Cut Into It
I met with a good friend and spiritual mentor of mine recently for breakfast. I'll keep his name anonymous, but not his message. In fact, we'll call him Todd. Todd loves breakfast and knows everyone in the restaurant. He regularly takes his friends out to breakfast and won't even let us pay. As you know from this podcast, I like hanging out with friends like that. I love being around generous people as it rubs off on me. Todd is a retired/semi-retired painter. He was excellent at his craft for over 35 years. He ran crews, teaching and mentoring many younger apprentices over the years. I was staring at the wall next to our table and noticed some trim work. "Would you tape this off?" In my mind, I assumed all painters had to use tape so you wouldn't get paint from one area onto another. Oh boy! I had no idea that this was the wrong question to ask a professional painter! Todd responded. "Painters don't use tape!" He did explain later that there are certain applications where special painters tape can be useful. For the most part, it's time consuming to use tape, adds expense, and lowers the quality of the job. Of course I had to dig into his response.
Todd went through a thorough and detailed technical explanation of how he paints and how he teaches his guys to paint. Here's a few things I learned. He wears special painters pants and always keeps his putty knife, some clean cotton rags, and a screwdriver in his pants. If he's painting molding in a room and happens to get some paint on the wall, he can use his putty knife and a cloth and fix it. I asked him about the tape. He said. "When I get someone working with me, they don't use the tape. They learn with the tools. I teach him my method and I don't care if they mess up and need to use the putty knife nine times. Over time, they'll need the putty knife less and less until it's barely used." Todd was training his guys in his best painting system, yielding best quality and best efficiency regardless of how bad or slow they are in the beginning. This explanation brought me to attention at the table as I recognized so many parallels between painting and cleaning. Todd went on. "Truth be told. The newer guys are not going to be bad. They're going to have excellence, but they'll be slow because they may have to get used to making the mistakes and using the tools 10 times on the first day." I connected that to training cleaners and how they always start out slow and get faster, but you never teach them shortcuts to get fast in the beginning. Why do I train this way? It's a simple concept. Train for excellence first, then speed. This guarantees a level of quality, which can be optimized. You don't lose clients this way. If you train for speed first, mistakes will happen. Things will break. Areas and details will get missed. This will cause you lose clients and tarnish your reputation. Todd finished with this. "Tape is a crutch for painters." They don't have to get excellent as it encourages sloppy work.
I was following Todd's mindset, but I still didn't understand how the quality could be as good without tape. That's when the schooling really began. Todd walked me through his system more. "Painters use empty paint cans to paint walls or trim. Carrying full buckets of paint around gets heavy. Adding about an inch of paint in the bottom of a can is lighter and more efficient. Plus it allows my guys to get the paintbrush into the can for the right amount on the brush. This technique keeps the body healthier longer and allows for better quality." Then Todd answered the tape question when I asked how he would paint this wall with the painted wood trim without tape. "Ken, there are various types and quality levels of brushes. My brushes aren't the Walmart ones. They cost $15 per brush at least and they last a long time." My response was typical to him. "Todd, I go to Walmart for the $1.50 brush." He responded. "Exactly. My brushes 'cut in'. " This is a painter's term for what cleaners called edging. When I vacuum a room I edge the room and corners, then I vacuum around the outside followed by the center area as I walk my way out of a room. My process and technique is the exact same as a painter. Todd will edge the wall, the corners the ceiling, and along that molding without using tape. When I explained this parallel and used my term of "edging", Todd fought back. "No Ken. Not edging. That's called cutting in." He explained how his brushes are top quality and he has a special angled brush for cutting in. He knows exactly how much paint to put on it and he'll cut in for a perfectly straight line and NO TAPE NEEDED. Todd continued. "I'll even overlap some paint on purpose in some cases on the molding itself because it prevents any lines or cracking. It makes for a better finished job." These are little tricks of the trade that he picked up over 35 years just like we do in cleaning. So then he explained to me that professional painters know which brushes to use for which applications, they know how to hold their brushes, how much paint to put on them, and when to use rollers. Todd was looking for excellence first and then speed. No matter how you arrange it, taping on and removing tape is a laborious and time-consuming process. It costs time and money. Doing the job with skill, proper tools, and patience is how the professional can ensure a top-quality, long-lasting paint job at the minimal expense of time and money to the painter. Todd is an optimized painter and I was so incredibly impressed.
I shared the $400 plumber story with Todd and he loved it. Todd wasn't the cheapest painter. He was the best and the best charges a premium. He got a reputation for excellence and clients were willing to pay the $400 plumber fee to Todd as they do to me. Todd and I are $400 plumbers, but in painting and cleaning. As much as I know the details of cleaning, I would never just go to Walmart and get a bunch of supplies and start wiping down stuff and calling myself a professional. Nor should I go to Walmart and get the cheap painting supplies and think I'm a painter. How many people are doing that and thinking that they are superior and deserve higher rates. Maybe they can touch on level one cleaning, but they're not going to be a level 5 cleaner like I am. That's why you pay top dollar for my C3 Experience.
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