It’s always a good time to be thinking about your productivity. Even if you are already rushed off your feet, it’s still something you should be constantly working to improve.
There are many variables that contribute to the success of a paint contracting business.
Pricing correctly with an awareness of your ‘real’ cost structures and a good understanding of the margins needed to remain in business and be successful;
The technical knowledge and skills that you and your team have;
Your ability to network, communicate and market your business which ultimately will secure contracts at good margins;
Managing the productivity of the painting process.
The last point, productivity is rarely considered, or only in a cursory way and yet is the real key to the success or otherwise of painting businesses. Too often the focus is on securing future work, often at unacceptably low margins or on input costs, such as the cost (per unit) of the paint used and/or the accessories and tools used to apply the paint.
In contrast the most successful painting businesses are acutely aware of how productive their business is and will target ways or look for opportunities to improve productivity.
Once a professional painter moves away from being a sole trader (aka one-man-band) operating on their own or with a mate undertaking smallish painting contracts to a larger enterprise that employs other painters, the business model needs to change to be successful and remain so. No longer are they able to simply work harder to make a dollar, they need to sell and manage the time needed to complete projects for home and business owners and construction projects. The dominant cost, no matter the size of any painting task is the time needed to complete it. Even though a painter starting a business can very often work harder and smarter than others, once staff are employed, maintaining productivity becomes the essential management task.
You are only making money when you are preparing and/or applying paint.
The rest of the time can be necessary and important, but it is still downtime and by definition is unproductive. Activities like coffee breaks and travel time fall into this category as does bookwork.
Have a plan of work and make sure all the materials and equipment are ready beforehand. Use the email and phone ordering process you got used to during lockdown/level 3 to save time getting your supplies.
When you’re doing quotes on the job, try and schedule them only when you are in the area already to reduce travel time. Promote your work to the local area so your team can spend more time painting and less time driving.
The more effective and efficient you are at getting paint onto correctly prepared surfaces, the more productive you are, and the more money you should make!
Back cost all jobs to understand the true costs and time involved. Done well this will help you price better in the future helping to ensure you have enough margin to cover your costs and make a reasonable profit. It will also help identify opportunities to improve productivity. Conversely, back costing will also tell you what went wrong and what could be done to improve or overcome this issue. This may also help to show you which types of work to focus on in future.
Review your work processes, including incorporating more flexibility into work practices, for example, at Resene our building and maintenance crews take two breaks of 30 minutes each per day at 10am and 1pm, but do not take morning tea or afternoon tea breaks. This saves time going back and forth to the work locations and in clean-up and the crew prefer it too.
Embrace new techniques; equipment and technology that will improve your productivity. Mechanical sanders like the Broadwall Giraffe Sander, fine finishing spray units and even your mobile phone can dramatically increase productivity. They come at a cost but are found in the vans of successful painters.
Watch for and embrace new paint technologies, Resene has consistently introduced between 5-10 new products every year. While some are targeted at DIY consumers others have been developed to save time and improve painter’s productivity. These systems including Resene Broadwall 3 in 1 and Resene CyberCote are more expensive on a per litre basis but in the right circumstances can dramatically improve productivity meaning you can reduce your cost per litre applied.
Productivity improvements are always possible and the people and businesses that chase and keep chasing improvements are generally the most successful.
Article thanks to Nick Nightingale,
Resene Managing Director
The Resene Trade Blog
Information of interest for professional painters