A Relationship You Can Trust

A&K Painting’s success has been powered by personal relationships with Sherwin-Williams

For A&K Painting, it’s all about relationships. “A relationship you can trust” is the tagline for the Charlotte-based commercial and industrial painting company, and president Kevin Robbins says it’s at the core of their identity.

“If you go to our website, all of our language and values are about relationships,” Robbins says. “The word ‘relationship’ is brought up constantly in our company—in every meeting, every conversation, every job that we do—because it’s the way we conduct business. I don’t believe price is the way to build a successful business; relationships are the way.”

One of the most important relationships in A&K Painting’s success has been with Sherwin-Williams and its staff. Robbins specifically singles out three team members that his crew works with on a regular basis: Cam Grady, their current sales representative; Steve Goode, their former sales representative for many years and current architectural representative; and Brandon Penland, the district manager for the Charlotte, North Carolina area. While their time helping A&K Painting varies from several months to nearly a decade, Robbins says all have contributed to the company’s success.

Assembling the Team

Robbins is a fourth-generation painting contractor. While he’s formally worked in the painting industry for 32 years, he says he was sanding baseboards and helping out nearly as long as he can remember. His brother Andy Robbins started A&K Painting in 1994, and in 1998, Andy invited Kevin to join and lead the company’s commercial division.

“I came aboard and started the commercial division, but I didn’t really know what I was doing,” Robbins says. “I had never looked at a set of plans before and didn’t know how to estimate. So I locked myself in a room in 1998 and listened to a series of cassettes made by Bob Cusumano—one of the founding people in the PDCA [now PCA]. That’s how I learned how to estimate, how to determine costs, how to set your production rates. A year and a half later, A&K Painting had transitioned from being residential to 100% commercial.”

The company’s transition into and success in the commercial world was aided by their relationship with Sherwin-Williams. Over many years, Goode has developed a reputation among the A&K Painting team for always going the extra mile to help out.

“The term ‘above and beyond’ gets overused so much that it doesn’t even do justice to how much Steve did for us,” Robbins says. “One of our core values is passion. Steve’s passion was and is off the charts. He truly earned our trust, respect, and business.”

Last year, the web of relationships expanded as A&K Painting began working with Penland and Grady.

“I was impressed with them,” Robbins says. “Brandon’s a real bulldog. He jumped right in from day one, got to know us, and wouldn’t let any problem fester. With any new relationships, you expect bumps in the road as you learn to communicate. But as soon as any bumps came up, Brandon and his team were quick to jump on it and smooth it out. That’s exactly what I want to see from my reps, and it tells me I’m in good hands.”

Relationships First

Penland—who’s been with Sherwin-Williams for more than 20 years—says he was impressed by how quickly Robbins got in touch with him and communicated his company’s mission and approach. After working in many markets across the U.S., Penland says Robbins is one of the most intentional contractors he has ever encountered.

“With Kevin, it’s more than just a vendor-customer relationship; it’s a strategic partnership,” Penland says. “We meet on a regular basis and look for opportunities to be more efficient in how we deliver paint to them and even track and record store activity. Today, the store he works with is very internally familiar with Kevin’s business, and we continue to adjust our operations to accommodate his needs. It’s what I strive for as a district manager. I love seeing a customer relationship where both parties are thriving and benefiting from it.”

Penland says their relationship has also created opportunities for Sherwin-Williams to provide resources and digital tools to make A&K Painting more productive.

“Kevin is heavier on the tech side than most contractors you meet,” Penland says. “He’s always investing in new technology and software to optimize his business’ output and efficiency. He tries to stay ahead of the curve. So he loves to take advantage of the resources we offer through Sherwin-Williams, such as the PRO+ App. Whether it’s doing spec research, utilizing our library of product information, or managing their invoicing, our technology has helped A&K Painting operate more effectively.”


As A&K Painting continues to optimize and find new ways to meet the challenges of the commercial painting world, they look forward to meeting those challenges with Sherwin-Williams by their side. Penland says he cherishes his relationship with Robbins and hopes it only grows stronger with time.

“It’s exciting to do business with Kevin, because—whether it’s good market times or challenging market times—he continues to find ways to grow and advance his business,” Penland says. “He’s always thinking several steps ahead, and that’s something we at Sherwin-Williams really admire. It makes for a really fun company that we love working with.”