We got in touch with Derek from Roman Paint Pros to ask him a few questions about being a business owner and a painting contractor. The business, located in Murrysville, PA, was originally started back in the 1970s, and is still locally owned and operated. They're focused on bringing professionalism to the painting industry and providing top notch painting services.
When did you start your business, and why?
I took over my grandfather and father's business in 2012 due to lack of professionals in the painting industry.
Were you working as a painter before you took over the business?
No, I was VP of a medical consulting firm in the Eastern region. Prior to that, I owned a health club.
So running a business wasn't exactly new to you. What drew you to being a painter? It sure doesn't sound like the kind of thing a VP at a medical company would do.
It's actually a funny story. I had a medical device business that was very successful prior to Obamacare crushing our reimbursements. We just purchased a new home and called six painting companies to come out and re-paint our base trim white throughout our home. One of the six got back to me. He came out and quoted us almost $5,000 to paint the base trim only in our 3600 square-foot home. I guess that price was the going rate, because he was the only guy who I could even speak with. So we booked the job.
Two random kids came out to do the work, and I ended up re-cutting their lines straight in most of the home. I said to my wife, thinking of how things were going down hill with my med business, "I could do this better." She said, "Anyone could." So I saw an opening in a highly unprofessional industry for a real, legit, clean-cut, top-quality company to come in and dominate.
After that, I re-established my family company in 2011. I was sick of corporate America, having bosses dictating my life. And there was obviously a shortage of good quality painting professionals, because I couldn't find one in an affluent area.
What were the initial expenses for starting your business? What sort of things did you need to purchase?
We spent about $15,000.00 on a website, a logo, as well as some marketing, SEO, leads purchasing, and so on.
You said one of your initial costs for the business was purchasing leads. Which services did you use? Did you find them effective? We've read a lot of negative opinions on those kinda things—services like Thumbtack, Porch, etc.—so we're interested in hearing your experience with them.
I used a lead service called Painter Choice out of Colorado. They ran Google Adwords and SEO'd traffic to their site, then captured the leads and sold them to me directly. I spent $4500 and did over $100k in business. I no longer have to use any Pay-for-leads service, as our company dominates local search engines in organic and Maps results to the point we've been turning jobs away since June. I have also heard bad things about those companies—stories about selling recycled leads to multiple companies multiple times.
How did you get your first customer?
We drew traffic to the website. They filled out our online lead form, I ran the estimate, booked the job, and completed the work to a 5-star review level.
How do you price your jobs?
Each job is different depending on prep, labor, materials, size and scope.
How much do you spend on advertising a year? What kind of ads and marketing have you tried?
$3500 roughly. We only do SEO.
For those who don't know, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It means making sure your website is in the top results on Google when someone in your area is searching online for a business that does what your business does. So your marketing approach is concentrated on using your website to bring in new customers. What made you choose that as a focus over more traditional types of advertising?
So, we are not interested in "Pay now, maybe get leads later" type of advertising. If we pay, we want a hot, live lead so I can convert it. However, we are considering TV commercials or billboard ads next year to tie the branding into our online presence.
Do you have a slow season? If so, how do you overcome it?
Sure, it starts slowing down in December. We overcome it by painting new home construction.
How many employees do you have, and what do they help with? Do you have any partners or people that help run the business?
One Employee, two subs, and no partners.
How do you deal with customers that don't pay on time?
We have procedures we follow.
What's been your biggest challenge?
What do you hate most about running a business?
Being taken advantage of by homeowners, subs, and General Contractors.
What advice would you give to someone starting a service business like yours?
You will have to outwork everybody. You will have to suffer through the slow times. Stay professional at all times (even when clients are not!).
What would you say is unique about running your type of business compared to other service businesses?
We separate ourselves by the owner of the company (me) doing the estimating, and completing the project himself. Very few painting contractors (if any) operating at our number of annual jobs completed operate this way.
Thank you to Derek and Roman Paint Pros
A big thanks to Derek for taking the time to talk with us about his business and answer our questions. You can find Roman Paint Pros online. Their website has more info about all the painting services they offer, and lots of photos of their impressive work. If you're in the Murrysville, PA area and need a painter, be sure to check them out.