Contractor Q&A: Jason Phillips on Building a Team and the Benefits of Adding Roofing and Gutter Services

Jason Phillips is the owner of Phillips Home Improvements. Based in Plano, Texas, the company has been refreshing and rehabilitating homes for more than 20 years to build a quality reputation in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. They hold an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and were awarded the 2019 Torch Award for Ethics. PPC editor Mike Starling sat down with Jason to learn more about how he grew his business into the success story it is today.

How did you get started in the painting industry?

I was working for a residential painting company that was going through a transfer of ownership that ultimately failed. During this process, my paychecks were often lagging four to six weeks, forcing me to lean on my credit card and loved ones for groceries and other basic needs. I began looking for other career opportunities outside of painting, until the original owners of the painting company came to me and told me what was going on and gave me their blessing to go out on my own.

Why did you choose a career in painting?

I had another job lined up with my brother in the computer industry, but after the owners gave me their blessing to launch out on my own, I considered all the injustices I had seen perpetrated on homeowners, painters, and other employees (like me). I really felt that I could and should raise the bar and make a difference in the painting industry in my city. So, with nothing more than a few dollars left on my credit card, I headed to the office supply store, bought a printer and some paper, printed up some flyers and business cards, and hit the streets door-knocking.

What were the biggest turning points in the growth of your company?

The biggest turning point was when I came to a crossroads where I had to determine if I was going to keep working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, beating my brains out, or whether I was going to build a team and leverage the efforts of others so I could give my family the time it deserved. I chose to build a team.

You broke $1 million in sales in January 2000. What did that mean to your company, and to you personally?

Breaking through the $1,000,000 point meant that I could focus some of my time on building systems for my company. Although I had more control over my time, I still kept the pedal to the metal because I knew what it was like to go without. I didn’t want to ever return there again.

What do you think differentiates your company from the competition?

In my state of Texas, there is no licensing for painting contractors, so that means anyone with a pickup truck and a paintbrush can be a painter. One of our biggest differentiators is that we assist homeowners in solving their complete problem. And it’s often more broad than just painting. Many times, their problem includes the need for complete siding replacement before painting, or even gutter removal, fascia board replacement, painting, and then new gutters. Homeowners don’t like to have to deal with multiple contractors. We make it easy by taking care of all of this for them.

How does the addition of other services like roofing and gutters help your company?

The addition of gutter replacement services not only expedited exterior painting projects, but it also added a revenue stream of its own. Gutters then became the link that got us into roofing. The roof and gutter systems work together to channel rainwater safely away from the home’s foundation. Similarly, water problems often start on the roof, continue with the gutters, and contribute to peeling paint and rotten trim and siding. It all fits together. We do a lot of projects that include roof replacement, fascia, soffit, siding, and trim replacement, then painting, and new gutters. We are not a one-stop general contractor, but when it comes to these particular problems, we are a one-stop shop for homeowners. All of the work is done by specialists, meaning painters paint, gutter installers do gutters, and roofers roof.

What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own painting company?

Although I truly enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done, the most rewarding part of owning my company is that I get to participate in enriching the lives of a lot of other people, from homeowners to employees to even my own family.

The biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is definitely keeping it simple as you grow, because it is very easy for complexity to increase exponentially and for bureaucracy to creep in when you don’t have the right people and systems. You can end up setting up systems to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline that create drag.

Tell us about one of your most challenging projects.

Because we regularly paint the interiors of occupied homes, our customers have to deal with the slow dry times, extended curing time, and the odor of oil enamels. We switched over to Sherwin-Williams Emerald® Urethane Trim Enamel, replacing oil enamel for almost all woodwork applications. It dries fast and hard, and our tests show it to be more durable and stain-resistant than oil. Our customers simply love the benefits. There’s been no looking back, and our painters love the water cleanup as well.

What advice would you give to young people entering the business?

I would advise any young people entering the business to do what I would do if I could do it all over again. I would connect with industry groups and leaders and learn best practices regarding the painting business. Although the last two decades have been very fruitful for me, I learned every single thing the hard way. I could have done so much more if I would have coupled my drive and work ethic with leveraging the mistakes and successes of others instead of trying to reinvent the wheel at every turn.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2020 issue of PPC magazine. Jason Phillips was interviewed by Mike Starling, PPC editor. Photo by Vanessa Gavalya. Read more about what pro painters have discovered on the job in the PPC What I’ve Learned archive.