My Painting Business: Employees

In previous blog posts, I talked about the start of my painting business: my advertising, my biding on jobs, and buying ladders and a truck. Today I will talk about hiring help (employees). When I started out, in 1981, I just hired one guy—a friend. I suppose I could have done the work myself, since I didn’t have a great deal of it; but I went on faith that more work would come in and I wanted to be ready when it did.

As it turned out, each year brought in a little more work; and so, more employees were needed. According to my records, my best year was in 1987. And so, as I remember, I had the most employees then, about 6 or 7. Those were the days. It was fun having that many workers, but also hard keeping track of everything.

I’ve always done my own payroll and taxes, and I also have been the only one to train the workers and supervise them. I guess I never have been too much of a business man, or else I would have known more about how to grow my business. My main focus has always been on doing a good job at painting and making sure my workers had the same focus. For some reason, I could never just supervise; I had to always be working myself. And that made it extra hard, because I always had one eye on the work I was doing, and the other eye on watching a new worker—making sure he was doing what I wanted him to do.

After 1987, the workload, and also the employees, gradually decreased. But surprisingly, my income did not decrease. I learned how to make money having fewer employees. I learned that paying a few good employees more money was more cost efficient that paying many so so employees less. I also learned that I could get just as many jobs if I charged more. People were willing to pay more if I could convince them that I would be doing a good job. Since 1997 I haven’t had any employees. Wow! That’s 23 years without employees. And I’ve been doing fine. I don’t make quite as much money now, but its been easier.

One of the things that was always hard from year to year when I had employees, was having to lay off most (or all) of them in the fall, because of a lack of work, and then have to re-hire new employees in the spring. I really didn’t mind the hiring process, but I hated the fact that all, or most of the guys that I had to lay off were forced to get other steady work. So, all the training I did was just for one year, and then I had to start all over again the next year.

But there were two guys that did come back from year to year: Kevin and Dave. I hired both of them in 1985, and they lasted until 1991. They were by far the best workers I had—which says a lot about the wisdom of sticking with good workers, even if you have to continue to give them raises. I would rather pay a lot for good help then to hire a lot of cheap help.

Next time I will talk about all the great customers I have gained over the years.

My Work: House Painting

This is my work truck. I had a small painting job at this location.

My work. It’s been a while since I had work. But I’m retired. I started a house painting business in 1981. At the beginning it was just me and one employee—a good friend. We had no contacts so I had to advertise. I put adds in the local newspaper, and I also made small, half-sheet fliers to distribute. Sometimes I distributed them by hand, door-to-door, with help from nieces and nephews. Other times I paid to have them delivered as an insert. That kept us busy, just busy enough.

The summers were good, but the winters were spars. After the first couple years I hired more help. That was fun during the summer time, but during the winter months I had to lay them off. There was just not enough work. So in the spring time I usually had to rehire and retrain people—because the ones I had before, had gotten other jobs. But then there were a couple guys who kept coming back—the faithful.

Well, I don’t want to bore you by giving you a year by year run down. But there were some interesting stories to tell. Working with a crew of guys is always fun—but sometimes aggravating for me, the boss. I remember, one of my guys would always call me Boss, or Boss man. I hated that! Because I didn’t think he was genuine. Yea, I had some characters—all different. Those were the days.

I retired when I was 63, seven years ago. But I didn’t totally stop working. At first, I cut about a third out of my hours. Today my hours are cut about in half. I have never had so much work that I was able to save a lot. So I figured that with my Social Security payment I still need to work some.

But you know, I really think it’s for the best. I like working a little. At 69 I don’t feel much like working full bore, but I think its good for me to work a little. And I like seeing faithful clients. I have some clients that I have done work for, for over 30 years. For some of them, I have painted their entire house 4 or 5 times, or more. Some of them call me for work almost every year. And I try to call all of my clients once a year, just to keep in touch—but of course I will ask them if they need any painting. Out of about 30 calls I get roughly one job out of it.

 I’m waiting for someone to call me right now. I am ready for a job. A small job. This retirement at times sucks! All I do is sit around writing, blogging, reading, and doing my chores. Other things too, and it’s getting very routine. I need a job. I’m getting too lazy.

I’m afraid retirement for me will never be typical—like rich folks. You know, traveling and golfing and going on cruises. I will have to keep working as much as necessary to have enough in savings for when I get too old to work. I have to keep a tight budget. And it will always be, for me, a life of trusting God. That sounds good to me. He will provide and keep me joyful.