Paul Blick (left) and Mark McDaniel of NLP Enterprises

Changing of the Guard: Succession Planning Key for Baltimore-Based Commercial Painting Company

For more than 30 years, PPC magazine has been on job sites throughout the U.S. and Canada asking residential and commercial paint pros to share their stories. This issue we talk with Paul Blick of the Maryland-based firm NLP Enterprises, Inc.

Founded in 1968 by brothers Robert McDaniel and Monty Blick, NLP Enterprises, Inc went from paint crews of two and three painters to having the manpower and expertise to handle any size commercial coatings project in the Mid-Atlantic region.

One thing has remained constant over the years: NLP is a family-owned and operated company.

Mark McDaniel, brother of the founders, is now president of the company, and Monty Blick’s son Paul serves as vice president. In addition, many other family members have key roles at NLP, including Wincy Casserly (executive vice president), Traci McDaniel (payroll supervisor), John Hess (safety manager), and Greg Blick and B.J. Casserly (project managers).

Working in a family business has many benefits, says Paul Blick.

“Everyone truly trusts and cares about each other,” he says. “The work environment is more relaxed and not as formal or structured as others.”

But it also comes with its own special challenges.

“The changing of the guard from first generation to second generation is extremely tough and challenging in any business, but especially in a small family-owned business due to the family dynamics, personalities, roles and relationships,” Blick says. “It is hard enough running the day-to-day business, so having to plan for something into the future for a point in time that may not be exactly known, such as death or retirement, takes leadership and dedication by both the first and second generation.”

In 2016, the family began developing a business succession plan for the transition.

“It was a very important and large part of the success of the business because my father’s brother and business partner at the time, Bob McDaniel, passed away unexpectedly with no advanced warning signs in January 2019,” Blick says. “Without the finalized succession plan, NLP would not be where it is today.”

This advanced planning also helped smooth the transition when Paul’s father Monty Blick passed away in December 2023.

Treating people right

Based in the Baltimore suburb of Ownings Mills, NLP has completed thousands of commercial painting projects large and small in an area encompassing Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

Blick attributes their excellent track record to a simple principle that they follow every day.

“We have a saying: ‘My word is my bond,’” he says. “My father kept an old-school notebook with all the project names, customers and job numbers. The last job number my father gave out was 3,011.”

The company also believes that treating workers right pays off in dividends.

“You have to take care of the employees who take care of you,” Blick says. “We treat employees like people first and workers second.

“For example, if an employee needs additional time off due to a major surgery, or needs to arrive or leave early for a personal appointment, we accommodate as much as possible to keep the employee happy at the end of the day. If you show employees you care about them, they will care about the company which hopefully leads to greater business success.”

The company also has an apprenticeship program which has helped in the training and retention of a skilled and reliable workforce.

“NLP is doing all it can to encourage interest in our trade and industry due to the labor shortage within the construction industry,” Blick says. “Our apprenticeship program gives individuals with little to no painting experience an opportunity and roadmap to a successful and long-term career in commercial painting.”

This investment has resulted in a high retention rate with an average employee tenure of 17.5 years.

A company you can count on

Another important ingredient of NLP’s success is the relationship it has built with its paint supplier.

“Our entire Sherwin-Williams team on the front lines, from sales rep to sales manager to district manager, is always going the extra mile with all the little problems that arise each week,” Blick says.

As one example, he cited a large and demanding project at the Great Wolf Lodge family resort in Perryville, Maryland. “All paint manufacturers experienced significant raw material challenges during 2021 and early 2022,” Blick says. “Epoxies were most impacted, which we needed to use in the exposed ceiling at the waterpark. This made securing enough paint to meet the schedule drop dead dates a lot harder than anticipated at bid time.”

The pros at Sherwin-Williams stepped up when needed.

“Without their strong dedication and hard work, NLP would have had greater challenges to overcome during the 2021-2022 raw material shortage,” Blick says. “Sherwin-Williams employees worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure we had everything needed to get the job done. We cannot thank them enough for everything they did for us during one of the most challenging times in the history of our company.”

This article was originally published in the Summer 2024 issue of PPC magazine. ©2024 Fusable. Story by PPC Editor Mike Starling. Photo of Paul Blick and Mark McDaniel of NLP Enterpirses by Evan DeVita/Up Next Creative. Read more about what pro painters have learned on the job in the PPC magazine archive.