Working in the Education Market Segment

Prepare now for the short—but busy— school painting window

 The Education market segment can provide nearly non-stop earning opportunities for you and your crews, but only if you’re taking this window of time to understand the nuances and requirements of the market.

If you’ve prepared properly, yours will be a busy and profitable company come next summer.

“Here’s what’s taking place at so many schools as the school year ends — as students leave the front door, paint is coming in the back door,” says Kevin McCoy, a Sherwin-Williams National Account Sales Manager focusing on Government. “And from then on, painters are working sunup to sundown, sometimes seven days a week, into August.

“But to earn those opportunities, you’ll have to have your own homework done, and be ready to bid wisely on the RFPs that will be up in just a few months.”

Opportunities are plentiful — more than 150,000 K-12 institutions exist nationwide, according to McCoy. Contractors who position themselves properly to win education projects that are operated under government protocols are preparing now to respond to RFPs that will begin posting in January, and will reap rewards in this market segment. Below, McCoy outlines several tips and considerations for contractors looking to build business in the education market segment.

Get registered. A sign-up as a registered contractor is required with whatever state agency or political subdivision in which you aspire to work, according to McCoy. When Requests for Proposals (RFPs) become available, only registered contractors will be notified. “That could be a school district, a city, municipality, township— whatever it might be,” he says. “We do it on the supply side. I go through with reps and get Sherwin-Williams put through as an approved vendor, so I get RFPs when they are published. Contractors can do the same thing.

“We can help guide contractors in the right direction in this process, but it’s really a simple task,” McCoy adds. “Just go to the government website, find the appropriate drop down list for the purchasing department and sign yourself up as an approved vendor.”

Seek out your Sherwin-Williams rep. A Sherwin-Williams sales representative can be a particularly valuable ally if work in the Education market segment is in your future. “I’m sending out job leads to our field, our local reps, every morning,” says McCoy. “I always include, ‘Please send these leads to contractors with whom you do business.’ Part of my job is getting reps connected to contractors. So this is probably most important, working with your local Sherwin-Williams rep to help uncover some of these opportunities. We feel that’s quite advantageous from a contractor’s perspective.”

Be product savvy. Specifications are often standard in the Education market segment, but knowledge of product capabilities can differentiate your services, according to McCoy. “I would implore contractors to be up on our products. That way you’re getting the full gamut of what we have to offer, whether it’s coatings, applicators, equipment, sprayers, power washers or ladders. And then contractors and our reps can do joint selling, more of a team effort.

“We like to say we get a knee deep and a mile wide, so what we do is present a whole product offering. We use the term ‘market basket of goods’ so it could be anywhere from five items up to 300 items which are spec’d out by an agency, and that’s the basis for award for some contracts.”

The Sherwin-Williams Living WellTM collection has been well-received when pitched by contractors and reps, according to McCoy. Both SuperPaint® with Sanitizing Technology and SuperPaint® with Air Purifying Technology help schools send the message that they are promoting a healthy environment, which in turn helps them drive student enrollments that often determine government allocations and resource availability.

“Schools rely heavily on student body head count, and these products help give schools and the families involved peace of mind,” says McCoy. “It’s something they can promote.”

Understand local COVID impacts. Be proactive in understanding an agency’s COVID containment measures, McCoy advises. “There might be restrictions or limitations on going out and specing a job with a local procurement officer,” he says. “When we go into school districts or state agencies, we always ask, ‘Do you have mask mandates? Do I need to bring one? Will we be indoors or outdoors?’

“We want to get to the comfort level of the people we’re selling to, but the protocols are going to depend on the market. Schools are often a little more stringent on these kinds of things.”

Bid smart. Bids that win Education contracts are often decided on price—even if they tell you it’s not all about price, according to McCoy. “Procurement officers at the state level like to say it’s not a race to the bottom when it comes to bidding on jobs, but more often than not the lowest bidder wins,” McCoy says. “A contractor’s reputation and track record aside, procurement officers are trying to make sure that taxpayer dollars are allocated appropriately.”