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Two Blocks North

Posted By Debie Henkel, Friday, December 8, 2017

What happened to Brian on a warm spring afternoon in March 2016 could happen to any one of us. It was one of those split second events that forever alters a life and the lives of those touched by one person’s horrific misfortune. In Brian’s own words, he was just, “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” It sounds so cliché, but isn’t that how most accidents happen; one person being in the wrong place at the wrong time? It took 37 year old Brian Duncan, while cycling home from the park that fateful afternoon at the same time one distracted driver chose to race through a red light, to change the lives of many people connected to Brian’s life journey. The forcible contact between vehicle and bicycle threw Brian’s body off the cycle seat and through the driver’s windshield. Now, the rest of Brian’s life would be spent in a wheel chair.

But life goes on. And the generosity of the human spirit kicked in. Complete strangers came together to help the family adjust to the many accessibility challenges Brian would be faced with, just in his own home. After 10 months recovery time in the hospital, and while Brian was still in intense pain, retro-fitting a new home that would accommodate his limited mobility became a priority for the Duncan’s. Brian, his wife Hanne and the couple’s pre-school aged daughter were fortunate to find a ranch style home in the same neighborhood, just two blocks north of their 2-story in Portland, Oregon. Brian had been an avid hiker and cyclist before the accident. So, after learning of his tragic story, the first to assist were architects and building professionals who shared Brian’s passion for the outdoor sports. Now, this labor of love project would become known as “Two Blocks North.”

Corey Omey, architect and partner with Portland based Ernest R. Munch Architecture LLC, brought local planners and designers together with excavators, cement contractors, framers, builders, and finish contractors to create an accessible home for Brian’s new paraplegic reality. He solicited materials from local lumber companies, windows and doors were donated and, yes, paint products would be supplied by Portland PDCA Associate member companies as well.

Halls and doorways were widened for wheelchair accessibility. Bathrooms, showers, sinks and counter tops throughout the home were all refitted for easier access, adding ceiling pulley systems in optimal locations, to hoist Brian’s 6 foot athletic frame. Exterior ramps and walkways were constructed so that father and daughter could resume treasured outdoor playtime together. 

Shortly before the interior work was completed, Corey Omey reached out to the Portland Chapter PDCA. Exterior painting was needed to add the finishing touches to this humanitarian project for the Duncan’s. After Corey’s request was forwarded to the Chapter’s Board by their Executive Director, Bridget Davidson, it didn’t take long to return an all-on-board vote to help the family by asking Contractor members to donate labor for the project. Associate member, Miller Paint Company, had already donated paint to add warmth to the newly remodeled interior. Benjamin Moore, another valued Portland Chapter Associate member, would donate enough paint products to coat the 2,500 square foot exterior. Finally, at the September Chapter meeting the plea for participation from local contractor business owners to donate journeyman painters was presented. A target date for the volunteer project would be set for October 27th.

The 2017 exterior season in this area of the country has been extremely busy for painting contractors. But with the weather signaling the near-end of a productive year, six successful PDCA Contractor members felt they could spare an employee or two, even themselves, to the project. Several long-time Chapter members stepped forward. Past President, ESP Painting owner Jeff Sommers, whose company already takes on worthy humanitarian projects annually, was one of the first to come forward. Dion Robesky, co-owner of Epic Painting LLC, brought a company employee with him and donated his own time as well. New member and co-owner Lenny Martin of Mt. Hood Pro Painting also donated his own skills to the day-long undertaking. WILLCO Painting owner and 2017 Chapter President, Primo Williams, sent an employee to pressure wash the home prior to the start date. Another long time Chapter member, owner Ben Balzer of Balzer Painting Company, sent two of his journeymen, Chris and Josh. And Jesse Rugg, owner of First City Painting, a new 2017 PDCA member and soon to serve the Chapter as the incoming 2018 Secretary-Treasurer, also sent two painting professionals, Thomas and Brian, to the project. As co-owner of Epic Painting LLC, I supported these nine big-hearted professionals by supplying donuts and sodas, cleaning gutters in preparation for finish trim, wire brushing the red cement foundation that would be painted body color, and arranging for the paint delivery by Dick’s Color Center, a Benjamin Moore store. After all volunteers arrived, I pointed out a few details of the project and watched as they all jumped into motion. There were no egos exhibited; no one individual ordering the flow of work. As Jeff Sommers noted, “when you get that many guys together to paint a house, it’s like you can read each other’s minds.” Everyone just did what had to be done, quickly and without fanfare, respectful of the family’s privacy. It took one full day to finish the exterior.

The Two Blocks North project, which began as a humanitarian contribution to a man and his family, would end as a humble reminder of life’s fragile balance. Two weeks prior to beginning the exterior painting, Brian Duncan was reported missing. He had been last seen at Duckworth dock near the city’s Steel Bridge which crosses the Willamette River from east to west side into downtown Portland. Finally, three days before the start date, his body was found; police reported the absence of foul play. So, the split second change in life’s course for Brian - a devoted father, husband, son, brother, friend and colleague - would forever alter many more lives as a result. No judgement befalls Brian’s choice. No one can ever know the physical and psychological pain that Brian endured as a result of that life-altering moment in March 2016. The need simply shifted from Brian to his surviving family. When asked if she wanted to postpone the exterior work for a better time, allowing family members time to grieve, Hanne asked that the scheduled date be kept, saying, “It’s what Brian would have wanted.”

But this article isn’t meant to focus entirely on Brian’s journey. Rather, this story is about a handful of average painting professionals – members of the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America, our industry’s largest trade association – and their average, yet selfless, contribution to one family’s need. Too often it’s easier to note the coldness in business entities rather than looking for the humanity. Business owners must always be concerned with their “bottom-line” in order to remain in business. But once in a while it’s nice to take notice that there’s so much more behind the LLC’s and the company logos that can truly make a difference in the lives of others. PDCA members conduct their businesses by a set of standards and a code of ethics. It’s the people behind those written standards and code of ethics, the people behind the board rooms and production rates that make the difference. Thank you, again, to all those who contributed.

NOTE: This article’s author, Debie Henkel, co-owner of Epic Painting LLC and 2017 Portland Chapter Vice President, was privileged to meet Brian, a gentle man with kind eyes and unassuming manner. His wife, Hanne, just as kind, was very appreciative of the numerous details that had been coordinated by Corey Omey as well as the PDCA’s contribution.


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Member Spotlight: C.J. Kish

Posted By Christine O'Connell, Thursday, December 7, 2017
Updated: Thursday, December 7, 2017

CJ & Son Painting 

CJ grew up in Newburgh, NY, and his wife, Courtney grew up in Aurora, IL.  “I learned most of what I know from my dad, Craig Kish. He owns Craig Kish Painting in Hudson Valley, NY.  He fostered my passion for painting and continues to help me develop.  I often refer to our technique as ‘The Craig Kish Method’.  My son Austin is 12 years old and a daily inspiration for me.  He motivated me to start CJ & Son Painting.  I have a finance degree and tried the white-collar lifestyle, but it wasn’t for me.”  It’s obvious that painting is more like a sport than work for CJ.

“It’s all about speed and accuracy. I was missing that when I wore a suit and tie to work."

The business side of things, however, gives me my finance/sales fix, which is imperative since I am a numbers guy. I get to be an owner, a coach, and a player every day of my life, and I love it. Everybody wants to be the best at something…I want to be the best Painter. I am so grateful that my wife, Courtney, has embraced this goal as well. We are constantly competing to better ourselves. Becoming a ‘Ma and Pa’ team has given us the freedom to have a fun, enjoyable life. We create our own schedule so we never miss any of Austin’s school functions. We travel when we want, and we see our family more often. Opening a painting business has given us the life we’ve always dreamed of.”


CJ was originally invited to a PDCA golf outing held by the Michigan Great Lakes Council. “I had a blast with all the great members of the Council. I had never golfed before, but I had a new set of clubs gathering dust in my garage. PDCA is the reason I no longer have dust on my golf clubs…..and probably never will.”


CJ has found round-table meetings with other members of the Michigan Great Lakes group to be very valuable.  “It’s great to ask every question I’ve compiled throughout the month during our monthly meeting.  They’ve shared wisdom that you cannot put a price tag on. These guys know painting. We laugh.  We cry.  It’s all good….always positive.”

PDCA has had a tremendous impact on CJ’s business. 

“We are all about quality, and PDCA Industry Standards line up with my own expectations. PDCA provides a seamless blueprint on how to run the best Painting Company you possibly can. It’s all about quality and culture."

When I launched CJ & Son Painting a couple years back, I imagined employing two people and working on one project a week, tops. Now, with the help and support of PDCA, we feel CJ & Son Painting is without a doubt - The Future of Painting. PDCA has helped me to see what the future of painting looks like.”


Like all painting contractors, CJ faces challenges. One is the ever-changing landscape facing the painting industry. “The employee pool has shrunk since the world became digital. Talented employees get their talent from their Boss…their Coach…their Mentor. Most contractors I know blame the world for their untalented employees. After employing 5 or 6 untalented employees I finally looked in the mirror. I was at fault. Now I have a sound training program. Those who say ‘the younger generation has no work ethic’, and ‘women don’t belong on the job site because they can’t cut it’ have bought in to the archaic rhetoric of negative business owners who don’t have a sound training program. Positivity breeds positivity. Age does not matter! Gender, especially, does not matter!”


CJ’s answer to some of these problems is best expressed in his words. “Stay several moves ahead in the game. The light bulb came on when my wife, Courtney, started painting with me and became my business partner last October. She brings elements of quality in craftsmanship and energy to the table that I’ve never had on my own or on all-male crews. After a couple months I started hiring females and focusing more on balance in my crew.” CJ bids lots of jobs that involve working for a single female home-owner. He has found they are more comfortable knowing there will be ladies on his painting crew. “The experience we provide to the homeowner is unmatchable. Courtney and the other young ladies on our crew have an attention to detail that most men simply do not have. Having the ladies on board softens the experience we provide to the homeowner. They are truly able to relax throughout the project.”


 CJ’s advice to fellow members?

“Get involved and stay involved. Always be open-minded to making changes in your program. No matter how much you think you know, there is always more to learn.”



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Member Spotlight: Don Thomas

Posted By Christine O'Connell, Thursday, November 2, 2017

Thomas Industrial Coatings (St. Louis, MO)

Thomas Industrial Coatings (TIC) was established in 1991 by owner Don Thomas and his wife Claudia. Based on the cornerstones of Safety, Quality, and Productivity, Thomas Industrial Coatings has grown into one of the premier industrial painting companies in the country.  Each year TIC maintains a workforce of 150- 200 painters who work on bridges, overpasses, military bases, water towers, lock and dams, ground storage tanks, and marine vessels.  Providing services such as work platforms for access, abrasive blasting, and painting; TIC is capable and willing to handle the most difficult projects in industrial painting. 

Don shares some of the keys to his success.

“Relationships with other contractors in the construction industry are pivotal to our success.  Providing a safe, quality product in an efficient manner has helped create a network of companies that value and respect each other’s work.  It is these established relationships that benefit Thomas Industrial Coatings and the entire industry.

Recruiting and growing a well-rounded, highly skilled workforce that is able to meet the diverse demands of the projects we encounter is the most essential part of being successful. With Safety at the forefront, TIC is regularly a CREST Award winner for Safety.”

In 2017, the SSPC George S Campbell Award and CoatingsPro Magazine’s Contractor Award, were granted to Thomas Industrial Coatings for their work on the Eads Bridge in downtown St. Louis. This project serves as a great example of the people who represent the company. 

Every contractor has a different motivation for joining PDCA.

“At TIC, we feel it is very important to belong to and support an organization that has the best interest of our industry in mind. It is important to recognize that our strength as an industry comes when we all work together to establish and achieve goals.”

Belonging to the PDCA is one of the business practices implemented by Thomas Industrial Coatings to help grow knowledge of the industry, add legitimacy to work practices, and develop a network of owners who share a common theme for success.

“Our PDCA membership supports and helps validate the business practices we strive to meet with each project we encounter. Our goal is to provide a safe, quality, and productive industrial painting service to our customers. The PDCA organization helps to legitimize our process.”

We asked what PDCA benefit was most valuable to the business. “For us, it is opportunity to network with like-minded people with similar passions for success in our industry. The PDCA is an organization that affords us one of these opportunities.”

On the topic of what PDCA Industry Standards have been most helpful:

“The Standards, as a whole, establish the ground rules of each project. At TIC we emphasize communication within our company and with the customer. An established scope of work is the communication tool that is most significant in the customer relationship. It also provides the substance of our internal conversations from the field to the office. The reference documents and standards for each specification create a common vocabulary that helps eliminate any confusion on the part of the contractor or customer.”

We always ask what our contractors feel is the biggest concern facing the painting industry. Here is Don’s answer:

“Our concerns are similar to many of the other construction trades and it is the ability to find people that are qualified to do the work in our trade. Working in industrial painting requires a great degree of skill, work ethic, and dedication. 

People are our greatest resource and we believe for our company to grow, we must invest in each of them. 

If they are successful, the company, as a whole, will be successful.”

Here is how TIC approaches the problem.

“Our biggest recruiting resource is ourselves. We pride ourselves in being a company that is dedicated to people who work with us and being a company that attracts some of the best workers in the industry.  We are a union company, but many of our painters have spent their entire career with us. As a company that just passed its 25th birthday, we are seeing a new generation of the same family representing TIC in the field and in the office.  This continuity provides a safe, quality product for our customer. There is a consistency in place that would not be possible if we had a more transient workforce. We take a great deal of pride in being a company that provides opportunities for our people to grow professionally and personally.  We feel this is our best way to attract and maintain a skilled and diverse workforce that can meet the needs of an ever-changing industry.”

“The best advice we can give a fellow or prospective member is to recognize the demands of the construction industry, have the resources to meet those demands, and have vision to recognize future demands. Communication plays a vital role in the success of any organization, both internally and externally. Value communication every step of the way. Recognize the importance of the people in the field; they are truly the most knowledgeable of daily activity.”

“Develop a network of peers and organizations that respect the product you provide. Building this type of reputation is essential in building a company that can sustain itself. Recognize that a reputation is built every day, with every action and conversation.

Belonging to the PDCA is one of the business practices implemented by Thomas Industrial Coatings to help grow the knowledge of industry, add legitimacy to work practices, and develop a network of owners that share a common theme for success.”

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Member Spotlight: Joe Elmore

Posted By Christine O'Connell, Thursday, October 5, 2017

Armor Tough Coatings (White Lake, MI)

Joe Elmore opened Armor Tough Coatings in February of 2014.  After working for a local industrial contracting company for 8 years, he decided he wanted to start doing things his way.  “I now enjoy waking up for work every day.  I could not have made a better decision in life, other than asking my girlfriend to be my wife. We are getting married in June of 2017.”


Armor Tough Coatings is a company of about 4 field employees, and they strive for perfection each and every day. Joe says: “I love waking up to go to work the next day and love to employ people who think the same way. We specialize in both residential painting and industrial painting (heavy machinery). We try to stick to what we are good at. Luckily, I have been doing Industrial machinery painting for 10-12 years, so that is a service that we can offer.  It provides a great profit for the company. We also do residential painting that ranges from interior, exterior, and epoxy flooring to cabinet refinishing.”


About a year after Joe started his business he joined a painting group on Facebook where he was introduced to many professional people who worked for themselves.  He also became acquainted with a successful businessman who introduced him to PDCA.  He called the PDCA National office and got the information he needed to convince him he needed to join right away.


Joe’s PDCA membership has benefited his company in a variety of ways.


“The Standards for the correct prep have been most valuable in my business. Before I knew of these Standards, I would bend over backwards to make sure things were perfect while using a spotlight to be sure. Now I know that doesn't have to be the case to do a great job!


Being part of the PDCA has helped me meet some great people.


The seminars that are put on by the PDCA and paint vendors have been remarkable. I have had the chance to go to a couple of the local seminars that featured PDCA speakers. The knowledge and professional contacts I have gained are only a few of the valuable benefits. The PDCA membership has helped me grow my awareness of professionalism, which allows me to give 110% to our clients. Also, by putting me in touch with like-minded professionals (online or in person), I can strive to be better than the ‘standard’ painting contractor.”


When asked what he considered the top concerns of painting contractors today, Joe had this to say. “When I meet new people, I tend to hear a lot of stories about other painting contractors. Unfortunately, they are almost always negative. My concerns are that they are not portraying themselves or their company very professionally. Another concern is that some companies are not doing everything that they can to ensure a quality, final product, for a paying customer.”


Joe’s advice to fellow members: “I recommend diving right into the PDCA and all that it has to offer. The membership fee pays for itself immediately!  Contractor College, that can be accessed by you and your employees is a game changer. This is a great place to start in order to begin to grow your painting business. Also, the webinars are always on topics that seem to be on everyone's mind, and if you cannot make it to the live webinar, they are always recorded to watch anytime.”

“I used to think painting was a bad profession to be in, but when I joined other like-minded professionals in the PDCA, I realized that it can be a thriving business.  It changed my thinking altogether. This has made it easy to look and be as professional as I can. I also make sure that our clients get as much value as possible out of our services and have open lines of communication to ensure we are meeting that goal.”  Joe Elmore





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Member Spotlight: Rick Holtz

Posted By Christine O'Connell, Thursday, September 7, 2017

H J Holtz & Son, Inc (Richmond, VA)

Rick Holtz, president of H J Holtz & Son, Inc, is a third generation painting contractor.  No one can tell the company’s rich history better than Rick:


“Established in April of 1936 by my grandfather, Herman J. Holtz, our company has been serving the Richmond community for over 80 years. For the first 35 years, he ran a successful company providing residential and commercial painting and wall papering services to Richmond homeowners. Following his retirement in 1971, my father, Richard L. Holtz, Sr., took the baton and focused on building a reputation of high quality work and superior customer service.


Herman passed away in 2003 but his legacy lives on. I now serve as the company’s President after joining the business in 1994. Along with a great team that includes my two sisters and many long-time employees, we have built upon my father’s and grandfather’s work by adding new dimensions such as digital photography, decorative floors, cabinet painting, wall graphics, murals, decorative finishes and advanced equipment for painting and paint removal. We have also extended the company's borders by initiating relationships with designers and contractors in Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Williamsburg, and Virginia Beach, VA.


We pride ourselves on great customer service and professionalism. Over the years, the company has gained numerous awards for our outstanding work. Among them are the prestigious PDCA PIPP Awards for Residential Interior and Residential Decorative projects, the Best of Houzz Award for service, which we earned three years in a row, and the 2017 Best of Richmond Awards for top painting contractor and top wall paper contractor.”

The company has been a PDCA member since the 1950s when Rick’s grandfather first joined.


They have continued to participate because of the educational value PDCA brings to their company.  Part of PDCA’s education program is the monthly webinars.  In 2011 one of these webinars connected Rick to his business coach.  “That ongoing relationship has helped us achieve the best financial results in my career.”  Education coupled with networking opportunities with other PDCA members are the benefits most valued by Rick and his company.  “Learning from other contractors from the mistakes they have made helps all of us deliver more value to customers while building healthy, profitable businesses. PDCA exposes you to the best contractors and educational programs in our industry.  It is the undergraduate and master’s degree program for painting contractors.  Because of PDCA, our company has grown and become more profitable.  This is profit we are able to share with our employees and their families.”


Rick’s company uses PDCA Industry Standards P-5, P-16, and P-23 in their estimating process to inform potential clients about best practices in surface preparation and finished products. “This enables customers to understand how and why our plan for their home or business stands apart from other proposals they may be receiving.”


When asked what he considered the top concerns of painting contractors today, Rick had this to say:

Some of the top concerns for painting contractors are employees and technology.


Finding employees can be a challenge for many contractors.  We have been fortunate to find great people that we have been able to train and that have stayed with us.  The goal is for us to keep our employees challenged and engaged in the work they do. I have found that treating employees with respect and keeping them informed about the impact they have on the company has been critical in our success.  We keep our employees informed of the company’s goals. This has proven to keep them empowered on a daily basis.  Employees stay with our company because we have a family atmosphere and they know their role.



Technology in marketing, business management, and in the work our employees perform daily is changing at a rapid pace. Technology is expensive, which makes it difficult to know what to invest in, and what is really going to make our work easier. We try to balance our spending on technology.  Spending on tools and equipment that help us do our job quicker and more efficiently is just as important to us as software that helps us keep track of our sales and run the business of painting.”


Rick’s advice to fellow members:  “Identify your two biggest challenges and try to work on them first.  Change takes time and has to be deliberate.  Be patient and consistent. Take advantage of all the PDCA has to offer.  If you have a question - ask.  If you have done something great -share it.  We are all in this together.”  




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Member Spotlight: George Maxson

Posted By Christine O'Connell, Thursday, August 3, 2017
Updated: Thursday, August 3, 2017

Maxson Painting (Ventura, CA)

Maxson Painting was established in 1990 and is a family owned business. 

In late summer of 2016 the Maxson family’s life was turned upside down.

George’s wife Tracy tells it best.  Below is her account of the events:

On August 12, 2016 my husband, George had a subarachnoid hemorrhage caused by an aneurysm (hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures). George was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Upon arrival, he coded and was revived! He was put into a coma and paralysis for 3 weeks to help restore his brain. During this time the neurologist monitored him very closely to prevent him from having a stroke and further complications.

On August 13th my son and I had to decide what to do with our company. Our son, Shaun Maxson, is a stay at home dad and handles our Web presence and IT needs. We had no idea what was going to happen – was George was going to pass? - was he going to have severe handicaps? (both of which were very real possibilities) - or would he make it through this just fine?  Decisions had to be made about our ongoing jobs, upcoming jobs, and our employees (we had eight at the time).

We decided we needed to keep the company going. We didn’t want our employees to be facing unemployment, and we didn’t want to let our customers down. Most of all, we didn’t want George to wake up and discover his company gone! Shaun took the bull by the horns and started contacting all our employees, paint representatives and customers. There was sadness, tears and many prayers. 

Over the years George had created a lot of connections- trust and friendships that went beyond the typical client relationships.

One of the most wonderful things came about because in March, 2016 we had taken Shaun to the PDCA convention in New Orleans for the first time. He sat through some of the workshops and knew about the Estimate Rocket bidding software. He purchased the software the first week George was in the hospital, and in the middle of the night, taught himself how to use it. He set out to do his first bids. The company made it through those months with God’s help and the hard work and dedication of our son. George woke up to a smoothly running company, and he is doing great. In fact he and Shaun were able to go to the convention in San Diego this year!

A few of our favorite stories from this time period are that our company is generational; my uncle taught my father, my father (PDCA member for years) taught my husband, and our son stepped in to be the fourth generation in the field. Shaun had our 4 year old grandson hand out the payroll checks while wearing a Maxson Painting shirt. Elijah represents the 5th generation in the business! Also, during this time, Shaun identified a foreman that just wasn’t good for our company’s morale. Fellow employees had a hard time working with him and it was time for him to go. After 16 years with us, Shaun released him from our employment.  This was a very hard but very good decision, one we just didn’t want to make.  Shaun’s fresh eyes on our company have given us a boost in many different areas.

The PDCA played an important role in helping our business to survive a significant challenge.

At the annual conventions George, Shaun and I have the opportunity to gain knowledge, stay abreast of new developments and have meaningful conversations about how to make our business better for our clients, our employees, and ourselves.

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Member Spotlight: John Neubert

Posted By Christine O'Connell, Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Neubert Painting Inc (Brook Park, OH)

John started painting in 1975 at the age of 18. Since then the company has grown to 15 full time employees. 

John joined PDCA 30 years ago. Contractors join PDCA for a variety of reasons, and John felt it was important for the market leader in the Cleveland Metro area to belong to a trade association.  He has found the contacts he has made through PDCA over the years have been invaluable. 

John feels one of the top concerns of painting contractors is hiring and training.

He has devoted a great deal of time and effort toward employee training. Neubert Painting hires an additional 80-90 seasonal college students.  According to John, “Our core competency is in training our employees. We have a great people culture.” 

PDCA is proud to have played a part in the success of Neubert Painting Inc.






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Member Spotlight: Eric Statler

Posted By Christine O'Connell, Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rock Solid Painting Co, LLC – Mogadore, OH

Many years ago, Eric Stalter began his journey into the painting trade in a round-about way. He grew up on a grain and livestock farm in south central Wisconsin.  According to Eric, “It was a place where you were accustomed to risk, like burying money in the ground and hoping it returned as crops.”  In high school Eric loved the “hands-on” classes such as shop, art and home economics courses.  He earned a BA in Business Administration at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, married after graduation, moved to northeastern Ohio, and began some self-evaluation.



According to Eric, the journey continued as follows:  “I worked several 'bottom tier' jobs in order to make ends meet, and one of those jobs was working part-time at a paint store. The paint company focused on numerous training courses which led to product knowledge and best practices for painting. By far, the best form of learning was watching and listening to both the good and bad painting contractors. While working another full-time job, I worked my way from part-time up to a store manager within the painting company. After I left the company I worked various sales and service jobs but had started to paint part-time as jobs and referrals arose. I started to incorporate the knowledge of products, techniques, paint, and expanding experience into a passion for serving people by offering a valued service. Until this point I ignored the subtle voice of my bride, my desire to work independently, and a passion to work with my hands. The perfect storm stirred and cast me into the direction of starting a new adventure. Thus, Rock Solid Painting Co. LLC was officially born in June of 2014. I started out alone with many accumulated tools, a minivan, 4 weeks of work, and one professional contact (a carpenter). Since that first year we have transitioned from just me to subcontracted labor to two more full time employees. We are not only building our residential clientele but have also started to incorporate turning over middle to high-end investment homes. We are building relationships with other businesses/trades/entrepreneurs in order to develop and capture more work - we like to keep the ‘good guys’ working. We are continuing to cultivate partnerships in order to expand our collective businesses.”

When asked why he joined PDCA, Eric replied: “There were several motivators behind joining the PDCA. First, we were intrigued by the contractor education that was offered through podcasts, webinars, Contractor College, and those professionals that were willing to take calls. Secondly, we thought highly of the legitimacy that this organization adds to painting contractors who join. Thirdly, this helps to set us apart from many other painting contractors.  Finally, it helps give me motivation and insight into running my business like a business.”

“One of the most valuable benefits of PDCA has been listening to other contractors. It’s the men who are and have been in the industry that give the most insight.

They give great perspective and thought into the ways that make you a more exceptional tradesman and business owner.”


Eric’s insight into using the PDCA Industry Standards and PDCA’s impact on his company’s success: “We feel the PDCA Industry Standards have allowed us to define the responsibilities, criteria, and procedures in dealing with our current clientele. These items clarify responsibilities, duties, job performance, and specifically what is or is not included in a job. Guidelines like this give each party a clear and concise set of rules to play by.”

“We believe that the membership has allowed us to be more confident in our approach to differentiating ourselves and how we operate; specifically, knowing our numbers, the bottom line, and keeping our profit margin at an acceptable level.

Knowing these items will keep you headed in the right direction and will keep your company profitable.  A growing business = profit.”


Eric feels two of the top concerns of today’s contractors are: finding and keeping quality employees and knowing your business (specifically clientele and finances).  To solve these problems he feels it is a matter of coming up with a game plan to attract potential employees to a career in the trades and adapting to a different mindset and/or offering different compensation methods.


Words of wisdom from a successful business man to fellow PDCA members: “Listen, think, and adapt. Focus on setting yourself apart with ideas, habits, service, quality, and a keen sense of your business. Understand that your learning will continue as you grow your company and meet other successful tradesmen.”  Eric Stalter







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Member Spotlight: Christian Militello

Posted By Christine O'Connell, Thursday, May 4, 2017

Militello Painting & Powerwashing, LLC (Ambler, PA)

Christian’s entire life has revolved around the service and coaching industries.  He was fortunate to have grown up with a grandfather who was a handyman, served in the Korean War, and taught him everything from making stained glass to running gas pipe, and painting.  Lifeguarding, teaching swimming, playing and coaching baseball, and instructing autistic students have all naturally led to a love of servicing the needs of clients and managing and teaching people. Christian credits others for contributing to his success.  “Over the years I have had to fine-tune these raw abilities and will forever be doing so.  My wife Angelina, who not only works full time with the company but also helps raise three kids and take care of the home (I could never give her enough credit) joined our team a few years ago. This addition enabled us to take off.  Long-time employee, Scott and I have made mistakes side by side (some rougher than others) but have accomplished some pretty cool stuff together, leading to a successful company 15 years later.”

Militello Painting began their membership with PDCA in May of 2013 with a free trial membership. They upgraded to a full membership in September of 2014 following an estimating presentation hosted by the PDCA and some vendors.  That membership drive resulted in 27 new members for the local chapter.  “I started going to our local meetings soon after and went to my first National convention in 2016 in New Orleans, followed by San Diego this year.”

Christian says the most valuable benefit of PDCA membership didn’t become apparent for quite some time.  “I was going to meetings but was kind of a wall flower; very quiet, just listening, speaking when asked, but not much more than that.  I gradually became more comfortable with talking to my competition and began getting more involved with my chapter. The most valuable benefit is being able to lean on my competition for knowledge and information.  I have recently been given the opportunity to give back to my chapter by chairing the education planning committee and look forward to being more involved both locally and nationally.”

PDCA language is included in all the company’s residential and commercial contracts. Christian actually spells out the Standard (P-1) for a properly painted surface and the viewing distance in his contracts.  He finds this Standard to be the most helpful.  

When asked what he views as one of the top concerns of painting contractors today, Christian shared the following:  “Employees always seem to be at the top of the list: getting them, keeping them, training them, and continuing their advancement in your company.”  To solve these challenges he says:  “If you have never used an HVLP machine to spray cabinets, then how are you supposed to teach your employees to use one?  Company owners can train alongside employees, making and fixing mistakes together, or companies can invest in their employees and send them to get trained.  I have hired various coaching companies that have helped take me beyond my area of expertise in both management and sales. While investing in your employees, make sure to invest in yourself as well.”

Christian credits membership in PDCA for contributing to his success.  “In college I played catcher on the baseball team.  Being a business owner is equivalent to being a catcher.  It is the catcher’s responsibility to be the coach for his players on the field; pick them up when they are down, pat them on the butt when they excel.  The catcher is the only player with the entire field in front of him, so he sees all the mistakes and successes.  Well, who is there to help the catcher?  This is where the PDCA membership has helped me.  I can talk openly and freely with other business owners (catchers) about things they do to help their team.  Some things are kept private, but for the most part we are all going through the same issues and are all willing to help one another solve these issues or talk each other through them.  So, some of our success has come from help from our competition nationally and locally.  That would not be possible without being a member of the PDCA.  The communication with other painting contractors has impacted us so much that we are trying to find a way to take some of our employees to Texas with us next year so they can also learn from other contractors.”

Christian’s advice to new members:  “Get involved, ask questions, stay humble, don’t become arrogant, listen with both ears, and always give more than you will ever get in return.”

“I could not have done this without everyone who has come and gone in my life, both personally and in business. Together we are trying to build a better company for everyone we touch.  From family and friends to clients and employees, I would not trade my job for anything right now…. except…. if the Phillies had an opening for catcher. That might lure me away.”  Christian Militello



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Member Spotlight: David Carhart

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 27, 2017

David Carhart, Star Painting and Wallcovering of Skippack, Inc

Star Painting was created in 1984 in Ambler, Pennsylvania to provide residential and commercial painting as well as wallcovering installation and carpentry work.  The owner, David Carhart, shared some of the company history:  “Our first job was painting a farmhouse with a barn and outbuildings where we painted a rolling hex sign on the barn. 

"That was 33 years ago and the original star is still there. They referred to us as the ‘Star Painters’, and the name stuck. We became Star Painting.  With a steady growth of customers and employees, our company soon expanded its customer base to include all of Montgomery, Chester, and Bucks counties.  In 2002 we found the need to incorporate and in so doing, changed its name to Star Painting and Wallcovering of Skippack, Inc.  Entering our 33rd year of business, we continue to hold a major presence in the tri-county area.  We are proud to claim that we still have many of our original customers.  In fact, about 80% of our customers are referrals from other happy customers!”

David originally joined PDCA to keep up with the times, meet contractors from the same industry, and meet vendors face to face.  He soon found the most valuable benefit to him was the relationships he made with fellow contractors and vendors.  “The fellowship of seasoned contractors, shared information, and PDCA leadership has helped my company grow to be successful.”

David incorporates the PDCA Industry Standards whenever possible.  From estimating to installation of wall covering, he has found P5, P6, P7, P10, and P14 to be most beneficial.

David finds one of his top concerns to be competing on a daily basis with contractors who do not hold proper insurance or pay their workforce a livable wage with benefits.  David definitely leads by example:  “I promise my customers a quality job done by professional craftsmen. I offer my employees health and retirement benefits.  Most of my workforce has been with me for decades.” 

Can you blame them?

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