How Devin Hit $1.3 Million in 3.5 Years at 30% Net!

Have you ever felt stuck in your painting business from a profitability standpoint? Have you been grinding for years but can’t seem to get consistent in your income?

In this interview, Devin Barnett of Renu Painting in Amarillo, Texas breaks down how he was able to quickly transform and grow into a very profitable business model.

Brandon Lewis:

You have very strong net profits. And right now you’re at roughly around 300k in income and the year’s not even over.

Devin Barnett:

When it comes to achieving good numbers, there’s a million things that you can do to your benefit or detriment. But there’s only one thing you can do to know which outcome you’re going to have.

Brandon Lewis:

Hello everyone, I’m Brandon Lewis, founder of The Academy for Professional Painting Contractors. Joining me today is Devin Barnett of Renu Painting in Amarillo, Texas. While Devin has only been in business 3.5 years, he has grown quickly by implementing systems in essential areas in his business. Devin has reached significant sales numbers, but more importantly has very strong net profits. His customer lists, crew size and sales team are growing. Devin is the poster child for starting your business right in a way that helps you get further, faster. Devon, welcome to the program, buddy. Glad to have you.

Devin Barnett:

Hey, thanks Brandon. I appreciate it. Yeah, glad to be on here. I appreciate everything you’ve done for our business. So thanks.

Brandon Lewis:

All right, bud. Well, here we go. Tell me about, I always like to kind of start off, tell me a little bit about your home life, what you do in your spare time? I think it’s intriguing.

Devin Barnett:

Yeah. Well, I’m married. We have a son who’s nine. He’s going on 25 right now. It’s something else, it’s spare time for us, the past few months to really have hasn’t been any, because we went from football. So football practice twice a week to football games twice on the weekends, two games on the weekend, we got one week off. Now we’re in a basketball practice, my wife’s coaching that. So we’re doing basketball practice twice a week and two games on the weekends.

Growing Your Painting Business to One Million Dollars

Devin Barnett:

So when kids sports aren’t taking over my life, I like downhill mountain biking. I’ve ridden motocross for probably last 10 years. So racing dirt bikes, the local tracks here in Texas. Yeah, anything outdoors. That’s what I’m into, camping, you name it.

Brandon Lewis:

Well, very good. I’m like you in the broad of all everything outdoors. However, I do not know anything about sports nor do I watch it. And if it sounds like it’s going to result in disastrous injury, I’m not brave enough to do it anymore, mainly other than perhaps drinking and falling down, which can be a contact sport, that depends on how you do it.

How To Have A Million Dollar Painting Company

Brandon Lewis:

So you and I first met over the phone for a diagnostic back in March of really 2019, that you were engaged. You were about 32. You had been in business a little over a year. Talk about how you got into the painting business, where you were in the process as you and I spoke? Because you had some industry experience and then you went out on your own, so just talk through that.

Devin Barnett:

Yeah. So this probably would be kind of long, I’ll try to make this shorter than it really is. This is going to go back to when I was 17 years old. So when I was 17 that’s when I actually got into painting business. Started working for a guy as a helper working… It was the summer of my junior year between my junior and senior year and it was supposed to be temporary, but I moved up pretty quickly from there. And I worked my way into a leadership role pretty quick. So I ended up sticking there when I got out of school.

Devin Barnett:

My parents about flipped when I said I wasn’t going to college. I gave them the whole… I have had a entrepreneurial passion since, I would say probably sparked with my freshman year in high school. And so I gave her the whole speech about the Fortune 500 company owners and Steve Jobs dropping out of college and you all these guys that are, I’m definitely not. Anyways, but I gave her that speech and said, I’ll figure it out.

Devin Barnett:

And so ended up becoming a project manager for that company in about a year and a half. And so that took me to Kansas City where I completed two, 300,000 square foot retirement homes and upscale high rise apartment, living building, few apartment complexes. And during all this time, we’re doing new residential painting as well.

Devin Barnett:

After about three years of working for someone, I decided as a lot of us do, I’m going to go out and do this on my own. I’m the one doing all the work, right? I have all the technical skills, so went out on my own. Now I would not say that I was running a business. Back then, I thought I was running a business. Now I look back, I was just nearly self-employed. I didn’t know that at the time. I was just excited that I had created something for myself.

Devin Barnett:

And it all came to an end at the end of 2009 when the housing bubble burst, another thing I did not know at the time, but know now from studying the financial crisis of 2008. In a matter of about six months, I lost my house, girlfriend of five years, business, vehicle, almost shirt off my back.

Devin Barnett:

So went from being on top of the world and numbers wise, let’s say I was 20, right at 21 and had in that first year, doing that for myself and not knowing what I was doing had made right around $500,000. So for that age, I’m ecstatic. So I went from that to working as a welder’s helper for $10 an hour. And it was a very… It was a dark time, that was definitely my low. And I spent about six months doing that where I gave up on entrepreneurship. I was like, I was done with it.

Devin Barnett:

I thought, I said, “Man, my parents are right. I should have went to college, should have got a degree,” and I did. I ended up going back to school and I got my nursing license. This was more out of fear than anything. When I decided what I was going to go to school for. I did it by what career is most needed and who will never be without work? And so that I got down to nursing and so that’s where we go. Well, worked that for a little bit and that wasn’t for me.

Devin Barnett:

But it’s a lot of time in between there, we’ll kind of skip fast forward to when I spoke with you, I had just been in business about a year and was currently going through a transition of firing my largest customer, which was a new residential builder.

Devin Barnett:

And I reached out to you Brandon, because I’ve learned in that time that we skipped, I spent a lot of time on personal development, reading books, probably 60 books before I even tried anything. Because the next time I got up on the horse, I wanted to have some knowledge behind me. And so I reached out to you because through doing that, I learned it’s a lot smarter and a lot cheaper to leverage other people’s mistakes rather than making them myself.

Devin Barnett:

I’m sure you made a lot of mistakes and you got a lot of people’s mistakes that you’ve seen. So that’s your being used Brandon, but I appreciate it. I’ve also learned that unless you’re Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, you’re probably not going to create anything that hasn’t been done already and refined through trial and error, and that’s timely and expensive. So I was really glad to find out that you shared the same thoughts in regards to new residential construction. Because I turned down 500,000 in gross revenue in 2019, which is more than we made all of 2018 working for multiple customers, which was crazy to me at the time. But it ended up freeing up all my time to work on marketing and sales for customers I wanted instead of just keeping the guys busy.

Brandon Lewis:

That’s a lot and I made a lot of mistakes early on and if I had to start a painting business all over again, I would do it quite differently. And I have learned from hundreds of painting contractors, what doesn’t work? What does work? What the guys will actually do? What they will not do? Whether it is good for them or not? And so I focus on the things, give people the biggest bang for their buck as early as possible.

Brandon Lewis:

And I want to fast forward now to today because when you and I got on the phone the other day, we had a conversation about commercial new construction. And I tried to tell you what I have learned just from… I worked at a vet for many years and there are breeds that bite and there are breeds that don’t and you approach them both differently because of past experiences and tetanus shots and trips to the hospital.

Brandon Lewis:

And so same thing in business, different markets do different things. So fast forward to today, because you’ve only been back at this about three and a half years, and give our listeners an idea kind of sales volume, markets you serve, services, you provide staffing, et cetera.

Devin Barnett:

Of course. Yeah, so sales volume, we’re on target for 1.3 million this year. And I can say that pretty confidently now that I track numbers daily. So we’re on target for that this year.

Devin Barnett:

Our makeup right now is 85% residential repaint and 15% commercial repaint/new commercial. It’s definitely on the smaller side. We had some contracts going into COVID with Ben E. Keith and some larger people around here that got wiped out during the COVID thing. Hopefully, we can get back to those at some point.

Devin Barnett:

But the services that we provide are interior and exterior painting, custom cabinet finishes. We recently started doing a lot of, especially this last summer, lime wash, I don’t know if you’ve heard of that yet. But anyways, we got labeled as the preferred pro. I’ve reached out Romabio, and we got labeled as the preferred pro in our area for their masonry products, lime wash, mineral paints. And then we do minor drywall repair. We’ll do some texture, which that comes with the territory, but we don’t do any large drywall and then some minor carpentry repair, but all that makes up a little less than 3% of our business.

Brandon Lewis:

Well, talk a little bit about the staffing, because you’ve grown a pretty large staff in a very short period of time and it’s not just out in the field, although you do have them out in the field. So talk about how many painters you have in the field? You’ve recently ramped up your sales force. You’ve got a little operations, a really little bit of admin help, so just tell people how you’re structured right now.

Devin Barnett:

Yeah. So right now we have 14 painters in the field. Optimal crew size for us is around three people. We do have one float. We do have a two man crew in painting. There’s just certain jobs that in order to be profitable on those jobs you got to have the right number of people otherwise, it looks like road construction out there, two people watching one guy work.

Brandon Lewis:

Yes.

Devin Barnett:

On the sales side of things, we currently have two project consultants in house. We’ve had one for about a year and a half, the other one I hired about two months ago. So we’re still going through quite a bit of training there.

Devin Barnett:

As far as operations, operational management is a collective effort between the project consultants, myself and office manager. And I’ll be honest with your project packets that we got from you. Project management is a breeze compared to where it used to be, when I ran things off the cuff. Don’t get me wrong, we still have the occasional hiccup, but it’s very few and far between now. Whereas as before, that first year just not having that in place was a nightmare.

Devin Barnett:

But as long as you set expectations and let the guys know, “Hey, this is what I want from you out of this project packet and everyone that’s new that gets on or gets promoted into a crew form of position.” I will go through it with them and we will personally go through it, the first 20 to 25 jobs just to make sure, “Hey, this is how I want this done, this is…”

Devin Barnett:

And not just how I want it done, but how it’s benefiting them. Because if you don’t show how it’s benefiting them, they don’t care. They’re not going to do it. And once you get them to see that vision, man it really helps on the project management side of things.

Devin Barnett:

We recently hired a office administrator about five months ago, and she is a freaking rockstar, super pumped about her. She worked for an HVAC company for 10 years prior to moving down here. And so she moved down here and the company that she worked for, they shared the same values. They were really big on customer service and she shared those values as well. So it’s been a really good fit and really freed up my time to work more on the business, which has been awesome.

Brandon Lewis:

Well, I want to loop back on a point that you made about informing your people as to why processes exist and how they are beneficial to them. Having a little bit of structure and formality and using tools and templates in your business. Since in a painting business, the same thing basically happens every time you do a project, there’s probably 80% of the administrative/crew leader/project management staff is like the same every time. And so if you don’t codify it, and if you don’t make it simple, then it just really increases the opportunities to disappoint a client, for the painters to forget something and have a complaint that’s unnecessary.

Brandon Lewis:

And if you can teach your people, why it’s to their benefit instead of just trying to be a petty little tyrant, which is what a lot of owners try to do. And they just try to be, “This is my way or the highway.” Well, that’s great. And it may be your way or the highway, and in most cases it is, but you don’t necessarily have to present it that way to get people to act.

Brandon Lewis:

Now, one thing that I’m excited about is that you have very strong net profits. And right now you’re at roughly around 300k in income, and the year’s not even over. You’ll probably finish higher and that’s what we like our guys to be at, there’s 30% cash flow to owner. This is not a Baptist church. We do talk about money and earnings, not to say that you’ve… There’s always in the south, especially that like you can’t talk about money as if it’s something other than a representation of exchanging value.

Brandon Lewis:

But that just does not just happen, it starts with making money on every job. And you have 49% gross profits in residential, 58% gross profits in commercial. What systems, habits, and processes have allowed you to do that in the field? Because again, it all starts with the project. If there’s no money made at the project level, there will be no money made anywhere else.

Devin Barnett:

This is going to sound scripted, it’s not. But I really love that you said that on every project because when it comes to achieving good numbers, there’s a million things that you can do to your benefit or detriment. We don’t really have time to get into all that but there’s only one thing you can do to know which outcome you’re going to have, and that’s job costing.

Devin Barnett:

Prior to job costing my year of hail, I call it when I was doing new residential, I had no idea what our bottom line was. I was so caught up in a day to day and probably being that tyrant because I was on the job site every single day, every single job, just constantly harping on how we were doing the paint. Because I was a painter at first, so on how we’re doing the painting, and why we’re doing the painting? And where we’re doing the painting? And all that.

Devin Barnett:

To get back on track here. But I was so caught up in the day to day that I didn’t know if we were making money. All I knew was money was coming in, to the commercial account and it was going out. I was actually able to sit down at the end of the year and I’m really glad I did. But I sat down at the end of the year and put together as best as I could without data find out that our gross profit, this is embarrassing to say, but our gross profit was around 23% that year. That’s gross, not net.

Devin Barnett:

So basically, I was paying enrollment to the University of Hard Knocks. And as the saying goes, you can’t improve on what you don’t measure. So don’t use the excuse that you don’t have time to do job costing because reality is you don’t have time not to do job costing. You want to look down after a year and find out that you worked for free, it’s not fun.

Devin Barnett:

As far as processes go, I try to operate this business like a franchise. And probably most people have seen in a Ray Kroc movie about McDonald’s in that franchise so people are aware of it. And I try to operate that way just…

Devin Barnett:

For us, we’re a customer service business first. So I want to offer that same level of customer service every single time. That’s how we’ve grown our business. I know without a shadow of doubt, that’s how we’ve grown our business, the way that we have. And I want to keep that, no matter what size we get to, that’s going to be first and foremost.

Devin Barnett:

And that’s not done by chance, you can’t just… Just because you have values as a company, business owner and just because that’s what you want for the customer, doesn’t mean your people are going to want that. They got to know how to get there. And so it takes planning. It takes development of systems for how we do our estimates, how we kick a project off, how we close it out a project, how to follow up and take action when a problem does come up. What are we going to do about it? Who needs to be notified? In short, everything we do right now, it’s either a standardized system in the process of becoming one or it’s on a list that it’s going to be done in the future. Just depending on when it becomes top of priority.

Brandon Lewis:

And that’s really important. In addition, some of the things you have your crew meetings, you use to save labor bonus program. You’re using the ultimate crew leader packet. You’ve got job costing. You’ve got operational checklists, I mean, there’s only a handful of things.

Brandon Lewis:

It’s almost like I look at a painting since like my ’72 Chevy Blazer, it’s not like today’s car. You can lift up the hood and you could point two things and know what they do. This is the carburetor. This is the power steering box. This is the battery. Whereas in a new car, it’s so complex, you can’t point to anything and really know what it is nor can you work on it or replace it.

Brandon Lewis:

But in a painting business, there’s a handful of operational components, a handful of sales components, a handful of admin components or marketing components. Now there you can make it as complex as you want to, but often I think people overly complicate it. If you just get the basics done, there’s a lot of grace everywhere else. If you don’t get the basics done, there’s no grace anywhere, which is no good.

Brandon Lewis:

Talk a little bit about the sales process, you use. How you manage your two sales representatives so the prices are done correctly? So you know that you’ve got a winning job before you start it from a budget standpoint. And so that you can get that proper hourly charge rates. You can hit your 50 to 58% gross profits that you’ve been hitting successfully.

Devin Barnett:

Yeah, so we use the power paint sales process. We use it front to back. There’s not anything in there we don’t use. Now with that being said, I’ll be honest, I did not use this until I hired my first sales person. The reason why is, I had the painting experience, I did this, I know what it’s like inside and out. I know how long it takes to roll out a wall, to roll out a room, to brush trim, to paint a door, to do cabinets, I’ve done it all. So that’s all fine and good.

Devin Barnett:

But I realized that I could not teach my years of experience as a painter to someone who had never had painting experience. Both my salespeople, neither one of them have any painting experience. They never painted ever, not even their grandma’s house.

Devin Barnett:

So I scratched everything I did to force myself to do that system. And it was all out of necessity of just like I said before, I tried to create a system out of everything and I had to do something that I could teach and the power paint sales process I could teach. And it’s still better than what I was doing.

Devin Barnett:

I would say the reason why my closing rate is high. I stayed above 50% as a salesperson prior to this, but that was because of the confidence that I carried to know that I could solve any problem a customer had because I’ve done it or seen it and knew what needed to be done. My guys don’t, they don’t know that. And if you’re going to expand or you’re going to grow, you have to have something in place that you can teach.

Devin Barnett:

And so my salemen, they never painted a day in their life. And prior to, a good example, prior to one of my first sales guy really learning the system and it wasn’t so much learning, it was embracing it. Because I will say, there’s some of it that you got to get out of your comfort zone to be willing to talk to customers and ask customers certain questions. And we took his closing rate from 28% to, right now he’s right at 51% for the year.

Brandon Lewis:

Wow, that is a huge-

Devin Barnett:

Huge, I told him.

Brandon Lewis:

Huge difference. And from a financial perspective for you as the owner, like those little bitty metrics, I mean a few percentage points can mean a 100 grand at the end of the year. That many is like a game changer.

Devin Barnett:

Exactly. I told him, I said, “Warner, I like you, but I’m not going to be able to afford to keep you on, man. I can’t afford to pay for these leads,” because I’m paying for these leads. This was at this time he’s not generating any leads these are all mine. And I’m looking at them and I’m closing two jobs for everyone that he’s closing off the same lead. I just couldn’t afford it.

Devin Barnett:

And so we just went back to the drawing board and I’m going out to… One of the things I wasn’t doing in the beginning was verifying that they were doing what I asked. So going on these calls, because sales is nerve-wracking. It’s not so much the sales and nerve-wracking, but when you’re trying to remember a system and not sound scripted, it can get a little daunting in trying to remember all that.

Devin Barnett:

But I would do ride along with him until he got it down verbatim. And now he’s confident and he still doesn’t know anything about painting. He’s learning more, but he’s confident, because now he knows the system that works.

Devin Barnett:

And before, he couldn’t believe the prices that we were asking. He was like, “There’s no way anyone’s going to pay this.” I said, “You’re not your customer, you’re not selling to yourself. Get that out of your head. Get that out of your mind.” And a year later, he’s closing $30,000 residential repaint jobs, whereas before he was scared to ask for 5,000. So it’s been huge.

Devin Barnett:

But we have weekly sales meetings to make sure that they’re meeting their key performance indicators, so which set for my company right now, currently at… And we reverse engineer everything, so whatever our goal is for the year we’ll go back. “Okay, how many jobs do we need to close? What does that look like?”

Devin Barnett:

But the big numbers for them is a closing rate of 50%. That’s the biggest metric that I look at. If we’re not at 50%, because I know that it can be done, “Okay, what’s going on? What are we not doing? What do we need to be doing? And then the average job size of 4,300 and then 18, five close, weekly per salesman. So that’s our process in a nutshell there, which is…

Brandon Lewis:

You only need a few metrics per role. So what I always say, it’s okay. Number one, there are metrics, right? What are the metrics you want? And you just mentioned your weekly volume that you’d like or is that the monthly volume?

Devin Barnett:

Weekly.

Brandon Lewis:

Weekly volume. You’ve got your close rate, you’ve got your average job size. And then I’ll always say, “Well, what processes?” Get people to that in metric? “What processes?” Okay, well now we’ve got to identify the process. A lot of owners we’ll identify met… Well, most owners neither identify the processes or the metrics or the outcomes for their people. They just expect them to be another owner, which they never will be.

Brandon Lewis:

But if you define that metric, then you go, “Okay, well, how do I make this person get this metric?” It’s like, if you give somebody a weight loss goal, well there’s diet and exercise components. What kind of exercise are you going to do? How hours you’re going to burn? How often are you going to be doing it? And what type of food are you going to eat and at what time? And then you back up and go, “Okay, what’s the process for that?” Well, this is the process. Well, then you coach them to the process.

Brandon Lewis:

And if the metrics aren’t there, you go back and evaluate if the process is being used or not. And you just continue to reinforce that. And the ones that pick up on it, you can keep. And the ones that don’t you have to release them to other opportunities.

Brandon Lewis:

Another thing I was amazed at, and this is so interesting because it falls rather, it flies in the face of every industry misconception about how people buy painting services. And you’re repeating referral numbers given your company has only been in business three and a half years, which is your big numbers for that. Nowhere near as big as some of our members that have been in it for six, seven years. But 28% of your business in 2021 came from repeat business, that’s almost a third. And then 22% came from referrals. That means 50% of your business is already being generated by repeat and referral.

Brandon Lewis:

And you’re not like doing a 100 grand you’re doing, you’ll be doing 1.3 million. And by the time you get through, when we had talked the other day, you’re right around 900, I think something 30,000. Talk about how you were able to make that happen, but also what happens to your business financially when those leads are generated from those sources versus net new sources?

Devin Barnett:

Yeah. So to hit on first, how to achieve that? This goes back to the customer service. Our core focus is customer service, that’s the first and foremost. Professional painting… I might have got this from you, Brandon. I don’t know, I feel like I just say it to my guys all the time and I don’t know where I heard it.

Devin Barnett:

But our customers expect a professional paint job, that’s why they hired us. They could have picked up the brush or the roller, or you can even rent the spray rig if you want to. But they hire us because they can trust us. We’re going to take care of their stuff. We’re going to take responsibility.

Devin Barnett:

So first and foremost, you got to provide an exceptional experience to get that customer within your network and you need to make a lasting impression. And that experience it rarely comes from an awesome paint job.

Devin Barnett:

I can give a quick, this recently just happened last week, quick example, we recently completed project for a customer that one of our guys dropped a gallon of paint down the stairs. Paint everywhere. So it saturated the carpet. We called in the carpet cleaners to come out and treat that carpet. It got the paint out of the carpet but it didn’t get it all the way out of the base fiber so the carpet dried hard. And so I got to have the difficult conversation. So I go out to the customer’s home, I meet with the customer, apologize and tell her not to worry. We’re going to replace the carpet. And that’s what we did.

Devin Barnett:

And while I was in her home, she said that she was hesitant to call us because she was afraid of how the conversation may go. And this is because our industry is known for not taking responsibility, denying, or even just not responding when things go sideways. She was so thankful that we were taking care of it that she didn’t want or need my apology. She said she would refer us without a doubt. And she’s going to have us back to redo our kitchen after the holidays.

Devin Barnett:

So owning up and taking responsibility when 95% of other contractors won’t, will set you apart. And I believe those experience will be spread way more than an in and out job. And the paint was good and nothing substantial about it.

Devin Barnett:

Now, with that being said, I don’t care what you do. If you don’t stay in contact, you will be forgotten. I don’t care how good of a job you did or what experience they had, they’ll forget you. And they’re going to end up coming, it’s happened to me. They’ll end up coming back to a third party marketing platform. You’re going to pay for this lead again, when they’re already your customer, they already like you and trust you, but you didn’t do a good job of staying in contact so they didn’t know how to reach you.

Devin Barnett:

So I use the monthly newsletters that I know a lot of the members use. Those things I know without a shadow about that those work, because I’ve had enough conversations with past customers that have asked me about. They’ve asked me, “Where they come from?” Some of them they know that, “Hey, we’re not doing all that.” And so they ask like, “Oh, who does it? That’s really cool.” And they speak highly of me, it’s cool to hear about. I actually had one our customers take me to lunch just to talk about that. He’s not a business owner. So I know he didn’t plan on using in his business, he just wanted to talk about it. So I don’t know what that was about.

Devin Barnett:

But you know what that does when you have 50%, which was actually 26% of our business came from referrals. But over 50% coming from repeat and referral business. First, you have a customer that is not a first date. You’re not meeting a new girl and having to be introduced to the family and you have to gain the trust and you got to be put on trial and you got to go through that whole process. They already trust you, because it doesn’t matter what you say, if they’re hearing about you from someone that they trust, you have their trust. And that helps tremendously just with the rapport, right out of the gate.

Devin Barnett:

Second to that is, when you have that repeat business that you can rely on or not so much rely on, but you start to see that, that’s happening and that’s increasing year-over-year, that’s marketing, you’re not spending to make that bottom line. That’s money you’re not spending to go out and capture a new lead and date the new girl and talk to the parents and do all that per se. And so it’s really, really big. And if you look at any industry, that’s a huge metric that people look at is, “Hey, what’s your repeating referral business?” Everybody wants to get above 50%.

Brandon Lewis:

Except in painting, where it’s never discussed.

Devin Barnett:

Yeah, and that’s just because we’re, if I was being honest, we’re all dumb. That’s what happens as painters. We just, I don’t know. We just don’t want to-

Brandon Lewis:

It drives me crazy because even when I go to our industry conferences, I feel like John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness and everybody’s like, “No, no. No, buy them fresh.” It’s not produce people. It’s customers. You don’t have to buy it fresh, buy it old. The older the better, vintage customers in fact are much better.

Devin Barnett:

Yeah.

Brandon Lewis:

And actually in the same way, they’re like wine. Customers in painting are like wine, you want them vintage and you want them old. Because they have money and they don’t do it themselves and they don’t haggle about the price. Those are the best ones to have.

Brandon Lewis:

And I would jump off on that point that you made that you’re a customer service business. For some reason, people don’t look at staying in touch with their customers after the sale is customer service. But if they don’t have to hunt for another service provider, if they don’t have… If you don’t put them at risk to have a bad experience with another painting contractor. If you help them remember how to stay in touch with you and that’s a service. And if you get the added bonus of the fact that they buy from you and refer you to their friends, that’s a byproduct. But you got to think about it.

Brandon Lewis:

The farmer probably puts the fence around his cows primarily because he doesn’t want to lose the investment, but he probably puts the fence around the cows to keep them from one wandering into traffic or onto the interstate or injuring themselves or being found in a place where they can’t feed themselves. And so keeping your clients is, and I would argue is also a great service to them. So talk about a few other things that have helped you in their business. Like essential things like, “Okay, here’s a couple of things that have been a big deal.” What would they be?

Devin Barnett:

Oh, there’s a lot, let’s say from a core principle as a person type of thing, you got to be humble. You got to accept that, no matter how much you know, you can always learn. And just don’t be that way. Don’t be prideful. I’ve been there where I’ve recreate the wheel. Sometimes I recreate the wheel and I recreate it again because I’ve been so busy, I forgot I already recreated the wheel and someone’s already done it.

Devin Barnett:

And excuse my French, but if I can be perfectly honest, most of us don’t know shit. I’m constantly seeking personal development through books, podcasts, other industries, business owners, groups, et cetera. Your group, I’m part of plenty of other groups. I go to a few leadership groups here in town. That’s the number one thing for me is just, be willing to accept no matter how much you think you know, you really don’t and it doesn’t help you to know everything. So just get that out of your head. There’s someone else doing it better than you.

Devin Barnett:

Now the biggest thing for me is as from a inside the business standpoint, it’s going to be numbers at first. And the reason why I say that is just going back, you can’t improve on what you don’t measure. So getting your metrics down, knowing what you’re doing. And then you can diagnose, “Hey, this is what I need to work on.” Because if you don’t have that, then you can’t really… Just like going to the doctor’s office, you got to have some vital signs in order to figure out what’s going on. And so that’s one of the biggest things for me. And then other than that is just being humble, being willing to learn.

Brandon Lewis:

Well, I would agree with you on both of those things. When I first started my painting business, the first thing I did was even though I could not find much in the way of painting business improvement information. First thing I look for, how do I build out a sales process? How do I run operations? I was always looking for somewhere somehow that this had already been done. It took me about a year and a half to really get into that as well as I should in numbers.

Brandon Lewis:

When I get on my diagnostic call, like I did with you back in March of 2019, I often ask painting contractors about their numbers? And they want to tell me about their feelings. And I’m like, “No, what is this? I’m looking to… This is a numbers question.” “Well, I think that, feel that… Well, my buddy said, and I know we’re pretty…” No, this is a number… And they just… The numbers are not known. They probably know the winning lottery numbers better than they know the job costing numbers.

Devin Barnett:

Absolutely.

Brandon Lewis:

And that’s the only way I can tell, like you said, you walk into the ER, they take a few vitals. I spend the first part of my diagnostic taking really big vitals. And then we get down to the smaller things, just like a physician does. When you go in with an ailment, they always start with your weight. They start with your blood pressure and a few other things and your oxygen level, your heart rate. And then they move on to, “Well, let’s run some tests or some other things.” And humility is…

Brandon Lewis:

I’ve quit looking for ways to reinvent the wheel. I’ve got some great people that I work with on various projects and I try to go find out an expert. And you may have to go through three people to find the one that’s actually really good, but you’ve got to be willing to hunt.

Brandon Lewis:

So to close out, if you were talking to the painting contractor that was in your spot the first time you started or maybe even the first year that you were in business, where you’re overwhelmed, maybe you’ve lost some confidence that you are built for entrepreneurism. And I’ve done that before too, I’ve stepped in a couple of big piles in my entrepreneurial career. So tell me little bit about that and what you would say to them.

Devin Barnett:

Well, just that this really goes with the last question you said, and I think about it. And you saying that you looked for sales processes and you looked for these different systems. I’m super impressed by that because I didn’t and I don’t know why. I don’t know why I didn’t think that that information was out there.

Devin Barnett:

So just to repeat what I said earlier, seek help. Very few people figure out on their own. Very few people, as a small business owner figure it out on their own. We all know the small business closure rates. They’re horrible. Most never even make it to five years.

Devin Barnett:

And when you hear that number, you’re like, “Man, why would I ever even start a small business?” Well, I think that number is heavily, heavily skewed because most of those people were just like me to first go around. They weren’t business owners, they just bought themselves a job. They never took the time to learn their craft. They treat it just like you would if you were in the trade itself.

Devin Barnett:

As a business owner, take the time to learn the craft. It is a craft, it is… But learn from others, who’ve already blazed the trail. Like I said before, there’s people who’s already done this and they’ve done it better than you and that’s part of being humble. Just accept that. You’re not going to do it any different.

Devin Barnett:

When it comes to the service industry, you’re offering a service for money there’s not really any secret source. It’s just do a good job. Say you’re going to do something and then do it, and put those systems in process in place to make sure that everybody working around you can accomplish that. But business ownership is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but if you do it well, it’ll be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.

Brandon Lewis:

Amen. You can go a lot further, a lot faster, and you can do a lot of things that you would never be able to do as being an employee. It may keep you up at night and you may have a little bit more acid reflux from time to time. But in the end when the dust settles, it’s definitely worth it.

Brandon Lewis:

Well, Devin, bud, I appreciate you being here with me. This has been very good. I can’t wait to get it out. Thank you again for your time. I know you’re busy.

Devin Barnett:

Yes, sir. Thank you.

Brandon Lewis:

All right guys. Well, I hope y’all enjoyed the program. Devin is the reason that I do this at the APPC. It’s the motivation that keeps me going. I love working with men in this industry. We have a lot of wives and a few ladies, but working with the boys, I get to do it every day and it’s really fun. Proud of what you have accomplished in a short period of time. And I’ll be honest, you should be too. And you probably can really appreciate it at this point. Brandon Lewis here with The Academy for Professional Painting Contractors, until next time I’m signing off.

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The 5 Keys for Success in ANY Economy

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George Hamby
a year ago
I have been watching multiple videos over the past two or three years. As I watch these videos I get inspired to try to step my...
Jose Ortez
a year ago
Brandon has great insight and content in the painting industry. He definitely has the pulse on the industry. His insights has helped me tremendously in...
Pam Bryant
a year ago
I first met Brandon several years ago at the Sherwin Willliams Pro Show. My "take away"... I was sitting up front, second row, and he asked...
Brian Hoggard
a year ago
Brandon is the man! Just follow his easy guide and and he will have you doing things you never thought were possible. Great for any...
Robert Godinez
a year ago
The videos are what lured me into his entire wealth of knowledge. Once I became a gold member I became bewildered by so much more...

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The 5 Keys for Success in ANY Economy

Discover the key to unlocking the hidden income potential in your painting business.