Searching for Greatness

Jan 13, 2023 | Education, Ramblings

Early on in our company’s life, I was keenly aware of my inability to build a company. This is probably normal. Most men feel it when they marry or have their first child – at least I did. How was I to build a company that could survive all the hard times that would inevitably come? It was an inescapable question. How do you build a truly great company? Better yet, what does it mean to be a “great” company? I mean, if you listen to Trump, everyone is great, but even Dash from the Incredibles knows that if everyone is great no one is.

Jim Collins in Good to Great was indispensable to those early years of our company’s development. Collins points out many truths including “For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.” The leader who sets out to create a great commercial painting company will never achieve this end. I thought to be a great business leader I had to be charismatic, flamboyant, or at least very outgoing and likable. The truth is, that to create a great company, you only need a steadfast commitment to doing the work in front of you well. The following has been our recipe for success in our field.

One principle of our success has always been a commitment to the “Golden Rule.” Treat others as you would want them to treat you. No excuses. No finger-pointing. No indecisiveness. The right thing to do will ALWAYS be the right thing to do. It doesn’t change based on circumstance. If our paint color is slightly off, it IS off. We don’t blame the paint supplier or the general contractor for not checking it. That is OUR job. If we are having a hard time meeting the owner’s schedule, that is not the owner’s problem. It is our job to solve it even if we have to lose profit or even go in the tank to get it done. Why? Because anything less is mediocrity and who wants to be the mediocre painting contractor in town. Certainly not us. In truth, greatness is exceeding the expectation.

Another principle is to always ask ourselves how we could have done the job better. If we are the same company we were a year ago, we have failed. Growth is not an option, it is a requirement. If we have a painter or crew leader who shows no improvement over the course of a year, they are not a good fit. In every area of our lives, this is the expectation. As a father of nine children, think how silly it would be if I was the same father I was twenty years ago. Or, even worse, what if my wife and I had no growth in our marriage. It is almost unimaginable. So why would we put up with this in our business? We don’t and, by God’s mercy we never will. The expectation is that our standards will strengthen and we will have more ability to hold ourselves to our ever rising standards in the years to come. I won’t have it any other way!

So quit trying to be the most flashy, the loudest, the most eye catching game in town and just get down to business. Your next job depends on it!