How to Hire Painting Employees & Staff Members

Hey everybody. Brandon Lewis here with the Academy For Professional Painting Contractors and it is February at the recording of this video. You may be watching this sometime in the future, but everything I’m going to tell you about recruitment is unbelievably essential, especially in our market. We are no longer in an employer’s market. We are in an employee’s market, especially in painting. That’s not true in all cases, but in painting in particular, we are. And it means that basically you can’t do things the way you used to do it and get as good a results. And in fact, you have to try a lot harder, spend a lot more time and money, be a lot more crafty and you have to think like the person you are trying to hire and not like yourself in order to really make everything work in this environment.

At the recording of this, we are in February and winter is the absolute best time to recruit people. And you may say, well, I don’t have any people. That doesn’t have anything to do with recruitment. Recruitment is not hiring. People confuse the two. You have recruitment, you have the retention of the recruited people, those that are what you would call leads for employment. And then you have the third step, which is the actual hiring, the technical, non-technical skills assessment references backgrounds, and then you move into onboarding and then you’ve got employee retention.

People confuse all these things. Don’t see any transition. Aren’t very familiar with it. Aren’t very good at at it. And as we get into this, one big problem that we have in our industry is the majority of people that run a painting business, started out as a painter or a crew leader and now all of sudden they’re an owner. And you’re like, wow, my business is not making the money it needs to. I’m stressed out every day. I don’t have the people I need. The people I have aren’t doing a very good job. And a lot of that just comes from the fact that when you are an owner, those are not skills of a crew leader. Crew leader skills are like this, owner skills are like this and the two are not the same. You might have a little bit of an overlap in that Venn diagram, but primarily, recruitment and hiring is a skill that has to be taught and you need tools and systems in order to do it.

But what I’m going to do today is hit the high points and actually I’ve got three pages of high points, so I better get moving or I’ll never make it to my next call. So I’m going to run through this as quickly as I can. Here we go. Today we’re going to talk about why recruitment is important and do hit that subscribe button, if you’re watching this on YouTube and you find this to be helpful. Share it in some painters group on Facebook. And if you need help or anything, just pick up the phone, call us 423-800-0520 or email me

How to hire painting employees

So here’s where we’re going. Why recruitment is important. We’re going to talk about market message medium timing, concepts, strategies, and tactics, interviewing and hiring, retention of prospects and we’re going to take questions if you will email them to me, So why is recruitment important? The first thing is if you’re running your business properly with production rates and job costing and probably a save labor bonus program, your margins should be at about 50%. This means the average painter is worth anywhere from 57,500 to 86,250. And remember your gross profits are about 95% of net profits once your past break even. And what’s the point of having a huge client list, great sales, great marketing, fantastic sales process if you can’t do the work? There’s no point in it. So don’t put up with below average performers or bad attitudes because your recruitment systems suck. Okay?

You’re like, I got these people. I don’t have enough people. They’re the wrong people. Well, I mean, that’s your fault. There are lots of painters out there. If you don’t have the ones that you need, that’s your fault. So let’s talk about market message medium and timing. The market we’re going to talk about today are professional painters. Many people like to hire people with very few skills and train them up and you can do that. That is a training conversation for later. But today we’re going to talk about recruitment, which means for the most part, you’re looking for someone that has a decent amount of painting skills, maybe carpentry, maybe drywall, could be epoxy floors, could be cabinets and you need greater and lesser skills.

So we’re not going to talk about people that have no painting skills. Timing, why now? February and early March are the highest yield months for recruitment. They really are. Efforts that you put in the rest of the year will not generate the level of results as something that you do now. Meaning that it would be like if you were fishing at the time of year when the fish are biting and at the time of day that the fish are biting, you’re going to catch more fish for the hours you spend versus doing it in the middle of the winter at lunchtime. The quality of the pool is at its best. Even though we have a huge backlog of painting work because of the government shutdowns, et cetera, the fear mongering by the media, my words. Your opinion may vary. Then we got this huge backlog and then we had the government pay a bunch of people to not work.

And so all of that plus the giving away of free money has caused inflation. And so it cost people to hold onto that demand for a while and then all of a sudden, everybody’s like, well, I’m going to paint no matter what. If I have to die and catch this terrible bubonic plague, then I’m going to do it. And so the quality of people right now is better because some people are finally getting off their butts. They’re getting back in the job market and a lot of painters just didn’t have enough work this winter.

So relationships and trust take time to establish. When you think about hiring a painter, you really need to think about it almost as doing a major account sale. If you’re trying to land a two, $200,000, $300,000 job, $400,000 job, you’re not going to just half-ass it. You’re not going to just email them a PDF and hope they buy them. And you’re going to really go through the sales process, through the marketing process to do that and that’s what your painters are worth. I mean, they’ve got their annual value, but they’ve got year after year value. And if somebody’s been with you four or five years, they may have processed $700,000, $800,000 worth of work. Maybe even more, depending on the type of work you do and your charge rate.

And the busier it gets, the harder it gets for you to focus on recruitment. And that’s why you really need to do it now. And also, you need to tie these people up, these new recruits, and you need to get them before your competitors do. All these things are pretty good. Now let’s talk about the message. We are hiring does not work as a message. When somebody has employment, you’re not trying to offer employment. You’re trying to offer better employment. If somebody’s just eating a steak dinner, they don’t want steak. They don’t want steak. If they’re full, they don’t want more food. They’re full. Now they may want food later.

So you can’t advertise just that you’ve got employment. It’s like, are you different and better? Do you offer a save labor bonus program? Do you run people on production rates? Do you have an organized environment where people are rewarded and recognized? Do you give them opportunity to advance? Do you give them all the tools they need? Do you have any other benefits, paid vacation, et cetera? Maybe you’re just a boss that cares. Sometimes that’s the only motivation people need to leave their employment.

So who are you looking for? Are you looking for painters or are you looking for crew leaders? Okay. You got to be thinking about that when you do it. Are you looking for carpentry skills? Are you looking for spraying skills, drywall, cabinets? What is it? So the reason people leave one company, and this is important for your messaging, is the same reason they move to another. Think about it. You leave one company, you move to another.

Help Wanted

So here’s some evergreen headlines and reasons. Number one, the number one reason people leave a painting company is because they hate their boss, dislike their boss. So here’s a few. The painters make more money here – learn how. Here’s another headline. How painters earn more with our saved labor material bonus program. Third one, fast painters earn more with us. You want to attract somebody who’s really quick, who’s really fast, but they want to be compensated more? It doesn’t make a difference to you as long as they hit budget. Doesn’t make a difference. They can make more money. You can make more money.

Second, painters do want to make more money so that we could talk about that. Painters make more money here, learn how. I’m sorry. These are the boss headlines. Let me back up there. Those are all the make more money headlines. I did this in reverse order. I’m not rerecording this either. This is all free information. So this is as good as it gets. So for people that dislike their bosses, for painters who hate their boss, you may think that’s a strong headline, but it pulls very well. Painters, looking for a boss who cares? That’s another good one. For painters who love their work, but not their boss.

So we’ve talked about the boss headlines and the boss angle. We’ve talked about the money angle for painters that want more money. So now let’s talk about painters who leave because they want skills and opportunity to advance. So painters, learn new skills at our company. That’s a good headline. Another one, always a painter, never a crew leader? Some people are stuck in some little three, four person painting company and the owner’s always going to be the crew leader, or the owner’s brother, or the owner’s favorite is always going to be the crew leader. And somebody wants to advance to a crew leader, but because the company is so small and maybe so poorly managed without any business systems, they can’t go anywhere. So they leave.

For painters who want to advance their career. Okay. And another thing I would talk to you about that people really like is one of our members Trent has a tiered employment. You start off as either a greenhorn, an apprentice, painter one, painter two, crew leader. The terms are crystal clear known. You know what you get paid and then as you improve your skillset and productivity and take on more responsibility, you get paid more. Everybody gets paid the same. It’s a tiered program. So there’s not a bunch of squabbling and griping about who’s making what.

So the basic strategy is once you have your market that you’re going after, which are professional painters, and once you’ve got your messages that you’re going to use, which mainly you can focus on painters who hate their boss, painters who want more money and painters who want skills and opportunity to advance, then you just have to go get this message everywhere. Now, when I say get this message everywhere, I got to say something here. Don’t be short sighted or cheap. Some people, I ask them, “Okay, you’re having all these recruitment problems with painters. How much time over the last month have you spent and how much money?”

And it ends up being, I kid you not, 30 minutes and $200. Why would you throw 30 minutes and $200 at a $86,000 a year problem? If you think about what you’re losing in many cases, if you’re losing $1,200 per painter per week and you let that go on for four weeks, you’ve lost $4,800, but you’re spending $200 and about 20 minutes to fix it. Don’t gripe or complain. The fault is yours. And maybe it’s you don’t know what to do. Maybe it’s you don’t have any good systems for it. Maybe it’s just that you’re lazy. I don’t know, but don’t be cheap about this stuff. Oh, I can’t spend that. Well, what are you losing by not having it? That’s the big question. That’s the big question.

Mediums and tactics. Location specific strategies. This is what I call grassroots. Paint stores and things near them, that’s really important. Gas stations, restaurants. When people are going to and from the paint stores, you want to catch their attention. You want to find out where they’re going to be. If there’s a gas station across, or going to, or coming from a paint store or a restaurant, you can bet painters are eating and gathering there. Flyers, yard signs, recruitment cards, recruitment magnets, especially on your vehicles. Big ones. Oversized signs, billboards get one by a busy paint store, especially electronic ones. Test it out, send it to a URL, send it to a phone number. See if it’s working for you.

Face to face communication, you need to have a script for when you meet a painter to build rapport, ask a few questions and quickly get their contact information so you can follow up. If you don’t know how to do that, you need to know how to do that. You need to have specific strategies. Here are a few. Email and text your entire list. Many of you don’t even have client lists. You never communicate with them at all, yet you wonder why you’re stalled. You wonder why your marketing costs are out of whack. You wonder why your close rates are low, and your transaction rates are low, and your charge rates, you can’t get what you want. That’s a big reason. But for those of you who are sophisticated enough to do customer reactivation and retention, here’s an opportunity. You’ve got that list queued up. You just do your recruitment to the list. Somebody knows a painter. Got to do it. Post on social media channels and boost.

Don’t forget your personal page. A lot of people that like your company are your employees, friends of employees on social media, your clients, referrals, B2B referral partners. You put out more lines you’ll catch more fish. Reach out to your B2B referral partners, your trade people, your roofers, your plumbers, your cabinet installers, realtors, interior decorators, you name it. Go through your phone and message your connectors. And everybody knows somebody that knows everybody, ask them. Ask them.

Church or civic organizations. If you attend a church, especially if it’s a larger church, tell everybody you know, “Hey, on the looking for a painter, do you know of anybody?” If they’ve got bulletin boards or someplace you can post something in your church, put it there. Same way with rotary club, chamber of commerce, et cetera. Networking groups, BNI, instead of wasting your time talking about what you’re looking for from a capacity standpoint or your demand standpoint, if you’re already booked out too far, start trying to recruit painters through the group.

Referral routes. You should be running a referral route to paint stores and make sure you keep up communication with salesmen, with store managers and with their associates. If you don’t do that on a weekly basis or a biweekly basis, you probably won’t get anywhere with them and it takes a while to work. So ask your painters. Here’s another one. Give them the reasons you desperately need to have other people. Give them the tools, give them recruitment tools, flyers, et cetera. Cards, images to post on social media. Give them the financial incentive, reward them every time you have somebody fill out an application, even if they’re not perfect. When they come in for an interview and then after they’ve been to the company for a month. Set these things and pay them bump, bump, bump. Pay them three times.

If you really want to encourage somebody to exhibit a behavior, it’d be better to reward them multiple times, and sometimes for inputs and not end results. Got to do that. And at each meeting, if it’s really important, guess what you got to do? Talk about it. Okay, we’re at this section today, we’re going to talk about recruitment because we’ve always got recruitment issues. We’re going to talk about recruitment today. All right. We got Jose over here. Jose has recruited two painters. Raise your hand if Jose recruited you. We got two more in here because of Jose and as of today, he has set up five interviews and I just did one the other day with a young man that I think we’re going to bring on. He’s got lots of good carpentry skills. Well, I don’t do any of that. Well don’t bitch that you can’t find the painters you need.

Painter appreciation events. Pick a great place to feed them dinner. It could be a buffet, could be a steak, could be a dinner out. You might have to do this after hours. Have a signup table to collect their contact information and promote the heck out of it. Painter appreciation event, you don’t even have to put your company information on there. Put it around all the paint stores, put it everywhere, put a date. See who shows up. Are you going to have some bums and losers? Yep. But I bet more likely you’re going to have people that actually paint. Why not do it?

Paid Facebook ads, target men of a certain age and maybe even folks that are of Latino descent, which we’re about to talk about now. People that are Spanish or speak Spanish. Don’t forget Spanish media. This is crazy. I can’t believe more people don’t do this. There’s a high concentration of tradespeople in the Hispanic community. So if you are in Spanish radio, Spanish newspapers, when you go out to a construction site, very often there’s local Spanish radio playing. And it is crazy to me that with a concentration of tradespeople being so high in the Spanish community, maybe not in all communities, but in a lot of communities, that people don’t use these mediums and they don’t translate their ads into Spanish. Even if you’re looking for bilingual, see what you can get. Need to get out there in that and that also includes Spanish restaurants. Not the fake ones that we go to, the American Spanish ones, but the truly authentic Spanish ones. The financial centers.

And finally the convenient, not convenient stores, but they’re I guess ethnic food stores, whatever you want to call them. Specific to the Spanish community. Just like there are typically those of different Asian descent that you can find in your area. You’d be crazy not to go target that area. Okay. Just like you’d be crazy not to focus on men since men are primarily the people that paint. You got to fish where the fish are.

Now, do not forget during your interview and assessment process, both technical non-technical skills assessment to ask for referrals. You got to ask for referrals every single time you interview somebody. Every time you interview somebody, you should get at least two referrals. If not, you’re just moving backwards. Doing the hardest part of the whole process and not getting the easiest part, which is to get the referrals at the end. Each interview should get at least one more and often the referrals you get when you’re interviewing somebody, typically they’re better than that person you’re actually interviewing. Because they’ve referred them, which means they’ve gone through the entire list of painters and they’ve selected that individual.

That’s powerful stuff. Basic form of assessment. Ask them questions, do an intake form. You should have all that stuff in there. You should have a non-technical skills assessment, which is basically about their work ethic, customer service, what their viewpoint is on this or that thing, how they stay on task, et cetera. Things that you know if you hear it, it’s a good fit for your culture. You need to have that. Then you need to have what we call a circle rectangle test, some kind technical skills assessment so that you can know in 45 minutes or less, maybe even 30 minutes, if they can cut, if they can follow written instructions, if they can fill out paperwork. You’ve figured out in 45 minutes…

If you’re still doing these eight day trials, these eight day trials. Not eight day trials, sorry. Eight hour trials, that’s bogus, BS and you don’t have eight hours to figure out somebody stinks. Or two hours and tie up your crew leader, and possibly ruin a client relationship, and expose yourself to financial and legal and insurance risk. It doesn’t make any sense. So make sure that you check your references, your background checks, et cetera and that’s all critically important. Never take anybody’s for it.

So what if you don’t need them now? Well Brandon, I don’t need them right now. I’m going to need them in a month. Well, you can’t start in a month. It’ll be too late. So the number one thing is to build the list and keep them warm just like clients. Text them, email them make it personal. How’s your kid doing at soccer? I’d love to bring you on. We’re about two weeks out. Even if you have to work somewhere else we can bring you on later. I wish I could do it right now. It’s all that personal relationship stuff, because they will not work for you if you ignore them for three months and then pick up the phone and say, “Hey, you looking for a job?”

This is a big item on someone’s list to pick who they work for. It’s a big item for you to pick who’s going to work for you. And if you’re not intentional about this stuff and you don’t put time in, then you get what you get. You get what you get. I’d also recommend adding these people to your newsletter list. We do an at home monthly newsletter for our members. It’s remarkably effective and you can use it for recruitment as well. It highlights your best employees. It showcases your best clients and it shows that you really have a professional operation. That you’re not just some Chuck in a truck out there. Nobody wants to work for Chuck in a truck. Unless they got bad work ethics and habits, in which case you don’t want them anyway.

So we’ve covered a lot of things in a short period of time here. And if you’re listening to this and you’re like, God, I don’t even know where to start. All I know is that I can’t find painters and I can’t keep them. That’s another thing. It’s not just finding them. It’s keeping them and if you’re disorganized, if you don’t have an ultimate crew leader packet, if you’re not having regular crew meetings, if you don’t give them labor budgets and material budgets to hit, if you don’t give them save labor bonus and material programs, if you don’t recognize them, if there’s no room for advancement, why would anybody work for you? Why?

Nobody can just follow your verbal instructions and get something done. That’s just pointless. You can just hang that up. Verbal instructions. Oh, they’re not doing perfect. It’s their work ethic. No, maybe it’s your organizational skills. Maybe it’s the business systems you have. Maybe you don’t know how to really manage people on a project and give them the tools they need to be empowered to do it, come in on budget, bring you back a check, make the clients happy without you babysitting them all the time. So you got your retention even after you hire, maybe you got issues. If you got issues with any of this stuff, email me You can always go to and download our free report, the five keys for growing your business in any economy. And the economy’s been pretty crazy and it may get worse here shortly.

So I’m here to help. That’s what I do. I help painters, repaint contractors particularly, all day long with any and all aspects of painting businesses. But here’s my promise to you. If you’ll take this list right here, if you’ll take this list that I just went over on this call. If you’ll take that and if you’ll do 20% of it. It’s probably 200% more than what you’re doing and you will fix all your recruitment and hiring problems if you’ll just do some of this. And if you don’t want to create it from scratch and you don’t have the time or the expertise,

Well, that is my dissertation on hiring and recruiting painters in any economy, any season. I hope to see you next time. I apologize. I’ve been negligent in sending these videos because I get so busy onboarding new members in the winter. It’s all I can do to get this stuff done. I had a little bit of break in the schedule today. I reviewed this and talked to our members about it, and of course we have done for you assets and done for you programs. And every one of these, about five or six different modules that gets all this done, but even so a lot to remind and re-remind our guys of the basics. Because if you do the basics well, and if you do the small things well, the big things take care of themselves. That’s how it goes.

Brandon Lewis here with the Academy For Professional Painting Contractors and until next time signing off. Do hit that subscribe button, share this in the Facebook groups and email me if you have any questions., I’d be happy to set up a diagnostic call. May take me a little while to get to you, but I’d be happy to help. Take care guys.

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Pam Bryant
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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...
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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...
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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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