We realize working in a historic Victorian presents a unique set of conditions and requirements and you continually meet or exceed our expectations.
- Ed Fortino and Dayle Duchossois, Chicago
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Archive for Painting Contractors

How the “Low Bid” Often Becomes the Costliest – Choosing Price Vs. True Value

As a painting contractor in the Chicago area, I am faced almost daily with potential clients who struggle with the appeal of a low bid in their decision-making process. The current economic environment has caused the ranks of low-bidders to swell to new heights, making it even harder for consumers to decipher the true value in a house-painting proposal.

Today, this point was made clear in a phone conversation I had with one of the owners of a three-flat in Chicago. On the rear of the property, there a three-story deck structure with wood decking and painted steel framing, railings and posts. Four years ago, they had the steel repainted. She mentioned that 6 months after the repaint job, rust started to appear and the paint stated to flake off. Forty months later, the situation in much worse.

Low Bids vs. True Value

I voiced my concern that I may not be able to help because of the common practice of selecting the low-bidder on such projects. She did confirm that they had picked the low-bidder on the last job. I told her that we would surely not be the low-bidder, but that we could give the best long-term value. She thought that the painters used the wrong paint. I explained that it was very possible, but that the reason for the failure most likely lied in the poor or non-existent preparation of the surfaces prior to painting. I also told her about the rust inhibitive primer we use over bare areas, after they are scraped and sanded.

I think I got through to her because, at some point in the conversation, she told me how much they budgeted for the project (hopefully, they put enough money in the pot this time). She is sending me digital pictures of the structure so I can assess if it worth my time to bid for the job, considering the maximum amount they plan to spend.

As a painting contractor, I liked this conversation, because it focused the client on the real issue: what is it that creates true value in a paint job, price being only one part of the equation?

Direct Mail: Still Powerful After all those Years!

As painting and decorating contractors in the Chicago area, we have used direct marketing as one of our strategies for staying in touch with clients and prospective customers alike. Every quarter, for over ten years, we have sent a 5 ½ x 8 ½ postcard to all our customers and a mailing list of thousands. In the past year, we reduced our mailings to three per year to non-customers and continued at the same pace for existing clients.

You might wonder why Painting in Partnership has not given up on direct mail as a way to promote our brand of painting craftsmanship. It is true that the effectiveness of direct mail has decreased in the last few years, in large part due to the emergence of web options. Having recognized that trend as well, we did make major investments to build up our web presence in the last two years.

Painting in Partnership's Postcard Showcasing Its Team of Craftsmen

However, we did not give up on direct mail, because we still see an opportunity there. This opportunity grows out of the fact that great many other painting contractors have slashed or eliminated their direct marketing campaigns, thereby leaving a vacuum. This point was made clear to me this week.

A few days ago, a prospective client called saying he had received our mailing and wanted to meet to discuss his house painting project. He had all the windows replaced on his house and most the rooms needed touch ups or a complete repaint. One of the rooms affected was a hall bath. When I walked into the room, I immediately noticed the textured finish on the walls: it looked just like my handy work! I asked: “Did I do work in your house before? The client said no, so I continued on. A few days later, he awarded Painting in Partnership his 200-man-hour project!

Upon processing the sale, our Office Manager, noticed that the client already was in our database and discovered that, eight years earlier, we had indeed done another 200 man-hour project for him, including the textured finish in his hall bath. Both the client and myself had forgotten! Let’s say that we both had senior moments! However, having been a client, he had remained on our mailing list all this time. When he needed something else again, for the second time, he responded to our post card and chose our service anew, even though we were his more expensive alternative.

The Gold Standard for the Warranty of a Painting Services Company

Reputable painting contractors warranty their house painting work. Most commonly, painting work is warranted for two years. The warranty covers labor and materials to correct deficiencies during the stated time frame. This is the type of warranty Painting in Partnership offer its clients.

As a customer, can you ask your painter for a warranty longer than two years? The answer is yes, but you may have to pay extra for getting that longer warranty. A warranty carries a cost for the painting contractor; the longer the warranty, the higher the cost, like in any other industry. A professional and reputable house painter should assign a price to warranty time frames exceeding the norm, like $500 for 3 years, $1000 for 5 years, as an example. The automotive industry has successfully used this practice for many years.

Gold Standard for a Warranty

Gold Standard for a Warranty

A word of caution: watch out for an unrealistically long warranty; it might be too good to be true! One time, Painting in Partnership was called to give an estimate to repaint a house three years into an 8-year warranty given by the last painting contractor. What is wrong with this picture? The client had asked for a long warranty. The painting contractor gave an 8-yerar warranty and did not ask anything extra for that added service. The problem was that two years, he was sitting on the beach in Florida!

I recently came across an interesting piece of 133 year old paint industry memorabilia, which sets an interesting context for this issue of warrantees. In 1877, a manufacturer of white lead called Eckstein White Lead Co. of Cincinnati had a very unusual warranty. The warranty promised one ounce of gold for every ounce of lead impurity found in their lead paint. This sets the Gold Standard for company warrantees!

Chicago House Painter Takes a “Custodial View” on his Painting Projects

When we are hired as painting contractors in the Chicago area, we, at Painting in Partnership, look at it as an opportunity to create value for the homeowner, above and beyond the painting work we are there to do. We look at the client’s property as if it was our own. We seek opportunities to help out our clients enhance the safety, workability and enjoyment of their property, in any way we can. We call that “Taking a Custodial View”. There are four major aspects to us having a custodial view on our house painting projects. Click here to see those four different ways.

Here is a brief example of how we look for the root cause of a problem and offer a solution. As house painting contractors, among other things, we are asked to do exterior painting. One area of a cornice is peeling badly. Upon closer investigation, we discover debris on the gutters from rain water overflowing the gutters. Going a step further, we find out the gutter is pitched the wrong way and has a small downspout. In a situation like this, we would approach our clients with an assessment of the problem, its consequences and what needs to be done to permanently solve the issue. We recommended to replace the gutters on that side of the house and install large size downspouts to help drain the roof better. This way, the owner will not experience the same paint failures and our paint job will last longer.

As painting contractors, the mere fact of looking out for our client’s back and seeking to be of service above and beyond the painting work we are there to do speaks volume to clients about the relationship we have with them and the value we intend on creating for them. Consequently, we view referring other trusted professionals as an integral part of our work as painting contractors.

As a house painting company, we have gone a step further. We have created what we call our “Trusted Partners” group. The companies in this select group have proven themselves to have the same “Custodial View” as we do in dealing with their clients. We actively support our trusted partners by sharing “best practices” with them and actively promoting them to our clients. They do the same for us. Through these close company ties, we help multiply the value we create for our respective clients.

How to Choose a House Painting Service

Selecting a house painting contractor can be a daunting task and choosing a painter on price alone can be a very costly mistake. Here, is a list of four major risk factors and ten questions you can ask to help you decide which painting contractor represents the best value for your particular needs and your tolerance for risk.
The four risk factors are:

1- Assessing Financial Risk:
Not every painting contractor represents the same level of financial risk to you. Do they carry liability and workmen’s comp insurance and do they have their own employees, instead of subcontractors? If the answers are yes, your financial exposure is much lower. Additionally, it is important to note that if the painting contractor is a small operator and will work hands-on as a painter on your project, he/she most likely is excluded from the policy; in which case, the risk would falls back on you if he/she is injured on your painting project. So asking if the owner-painter is excluded from the policy is a good idea as well.

2- Assessing Reliability and Professionalism:
Does the painting contractor belong to PDCA (Painting and Decorating Contractors of America)? Are they accredited as contractors by PDCA? Do they perform background checks and drug testing? If the answers are yes, this painting company has invested in being knowledgeable about the painting business and is committed to operate in a professional manner.

3- Assessing the Likeliness of a Successful and On-Time Project:
Does the house painting contractor have an Employee Training Program and a Safety Program? If they do, their employees will likely perform at a higher level and in a more consistent manner, while using safe work practices. These factors will contribute substantially to a successful outcome for your house painting project.

4- Assessing the Likeliness of a Long-term Relationship:
Is it important to you for the painting contractor you choose to be someone you can call ”My Painter for Life”? If so, ask the following three questions. Are they a member of their local Chamber of Commerce? Do they warranty their painting work? Do they have an up-to-date website? If the answers are yes, you have a painter who takes a long view about their business and is more likely to value a long-term relationship with you as a customer.

As a consumer, when you compare painting contractors, you assess their TRUE Value to you, based on what is most important to you.

Painting in Partnership, Inc. has developed an easy-to-use form you can download from our website. It enables you to actually quantify your risk in choosing a painting contractor. Click here to download the form.