Are All Denver Painting Contractors Idiots?

The answer is no, not all Denver Painters are idiots, and I’m not the only one, but there are some! If you do a search for Denver Painters on Google, you get 578,000 results.  So there are a lot of Denver painting contractors. When I am in a social situation, I am a little shy about answering the question: “So, what do you do?” The reason is…we (painters in general) have a bad reputation. My hope with this post is to explain why that is and what are some things you can do to avoid hiring an idiot Denver painter.

Denver Painting Contractors

Why are there so many Denver Painting Contractors?

When I first announced to friends 18 years ago that I was going to start a painting business, I remember people shaking their heads in disbelief. One of my friend’s mom said, “Nick, there are so many paint contractors. Why would you do that?”. I responded by telling her that I would be different than the “average” painter.  That we would treat people better, be neat and clean, and that we would stand out.  I really didn’t know HOW I would do that, I just knew that I could do it.  But, why are there so many painters?

  1. Barrier to entry is low. Just about anyone can start a painting business. All you need is a brush, a roller, and some drop cloths.  And some don’t even have all of that.  It does help to have a truck, but I have met many a Denver painter that did not even have a truck.  One of the guys that used to work for me in the early days drove a Geo Metro, and would strap a ladder to the top.  I guess whatever it takes.
  2. Basic skill. While most people know how to paint, few do it well, but that does not stop many Denver painting contractors.  I have to be very careful when I go into a home and see bad painting.  Sometimes it was previously painted by a homeowner and other times by a painting contractor.  I just never know. I feel better when it is a painting contractor, and I don’t talk bad about a homeowners painting ability.
  3. It’s a great fall back job. I was talking to a friend once that was looking to have a Denver painter paint her exterior (we do not paint outside), and she wanted advice on his 5-year warranty.  I asked her how long he had been in business, to which she replied, “Just about a month. He used to work at Qwest, but got laid-off.” To which I replied: “What do you think he will do when Qwest starts hiring again?”  When the economy gets bad, people get laid-off; I have MORE competition…but not really.
  4. I painted in college. Yes, I started painting in college, and so did about 25% of the male population in the United States.  The number of painting contractors in the months between May and September must double in size…every year!  But then they go away again.  That might be one of biggest reasons why we are always so busy in the fall months.  25% of my competition goes back to school.

Isn’t competition in the Denver painting industry good?

Oh yes, I believe 100% in the free market and competition.  

It keeps prices down, customer service up, and the economy moving forward.  The problem isn’t competition, the problem is that many homeowners do not know how to spot a legitimate Denver painting contractor from an idiot that either can’t get a “real” job or that just got laid-off. I recently found myself at my family’s lake house in Northern Wisconsin, and they need to get the exterior painted, and thus were getting bids.  You would think in Northern Wisconsin, in the middle of nowhere, it would be easy to find someone that wants to make some money painting.  Well, I would have thought it too, but the reality is that there are not too many people hanging their shingle out to offer painting services, so the few bids that came in were pretty high…about what I would have expected here from a Denver painter.  So, competition is definitely good for the consumer.  Maybe I need to open an office in Northern Wisconsin?

But why are so many painting contractors IDIOTS?

Have you heard the cliché: Common sense is not so common?  Well, that should explain it pretty well.  Most of what I will go over, is mostly common sense, or it is to me at least.  I was brought up in a home where my dad would tell me: “Don’t do it half-assed!” on a regular basis.  We had to clean up after ourselves.  We were taught to say “please” and “thank you.” And if we said we would do something, we better damn well do it.  Having manners and being considerate to other is just common sense to me, and when my mom is my office manager, I better make sure that I am still doing those things.

Running a painting business is much more than having good manners and being polite…but it’s a start.  Going to college and getting a business degree did set me off in the right direction.  Running a painting business is not just about paint brushes and putting paint on the wall.  It’s the whole process from the 1st point of contact with our office, to the estimate appointment, bid presentation, teams of painters spread out all over Denver, and having the ability to service our customers long after the paint rollers have been cleaned up and put away.  Because many Denver painters landed into painting by default, they have given no thought to the process of painting houses.  At Walls by Design, we constantly look at our systems and processes that we have developed, trying to improve the experience for our homeowners and painters.  We have developed our systems based on two factors: quality and efficiency.

I truly don’t believe that most Denver painting contractors are idiots, but there are a few.  I think if you asked most of them: Do you have a system for painting? They would scratch their head and say…I guess.  I just believe if there is a best way to do something, we should do it every time, and all our teams should be taught to do it that way.  Just like when you go to Starbucks.  If they let the baristas make my soy vanilla latte however they wanted, it would taste different each and every time.  But as it is, no matter what Starbucks I go to (and I’ve been to a lot of them, the one in Seattle was my favorite…the ), it always tastes the same.  And that is how we have tried to build our systems for painting here in Denver.  We have one way to tape off baseboards; one way to caulk trim; one way to roll walls; one way to set up a room, and one way to clean it up.  We have systems for hiring our team, an on-boarding system, and a termination plan.

How do you pick the right painting contractor in Denver?

If you are looking to hire a Denver painter to paint your home in Highlands Ranch, Parker, Arvada, Broomfield, or anywhere is the Denver metro area; then you should look for a few key things when you start the process.  Obviously it depends on your budget, but it is better to hire the right person, than to get someone cheap and deal with the results.  So here are some tips:

  • Do they answer their phone? If it is hard to get someone on the phone to give you an estimate, how easy do you think it will be to get someone on the phone when something goes wrong?
  • How do they show up? When they come to the estimate, are they on time?  Do they come SUPER early or arrive late?  Either way is bad.  Are they cleaned up, or are they covered in paint?  Painting is a messy business, but when you are getting bids, think of it like dating. They should be putting their BEST foot forward.
  • Do they follow through with what they say? I’m in the middle of getting bids for a deck, and they guy told me it would take a few days to get me a bid. A week later I followed up, and he said he needed one more day. Two days later I received a bid from him.  Do you think I will hire him?
  • Do they pass the dinner table test? Could you have them over for dinner? Would you feel uncomfortable?  Think about it. They will have access to your entire home for days or weeks.  If you would not feel comfortable with them for a meal, how could you trust them with your family and belongings?

These things are not the end-all be-all tips, but they are a good start.  Use this and you are about 95% guaranteed to weed out all the idiot Denver Painters.

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