The Best Business Tips I’ve Ever Received

Veteran painting contractors share their business wisdom

Every successful painting business owner once started out as an ambitious painter with a dream. Establishing and growing a business takes skill, a bit of luck… and quality advice from a trusted mentor.

We asked veteran painting contractors to share the best advice they ever received when starting their business. Here’s what they said.

Quality Counts

Jason Fitzgerald, owner of King Paint Company in Charlotte, North Carolina, says his father told him to focus on quality first.

“He told me if you are going to take the time to do something, then do it right the first time,” Fitzgerald says. “We set a goal as a team for each job to have zero items pointed out by the homeowner during the final walkthrough. This really helps us pay attention to detail.”

Gary Mason, owner of AIP Painters in Franklin Grove, Illinois, says a simple rubric helped him maintain a high benchmark of quality: “Always look at the job at completion and ask yourself: Is this the quality that I would pay someone else for?”

Choosing the best-quality tools and products for the job is an important component of this. Sean Nash, owner of W.W. Nash & Sons, Inc. in Richmond, Virginia, says his father always advised him to be best friends with his supplier.

“I was told to never compromise your quality and integrity,” says Chris Berry, owner of B&K Painting in Boise, Idaho. “To this day, we give our customers only the best products from Sherwin-Williams, a high-quality paint, and a job at a very fair price. You can never overlook great customer service.”

Know Your Limits

Carlos Devora, founder and owner of Pro Painting Services in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says starting a new business requires careful shepherding at the beginning.

“In Mexico, there is a saying: ‘If you are the owner of the store, you better stay behind the counter,’” says Devora. “That is one of the best tips for a company owner, because who is going to take better care of the business than the owner? Many people think that having a company means immediate success, just like that! But you have to build it one day at the time. A company is like having your own baby—you have to be very careful with it, especially when it is a newborn.”

But that strategy will have to change as the business grows and delegation becomes crucial. Sean Kennedy, owner of Kennedy Painting in St. Louis, Missouri, says he got a powerful reality check that encouraged him to trust his team: “Thousands of houses get painted every year by people other than you, and they turn out just fine. Learn to let go. Learn to delegate.”

Knowing your limits—what you can and can’t do as a business leader—was a common theme in many painters’ tips. Sometimes that means turning down high-paying jobs or clients that aren’t a good fit for your business.

“My mentor gave me lots of valuable insights, but the one piece of advice I use over and over is: ‘While a potential client is interviewing you to see if he/she wants to give you the job, you should secretly be interviewing them to see if you want to take the job,’” says Dan Petrulak of DP Ready 2 Paint in Pennsylvania. “Not every job or client is a match for you and what your company does.

“Learn to recognize red flags. If the customer complains about the last four contractors, most likely you are next. If they talk about lawsuits of the last several contractors, most likely you are next. If the potential customer talks about nothing but how expensive things are, most likely you will be shorted or not paid at all. You have to listen and learn to read between the lines.”

Learn from Mistakes

Sometimes the most powerful lessons come from failure. That’s how it was for Aideline Amaran, owner of Amaran Group LLC in North Miami Beach, Florida.

“Years ago, I gave an estimate to a Colombian gentleman in Brickell who told me, ‘You will hate me for what I am going to say but you will remember it all your life. This four-page estimate does not give me the confidence to do the job with you,’” Amaran remembers. “Since that day I focus a lot on the estimates, and on learning more about new equipment and the industry in general. In addition to this, I work hard to make sure that I have all the necessary certifications and insurance coverage, so the client can see that they are protected and that we are ready for any problem.”

Curtis Tankersley, owner of Just Add Paint! in Shiremanstown, Pennsylvania, says he received the best advice of his career after narrowly averting disaster. An unqualified project manager had nearly driven a large-scale residential project into the ground, and Tankersley was trying to determine his next move.

“[Someone] suggested to me that the best way to avoid such nightmares in the future would be to educate myself on business practices,” says Tankersley. “Within a week, I had researched and joined the Painting Contractors Association (PCA). At first, I was skeptical about what they could possibly teach me—but after a few months, I caught myself wondering how I lived without them. The PCA offers courses on everything from paint chemistry to writing business plans, and they make it easier to connect the dots and navigate the choppy waters associated with contracting. There are plenty of these types of organizations out there, and it is my belief that they all have quite a bit to offer to anyone who is trying to be better at what they do.”


For all the tips and wisdom he’s received over the years, Luis Inclan, owner of Inclan Painting and Waterproofing, says the best business advice he ever received was the simplest. He recommends it to all painting contractors.

“Do what you love, set a goal, make a strategy, and follow through,” Inclan says. And after that? “Once your current goal—whether personal or economical has been met—it’s time to raise the bar.”