The Complete Guide to Managing Your Painting Business

The Complete Guide to Managing Your Painting Business

Are you stuck on a hamster wheel of chasing jobs, managing jobs, and firefighting jobs? Take a breath as we explore how to make running your business feel as smooth as rolling fresh paint on a new wall.

You’ve had your business for a while and you’re proud of what you’ve built… if only you had time to truly enjoy it. No sooner do you hang up a call with a prospective customer, then your phone’s ringing again, this time with an employee asking the same question for the twelfth time. In the midst of it all, you’re not even sure whether you’ve made more this year than last. Your headache is definitely stronger. You know that much.

Had enough? Good. Let’s fix this mess. In this guide we tackle the most common issues faced by painting company owners and start you down the road to a calmer, more productive business (and life).

Does your painting company have a business plan?

One of the most fundamental elements for running a high-growth painting company is a clear, thoughtful business plan. Your business plan will serve as a blueprint for your company’s future and should lay out the:

  • Purpose- think beyond just “painting” to the wider impact your work has on your customers. Everything else in your plan stems from this, so give it careful thought!
  • Values - the traits you want your brand and staff to be associated with.
  • Goals - both long (5, 10 or more years) and short (for this year)
  • Actions - the steps to achieve those goals
  • Celebration - how you'll reward your team after the goals are met

Your painting business plan doesn’t have to break down the minutiae of each goal. You can define those in your Goal Setting & Review sessions, which we’ll get into shortly. Approach your business plan as a framework for keeping your financial and operational strategies on track throughout the year.

Business plans can be as lengthy or comprehensive as you’d like, but we recommend staying on the succinct side. We have a one-page Strategic Plan template to get you going quickly and easily.

What job types is your painting business best suited for?

While some trades can position themselves to scale solely by niching, for painting variety really is the (necessary) spice of life. Because the average job revenue tends to be much lower than, say, in construction, painting contractors should keep their fingers in a multitude of pies, including interior, exterior, residential and commercial projects.

Howeverrrr… most companies will earn the bulk of their profits from one particular job type over the others. Is your crew nimble, able to quickly get in and out of smaller residential repaints in the range of $5K? Or is your project management infrastructure more designed for $200K massive multi-family complexes?

You don’t need to lean 100% towards any one type of project, but you should figure out which of the various job types is your bread and butter – and carefully consider that within the context of your business strategy. It’ll mean the difference between operating with intention versus flailing in all directions.

Do you know what your painting project manager is up to?

A business plan will articulate the big picture, but once you’ve got that in place, it’s time to disperse the work amongst the team. Once plans are in motion, it’s imperative that you’re able to keep tabs on the progress of each action item.

This doesn’t mean you need to be constantly checking in with every single person at your company, but you should hold regular Goal Setting & Review (GSR) sessions with your direct reports, who will hold similar meetings with their people, and so on, and so on…

GSRs will infuse accountability into your company’s culture, which inevitably means fewer mistakes and less finger-pointing. These sessions do wonders for helping project managers mitigate delays, and keeps painting projects on schedule and on budget.

You’ll also find you spend less time juggling issues because everyone can see potential problems a mile down the road, which leaves plenty of time to fix them—before the paint hits the fan, so to speak.

Does your business need an office manager or more crew leads?

As a business owner, it can often feel like every job is your job. You’re the project manager, the salesperson, the one handling all the admin… phew. No wonder you’re exhausted.

You need help, but what roles do you need first? To answer that question, you’ll have to start clearly defining who does what and who reports to who. That’s right. We’re talking about creating an organizational structure. What the cool kids refer to as an “org chart.”

Regardless of what you call it, it will help:

  • Ensure everyone knows where their job ends and the others’ begins.
  • Stop your staff from tripping over each other. (Figuratively speaking. It can’t help if they’re clumsy.)
  • Allow your team to function as a well-integrated unit.
  • Keep things from falling between the cracks.
  • Eliminate time being wasted with duplicated work.
  • Diminish burnout and turnover.
  • Alleviate some of the pressure on you.

Once you’ve got your org chart (see how natural that sounds now?), write an official Employment Agreement that clearly explains what’s expected for each role and what the associated deliverables are. We’ve got an Employment Agreement template to get you going.

Are you using a budget and tracking your financials?

There’s really only one correct answer to this question: Yes. Absolutely, definitively YES, you should have a budget for your painting business and be tracking your cash flow and expenses.

Budgets for painting companies tend to be set up for tax accountants more than business owners. But you can – and should! – have a customized chart of accounts that aligns with how you actually run your operations. An accountant familiar with the painting industry will be able to translate your budget into tax-ese without blinking an eye.

Once you have a tailored budget, you’ll be able to put some proper reporting in place to:

  • Know your gross profit per job
  • Understand your overhead costs
  • Maintain a healthy net profit margin
  • Undertake accurate job costing

If any of the above sounds appealing, it’s time to get concrete about your numbers. This Budget Quick Tool can help you end the financial freewheeling.

Are you setting your team up to succeed?

We get it. Handing over responsibility, especially for something as vital as sales, is like giving someone the keys to your business. It ain’t easy. How can you trust they’ll perform with the same pizzazz you would?

With Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). That’s how.

SOPs give your staff a framework for success. They sound dull, but they don’t have to be. They can be chock full of images or videos – whatever provides the clarity or context needed to provide thorough training on the process.

We could talk forever about SOPs (and we kind of do, in this webinar), but suffice to say they are a major player in running a successful painting business. They help:

  • Infuse consistency into your products and services
  • Turn training and onboarding into plug-and-play
  • Scale your profitability
  • Inject future value into your business (this one gets overlooked, but it’s a biggie!)

Believe it or not, standardization is the key to saving your sanity, especially for painting companies, where handoffs from sales to production can sometimes be more like shrug-offs.

Interested in ensuring your new hires get off on the right foot? Download our Training Checklist.

How’s your lead funnel?

Lead flow management (aka, the lead funnel) is one of the biggest challenges faced by painting companies. You’ve got to keep prospects coming in, sure, but more than that you need them to be the right ones. Not all leads are created equal.

A well optimized sales and marketing system can make or break your business. It will help you gain metrics so you’ll know how many leads you’ve acquired, how many of those turned into jobs, and how many of those then turned into actual dollars in the bank. You’ll be able to figure out your average job size and cost, as well as calculate the conversions you need to uphold your budget.

See how everything’s connected when it comes to painting business management? Get a good sales system in place and the next time someone asks about the state of your lead funnel, we guarantee you’ll have a better answer than, “My what?”

Are you using any painting business management software?

We’re gonna give it to you straight: It’s going to be virtually impossible to scale your painting business without a solid tech stack. Whatever hackneyed or manual systems you’re currently using will not cut it if you’re serious about taking your company to the next level.

As daunting and frustrating as new technology can seem at first, there’s just no comparison to the benefits it can bring you in the long run. In fact, you won’t even have to wait that long.

There is painting management business software to help you manage virtually every area of your business, but it’s likely you won’t need them all at once. Some of the most useful tend to include those that help with:

  • Project management
  • Budget tracking
  • Team communications
  • Tracking leads

If you could use a hand wrapping your head around these tech decisions, we’ve got a Tech Stack Quick Tool that should help you get started.

What’s next?

Breakthrough Academy has distilled the above elements down to 6 key pillars we call The Contractor Growth Method.

You can think of it like a system of systems – complete with the support of expert coaches, a motivated community, and thoughtfully crafted content – all designed to help you free yourself from the frenzy of day-to-day operations.

So there’s no more need for tears in your truck.

Ready to amp up your profits and offload some hours? Learn more about Breakthrough Academy’s coaching program for elite painters.


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