Managing Painters

| April 23, 2016 | 2 Comments

Not all contractors are good at managing painters. Those who embrace managing tend to be excellent communicators and high achievers. Others are reluctant managers who find it easier to accept mediocrity than to create accountability.

Mediocrity is the enemy of any paint contracting company – or any business, really. While it is better than flat-out suckery, it is still average and not excellent.

Mediocrity breeds complacency, the hallmark of average.

The whole goal of any business is to not be average. If you are average, you look just like all the rest. And guess what? The rest are willing to low-price themselves right to the bottom of the barrel.

The best painting contractors are really good managers of people. They have come to realize that they cannot do all aspects of owning and operating a business alone, and they don’t tolerate the burden of weak contributors.

By “weak” we mean anything less than a 100% contribution.

This may be one of the hardest lessons to get one’s head around in the hustle and bustle of paint contracting and managing painters.

Here’s a quick look at one of the painter personality types to either correct or remove from your company:

The Apparent Pleaser

This painter appears to want nothing more than to make you and your customer happy. The problem is that when you give the apparent pleaser any kind of direction or feedback, before you can even finish your sentence, he enthusiastically responds with a “yup, yup” or “OK, right.”

It sounds sincere and well meaning, but what it really means is:

I have no idea what you are talking about, and I don’t really care. I am going to keep doing what I am doing, and because I have a positive attitude, you will continue to like and employ me.

This guy is reliable, shows up on time every day, works hard and is loyal.

Unfortunately, he is not listening to you. You can keep on talking, and he will nod his head and appear to be with you. But he is not hearing a word you say. While he is consistent, he is a poster child for mediocrity. Many contractors will tolerate an apparent pleaser because at least you know what you will get.

It’s not a recipe for success, due to the lack of engagement and personal investment in his own professional improvement and advancement. If he can’t care about that, he can’t care about the growth of your company.

“As paint contractors, we don’t create most of the problems we encounter, but we do get to choose the solution and who will be part of it.”

Silently on Strike…Smiling all the Way

The apparent pleaser becomes an unfortunate model for new employees who observe that attitude must be an important value within the company, even at the expense of efficiency and quality. While attitude is important, if it is not genuine and pointed to the best interest of the company, it can produce a painter or two who are silently on strike, smiling all the way.

If you don’t redirect the apparent pleaser as soon as you observe the traits, the behavior continues. Usually, it takes a critical on-the-job failure before you realize you need to terminate. There may have been nothing to write up or reprimand the whole time; it is a simple communication failure. The first time an employee says “Yup, I got it,” and you don’t think they really “got it,” break the cycle.

managing paintersSimple, straight and direct communication works best.

Joe, no, I can see in the results you are getting that you are not understanding how I need this to go. Here, I am going to show you exactly what I need you to do, and you need to do it.

It doesn’t hurt to throw in:

Joe, man, I appreciate your positive attitude and enthusiasm, and that is why I know that you really want to do things the right way.

That is the beginning of accountability when managing painters. It establishes that, yes, I am actually paying attention to what you are doing, and I have expectations of you. And I will be checking frequently to make sure that it’s happening consistently.

This is called quality control and it has to be in the paint contractor’s job description, if not DNA.

managing painters

Daily accountability by management helps make sure expectations are met.

Over the years of managing painters in our company, we have trained employees that when we set them up for a task and leave them to accomplish it, our operations manager will come back and look at their results – looking at the first thing they did, and the last thing they did.

Then, everything that in between. And there will be feedback.

Does that pretty well summarize it?

Reluctant managers call this micromanaging, but that is a simple cop out.

Good employees actually appreciate when their efforts and results are recognized.




Category: Business

About the Author ()

Scott Burt is a paint contractor, writer and paint trainer from Vermont. He writes for American Painting Contractor magazine,, and is a featured blogger at JLCOnline.

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. AJ says:

    Great article. I have had a few apparent pleasers over the years, and a couple of just bad calls, and thankfully a lot of great employees. That said, I have also learned over the years that I have mismanaged some solid employees.
    HR Management is the most challenging and rewarding part of my job. No doubt about it my employees are the key to my business’ growth and continued success. I am putting most of my energy this year into the systems and management of my employees because I clearly see that this is the most important part of my business. My clients, my business, and myself all benefit from well managed and well treated employees.
    To wrap up all I would add is that you lead by example even if you do not intend to. Every year I try hard to be a better manager and learn from my mistakes. You have to be consistant and fair and also realize that employees are not owners and will not and probably should not work as hard as you do. It’s an excellent point that the idea of micromanaging is a cop out and that painters actually appreciate the feedback – the ones you want on your team really do at least.

    • Scott Burt says:

      You make many great points, AJ, thanks for commenting. Consistency and fairness are so important. It definitely is all about keeping the ones that you want on your team.

Leave a Reply