More than three decades ago, The Kaloutas Company was busy building a distinguished name for itself with a record of successful and efficient painting projects for commercial and industrial customers throughout New England.
Still, regular pain points persisted for the company’s clients, whose primary goal was to get back to work and maximize their own profitability. Creating solutions to these challenges became the primary focus for Kaloutas.
“We’d be painting, working with a flooring company in the same space,” recalls Jay Culbert, director of facility services for the Peabody, Mass.-based company. “And there was always some level of communication breakdown. ‘You stepped on my floor.’ ‘You marked up my wall.’”
The result was often measured in lost time, and in the commercial space, time is a most precious commodity. Lost time not only drains profitability for the contractors involved, but any time the client’s space is unoccupied by a tenant, it’s costing them revenue.
Kaloutas observers began making note of related customer frustrations. Some contractors simply wouldn’t show or deliver services as promised, resulting in domino effects that rippled throughout the other trades working to prepare the building for occupancy. And due to the number of multiple contractors they were required to deal with offering flooring, fireproofing or caulking and sealing, for example, clients spent significant time on individual contractor onboarding, addressing matters such as facility familiarity or safety protocols.
Additionally, no one service provider seemed to have an overall grasp or understanding of their needs. And costly work stoppages to address maintenance needs seemed impossible to avoid.
So Kaloutas took the first step in an evolution to resolving those customer pain points. The contractor opened a flooring operation of its own and began encouraging clients to think of maintenance needs in the context of a continuous program, and not a series of projects.
Today, Kaloutas offers a suite of services besides painting and industrial flooring, including fireproofing, sealing and caulking, industrial cleaning and custom containment solutions, which makes them a go-to partner for their customers.
“When you offer the program — the flooring, the painting, the fireproofing and the caulking — they make one phone call, and limit the time that’s necessary in sourcing vendors,” says Culbert.
“We do the broad spectrum. We always tell them it’s program vs. project. Why would you choose to bid out several projects when you can develop a program with somebody that addresses all their project needs?”
Converting customers to a program-based mentality vs a project-based mentality is an ongoing process, according to Culbert. And some still prefer to work on a project basis. But program aspects include well-advanced planning discussions, and quarterly inspections that help customers be well-prepared for, for example, OSHA inspections or walkthroughs by their own customers, not to mention help in budgeting forecasts.
“Clearly, that conversion rests upon trust, and that trust is earned,” Culbert says. “They don’t need to give guidance when somebody already knows the way they operate. That could be in terms of safety, could be in terms of complexity, sensitivity to pharmaceuticals – anything.”
While Culbert presents the program mentality, he’s careful to ensure that the solutions the company provides are custom to the needs of the client and their facility.
“The key phrase is, ‘We operate the way you operate,’” he says. “Understanding their business, whether it’s big pharma or a major aviation company we serve, and being able to operate in that environment is key. Many contractors are used to working in a construction site, around new drywall going up. That’s not the case for many of our clients. They’re operational, and we must be sensitive to that.”
Creativity is often required to ensure customers can remain operational, and when a single vendor is providing multiple services, mutually beneficial solutions are easier to create.
“There’s a major worldwide aerospace client of ours that had to maintain operations while we were in there doing both the dryfall on the ceiling and the epoxy and urethane on the floors,” says Culbert. “They still needed access through that space to get to their office. So the creativity of it was, let’s learn how to do a custom containment system. We bought 2-by-4s and fire-retardant, 4-mil poly that we bought from Sherwin-Williams, and made a poly tunnel through our workspace so that facility could still provide their employees access to their offices.”
Importantly, collaborative efforts between flooring and painting teams, for example, can achieve maximum efficiency — and avoid situations in which product exposures could be problematic.
“We are one entity,” Culbert says. “We work as a single unit. So if the floor or the fireproofing makes sense to bring to a certain point so it transitions to the wall paint in a better manner for the facility, that’s what we decide for them. For example, should we be using a pre-catalyzed epoxy vs. a floor system that might be going up the wall, we can recognize the potential issue there. We communicate as a single unit. Because there’s one project manager who is responsible for all our services.”
Story by Bill Laste, PPC senior editor. Read more stories about running your painting business in the PPC magazine archive.