One thing that differentiates the painting industry from other types of businesses is its lack of professionalism. By this I don’t mean that there aren’t many highly skilled painters in the market—because there are; being a great painter, however, does not make one a good business owner.

When I started my company in 1985 I was privileged to have a group of men who volunteered to oversee my first year in business. One of the first things they recommended was to find out what associations represented my trade and join them. So I did a little research and found two: the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA), and the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).

I quickly became a member of these two organizations and from that point began to build my company on the resources they provided. While not trade specific, ABC provided me with materials to write my first employment manual and safety program. Not long after, it helped me craft an apprenticeship program for my workers. Too, my involvement with ABC helped me learn leadership skills, as I quickly took roles on committees and in 1989 became an area chapter president.

PDCA has provided the greatest benefit. Virtually everything we do at T. L. Hart has been directly or indirectly shaped by this outstanding organization. From writing policies and procedures, to marketing my firm, to reading blue prints and writing estimates, to knowing our costs—our company has been built upon a foundation that has helped establish tens of thousands of contractors during PDCA’s 129-year history. It has helped T. L. Hart become a truly professional painting contractor.

This is why industry associations should matter to the customer, as not all painting companies are equal in their approach to business.

A case in point is the estimating process. Because PDCA has such a rich history, it provides the member contractor with the tools to compile an accurate bid proposal to the end-user. It provides not only the information on how to accurately measure and accumulate the data for an estimate, but also the approximate time it will take for a skilled painted to complete a given task. In other words, PDCA has long set the norm for measuring and calculating painting costs.

Another example is standards. PDCA is the only trade group representing the painting industry and, as such, has produced a set of standards that define what professionalism is in real time. From what constitutes a properly painted surface (PDCA-P1), to a method for providing samples (PDCA-P5), to procedures for pressure washing (PDCA-P22), these standards establish benchmarks for the contractor as well as the customer, thus ensuring a satisfactory end-product.

This sets T. L. Hart apart from the competition, in that, being one of only 47 contractors in the State of Michigan—and only one of two in the mid-Michigan area, it operates on the basis of established and certified-professional operating principles that govern its approach to business.

This is a true benefit to the customer because the information they receive from T. L. Hart is not based on a whim, or a subjective feeling of how long something should take or how much it should cost, but on sound information derived from a trusted knowledge base—PDCA.

Whether or not a painting company is associated with an industry trade group may not seem important to the buyer, but if professionalism matters, then a contractor member of PDCA or ABC is the best choice.

Written by Terry Hart

Terry "TL" Hart is President and CEO of one of mid-Michigan's largest painting companies. Entering its 29th year, T. L. Hart, Inc. has served thousands of customers both in and out of state. It's projects ranges from large industrial facilities to private home owners. In each and every instance TL and the firm m<>aintains a firm commitment to customer satisfaction. TL resides in Lansing, Michigan with his lovely wife of 41 years. The couple has five grown children and ten grandchildren, and are active in their local church.