Sunday, August 23, 2009
Professional Painters Use Low VOC Paint to Keep Chicago Green
Is it time to re-paint your home, but you’re concerned about the toxins released through paint fumes? Well, good news - as of July 1, 2009, a new law has taken effect in Illinois requiring lower VOC limits in paints. Professional Painters is excited about using the new low VOC products. Extensive research and testing have gone into ensuring that these products are not only safe for the environment, but will also prove durable and long-lasting for your restoration projects.
VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds, which are added to paint to enhance spreadability and adhesion. But as paint dries, organic solvents evaporate and contribute to ground level ozone, a known public health hazard. Some VOCs have been linked to asthma and other respiratory problems. They are also linked to cancer in animals and are suspected to contribute to cancer in humans.
The new regulations require lower VOC limits in 54 coatings categories, including primers, flat and non-flat paints, as well as stains and varnishes. Primarily, this affects oil-based primers and paints.
There are, however, several exceptions to the new regulations:
- Coatings manufactured prior to July 1, 2009
- Containers of one quart or less
- Aerosol coatings
All painting contractors in Illinois are now required to use paints that comply with the new regulations. These paints must have either been manufactured before July 1, 2009, or must meet the current VOC regulations. We have consulted the manufacturer’s representatives to learn about the new products and how to use them properly.
The major paint companies - Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams and Pittsburgh Paints among them - have gone one step further by offering paints in every color and finish that are completely free of VOCs.
Because of the new laws, these water-based paints are far superior to the older versions of low VOC paint. Aside from the quality of the paints and overall health benefits, low VOC paints also have less of an odor. Additionally, they are not petroleum-based, which will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
So do your family and the environment a favor, and ask your painting contractor to use paints that are low or free of VOCs.
Posted on 08/23 at 07:09 PM
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Professional Painters Rely on New Lightning Safety Rule to Perform Exterior House Paint Restoration
Earlier this summer, we posted a blog about the 30/30 Rule for lightning safety. It was a rule our staff utilized during outdoor home restoration in our unpredictable Chicago weather. Professional Painters recently received a comment regarding the blog from Donna Franklin of the National Weather Service. Donna was kind enough to let us know that the 30/30 Rule has been updated with a rule that is easier to remember: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.
“Too many people got confused about the 30/30 Rule,” Donna told us. “Often they start to seek shelter when there are 30 seconds between lightning and thunder – they should already be IN safe shelter. The new rule, ‘When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors,’ makes it clear that you should seek safe shelter immediately if you hear thunder. Don’t waste time counting!”
According to the National Weather Service, if you can hear thunder, lightning is near enough to strike. Because lightning can strike from as far as 10 miles away from a thunderstorm, most victims wait too long before seeking safety. Many victims are struck on their way to shelter. So do not hesitate!
Once inside, remain there for 30 minutes after hearing the final thunder clap. Trailing storm clouds can carry a lingering charge, which may produce lightning even after the rain has ended. Studies show that most victims of lightning strikes are hit before and after storms have peaked.
Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself in a thunderstorm:
- A house or other enclosed structure provides the best protection. Buildings with plumbing and electricity are the safest, because pipes and wiring conduct lightning’s electrical current better than a human.
- Stay away from windows and avoid talking on a phone – even a cell phone – when lightning is nearby.
- If you are unable to seek shelter in a building, an automobile is the next safest choice (except a soft top convertible).
- Do not seek shelter under a tree, as lighting will strike the tallest object in the area. If it hits a tree, the current can heat the sap to a boiling point and cause the tree to explode.
- If you are caught outside in a storm and there is no shelter nearby, move to the closest, low-lying area and crouch down. Then tuck your head down, cover your ears and keep only your feet on the ground.
So far in 2009, 27 people have been struck by lightning in the U.S. – all of them outside. 82% of the victims were male. Lightning is a serious – yet underrated – danger that kills more people each year than hurricanes or tornadoes. Protect yourself and your loved ones from lightning by remembering this simple rule: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.
For more information on lightning safety, visit the National Weather Service web site at: www.nws.noaa.gov.
Posted on 08/15 at 08:07 AM
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
While Doing Expert Paint Restoration in Chicago Heat, Professional Painters Follow These Safety Tips
At Professional Painters, we must be very cautious of the dangers of excessive heat exposure during Chicago summers. While doing paint restoration in hot weather, our painters often work in the direct sun. Because of this, we’re always sure to use extra caution to maintain our employees’ health while working in high temperatures.
The strain of extreme heat can lead to hyperthermia, most commonly diagnosed as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Here are some easy ways to protect yourself when working or playing outdoors in hot, humid conditions:
- Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of caffeine-free beverages, both before and during work or exercise. Our bodies can only absorb about one quart of water per hour; however, we can lose up to 2.5 quarts per hour in extreme heat.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made of natural, breathable fabrics such as cotton or linen.
Be advised that some prescription and non-prescription drugs can augment sensitivity to heat and sun. Antihistamines, antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are just a few drugs that can increase sensitivity to sunlight or decrease the body’s normal levels of salt and water.
Other factors that may make a person more susceptible to heat-related illnesses include hypertension, circulatory problems, being considerably overweight/underweight, or suffering from kidney, liver or heart disease.
Although they are both forms of hyperthermia, symptoms differ between heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion can cause a person to feel weak, nauseous, excited and thirsty. It can also cause extreme sweating. Heat stroke symptoms, on the other hand, may include an absence of sweating, flushed skin, confusion, dizziness and combative behavior.
If you suspect that you have heat exhaustion or heat stroke, take the following steps immediately:
- Get out of the sun and into air conditioning if possible.
- Remove any clothing that is non-breathable and may be retaining heat.
- Take a cool bath or at least a sponge bath.
- Drink fluids, including water or diluted sports drinks.
- If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, lie down and elevate your feet.
Prevention is always the best medicine. So remember these tips to help ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable summer!
Posted on 08/11 at 01:50 PM
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Professional Painters Expert Paint Restoration of Historic House Near Chicago
The Argyllshire Estate
The Argyllshire Estate is located in Lake Forest, IL, a suburb of Chicago situated on the bluffs over Lake Michigan that is known for it’s magnificent homes. Modeled after a manor in England, the estate has an intricate, curved wood shingle roof and exterior wood trim made from hand-hewn boards.
Lake Forest historians believe that the home was built around 1899. Although the architect is unknown, it is considered that much of the landscaping was originally planted by famed Bostonian, Warren Manning, between 1910 and 1930. Manning was employed by Fredrick Law Olmstead, the designer of Central Park in New York City. While under Olmsted’s employ, Manning worked on prestigious projects such as the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition and the Biltmore Estate of George Vanderbilt in Asheville, North Carolina.
The most noteworthy historical fact of the Argyllshire Estate is that it was built for Cyrus McCormick III, grandson of Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the horse drawn reaper. Considered to be one of the most significant developments in agriculture history, the reaper made farming far more efficient and resulted in a global shift of labor from farmlands to cities. Cyrus McCormick III went on to be Chairman of the International Harvester Company.
Originally, the owners requested an estimate from Professional Painters to paint the stucco and wood trim on their home and garage. After close examination, I realized that the stucco had never been painted in its 108-year existence. If I recommended not painting the stucco, it would cost me $30,000.00 in lost business. However, when my firm is commissioned to restore these types of magnificent historic homes, my first obligation is do to what is right for the home. My instincts told me that if no one had painted this stucco in 108 years, I did not want to be the first to paint it. Once stucco is painted, it is very difficult to remove the paint without destroying the stucco.
By mere coincidence, soon after I prepared the estimate, I went on a vacation to Italy. While I was there, I saw many stucco structures over 400 years old which had never been painted, yet seemed to be holding up well. When I returned, I shared this information with my clients and we agreed to leave the stucco unpainted. Instead, I offered another option of sealing the stucco with a clear sealer, which could be done at a later time.
Once the house was pressure washed and thoroughly dried, the crew began scraping the loose paint and immediately ran into a problem. This home has all hand-hewn boards which are difficult to scrape without damaging the wood. My foreman figured out that by using curved profile carbide scrapers, he would be able to effectively scrape in the nooks and crannies of the rough wood surface. Unfortunately though, they could only scrape in a downward motion. Scraping horizontally would have been more efficient, but would have damaged and gouged the wood.
There were many carpentry repair issues on this project. One of the first items was the 97 pieces of abandoned awning hardware that the client wanted removed from the home and the holes patched.
The other carpentry repairs were more complicated. The trim included many hand-carved wood pieces, but numerous small pieces of wood were missing. To properly repair them, the carpenter had to recreate the hand-hewn effect of the original wood surface. He had to hatchet off the face of stock cedar boards to get his repair pieces to blend in with the existing wood surface. This was difficult to do and slowed the process, but the repaired pieces blended in beautifully with the original pieces.
The Front Entrance and Front Door
The front entrance was left to the end of the project. While scraping the painted front floor and steps, my foreman discovered they were made of solid oak. I brought this to my client’s attention and we decided to restore them to their natural beauty. The softer parts of the oak floor had been worn away from use over time, making the harder wood grain more prominent, which created a very unique and attractive look. However, the painters had to use small wire brushes to pick the paint out of the deep grain pockets. It was painstaking work, but the end result was well worth it
The focal point of the entrance is the front door. You could not replicate this door if you wanted to today. It was made from quarter sawn oak four inches thick and it has an arched top with three metal strap hinges across the front of it. It looks like a door to a medieval castle.
The door previously had a white pickled finish. After the stripping off the finish, we noticed stains that had left a cloud-like halo effect around the metal hinges. We were originally planning to varnish the door with no stain, but the high gloss varnish would have accentuated these halo effects. We decided instead to stain the door to get a more consistent color. Before we stained the door though, we used A.B.R’s X-180 deck cleaner to lighten the halo effects, which worked quite well.
Now we had to face the dilemma of the three rusty metal hinges on the door. The issue was whether we would leave them natural or paint them black. After we cleaned them with sudsy ammonia, a more consistent color emerged. We then decided to varnish the hinges and, if they didn’t look good, simply paint over them. The varnished hinges made the door look more authentic, like the historic artifact that it is. The client loved it!
The final result is stunning. The combination of generations of craftsmen-those who came before us to create this magnificent door, floor and steps, and the 60 hours of painstaking detail my expert craftsmen spent restoring it to its original beauty-is truly something to behold.
Posted on 08/01 at 02:57 PM
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Let Professional Painters Paint Your Vacation House
Yes, we would be more than happy to travel to your vacation home and paint it for you. It is surprisingly affordable. Professional Painters’ fees are the same as they would be locally. The only additional expenses for you are lodging for our staff, a per diem for meals, and travel costs. That may sound like quite a bit extra, but there are ways to reduce those costs. Most of our clients let the painters stay in their home so there is no charge for lodging. Also, we can be flexible with the per diem. We keep track of the grocery bills for the painters and charge you the lesser amount of the actual food cost or the per diem. The transportation costs can be lowered if you have frequent flier miles that the painters can use to pay for their flights.
Most vacation areas are in small, rural locations where there are not many qualified painting companies to properly paint your home. In some areas, the demand for painting services greatly exceeds the supply of painting companies. The available painting companies sometimes take advantage of this and charge extremely high rates.
Our clients have told us it is impossible for them to get their vacation home projects finished. Projects of that size interrupt your reason for being there in the first place - to enjoy leisure activities like hunting and fishing season. Most of the local companies in vacation areas don’t have the “get it done in a business-like fashion” type of service that we consistently provide to our demanding clients in the Chicago market. In addition, when our expert painters come to work on your vacation home, they are a captive audience. The painters typically work 12 hours a day, six days a week until your project is completed. They love it because there is no commuting time wasted going to and from work.
We have painted many vacation homes for our clients, both near and far. We painted two different lake homes in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. We replaced all the wood clapboard and restored the damaged wood on 1000-acre farm house and barn outside of New Buffalo, Michigan. We painted another farm house in upstate rural New York, but this one doesn’t have a barn. We painted two homes on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and eight years later, we went out and painted them a second time. The first time we went, we drove our truck and put it on the ferry to get out to the island and had the paint delivered from the mainland. We’ve also painted the interior of a home in Charlotte, North Carolina. The furthest we have gone so far was to paint the interior of a villa in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. I didn’t get to go but I heard the ocean views were magnificent.
So if your vacation home is in need of painting, let us do the work while you relax and enjoy your vacation.
Posted on 07/15 at 05:39 PM
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
No, we are not going to talk about the ABC's of painting. We'll save that for another article. We just wanted to bring to your attention an important organization in the painting industry that we have benefited from and continue to support with our involvement.
The ABC above stands for "Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc." Tony Severino serves on the education committee and is a certified instructor of their Painting Apprenticeship Program.
This program is an Accredited Training Sponsor of the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and they utilize (NCCER)’s nationally recognized Contren Learning Series curriculum. This curriculum was developed by NCCER in partnership with the construction industry and Prentice Hall, the world’s largest educational publisher.
Upon completion of the apprenticeship program (fours years of 144 hours of classroom and laboratory training per year), the painters receive their Apprenticeship Completion Certificates which are issued by United States Department of Labor. The painters are then recognized nationally as a qualified painting journeyman.
You may not be as excited about ABC like we are, but we believe our involvement with ABC only helps us serve you better. We want our staff to be the best in their field of work and be proud of what they do. We hope that you can experience the difference when you hire Professional Painters for your next painting or restorations project.
Posted on 01/14 at 06:09 PM
Professional Painter’s Mission to Our Clients
Our Mission To bring homeowners joy and satisfaction by meeting their deadlines, helping them select their perfect colors, minimize the disruption to their families while providing them with the finest state of the art, long-lasting painting and decorating products and services. Our Employees We provide our associates with a nurturing environment with education and training opportunities to enable them to reach their full potential as craft persons, leaders and individuals. Wowing Customers Achieve Customer Delight Through:
- Creating colors that inspire
- Minimize disruption to your family life
- Providing long-lasting paint finishes, state of the art products and application procedures
- Knowing what you want and going beyond your expectations
Posted on 01/14 at 05:54 PM
Welcome to the Professional Painters Newly Renovated Website
Professional Painters has had a web site for sometime but just recently did a major restoration to their existing site. We created a site with colors that reflect our company: classic, warm, inviting, established and professional. We made this site and blog very easy to navigate and find the information you need about our company. On this blog and news section, you will also learn a lot about home restoration, painting, tips to keep your home in top-notch shape and much more. So be sure to bookmark our blog or sign up to receive updates. You can unsubscribe at any time, so you have nothing to lose! If you ever have comments or questions about our company, or anything related to the painting industry, please feel free to post your comments on our site. Thanks for visiting, and we hope to hear from you soon.
Posted on 01/14 at 05:41 PM
Friday, December 19, 2008
Welcome to our Blog
Welcome to our new blog. We are very excited about this opportunity to communicate with our current and future clients. We have much information to share with you. We will keep you posted on the latest decorating and color trends. We will inform you of all the new products that are available for your home. Great news for all of you do-it-yourselfers out there. We will share many professional painting trade secrets for those who want to do their own projects.
There are some phases of painting that homeowners can easily do themselves to save money on a project. We are always willing to partner with our clients to help them complete their project. We can handle the more highly skilled aspects of the job like repairing the plaster or drywall walls and ceilings and then the client can do the painting which is much easier. We will also have many general homeowner tips for all aspects of your home.
In our 25 years of working on homes and being in thousands of homes we get to see all the great ideas. We find out what works and what doesn’t work for your home. This will serve as a great reference tool to our clients. Please feel free to send in any questions you might have about your home. We will try and answer them all on our web site. If we don’t know the answer, we definitely will know where to find it. We are networked with all the different trades and suppliers of home products.
Posted on 12/19 at 06:14 PM
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Finding the Right Person for the Job
by GEORGE JOSEPH
IT WAS Michelangelo who once said, ‘Many trifles make perfection, but perfection is no trifle.’ Of course, the 16th-century Renaissance master was a different kind of painter. But his astute proverb applies to virtually any skill or discipline. The secret of success is in the details.
No one knows this better than Tony Severino, who is a leader in the field of restoration contracting. As president of Professional Painters, Inc., based in La Grange, Illinois, Tony has spearheaded the restoration and preservation of hundreds of historic homes throughout the Chicago area and in southern Wisconsin, as well as in such places as Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Tony has more than two decades of experience under his belt. Like any professional business manager, he recognizes the importance of hiring the right person for the job—something he learned through tough experience. “When I started,” he says, “I had up to 25 employers, all of them college kids. We had to do most jobs twice to get it right.” Before long, Tony realized that success or failure often hinges on the hiring process, and that ultimately it is the employer who must assume full responsibility for his choices. “You deserve who you tolerate,” Tony says. “Water fills the container you put it in. As a manager, you create the shape of that container, and your employees will conform to that shape—whatever it may be.”
DECO recently spoke with Tony Severino about how to get reliable, skilled people for the job—and how to ferret out the rest.
How many people have you employed over the years?
All told, more than 300. But I have to admit, I learned my lessons the hard way.
What was the problem?
Early in my career, I would hire whoever came in for an interview, but then the next day they wouldn’t show up for work. Or, in one case, this guy came in for his first day of work, went up on the scaffolding, painted three feet of board and came down. He said he had to go to the bathroom, so we sent him off to a gas station. He never came back.
Is this what led you to pay more attention to who you were hiring?
Yes. In general, hiring is a very painful and dreaded process. But I’ve developed a system that I follow to the letter, and it works. Anytime I deviate from the system, I find myself with a problem employee.
Let’s talk about your system for hiring. If you could isolate one quality that you view as most vital for a job applicant to have, what would it be?
The main thing I look for is someone who will follow my directions. On the job, both the employee and I will have to put our egos aside and work together to deliver quality results to the customer. We both have to sacrifice part of ourselves to get the job done. So I’m looking for someone who is okay with accepting instructions and who is willing to paint the way we paint at our company.
Why is that important?
Because you can’t have someone fighting you on your procedures, methods, or product selections, especially when you know that these are the very things that have made your company successful. That’s not to say that we don’t want leaders and independent thinkers who come up with new ways of doing things. They just need to be able to present their ideas in a professional manner, and certainly not in the middle of a job where we’re contractually obliged to follow already agreed upon specifications.
How do you weed out the type of employee who won’t follow directions?
As I mentioned, I’ve created a detailed system that works. First, I put an ad in the Chicago Tribune. The heading of the ad reads Painting Craftsmen Needed. This already sets the stage for the type of quality person I am looking for and dissuades the riff raff from applying. In the ad, I ask anyone who’s interested to send me a resume.
Why submit a resume rather than, say, contact you by phone?
I believe that asking for a resume gives me a higher quality candidate right from the start. The applicant has to be serious enough about getting the job to put together a resume rather than just pick up the phone. And I have the person send the resume to a post office box, not to my home address or to my business address. The ad doesn’t include my phone number, either, because I don’t want to get hassled by overeager candidates.
What type of applicant do you hope will respond to your ad?
The best situation is if an employee quits a job for the sole purpose of coming to work for me. Admittedly, that’s rare. More often, the person is out of work—which is fine, as long as he’s unemployed for a good reason. For example, many companies are slow during March and April, so people are out of work through no fault of their own. We do much of our hiring during those two months. And I’ve found great employees from companies that have gone out of business.
What do you look for in the resume?
I’m looking for someone one who has good work habits, someone who can hold down a job. One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that it’s critical to be aware of gaps in employment.
What does an employment gap mean to you?
It suggests that someone has been sitting on unemployment or possibly working jobs for cash. Of course, they won’t tell you that. To explain gaps, many painters will say that they were working on their own. So you have to ask for homeowner references, or even to see some of their jobs.
Let’s say you get what looks like a good resume. What happens next? Do you schedule an interview?
Not right away, no. First, I send the person a six-page application. It includes almost two dozen yes-or-no questions that the applicant has to respond to, and he has to agree to comply with our company regulations. It also means that he agrees to a drug test. The application also states: “It is a requirement of this job that we run a criminal background check on you. Will you comply with this requirement?” Putting this in the application has saved me a lot of headaches in the long run.
How is that?
Well, at first I would ask employees to sign a release form for a criminal background check. Some would lie and say they were clean, but then later the report would come back with problems. Now that we alert the candidate right on the application—“it is a requirement of this job that we run a criminal background check on you”—many simply don’t return the application. That saves me the $35 fee that I would normally be charged for a report. In any event, I want these cards on the table even before I meet with the person. The application is a kind of test in its own right.
What are you looking for when you read the application?
Again, I’m really testing the applicant’s ability to follow instructions. I reject some applicants because of their answers. For example, if they don’t agree to comply with some of our policies, they’re out immediately. Or if they respond poorly to certain questions or if they don’t complete the application—these ones aren’t granted an interview.
What kind of background experience do you look for?
I’ve found that the best painters started at around 16 or 18 years old. There’s something about starting at that age. It gets in your blood and you usually really enjoy the work if you stayed with it from an early age. These are rare finds, and almost certainly they will be the best painters in your company. If you took a poll of painting contractors you’d find that many of them started painting when they were 18. What does that tell you?
Is having years of experience always a necessity?
Not always. I hired someone two years ago who had never painted before. But I could tell that he was the right person for the job, because it was obvious that he could be trained. He turned out to be a superb employee with an excellent attitude. He passed my screening process. He also was a candidate that quit his current job to come to work for me.
Let’s say you like what you see on a job application. What happens next?
I’ll call the applicant on the phone and I’ll ask him questions that I need clarification on. I’m listening to hear how well he expresses himself. If he’s not clear on the phone, he will not be granted an interview.
Suppose someone actually passes the ‘phone test’ and is granted an interview. What are you looking for when he walks in the door?
First, I should say that there’s only so much you can tell from this first interview. The only way to be absolutely certain about someone is to try him out on the job and be ready to fire him within the first four weeks. Otherwise, he can claim unemployment against your company and your rate goes up. Having said that, on this initial meeting there are certain things I look for. The applicant should look presentable. He should have a decent vehicle and should be able to communicate clearly with me. He must be able to find the location of the interview—perhaps a coffee shop—and he should show up on time. It pays to be attentive to the person’s attitude. Obviously, if he’s yawning I don’t want to hire him. But if all is going well, I’ll show him our 100-page policy manual and go through it with him. I’ll tell him to take it home and read and call me if he’s still interested in the job.
Do all who come for the first interview express a desire to take it to the next step?
By no means. In plenty of cases, I’ve never heard from the person again. And to be honest, I’m not disappointed. At that point, I’m actually trying to scare them away! I’m getting all of my expectations out in the open so there won’t be any surprises if they come to work for me.
What typically happens with an applicant who does want to come back?
If I believe there’s potential, I’ll invite him to a second interview. On the second visit, the applicant will be required to sign off on accepting the policy manual. There are a number of papers to sign.
Does that intimidate the applicant?
It can! I usually make a joke to lighten the mood. I’ll apologize for all the paperwork and say that it’s like signing up for a mortgage. I hired a painter last week who had served in the Navy for six years. After I gave him my mortgage line, he said in a friendly way that he was signing more papers with me than he did when he joined the Navy. I took that as a compliment, as a sign that I’m doing my job well.
Is there anything else you require of the applicant at this point?
Yes, I’ll have him paint a six-panel door, and we talk about the exact procedure of how I want that door painted.
Again, it’s about following directions.
That’s right. We’ll talk about how in my company we follow all the Craftsman Operating Procedures, which I helped develop with The Craftsmanship Forum of the PDCA. I make sure that he’s going to be okay with following these procedures, even if it’s not what he’s used to.
So far we’ve focused on work skills. But how important are interpersonal skills for a job applicant?
Interpersonal skills are highly important. The painter needs to be able to communicate not only with fellow workers but also with the customer. He has to let the customer know what he’s doing and help with their color decisions. There are forms that he needs to help the customer fill out—work forms, prior damage reports, and so forth.
Does the applicant understand his responsibilities with regard to keeping on good terms with the client?
It’s right in the contract that they sign. For example, point Number 29 in the Professional Painters’ Conduct and Work Rules Agreement states: “It is the customer that is paying our salaries, and that makes the customer everyone’s boss. All employees are expected to be courteous and pleasant to all customers. Your workplace is someone’s home and you must treat it with the respect you would want for your own home. Each 100% satisfied customer leads us to the next referral.”
Do you ever find that a highly skilled painter lacks interpersonal skills?
It happens. The fact is that there are some top craftsmen who are not that great with words. They would rather let their work speak for them. I have known artists to be like this, too. It can cause problems in your company.
What kind of problems?
I’ve had painters quit over simple misunderstandings. They have a difficult time with conflict resolution. Some of them are too proud to stay on even when I’ve tried to intervene and reconcile their differences. After several attempts, it seems that their only option is quitting instead of trying to work it out.
What about the flip side of the coin? Can a painter be too people-oriented?
Oh, yes. I’ve had very talkative painters who want to talk all day instead of work. They seem to want to set up a smoke screen so nobody notices that they aren’t getting much done. I usually prefer the quiet ones who have confidence in the quality of their work. We just recently incorporated a set of Craftsmanship Rules, and one of them is “Let your work speak for you, not your mouth.”
When it comes to interpersonal skills, do you try to set the example for your employees?
All the time. They see me talk to the customers, not just about painting but about all sorts of things. And they see me just being friendly. I also make it a habit to thank the painters every chance I get—even in simple phone conversations. The key is to be fair and friendly while holding your workers accountable for their actions. About a year ago, a foreman told me that he was trying to use my methods when dealing with his painters. I asked him what he meant. He said, ‘You know, being nice and saying thank you.’ The point is that I try to teach interpersonal skills by setting the example.
Does your company have policies dealing with interpersonal skills?
Yes, we do. The obvious one is the policy against harassment. We also have a policy that says no one can talk about another worker if that worker isn’t present to defend himself. In other words, if you won’t say it to their face, don’t say it at all.
Can you detect an applicant’s interpersonal skills—or lack of them—during the interview?
Sure. The interview is very informal, like a casual conversation. While he’s talking to me, I’m sizing up the applicant to see if I would want him talking to my customers. I’m thinking to myself, ‘Will he get along with my other workers?’ One surefire test is to ask yourself, ‘Would I feel comfortable having this person to dinner with my family?’ or even better, ‘Would I feel comfortable leaving him alone in my home to do work?’ If I’m not comfortable with him, how can I expect my customers to be comfortable with him?
What about work ethics? What impact does this have on a job applicant’s chances of being hired?
We’re very strict about ethics. As I mentioned earlier, the applicant gets the policy manual during the interview, and this provides an excellent opportunity for us to talk about what’s expected with regard to work ethics. In fact, right inside the policy manual they can see the suspension forms they’ll receive if they violate any of our policies.
What about punctuality?
My policy is that if you’re late for work, you’re not allowed to stay late to make up hours. My customers judge my company by lateness, so I have to demand this of my employees. I check the payroll records to see if anyone is missing work or short on hours, suggesting possible late days. Our policy manual suggests that you arrive 15 minutes before your start time so you won’t be late.
What happens if a worker doesn’t show up on time?
On the first instance, we issue a warning. On the second instance, we give a one-day suspension. It’s very uncomfortable for us to do that, but we have to be extra tough on the new hires so that we can weed out the future troublemakers.
How long does it take to find out who is a troublemaker?
Six months seems to be the breaking point for a problem employee. By then, the late and absent forms have accumulated, along with all the standard excuses. I had a streak one year where as soon as someone started working for us, their Grandmother would supposedly die. One guy even had three grandmothers!
After a person is hired, is he being evaluated for his continued employment?
Yes, and that’s something he agrees to when he signs the job application. To quote it right from the form, “If hired, I understand that for the first 90 days of employment I will be considered an introductory employee, during which time I will not be considered a regular full-time employee. An introductory employee is an employee whose performance is being evaluated to determine whether further employment in a specific position or with Professional Painters is appropriate. I will be considered a regular full-time employee after I have successfully completed this introductory period.”
How do other contractors feel about your thorough screening process—from resume to application to interview?
Some of them have said that I’m crazy! They say there’s no way their painters could even fill out the application I’ve devised. But that’s my point. These contractors are having major problems with their employees, whereas I’m not. I get a lot of calls on the phone from painters who are looking for work. Through experience, I’ve found that hiring people this way usually doesn’t work out. I think they are good aggressive job finders because they are seeking me out, but they are not necessarily good job keepers. When the going gets tough, they quit because they know it will be easy for them to find another job. What I do now is I follow my policy with them. I mail out an application and then, if they return it and I like what I see, I start the interviewing process.
Obviously, you've learned through experience the principles of effective management. How would you summarize it in a nutshell?
My quick definition of effective management is in three parts. First, carefully explain what you want your employees to do; Second, give them the tools and training to do it; and Third, go back and check if they did what you wanted them to do. Many managers fall down on that last part. I try to drill into my foremen the need to check over the job when it's supposedly complete. And if you don’t have a production supervisor, then you as the owner of the company have to go and check on the work. If you don’t check on it, you can be sure that your customer is going to. And if the work isn’t perfect, you can be sure you'll get that dreaded phone call. Or worse yet, the client will simply never call again.
In the next issue of DECO: “Finding the Right Person for the Job,” part 2.
Posted on 12/17 at 01:45 PM
Monday, January 14, 2008
Professional Painters Becomes a PDCA Accredited Company
(St. Louis – January 14, 2008) – Painting and Decorating Contractors of America’s
(PDCA) Contractor College announced today that Professional Painters of La Grange,
Illinois has successfully earned PDCA Accreditation by completing all the necessary
courses and submitting the appropriate business documents. Contractor College would
like to congratulate Professional Painters on this outstanding achievement.
President, Tony Severino, officially began his business in 1984. Professional Painters
focuses on historic restoration and has worked on many incredible projects. These
include the Charnley House, a National Historic Landmark. Tony has been a contributor
to the development of PDCA’s Craftsmanship Operating Procedures (COPs) and has
developed software to assist in the processes of his business. Both are products which
have become sought after tools used by many PDCA members.
In congratulations to Professional Painters Dr. Ian R. Horen CAE, PDCA CEO stated,
“We are extremely pleased an organization this dedicated to serving customers has
become a PDCA Accredited Company. PDCA Accreditation will afford Professional
Painters the ability to set themselves apart from other contracting businesses by allowing
them a marketplace advantage.”
The PDCA created Contractor College to provide a quality source for education in the
painting and decorating industry. The accreditation program from Contractor College
provides top quality practical business educational opportunities for contractors on-line
and through its vast local network. Contractor College instructors are among the best in
the industry. They offer practical, state-of-the-art education that covers every aspect of
operating a successful contracting business, including such topics as finance and banking,
insurance, management and human resources, sales and marketing and products and
equipment. To learn more about PDCA’s Contractor College and to obtain information
or enroll in education programming, visit http://train.pdca.org. The Painting and
Decorating Contractors of America, is the only trade association that exclusively
represents painting and decorating contractors in North America.
Posted on 01/14 at 01:38 PM
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