Paint Craftsmanship

Written by on November 26, 2010 in Publications, Uncategorized with 17 Comments

paint craftsmanship

Anywhere that hands and minds come
together in the execution of a skilled
trade, in our case painting, there is the
potential for excellence or true craftsmanship to occur.

I have told my painters for years that the only thing
standing between the surfaces to be
painted and a very nice job is them and
the tools and materials of our trade.

When we broaden the definition
of the craftsman to include the mastery
of the tools and materials of his trade, in
addition to manual skill, then it
becomes clear that there still is the possibility for craftsmanship to exist today.

I wrote Craftsmanship in Contracting three years ago, and it is a timeless piece. I would appreciate if you would click the link and read it in its entirety, and leave a comment below with your own thoughts on paint craftsmanship, and whether it is still possible.

Along with Despermating, it was one of the top five pieces, in terms of reader feedback, I have ever written for publication in any format. When I wrote the paint craftsmanship column, I wondered what people were thinking as they engage in the act of paint contracting. Two years later, I still wonder. But I know a little more about it. Not because I am any smarter, rather just because I have had two more years to think, and more to think about.

I am probably more hopeful now than I was two years ago. Not because the economy is better, or my tools are better, or my crews are better or my customers are better. I have alot more friends and colleagues in the industry now than I had two years ago. My iphone is the ultimate industry rolodex, and most major manufacturers in the paint industry have added me as a contact as well. Dialogue is healthy. Healthy dialogue is priceless.

paint craftsmanship

Reflection: The Mirror Never Lies

Reflection basically comes in two flavors.

You either blame external forces that are out of your control and settle into a miserable martyrdom of complacency, or you identify the deficiencies in yourself and your business and dig deeper for the self-discipline to correct them, and the management skills to make it stick.

I’ll skip the obligatory blogger “how about you, what do you think?” schtick.

However, I would love to hear what you think about paint craftsmanship.

Scott Burt

Scott Burt is a contractor and freelance writer whose column "From the Field" has appeared in American Painting Contractor magazine (www.paintmag.com) since 2008. His writing and projects also appear in other print and digital venues. This site is an extension of Scott's publication work, and he encourages readers to leave comments and questions about articles published here. Hope to hear from you!

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  1. Don Goddard says:

    Being a remodeler for years, this is the same theory that I preached to my customers. It’s the same theory I preach today as a painter. When I walk into a home, I see how good it could be. And there is nothing more disheartening than hearing “How cheap can we get this done?”, as the first words out of their mouths. I tell my guys that we can’t be everyone’s painter. There will be jobs that I just won’t do because I don’t want to risk putting sub-par quality work out there with our name on it. This is what has kept me from painting new construction, because, around here, painting is seen as a commodity to new builders (but that’s probably everywhere). It sucks. But I didn’t start this business to put out shoddy work, and no amount of money will make me do that.

  2. Scott I had never read this until today. I saved it to reflect on, very well written.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks Tommy. Back in ’09, I was doing alot of this type of reflective writing about the industry. I am finding that there is always more to reflect upon.

  3. Scott Burt says:

    Here is another good piece from ’09 that touches on this topic: http://topcoatreview.com/2010/11/complacency-kills-2009/

  4. Scott Burt says:

    In my company, we try to always be improving in one area at a time, and its best when you hit on an area that impacts other areas. So we just keep cycling back through with checks and balances until we like the way it works, then we do it all again. It is very helpful to have other contractors to bounce ideas around with, and always refreshing to hear from others who are thinking about what they are doing. Its the only way to fly.

    • FatherandSonPainting,Inc. says:

      Would be interesting if you could provide a specific example of one of those areas that affect another area. One example may be all I need to go with a system like that myself.

      • Scott Burt says:

        Great question. I could give a couple dozen examples from the past 5–7 years, but I will stick with the current. We found that we had put a disproportionate amount of energy into marketing from ’07-09. Disproportionate to our ideal crew size. We were generating more work than we could reasonably do. So, it made sense to figure out how to maximize the amount of work we could do, without compromising quality and customer experience. Is it possible to do more work in less time and do it better? We spent months in Q4 of ’10 to launch more efficiently in Q1 of ’11. By looking at all of our field processes, it became clear that there were gaps that needed to be filled. Eliminating repetitive, tedious manual work through better equipment became the theme. We need a sprayer that will do this…we need a sander/abrasive/dust control system that will do that. Taking the time to research every single possible option in equipment that would make our lives easier, our jobs more efficient and our company more profitable started to emerge. Then, it became an exercise in training and implementation…its endless, but when you see gains at every step, you go deeper. It’s that sort of thing…links between field efficiency and profitability. That is what I mean by looking within, instead of just blaming external forces that dont allow us to continue with the way we had always done it. Times change, we have to change.

        • FatherandSonPainting,Inc. says:

          Thank you Scott. The focus for us now is on systems creation, training, implementaion and employee incentives. Little steps at a time. I am finding that there are some organizations out there with some helpful templates and so forth to help make this process a little easier.

          I like the idea of controlling workload relative to crew configuration. I need to keep that in check. There have been some baited lines out there lately.

          • Scott Burt says:

            Thats a great place to start. Whichever aspect you are looking at, just dont take your eyes completely off the rest. Look for connections between them. Its exciting.

  5. Father a says:

    ” I have alot more friends and colleagues in the industry now than I had two years ago.

    Reflection basically comes in two flavors. You either blame external forces that are out of your control and settle into a miserable martyrdom of complacency, or you identify the deficiencies in yourself and your business and dig deeper for the self-discipline to correct them, and the management skills to make it stick. ”

    Scott,

    Funny thing is I was exactly there up until about 3:00 am this morning. I stay there lately. Did a little writing about it before finally falling asleep. I wonder sometimes what to think of coincedentals such as this. I am thankful to see I am maybe not so crazy after all.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Maybe there is a paint contractor collective consciousness starting to take root. 🙂 A life unexamined…you know…

      • FatherandSonPainting,Inc. says:

        I think some of the leaders in this industry that taught me how to apply paint are now teaching me some other valuable lessons in contracting as well. You may very well be onto something with that collective consciousness idea.

  6. Scott Burt says:

    Nick

    Thanks for the kind words. There are alot of good contractors around the country, and I am lucky to connect with many of them. I am glad you found this site, as proper investment in equipment that drives efficiency and quality will continue to emerge as the most reliable route to profitability in a market that has changed greatly in the past decade. Wow, that’s a mouthful, but it is what I think.

  7. Nick says:

    After reading your article I can tell you are a very qualified paint contractor. I mean craftsman. If I was hiring for paint work, I would hope that you would be the one to show up at my door. I am in the exact same position as you. I offer the highest quality paint service that is available (often I offer it without being able to charge for it either). There is a constant struggle to compete pricing with Joe-Shmoe at every job, BUT it is up to the paint craftsman to explain the differences he is offering and advantages he/she has over the competition. Its a tough world out there these days, but I’ve been busier than ever and am still able to offer high quality results. You must qualify your customer as to the type/quality of work he/she requires.

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