Our guest today is Precision Painting Plus’ COO, Joseph Galeas.
Joseph Galeas is considered a people manager with a proven background in developing and leading teams, building relationships, and engaging employees in business-related decisions. His experience in operations from the frontline to the board room has brought him repeated success in building successful teams from the ground up, and in inheriting underperforming teams and turning them into success stories.
As the COO of Precision Painting Plus, Joseph offers organizational leadership and strategic vision to drive operational excellence, improve management competence, optimize administrative processes, simplify reporting structures, and bolster the company’s internal control systems. He is tasked with revamping the company culture as they prepare for an aggressive expansion.
A professional journey that began at the age of 22 in the IT industry, Joseph took on an array of frontline operations roles, eventually progressing to managerial positions. At the age of 35, he earned his PMP certification and went back to school to gain a Bachelor’s degree. At 39, he made a drastic career change from Telecommunications to Parking Systems, taking on the demanding post of Vice President of Service, and turned around a struggling organization through effective leadership and sigma six principles.
Soon after, Joseph returned to school once again to obtain his MBA, and in the years that followed, advanced his career through the ranks to EVP of Operations and then COO.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
- Why Joseph chose to go back to school after being rejected for a job
- How to decide what data to look at and what to ignore
- Identifying the qualities of your top salesmen using ongoing data
- How Joseph approaches other organizations with confidence
- Lessons learned from running a company with a high touch customer experience
Connect with Joseph Galeas: LinkedIn
Precision Painting Plus – http://www.precisionpaintingplus.com/
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Our guest is Precision Painting Plus‘ COO, Joe Galeas. Joseph is considered a people manager with a proven background in developing and leading teams, building relationships, and engaging employees in business-related decisions. His experience in operations from the front line to the boardroom has brought him repeated success in building successful teams from the ground up, and inheriting underperforming teams and turning them into success stories.
As the COO of Precision Plus, Joseph organizes leadership and strategic vision to drive operational excellence, improve management competence, optimize administrative processes, simplify reporting structures, and bolster the company’s internal control systems. He is tasked with revamping the company culture as they prepare for an aggressive expansion.
A professional journey that began at the age of 22 in the IT industry, Joe took on an array of front-line operations roles, eventually progressing to managerial positions. At the age of 35, he earned his PMP certification and went back to school to gain a Bachelor’s degree. At 39, he made a drastic career change from telecommunications to parking systems, taking on the demanding post of Vice President of Service, and turned around a struggling organization through effective leadership and Six Sigma principles. Soon after, Joe returned to school once again to attain his MBA, and in the years that followed, advanced his career through the ranks of EBP operations and then to COO. Joseph, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me, Cameron. I’m glad to be here.
I love your bio or the timeline of you getting to COO. I know we talked briefly before hopping on. You want to talk about progressing from the front line to COO, but I’m curious about the desire to go back to school a couple of times through the career as well. That’s not a “normal” path that we often take, but I love that you did it that way. It seems more beneficial to have done the schooling the way that you did it versus the graduate high school, go to college. Why was your path set that way?
That wasn’t intentional, but it definitely worked to my advantage. I’m going to take a page from your book, Vivid Vision. I’ve always operated like that for my career. I’ve always pictured where I wanted to be in three years, what seeds that I have to plant today to be there in three years. Over time, as I attempt to take on opportunities to advance my career path, I was hitting roadblocks.
I had the real-world experience, I had the resume experience, but I didn’t have the piece of paper that would validate that I’m an expert in managing or operations. That’s part of the reason why I did go back to school. I’m glad I did that because going back to school, I got to bring a lot of real-world experiences into the classroom. Not just providing myself with a lot of a-ha moments and connect the dots, but I also got to give those to my peers as well.
Was it said to you by employers that you needed to have the piece of paper? Was it something that you felt? Was it said to you by search firms that were trying to help you find career moves? How did you identify that?
It was said, and I remember that moment very vividly. I went for a director position of operations, and I really wanted this position with Comcast. I looked at them as a powerhouse and I wanted in. I went through many layers of the interview process all the way up to the VP. I’m thinking to myself, “I’m at the fourth round. This can definitely be mine. We’re just checking out boxes.”
A couple of weeks go by and I’m not hearing anything. They say, “They’re just going through the rounds of one more candidate.” When they came back to deliver me the bad news, obviously my first question was, “What did the other person have that I didn’t have?” The answer was flat, “The only difference was he had the degree and you didn’t.”
I kid you not, Cameron, it was that day when I had a conversation with my wife and I said, “I’m never going to allow myself to be in this position again. I’m never going to lose a role because I didn’t have a piece of paper.” I don’t feel like I need that piece of paper, but if I want to get to where I want to be in three years, I need to go back to school. Within a few months, I was enrolled back at Wentworth Institute getting my Bachelor’s.
What year was that, roughly?
That was around 2012, 2013, I’d say.
Still current enough. You were hearing now that the tides are slowly changing for companies. I don’t know if that’s urban legend or if it’s really happening. We’re hearing that companies are no longer looking for the degrees, but I’m not really convinced that that’s the truth. If that was 2012, 2013, that’s recent enough that the piece of paper is still required.
I’ll tell you what, there is some truth to that. Some of that truth is within my own process when I hire. Because of that experience, I don’t hold that against an individual. I’m more interested in what their personalities are like. Are they going to match the culture? What’s their drive? What’s the progression on their resume? Are they targeting advancement? Have they been involved with large organizations or have they managed teams? The piece of paper certainly helps because it solidifies that they have that education and that experience, but I don’t hold that to them. I don’t mark that as a necessary criterion.
Was school tough for you in high school?
I wouldn’t say so. No, not at all.
Why did you not go from the high school into college back in that “normal” stream? Was it just because you had an opportunity to go work and grabbed it?
I did go actually. I did go straight to college right after high school. I went for my Associate’s in Architectural Engineering. Around, I’d say 19, 20 years old, I started young to build a family. That took some of my time away from pursuing my college degree. Took some time off, but lo and behold, I was able to make up for it.
The reason I was asking was I was curious whether school got easier for you when you went back more as a mature student and with the actual experience versus coming in as a younger, but I guess it’s not relevant because if you were doing architecture, you were already a smart student in the first place.
At that age, you’re going through the motions because you feel like you know this is what needs to be done. I’m supposed to graduate, go to college, go after the role that I want, which at the time was to be an architect. This time around, it wasn’t the, “I’m supposed to.” It’s the, “I’m going to get in there. I’m going to do this. This is what I need because I want to be somewhere else in 3 to 5 years.”
“I have to do it for sure.” I’m curious what it was like for you in the workforce days. I remember when I was building 1-800-GOT-JUNK as their COO, I think I was the first employee at the company to have kids. I remember the shift that happened for the team when they realized, “We couldn’t have 7:30 in the morning meetings anymore. We couldn’t consistently count on Cameron being there for beer at 5:00. We didn’t have the desire to go away for weekend retreats. We wanted to do the retreats during the week.” Once the rest of the leadership team caught up and were having kids, that became the norm. Was it difficult for you in the earlier days in building your career and getting to where you are now to have kids at a younger age?
Not necessarily. I have a very good support system with my wife. She definitely held down the fort as I pursued my goals of wanting to get my degree. That certainly helps. When you have that kind of support and foundation laid, it definitely eased the stress that you would be carrying, trying to juggle two paths at once.
Let’s go back and go through the front line to where you are now. Give us your journey, not so much the, “This company, this company, this company,” but what experience did you layer on to each other to get where you are?
When I was a field engineer for Sprint, that’s when I was really introduced into the world of operations. That was my introduction to working with all these various departments and witnessing just how connected they are, witnessing how the business is reliant on all these various departments to get things done. It was at that time when I worked as a field engineer that I got to work with so many facets of the business. That’s when I took joining because I had so much variety. It wasn’t every day where I was just working with the construction team on a new site. I wasn’t just working with the Commissioning Department on bringing sites on air or working with the RF Department to address some call drops and degradations.
Every day was a unique experience. Every day had something new to deliver. It was at that point where I realized operations is what I wanted because of the variety that I introduced. During that experience of being a frontline employee, I also experienced a lot of the downsides of poor leadership, not having a mentor, or asking for instruction and being told to go get it elsewhere. Telling my superior that this is what I need on the field to be more successful and just being given the answers, “This is just not on the budget. This is how it is,” and no discussion for an alternative solution.
I also experienced the other side of that, having a great mentor that showed me the way of how you want to support your peers and how you want to support your subordinates. It’s because of those experiences that I told myself, “I didn’t want to become a leader, I didn’t want the title of manager because I wanted to be able to give orders or because I wanted to have the title of boss. It’s because I genuinely wanted to make a difference.” I understood what it’s like to be a frontline employee and feel like you’re on an island sometimes, and it can get lonely. I wanted to change that. I wanted to bring my own sauce to the table and say, “This is how a team should be.”
Where were you working with Sprint? What region were you in?
What years were you there?
I would say from 2005 to about 2010.
Did you ever bump into a guy named Jaime Jones?
I started coaching Jaime and he was second-in-command to the CEO. He was President of the North American operations, reporting to Marcelo Claure. Marcelo came in to turn around Sprint to prepare to sell to T-Mobile. I coached Jaime for about eighteen months, and I coached Marcelo a little bit at the C-level, as well as the CEO level. Really intriguing company to see them have to switch from being corporate to entrepreneurial. You’re right, there was a massive gap of leadership and empathy to employees. It would have been really intriguing to have seen what you saw from the frontline because I saw it from a very different perspective, and it was broken.
It was a massive corporation. I’m talking about I was operating in the New England market, never mind across the country. I didn’t see the leadership level that the CEO, COO, VP levels, I was at the frontline, I saw up to maybe Director, maybe VP of a Northeast region. That’s where I witnessed the gaps in leadership and what I always told myself, “When I get to that point, I’m going to make sure that things are completely different from myself.”
What do you think you saw that you wanted to do differently? What did you pull from there that you wanted to emulate? What did they do well that you continue to do today?
It was during those years working for Sprint that I was introduced to data analytics. Something about numbers just grabbed my attention. It was a language that I understood. I would much rather read a bunch of math problems than a couple of words on a page. I started using data analytics to really identify a lot of flaws in the system, a lot of issues, put it together, predictive analytics of, “Here’s what’s going to happen if we continue down this trend.” That was my self-introduction into management.
I would bring these reports and bring this information to management and tell them that, “This is what’s going to happen to these cell sites if we don’t make certain changes. Here’s the change that needs to happen if you want to see a certain result.” I truly believe that it was because of my desire and my utilization for data analytics that that’s what drew the attention of management to say, “Let’s see where he can take this,” and gave me the opportunity to become a manager of my own region.
That’s interesting because that was something I definitely saw with Sprint that they were doing quite well. They definitely had the data and understood the data and understood how to apply it and how to reason with it. How do you work with companies now where you have so much data in helping the companies decide what data to really look at and what to ignore? It’s almost like if you plug in your car into the computer system at the dealership, there’s a million data points but they only really need to look at ten.
The way that I narrow that down is asking the question, “Are we reacting to something or are we looking for something?” That’s how I always narrow it down. Then I’m able to identify, “Here’s the data source. Here’s the information that I need.” That information might come from a single data source or five data sources. I’m really good at bringing the data together, cleaning the data, merging the data, and analyzing it, and then actually packaging it up into some visual analytics for management and executive team. That’s what it really comes down to is asking the question, “What’s the answer that we’re looking for here?”
How much time do you spend on the people side of the business when you’re running the C-level or even as an executive versus in looking at the data and the reports and the numbers and the analysis? Is there a split?
I would say it’s almost a 50/50 split, and it shouldn’t be, but that’s by choice. It’s a passion that I have, both the people and the data. I don’t think I would want to give up either or trade either. It’s actually almost a near split 50/50.
I’m not sure that it should be different. When you have a unique ability to understand the data, and you’re spending that much time on the data, you might actually bring a different perspective into the people side of the business that executives who are so people-focused but don’t look at the data enough are completely missing. I wouldn’t ignore your unique ability and say that it should be different. I’d almost disagree and say I think you actually have it probably nailed because you enjoy it, because you understand it, because you can extract it. You probably bring that into the people side in a more focused way.
I’ve often been on the far other side of the pendulum where the data to me gets a little bit overwhelming. I use my massive ADD. I have 17 of the 18 signs of Attention Deficit Disorder. Because I have this ADD, I see everything. For me, I have a very clear perception and a lot of intuition from my years in business. I carry the intuition and perception in to the people side of the business. I don’t think what you’re doing is bad at all. I’m more, “I wish I could do what Joe does.”
Whenever I do come across data, the whole purpose is to bring an answer to the question. That’s the purpose here. What I get out of it is the 15 things that I learned through the process, the untold stories that have been lying in data this whole time. Let’s just use a sales team for an example. You look at a sales team and you say, “You’ve got 10 salesmen, and this guy is knocking it off the park. He’s number one in sales, consistently month-after-month.”
Then there are 14 pieces of other data that might question whether he’s the top salesman, “What’s his close rate like? What’s the value in his losses? What’s his cancellation rate? What’s his growth rate? Is he progressing month-after-month, year-after-year? If none of those other answers are tilting on the positive side of the scale, then is he really your top salesman? What about the salesman that is only generating half of what he’s generating? However, his close rates are progressing. His losses are decreasing. His cancellations are non-existent.” That then tells me that’s your true top salesman and that’s the one you want to invest in. That’s where I get so much joy and data, the information that I wasn’t even necessarily looking for, but then stumbled upon and then you just keep peeling back the onion.
I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about Precision Painting Plus. I want to find out a little bit of what that industry is. I’ve been involved in the painting industry but I don’t know where your business fits in terms of the industry itself. I’ve also coached a couple people that are in the painting industry. I’m very curious as to where does your business fit? What do you focus on?
We’re considered a nationwide home improvement company. Eighty percent of our business is interior and exterior painting. We’re in six states across the country, all the way from New England to California. We call ourselves a home improvement company because we do cabinetry, decking, staining, wallpapering, slight renovations, but a bulk of our business is internet serving.
Would CertaPro Painters be a competitor to you?
I was actually offered the President of CertaPro a long time ago, 1989, when CertaPro was only operating in about six different locations. I told them to pound salt because I wanted to stick with College Pro Painters. College Pro and CertaPro were the same company. Certa was a spinoff out of College Pro.
I didn’t know that.
College Pro actually just closed down after 50 years in the business. The reason they closed was they could no longer find university students to run franchises. They needed 800 franchises a year, and they could never find that many university students anymore because they all wanted to run online businesses and crypto businesses. We lost the base. If you ever need any good summer help, there are 8,000 students available that want to paint houses for you now.
That’s absolutely wonderful to know, and I’m definitely taking note of that.
It’s a good business. I love the painting industry. How did you drop into painting and into a business that you didn’t come from that industry at all?
That’s the beauty of being in operation, Cameron. You can take that operational expertise and leadership and you’re a chameleon. You’re basically a chameleon. You can hop from one industry to the other. For me, it was just time for a change. I was with my previous company, Scheidt & Bachmann, who was a global leader in parking services. For me, it was just time for a change. I had done about just everything I could have done for that company. I turned things around, improved revenue, improved cost, reduced employee turnover, just about everything that you expect an operation executive to do.
I’ve said it before that what motivates me and what fuels me is having something to put together, having something to fix, having something to clean up. I was looking for that next assignment, so to speak. Precision Painting Plus presented that opportunity. By the time I interviewed with Precision Painting Plus, I had already known all the types of issues that would come with being an operations executive leader, and so they checked all the boxes. Everything I was looking for that needed help, “What kind of process do you have in place? Let us know. What’s your culture? What’s your system like?” They basically had the opportunity that I was looking for to take my career and my skills to the next level.
It’s funny that you mentioned the chameleon. In my next book, which is called The Second in Command, I actually talked about the COO needing to be a bit of a chameleon. We really do have to adapt to the situation, to the industry, and then also to all the different business areas that we have to often oversee that we don’t often have the depth of experience to run directly. Often, the COO couldn’t run marketing or IT or finance, but we have those business areas reporting to us. How do you gain the confidence? What do you work on in terms of your skillset to allow you to have that breadth of oversight and that breadth of connection with the different business areas?
My approach when I get into an organization, Cameron, is very specific. I want to document their end-to-end process, from how they business run, how they generate revenue from a lead all the way down to closing a project. In doing so, I’m serving so many purposes. I’m learning about the business end-to-end. I’m having to interview every department, “What’s your role in this? When do you hand things off? What department do you hand it off to?” Then I’m off to the next department, and I’m asking them the same questions. I’m identifying if there are redundancies and bottlenecks in the process. My approach really is to go in in there, do my homework, and document the process from end-to-end. Then I have that map in front of me. That’s all the knowledge I need to know where all the bits and pieces lie within the organization.
I was just speaking with one of our COO Alliance members. She was saying that she does a lot of the same idea, the business process mapping. What her focus is the automation and the leveraging the tech stack to automate a bunch of the processes. Are you doing that as well? How are you keeping up on or staying ahead of the curve or understanding what tech to bring in? Are you bringing in consultants to help you with that stuff?
We don’t have any consultants to help us with that stuff, but definitely always looking to automate something. In my studies of Six Sigma, one of the things I learned was automation doesn’t necessarily improve the process. It doesn’t necessarily improve the process. That’s one thing you have to be careful for. It would be nice for everything to be automated, but there are some things that you need to keep out of that circle. That’s why you put together that business process because that’s where you’re going to identify, like I said, your bottlenecks and redundancies, “Is this where we want to experiment with automation? If we do, how do we implement that automation?”
I’ve only had a very small glimpse of Six Sigma. I was down at Crotonville years ago with GE ,and they did some training of some CEOs and we got to spend a couple of days there. Very small introduction, I wouldn’t even get green belt certified. Can you simplify Six Sigma for us in a few minutes, and tell us what are the nuggets from Six Sigma that you can bring into a business or to a leader that’s thinking about their business today can think about? It’s a real unfair question.
It’s really taking my approach that I described, documenting from end-to-end what the process is, but not just documenting the steps. It’s, historically, how long does it take from step 1 to step 2 and step 2 to 4 or 5, 6, 7, 8? How many people? Now you’re talking about how many people does it take for each one of these steps? What’s it costing? Then you start collecting all this data and your goal is how do we reduce that waste? If there’s waste, how do we reduce waste? How do we reduce the cost and how do we increase efficiency? That’s really, at the end of the day, what Six Sigma comes down to.
Once you have that process mapped out and you have all that data, there’s what you can call your baseline. It takes roughly three and a half months for this to happen from A to Z. Is that acceptable? If it’s not acceptable and the acceptable rate is two months, now we have to shave 45 days off this. How do we get there?
This will be dating myself, years ago, I used to sell DVDs of my speaking events. After I did a speaking event, I would sell DVDs of them so people could show the rest of their employees later on. I had $500,000 worth of these DVDs at one point. I realized I was getting orders, and then packing the orders and then going to the post office a few days later and mailing them out, and then people would get their DVDs and that process would take two weeks from the time they got the order.
I’m like, “I need to ship them faster. I need to run up to the post office. I need to reduce time.” Then I realized that’s a terrible process. What I need to do is have my videos available online and you can click a button and you can buy them. You get them instantly and I don’t have to go to the office. To your point, I didn’t need to automate me running up to the post office and packing them. I just needed to think about the process differently. Automating a bad process or automating a process we don’t even need. Do you ever find that companies are working on stuff that just doesn’t need to be done anymore?
Yeah. I’ve identified that a few times during my mapping of the entire business. I identify things, not just, “Why are we doing it this way anymore?” but, “Why aren’t we just handing this off to another department? If they’re already handling 30% of this activity, why are we holding onto these two activities?” That’s what I get out of documenting these processes is that you’re actually uncovering a lot of the business that they probably weren’t aware of what’s going on.
Another thing, being a people manager myself, because I’m going through this process, unintentionally you’re creating an environment, a culture of collaboration and engagement. Now, you’re interviewing these employees, asking them, “How does your role work here? What would you do differently? What’s challenging for you in this segment of the process? What do you see as the most efficient?” Right there off the bat, you’re getting the employees involved, you’re getting them engaged. They’re part of the process now. They’re part of the decision-making. Essentially, they’re part of something bigger now where they are taking part in mapping out this process and how we improve it.
You’re talking about the whole workout process. GE calls it the workout process where they come up with all the solutions and pick them. It’s such an elegant, beautiful process to bring into organizations. I also think that companies have opportunities to find there are probably certain products and services that they have that are so massively unprofitable because of the way that they need to deploy that product or service, that it sometimes just makes sense to kill it, versus even have it in the first place.
You’re absolutely right, and it’s not just for products and services, Cameron, but in some cases, you’ve got to think about, “Is this the right customer for our portfolio?” At the end of the day, you’re a business. You’re here to make money, you’re here to make a profit. You have to analyze the numbers and the data to find out, “This customer might be contributing to the top line, but how are they affecting the bottom line? Is it really a profitable contract to have with this customer?” It’s not just products and services, it’s all the customers, but you need data and you need to understand the process to be able to make those decisions.
Are you guys doing that with your customer base now, identifying which psych demographic profile to go after?
100%. Our marketing team has a very specific set of criteria based on the suburban area, based on the average value of the homes, not just that, but that very specific geographic area. Majority of the dwellings are homes and not apartments where people aren’t going to invest in an apartment as much as somebody who owns a home.
I was just about to ask you that. Are you doing much about the commercial and industrial coatings and the apartment blocks and office towers? Or are you really focusing on the residential market as your core?
The residential market is our core. Out of the entire portfolio, I’d say, 70% to 75% of our business is all residential.
It’s a tough bit. Brian at 1-800-GOT-JUNK acquired a company years ago called Wow One Day Painting. He was going to expand it. I begged him not to. This was after my time. I’d already left the company, but I’m like, “Don’t do it. You’re crazy. It’s a tough industry. It is not hauling junk.” It’s a complicated, very high-touch business where you’re dealing with someone’s biggest asset. You’re coming inside their home or on their property. You’re dealing with kids around and dogs that are getting let out and spilling paint on their shingles or on their carpeting and blaming it on the cat.
Sounds like a very personal experience.
Yes, very personal experience. I don’t remember the client’s name, but it was bright white. It was a latex but we spilled an entire gallon of paint, which they shouldn’t have been doing, going down her stairs, painting baseboards or something. The painter that worked for me blamed it on her cat and tossed the cat into the paint. I’m like, “That is not okay.” I was 21 years old. I’m like, “That is just not okay.” It’s brilliant and incredible, but it’s not okay.
What are the lessons you have for us from dealing with such a high-touch, high customer experience business? We talk about how important it is to have that connection with the customer, but you’re really in with the customer. Can you give us some systems and some thoughts around the companies that we can extract from that?
We have four touchpoints with the way that we operate. The first touchpoint is our call center that collects all the information from a customer. That’s basically the lead. Second touchpoint is it goes to a project estimator, who is the first point of contact to face the customer. Our sales management team focuses immensely on that very first interaction. It’s Sales 101 where you hear all these kinds of saying where it basically said, “All the sales made in the first five minutes of a conversation or perception or impression of somebody is in the first five minutes of a conversation.”
They’ve crafted a very specific pitch to how they introduce themselves and the company when they meet that customer. You’re a consumer of products and services, Cameron. I’m a consumer of products and services. Somebody showed up to your door, you already started judging them and judging the car that they pulled up in. You’re judging how they walk into your door. Are they shuffling with their hands in their pockets, looking for a pen? Are they walking the beeline?
What their first words are out of the mouth, “Are you Joe? You call for an estimate?” That’s just not a very good beginning to a conversation. At the very end, how did you bring that conversation? Did you give them a very formal and detailed estimate? Or did you just take a business card and put a number behind the card like, “That’ll be $5,000. You go call me when you’re ready.”
That first meeting is the most important out of every step in our process, and we invest a lot in making sure that not just the staff understands how important that is but even in the interview process, Cameron. We’re interviewing these individuals. We’re already picturing them in front of a customer. How they’re articulating themselves, how they’re responding to objections even on my end. Again, it’s that one 30-, 60-minute visit that could make you a $1 million company or a $50 million company.
We were really trained on back at College Pro Painters. I don’t remember what I was doing, but I borrowed my dad’s car to go out and do a quick estimate. I had my chinos and my College Pro-golf shirt on. I hopped into his Cadillac, and I pulled up in front of the home in the Cadillac and the homeowner was freaked out. I had to go, “I’m sorry. It’s my dad’s car.” Never again did I ever do that. I was showing up with my yellow College Pro van that was parked out front. I had to look like I was the part. You can’t show up in your dad’s car.
Did you have the music player in as well?
No. It really isn’t difficult. It’s good that you’re focusing on it right at the interview as well and thinking about, “What’s this person going to be like?” Go back to some of the people stuff for me. How do you know if the people that you’re hiring are going to match the culture you’re looking for? What do you look for in the interview to know if they’re the right culture fit?
I’m looking for, A) Why they’re looking to make a change now? Is it something to do with their current role or is it something to do with the environment that they were in? What’s driving them? What motivates them? Where do they aspire to be in the next 3 to 5 years? Are they okay with just the 9:00 to 5:00 or are they looking for growth?
Because these are positions that we’re hiring for, they have to be in front of the customer. It’s really on how well they articulate themselves. When I interview somebody, I’m throwing objections out. I’m like, “Why should I hire you? Tell me in two minutes why you would be better than the next two candidates I have to interview in the next hour.” To see how they can react under that kind of pressure because customers will say the same thing. They will ask you that same question, “I’ve got two more contractors coming in the next hour, but why should I pick you?”
It’s not science, so to speak. There’s also, because I’m a manager of the people, you start to learn body language, you start to learn the twist and ticks of what they’re doing and having conversations with you and you pick up on that. You pick up on what these nervous ticks are. You pick up on, “Is this person distracted? Why am I not getting eye contact?” If I’m a customer, I’m not going to appreciate that. It’s all these little things. They could also be answering all the right questions. They could have all that experience, that background. This has been the case several times, where on paper, this is the guy, but after a fifteen-minute conversation, it’s, “No, we’ll go to the next.”
I could go into so many stories to talk to you about with my seven years of running a house painting company, but I won’t because this is more me learning from you. I want to know on the frontline staff, the guys and women that are out there painting houses. There’s all of this stuff now that employees want. You have to hire people that this is their core purpose and that it’s going to be their mission to do this. They have to find value.
At the end of the day, it’s also just painting a house. It’s hard to find somebody who wakes up in the morning and go, “I want to do this.” Or maybe we do, maybe we find them. How do you help the people that are doing the frontline blue-collar work, manufacturing, painting houses, working in a production factory or a shop floor or a warehouse? How do we help them feel good about the day-to-day and feel a part of the organization? Or are we pushing rope and is it more just okay that we make sure they enjoy their job and they go home and enjoy their family?
There are two answers to that question. For the paint in itself, we hire contractors. We’re subcontracting them, but what we are willing to do to make them feel a part of the company and the growth is we’ll wrap their vehicle with our brand, and we’ll pay them for that. Now, they’re a part of the organization and that consistent flow of business. We have the data and the trends to show that it’s consistent. We already know in advance where the business is coming from and where it’s going to go and which markets. We can already identify with that crew, “This is how much business we’re going to be able bring to you in the next month or two.”
For our internal frontline employees, we have a franchise model in place. We’re bringing you on board as an estimator, as a project manager, but with the ultimate goal that in 12 to 18 months, we want to make you an owner of your own business, your territory. We want to coach you and mold you where the territory that you’ve been operating in for the last 12, 18 months is now yours to own. You’ll have access to our brand, our resources, our leads, but it’s going to be your business to run. We did that for you. We’re here to do that to create that partnership.
That’s interesting. I like that part of the model as well. That starts to give them some value and some focus as well then. Talk about your growth again. What have you had to focus on for yourself as an executive? Where have you focused on growing your skills?
I’ll be honest with you. The one thing I focused on was the people side of it. That wasn’t always the path that I walked. I used to have a hard time understanding that we’re not all the same mold. I had a really hard time understanding that. I would lose patience because it would take you an hour to do something when I could just use my own two hands and do it in fifteen minutes. You get a nickname for that. You become a show boater or you become somebody who just wants to operate on its own. You don’t want to operate in a team.
I learned early on that I could easily just coach these individuals to operate the same way I do, or I could just surpass them and then not have that team. I was fortunate to have a mentor that pulled me aside. He’s the one that said, “Listen, Joe, you’re a rock star. Do you want to be a rock star on your own? Or do you want to create rock stars? Do you want to create rock stars like yourself? Why are you looking for the next Joe?” It was never put out like that for me.
From that point on, he was always like, “Just always look for the next Joe. It’s not going to be out there in the open. You’re going to have to chip away at a few rough edges, but trust me, it’s out there. When you find that other Joe, then you start to build other Joes around that Joe.” That’s when I adopted that people mentality, that team building mentality from that point forward.
That was the core thing that I learned at College Pro Painters as well was that the leader’s job is to grow people. My job was to grow their skills and grow their confidence. I created an entire course called Invest in Your Leaders just to focus on growing people. You talked earlier, it was in your bio about taking underperforming teams and making them higher performing, and the teams are effectively like a group of individuals. What do you do to take that underperforming team and to help them scale in the absence of firing them all, or is that part of the equation?
Sometimes that is part of the process, Cameron. One or two individuals can really take down an entire team. It’s the truth. That’s the first step. You identify that bad apple and you get rid of it. Secondly, as you start identifying, you start figuring out what weren’t they receiving from prior leadership? What were they missing? A lot of the things I would hear is just simple transparency, “We don’t know what management is doing. We don’t know what management is up to. We’re told we have to do this, but we don’t know why. We don’t know what purpose this serves.”
My philosophy and what I’ve adopted is full transparency and full access. There’s no such thing as confidential data unless it’s in a confidential file. I have no issue sharing with our employees, “This is what our profits are in this quarter. This is where we lost money. This is where we’re struggling. This is where we’re strong.” It’s going to help them understand why you’re making certain decisions, why you might be reducing work in a certain area versus another area. It’s not that you’re taking the work away from them because you don’t think they’re doing a good job, it’s because the data is pointing you in a different direction.
A lot of the times, they’re just missing that access and that transparency of what management’s true intention is. It’s very easy to make a promise and break it. It’s very easy to do that. It happens in a lot of organizations where management comes in and said, “Here’s what I’m going to do.” Then all of a sudden, it can’t happen for whatever reason. I’ve just never been a fan of that. I’ll make the promises that I know Joe can. If Joe needs to get permission from somebody else above him, Joe’s not making that promise.
Good for you. That’s highly insightful too. I don’t think I’ve ever even heard anyone explain it that way before as well. You break your own trust. We destroy our own trust. We tear away at our own fabric, at our own core values. Let’s go back to the 21, 22-year-old Joe. You probably got kids at this point, you’re starting out with a family. What advice would you give yourself back as a 21, 22-year-old that you know to be true today but you wish you knew back then?
Follow the lead. I had a hard time taking orders in my younger days. It’s funny because I’m in a position now where I give out orders. I had a hard time taking orders, taking criticism, “You’re not doing it right. What do you know? This is how I’ve been doing it.” I was really stubborn in my twenties because I knew it all. We all knew it. Back to myself, “Listen, you’re only 21 years old. There’s no way in hell you know everything. There’s no way that you’re the best at what you’re doing right now. You want to be the best and you might think that you’re the best, but what’s better than that is everybody else knowing that you’re the best.”
I love that. I think back to when I was 21 of what I thought I knew versus now what I do know. I’d imagine what that will be again. Add another twenty years onto this. Joe Galeas, the COO for Precision Painting Plus, thanks so much for sharing with us on the Second in Command Podcast. I really appreciate your time.
Thanks for having me, Cameron. I loved it.
I appreciate it.