Earlier this year I met a young man who was dealing with all the challenges of a start-up. But he was determined to succeed and kept going in the face of adversity. Several months passed and he really started to hit his stride. He finished the season on target and thriving. I needed to know what factors helped him to enjoy a quick progression to success. Jesse was kind enough to sit down with me for a long-format interview and share a few nuggets...
What got you interested in painting?
I was actually never really interested in painting. I came across a College Pro booth at Uvic, and it said "Entrepreneurs Start Here." I am in school for entrepreneurship, so naturally I ran over to the booth and began asking questions. However, this experience certainly has me more interested in the painting industry than I ever thought I would be.
How would you say your first season went? Biggest challenge? Biggest success?
In the end, my first season could not have gone much better. I ended up running the largest first year Franchise in BC's history.
My biggest challenge was dealing with setbacks. I had all of these plans going into the year, and it seemed like everything was going wrong. I had painters quit on me, upset clients, and I was also working more than 100+ hours a week in the beginning. I had to learn how to adapt to the situation quickly, and learn how to keep moving the business forward no matter what the situation was.
One of the biggest reasons I chose to take on this venture in the first place was for the learning. Therefore, my biggest success would be learning everything that I wanted along the way. I feel like I have grown more as an individual in such a short amount of time than I ever thought possible. I feel like I am capable of achieving anything I set my mind to (which is something I've always believed), but now I have proof. Also, before CPP I thought I knew a lot. I have now learned more than I ever thought possible, and feel like I know less than any other time before. This is incredibly exciting for me because I now know I still have so much more to learn.
I know you faced some significant challenges getting up and running. How did you manage to overcome them, stay positive and reach your goals?...
In the beginning, everything was going wrong. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and how I was going to produce all the work I already had booked. Although this was happening, I just kept moving forward. Everyday I felt like I had a million things to get done, but I chose to focus on the things I could control and get one thing done at a time.
I consistently kept thinking about why I was doing this (in other words, I had a really strong "why" statement), and what I was trying to accomplish. This kept me going even during the worst times when I thought my world was ending.
You have a very professional presence despite being quite young and not having a lot of painting experience. Where did you learn that and how has it helped your business?
I grew up playing competitive golf, so I have had to wear dress clothes and act in a professional manor on the golf course since I was about seven years old.
Before CPP I was working on the start-up of three different companies in fields that I was not overly familiar with. When I was pitching the ideas to family, friends, investors I always acted like I knew exactly what I was talking about and was confident in what I was saying. Undoubtably, this helped my painting company because I was able to talk to customers confidently about the process and products despite knowing very little. I was honest with my customers when I didn't know the answer to something, but I would always make sure to find out immediately after and give them an answer.
I have always been taught by my dad to act in a professional and diplomatic way. I think people get that feeling, and it allows them to trust me with their biggest asset.
You were able to make a quick transition from working in your business, to working on your business. That progression can take a lot of small contractors a long time to implement, if ever. How did you do it?
Two major things allowed me to do this:
1. At the end of the day, your business is only as good as the people in it. I had to go through a lot of trial and error with painters. In the beginning, I didn't enjoy going to my own job sites in the morning because I didn't get along with the people I had hired. Therefore, I had to fire some and others quit. I kept interviewing people; I was determined to become better at reading people and finding the right crews. It just took a couple of really good people to get the ball rolling in the right direction
2. I had to completely change my leadership style. At first, it was always all about me and my goals for the company. It was a leader-follower approach, and when I was not on site nothing was getting done properly or on time. It was the middle of June when I realized this and had to make a change. I tried a leader-leader approach, and my goal was to try and empower my crews. I focused hard on what each of their goals were and made the process about them. They started to come up with their own time frames for the completion of projects, and they were essentially telling me what was going on in the business. So rather than me telling 10 individual people what to do, I had 3 crews telling me.
Please speak to the importance of how you dress and present yourself.
When production first started I was personally training all of my employees. I wore painter whites like any other painter. Once my painters were trained, I still seemed to be wearing my painter whites daily. Every time I would show up on job site, I would find myself quickly trying to paint a window or anything that needed to get done.
Then I had a major realization about a month and a half in. My job wasn't to paint. It was to market and book the jobs for my painters. I began wearing dress pants and a collared shirt everyday. This made me feel more like a businessperson than a painter. I started doing estimates and booking work during the day, and when I came on job site, my crews knew that I was doing my job and they were doing theirs. Dressing this way reminded me what my role was in the business.
What is one thing you have learned in school or from CPP that has been pivotal to your early success?
Whenever I do something in my life, I do it 110%. Whether that being golf, school, or CPP, I am going to commit to it and achieve the highest level I possibly can. I would say my work horse attitude has been the biggest contributor to my early success.
Will you stay in the painting industry, or us this experience an entrepreneurial incubator?
This experience was certainly an entrepreneur endeavour. I have many ideas that I am really excited to explore after I graduate University (some may even involve paint). I am of the kind of person that needs a lot of things going on all of the time otherwise I get bored (quickly!).
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