Some of my favorite pictures from my rookie year with the company - including customer pictures, crew pictures, and awards trip pictures!
I first heard about Student Painters in my Introduction to Marketing class, when a TA talked about his experience with the internship. He made it quick and enticing, making the primary focal point about how much money he’d made - all while failing to mention that the internship was for house painting. A few days later I received a call from an unknown phone number and I was given a time and location for an information session. I agreed to attend and prepared to learn more about the internship. To my surprise, the information session revealed that the internship, called Student Painters, would allow me to run my own painting business. Having never picked up a paintbrush or ran a business before, I expressed a great deal of interest and was invited to a first round interview.
At my first round interview, I was greeted by Ryan; the one who ran the information session, and Evan; my soon-to-be mentor throughout the program. They talked more specifically about the internship and what the day-to-day looked like, and then we went over my resume and they asked me some rudimentary interview questions. I left feeling unsure of how I did, however a few days later I got a congratulatory call inviting me to the second and final interview. This time, however, it was a bit more daunting; I was to prepare a skeleton business plan and meet with the vice-president of the company. They gave me the contact information for two current branch managers of the company and told me to call them to get more information for my business plan. After calling and talking to these two for advice, I created a 16 slide business plan and prepared for my final interview.
A few days later, I suited up and met with the VP, Josh, at the Panera on campus. We had a casual conversation for a bit, went over my resume, and then delved into the business plan. He made it clear upfront that, having made it to the second interview, he knew that I was capable of working as a branch manager. He was looking more for whether or not the internship was a good fit, and whether or not I would be willing to put forth the necessary effort. After roughly an hour, he said the following: “Jared, I typically have a good idea of whether or not someone is right for the position 5 minutes into meeting them. After an hour, my decision is definitive. You’re actually my last interview of the day, and I have a decision for you. Would you like to hear it?” Slightly horrified, I agreed to hear his decision. It was then that he offered me a position on the spot, and I excitedly accepted. Did I know exactly what I was getting myself into? Absolutely not - but the idea of getting an internship as a freshman was enough to motivate me to move forward.
I was offered the position shortly before winter break. I had a phone call with Evan, who would be my mentor throughout the program. Over break, he had me prepare announcement letters that would be sent out to friends and family in the area. I thought handwriting the names and addresses of 75 people was a lot of work, but I had no clue what was in store for me. One week later Evan met me at my territory and we drove around looking for good areas to market in. Two short weeks later, other rookie managers and myself carpooled up to Michigan for our initial training. Many times during the drive, I found myself thinking about how fast everything was moving and how clueless I was. I was in the car with four other guys who were all feeling similarly, and we talked a lot about our experiences thus far on the four hour drive.
Upon arrival, I got checked into the hotel and walked to the venue, where I met with Evan and the five others on Evan’s team. Each day was 12-16 hours of dense information and group breakouts, as Josh and the other mentors threw as much information at us as they could. Near the end of the weekend, I set very ambitious goals for myself and prepared to get started. Just one short week of school later and I was driving home to Marysville to start marketing for my painting business, and the weekend after that I would start doing estimates for leads and trying to sell paint jobs.
The Student Painters internship is divided into two sections - the preseason and the production season. The preseason occurs during the spring semester of school, and it is entirely marketing based. I drove home every single weekend, two hours each way, to market and build a customer base so that I had work lined up for the summer. During this time, I firmly believe that I grew the most as a person than I ever had in my entire life. I now understand that the most growth occurs when you’re outside of your comfort zone, and this was a consistent theme throughout the spring. The idea of meeting a complete stranger and trying to convince them to give me money to paint their house when I had never painted a house before was crazy, and in the beginning I was extremely unsuccessful. I completely focused on trying to sell the paint, and not trying to sell myself. I also never reflected on the estimates, and constantly found myself blaming the potential customers when they didn’t want to book with me.
Towards the end of the preseason, however, I had a realization that turned my sales success rate from 15% to 50% in just a few weeks; people don’t care about how good of a painter I am. Seriously. As long as I show people that I care about them and their home, they will just assume that I will do a good job. It’s that simple. My entire estimate process shifted from intensely trying to get people to buy into how great of a painter I am, to just having a casual conversation with them. How many contractors talk to you about life for half an hour? My main takeaway was that people buy from people that they like, and oftentimes they are even willing to pay more money to hire me entirely because they like and trust me more than the competition. This realization boosted my confidence and began a snowball effect of increased sales success, all while increasing my people skills tremendously. Not many contractors would know about Mr. Lee’s antique button collection, or learn that Mr. Hansen’s son passed away in Afghanistan. I have truly worked to build a connection with my customers, which has added an entire new layer of meaning to this internship.
During finals week, Evan gave me a call with some daunting news. I would be the first one on his team opening my business, and it would be next week. That meant that I would need ladders, a power washer, a truck, and at least four painters hired; all things that I did not have, in one week. Suffice to say I was stressed, especially given the fact that it was finals week; but another important mindset that I have acquired through Student Painters is that success is not built on excuses. I did not complain or assume a failing mentality, I simply started working towards what needed to be done; and sure enough we opened the business that following Wednesday.
The summer was full of ups and downs, and as with marketing and sales I was naturally terrible at production and management. The night before my opening day, I had a painter quit at 11pm, so we started our first project with two painters. I ended up painting with them all day... for 14 hours. While on the roof, one of my painters stepped through a rotten section and made a huge hole above the garage. Josh, our division VP, came to visit and said that he had never seen something like that happen in the last 10 years that he had worked with the company. It's a miracle that they didn't quit too; but it showed me how valuable these two guys were. After a long and trecherous day, I tirelessly hopped in my truck, turned the key, and... nothing. To make things worse, it wasn't the battery. I called AAA, and after running some diagnostics they informed me that the alternator had gone bad. I had them tow me to the next days jobsite, and as my truck was being released from the tow, it turned on. With nobody, and no key for that matter, in it. It ran perfectly for the rest of the summer. If this wasn't a sign for what I had in store, I don't know what is.
Over the course of the summer, I solidified my team into 5 excellent crew members, and I learned a ton about customer fulfillment and satisfaction and team management.
We ended up running the third largest branch in the division, winning us rookie branch of the year! I was amazed at how far we were able to go with so little knowledge or experience. In my little town of Marysville I sold over $100k in paint jobs - which is a sizable business... especially for a complete rookie!
This year, I am returning to the company and plan on running a much larger business. More importantly, I plan on optimizing my strengths and working on improving my weaknesses. I have a lot to learn, and I am fully aware that this business can be ran with much less work and stress if done correctly.
I will also be helping my mentor Evan with his new team of rookie branch managers. The idea of showing people what their true entrepreneurial capabilities are sounds extremely fulfilling to me, and I cannot wait to turn the page and start this new chapter of my life.