive on a job site. “It’s just a matter of making a game plan, talking through it, and going there a few weeks beforehand to make sure you didn’t miss anything, “he says. “If you do that, you can make sure you get any tool or whatever you need. That way, when you start the project, it’s all squared away.” Dupont also believes communication is a two-way street — from the bottom up is as important as from the top down.

     Painters in the field know things office workers don’t. “I think the biggest problem is the people at the top have the decision-making power but don’t.

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