Hi, I’m Robert the owner of Paint Saint Louis.
I am more than likely the person you talk to when you call about a bid. I will also be the person performing most of the work. While we offer the same types of work, amazing website, years of reliable work and high ratings and reviews do not mistake us for a large painting firm or one that runs 20 crews of workers. We are a small specialty interior painting company that deals with one customer and job at a time and with a personal level of service that simply doesn’t exist with the big firms. As a small company I get to combine multiple years of union training specifically in the painting field with multiple years as a high level IT worker which means the knowledge of the painting products, tools and techniques combined with the planning, processes and analytical skills of the IT field. The irony that both fields require extensive training to begin with but more importantly extensive ONGOING training on new processes, products, tools and industry standards shows how beautifully combining both into the way we approach jobs really can be.
To be honest getting into painting happened mostly by accident. While my very first full time job was as a staff painter for a large hotel in downtown St. Louis and I made my way through several home improvement fields very quickly my actual career focus and training was in information technologies and electronics. I built and coded websites, networks, servers, computers and learned just about every operating system out there. To this day I still maintain our entire network – building the websites, hosting servers, coding, computers and social media operations. I have been working on electronics since I was ten years so this was a natural fit. I am a Linux admin and have commercial level servers in my home and in datacenters across the US to this day and operate a small media company as well. So why painting? For many years I also worked in the home improvement fields – everything from roofing to concrete foundations and everything in between. Some jobs I learned nothing… other jobs I gained a wealth of experience from some of the best operations out there and it was always a type of work I enjoyed because much like IT work when you are done you have a completed project that you and your client cam both appreciate.
But while I was advancing my career in IT I began to realize something – most of the jobs were very temporary and as needed during conversions, the Y2K debacle and many changes in software meaning large companies needed highly experienced people for conversions but let them go once the work was done. While between projects I fell back on things I knew how to do and painting was one of them. Having worked for many people connected to real estate I had no problem finding a few property owners who had a fairly large portfolio with regular turnover. This means plenty of work that could be scheduled weeks in advance as tenants moved out and supplied a pretty steady flow of work. While we were an operational business we did not serve nor advertise to the general public so we operated as a ‘sole proprietorship’ for many years in the manner many would simply call themselves ‘self employed’. For most part we were high speed apartment and condo flippers. Fast and reliable turnover times are highly important to property owners looking to fill their empty property as soon as possible. So while my IT work slowed the painting work just grew and grew and grew. And if it was time to go public it was time to go ‘legit’ as well.
In 2008 we went public and in 2013 we incorporated as a Limited Liability Corporation in Missouri and the rest is history.
Well as my story began in painting I always maintained a connection to the industry and the actual operation that exists today The sad thing was most of these early jobs provided no training at all and painting was never the sole focus of those companies. It was not till the later part of the 90’s that I got into a firm that was a union shop tied to District 58 of the IUPAT. This is the point where the real training began under the IUPAT apprenticeship program moving from that into journeyman painter and learned how to really paint, do it right and put out consistent quality work. Even though to that point I really thought I was a good painter I found out differently and relearned most of what I had been taught wrong working for handymen/general contractors most of which had never been properly trained for painting work either. And that training continues forward as every day brings a new product, tool or method that only improves our work and makes our task even easier.
The biggest factors into starting my own company was the huge separation between what most of the large painting contractors charge their clients and what the painter who actually does the work gets paid. The last firm I worked for charged around $65 an hour for my labor. They paid about $15 an hour. All the rest of the money either went into the owners pocket or into the outrageous overhead costs they carried. So when I set up Paint Saint Louis as a corporate entity the biggest goals were to operate with all the same systems, processes and most importantly consumer protections but with the lowest overhead possible. This means I did not waste money buying big fancy 4×4 trucks with expensive logos on them. I did not open a physical office location because it is too costly simply for a location to answer phones. My shop is a small building in the back side of an industrial area and my home just on the outskirts of the metro area which is where my ‘office’ is. No office staff or secretary either and we have very specialized liability insurance covering the things we do but not wasting money on covering work we don’t even do. Oh.. and the paint material costs that make up a good part of the overall cost of any painting project are lowered dramatically by not marking them up as many companies do to further pad their profits – we allow you to purchase all paints directly with zero markup direct from our vendors getting our full and entire discount. Sure we could mark them up but once again I realize that I want my customers to get the best price humanly possible which ensures they will use top premium level paints which only makes my job as the painter easier because we will be using products that perform the right way every single time. Charge too much and customers may want to use cheaper paints to save money making it hard for me to guarantee two coats will work. Why would I want to make my job harder for a little extra profit?
The other thing that makes us different is we don’t do things the way most painters do. Using the labor background of painting combined with the forward thinking and planning required in IT projects over the years we have (and continue to) find ways to optimize the speed of the painting work we do while improving on the quality. Proper planning is always important to the success of any project but the larger the project the more important it becomes. It allows a small crew of painters to match the speed of a larger crew in the same amount of time and many times can even beat our own time estimates.
In the end the goal has always been to remain a small specialty interior painting contractor. We only do one to three jobs a month and only one at a time and the owner of the company is the main painter on each and every job (and of course my assistants on jobs which require it) so you won’t be dealing with one person on the phone, one who does the bid then someone completely different who does the work. It also makes it very easy to train and retrain on a regular basis so we are very much on top of the latest and coming paint products, new tools and tricks of the trade and direct training from the Master Painters Institute along with industry and vendor specific training. I still think one of the biggest things that separate us from the pack is the analytical way we approach every job. You don’t just accept a job, start up and begin painting. Planning each job out step by step and being prepared for surprises and changes along the way allows us to offer consistent and reliable completion times and even in the face of the recent paint shortages the past year we have never had a project delayed or slowed by them. We have forged relationships with two of the top paint makers in the US (Sherwin, Ben Moore) to offer some of the best material discounts available (most contractors upcharge on materials to pad their profits). And best of all we have high ratings across the board, good reviews from our work and some absolutely stunning pictures.
So far I think we have accomplished every goal we set out for in the beginning and continuing to operate in this manner many more years of that to come. And with every job we do we always look for ways to make our job easier, your experience better and in the end leave an ever growing trail of beautifully painted homes and happy customers.