Stronger Together

Why pro painters should join the PCA

Running a painting business may sometimes leave you feeling alone, like you’re on a remote island figuring out how to survive on your own—but it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a community of painters ready to connect with you and elevate your business. If you’re not part of the Painting Contractors Association (PCA), you may be missing out on cost-saving resources and a network of fellow painters who want to support you.

PCA has come a long way from its 1884 origins as a negotiating arm of the painters’ unions and, later, as a kind of social club for professional painters. Today PCA is focused on equipping painting businesses with the resources, training, and personal support necessary to succeed.

Jason Paris—chair of PCA’s board of directors and founder of Paris Painting in Minneapolis, Minnesota—says PCA wants to help professionalize and grow the painting industry.

“The painting industry has been the Wild West: hyper-fragmented and pretty unprofessional, with a low barrier to entry,” Paris says. “But eventually the Wild West gets settled. Little towns pop up, the people professionalize, and economic prosperity grows.

“Professionalizing the industry is the focus of the PCA, and there’s two main avenues to that. One is by building talent up—helping the Stans-in-a-van of the world to become professional businessmen. The second is by drawing talent in. You want to recruit and attract top-level talent to the industry, which we help painters do by expanding the resources and benefits they can offer.”

With the 2023 PCA Expo coming to Albuquerque, New Mexico, from February 22-24, it’s a great time for painters to join the PCA and experience the benefits they offer.

Health Insurance and Standards

PCA provides group-negotiated health insurance to all members and their companies. Health insurance is an important benefit when it comes to attracting top-tier talent, yet due to small company sizes and confusing logistics, many painting contractors are unable to provide it to their employees.

“That was something members were asking for, because health insurance is very confusing and expensive,” Paris says. “So now, if you’re a member of the PCA, you can tap into the group-negotiated healthcare plan. That’s not only a great way to take care of yourself and your family, but it’s also a good way to professionalize your business. If your company is one of the few to offer health insurance and other benefits, you’re going to attract a much different caliber of applicants.”

Benefits are not one-size-fits-all either. PCA members meet with an account rep through the Health Benefit Alliance to tailor a plan that makes sense for their company.

Schirmer notes that benefits are key to not only attracting top talent but retaining your best employees.

“One of the things our team uncovered is that at least 56 percent of people are going to stay at a job because of health benefits,” he says. “If you can offer that, that’s a great retention strategy.”

Another important resource the PCA offers is its Industry Standards guide. In addition to professionalizing the trade, these standards offer an objective guideline by which painters and clients can settle contract disputes on major commercial jobs.

“A lot of our commercial members have found the Industry Standards to be really helpful,” Paris says. “While residential contractors usually rely on relational transactions, commercial contractors often have legal transactions. Having an agreed-upon standard resolves a host of issues that can come up.”

Hiring Made Easy

If you want to grow and expand your painting crew, PCA has the tools to help you do it.

“I think there’s a stereotype that PCA is only for large companies, but that’s not true,” says Chad Schirmer, PCA’s creative director. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business for a year or for decades. We have resources for anyone looking to grow and professionalize.”

One of those resource is PCA’s online job board, which aggregates online job board postings for the painting industry. For employers, it’s a place to list job openings and even send them out to other platforms; for job-hunting painters, it’s a place to find all the job openings in their area in one place.

“Think of the job board as a one-stop shop for painting industry jobs,” Schirmer says. “Whether you’re hiring or looking to get hired, this is the place for you.”

Multimedia Resources

For painting contractors looking to grow in their field, PCA provides a wealth of multimedia resources. Their streaming platform, Overdrive, has been nicknamed “the Netflix of the painting industry.” The service, which is free to PCA members, features webinars, video on demand, original documentary series, video versions of PCA’s hit podcasts, member profiles, and even live events.

“Overdrive basically takes all of our industry partners, as well as thought leaders in our market, and gathers all of their content into one location,” Paris says.

PCA also offers online training courses in English and Spanish designed to help educate painting novices on trade best practices. The organization also recently launched a new training series, Business Accelerator, targeted toward businesses grossing 500K – 1M in revenue. The 7-week course teaches best practices to fast-track business growth.

Fellowship with Peers

In PCA’s annual member survey, members say the two biggest benefits are networking and professional development. Painters have found lifelong friends, business partners, and mentors through PCA’s events.

“PCA took a brief pause for a couple years during the pandemic—as we all did—but events are back again,” Paris says. “There are local events, larger regional events, and then our big, annual, national event, the PCA Expo. And members get discounts to all these events.”

As a nonprofit, the PCA is a volunteer-driven organization. This servant leadership attitude has spread from its leaders to its members, as many PCA members are excited to help mentor the next generation of painters.

“In the early stages of being a painter, you’re taking. You’re learning a lot of information,” Schirmer says. “But then as your business grows and matures, that’s when you can serve. You can give back. There’s no shortage of that in the PCA. A lot of our members are so happy because they’re living the American dream. They’re their own boss now, and they want to help others achieve the same thing.”

The PCA Expo

Lauren Fink, owner of Apex Painting in Hillsdale, Michigan, has been a PCA member for a year and a half now. She highly recommends other painters attend the PCA Expo.

“Attending a PCA event, especially EXPO, is pretty crucial to experiencing the full benefits of membership,” Fink says. “It’s an investment that pays for itself quickly. The knowledge shared among hundreds of paint contractors over a few days is enormous. The friendships and contacts made allow me to never be alone in the hard work of running a business.”

This year’s PCA Expo will take place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from February 22-24, though Paris and Schirmer are encouraging painters to arrive a day early—on February 21—to take part in a local Paint It Forward event for the Albuquerque community.

“We’re renovating an old hospital facility that is near and dear to the local community,” Schirmer says. “Over the years, it changed ownership and became rundown, but now it’s going to be used as a community health center and a women’s shelter.”

At the Expo itself, painters can look forward to three themed days—on marketing, leadership, and operations—each featuring a keynote speaker, sessions, and panels focused on solving common problems felt by painting businesses.

Beyond these sessions, the PCA Expo will also host a trade show and an award show to honor craftsmanship and leadership in the painting industry. In the evening, Sherwin-Williams—which is a proud National Champion sponsor of the PCA—and other manufacturers will host events for conference attendees.

“It’s a great opportunity to network with other painters, and the sessions are always world-class,” Paris says. “It’s very competitive to speak at Expo, so you’re going to hear from only the best of the best speakers.”

In short, if you’re a painting contractor, the PCA Expo is the place to be.

“Whether you’re looking for new contacts, inspiration, or business advice, you’ll find it at PCA Expo,” Schirmer says. “It’s basically Disneyland for painters.”