One of the world’s oldest professions just got a tech-savvy makeover.
The professional world of painting has deep roots, dating back to the 13th-century. Whether it’s Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel or a modern painter touching up the local high school gym, there are a variety of projects that need a painter’s skill and craft.
Emphasis on skill and craft.
Though painting can seem like something that anyone can do — and lots of handymen and “jack of all trades” fill in those gaps — hiring a pro isn’t all that easy. Professional painters are great at what they do, but they are often not great business owners, by their own admission.
The good painters are always in demand but may not be able to accurately predict when jobs will begin and end. They also sometimes base their quotes on intangibles like project location or whether they may feel like doing it — so some charge more than others “just because.” It’s also not always easy to certify the quality of a painter, or make sure that they show up on time and complete the job as advertised.
Turns out, now there’s a Matchmaker for that.
In this week’s The Matchmaker Is In series, Karen Webster talks with Paintzen Co-Founder and COO Justin Geller about how platforms are now taking the friction out of connecting people or businesses with a need for painting with the best painter or painting company for the job.
Here’s an excerpt from their conversation:
KW: What made you decide to start the company?
JG: We know there are many friction points from price quote to fair price quotes to whether the person showing up is qualified to do the job, and, if they do, that they’ll do a good job. My Co-Founder Mike and I had a company started in 2009 called MyClean around the same concept — cleaning houses and offices. In 2013, we were looking for other verticals to enter, and we stumbled into painting because we were both moving at the time and wanted to get our homes painted. We ran into these issues and thought there has to be a way that the job gets executed well.
KW: How does your platform make it easy for the consumers/buyers to find the right painter for their job?
JG: Paintzen is very math-based — and so we collect a number of variables and put them into our system to produce a match. So, for instance, we’re never going to charge more money because we’re very busy on any given day — since we always have a qualified painter ready to do the job. And we filter our biases, like what a painter thinks they can get from a client, so that the quote is based on how long it will take to do the job.
KW: How do you streamline the process for the painter or painting crew that’s part of the platform?
JG: Our platform consists of painters that are great painters but not necessarily great business people. We eliminate the need for them to do the walk through, billing, scheduling — when we book a job, painters get fully booked jobs. They get a work order from us that details the location’s interior details where they can accept or deny the job. Ninety-four percent of the time, our painters accept the job on the first time.
KW: Do the painters have to provide you with their availability? Is there an order you go through when you push those messages out? How do you decide who gets the job?
JG: The painters are all ranked based on their quality, feedback scores after the job’s done and capabilities. If the job needs extensive repairs, the platform will parse through all of our painters and will pick the highest-rated paint crew that can do repairs.
KW: Have you ever had to take a painter or crew out of your system because jobs weren’t the best quality?
JG: It happens more early on. Over the years, we’ve figured out how to root out the bad crews. We have a very low churn rate.
KW: Is that because the platform provides a lot of value to the painter and they don’t want to screw it up?
JG: Yes, it provides a lot of value. As our name gets out there, more good crews are coming inbound. In 2013 when we started, it was more, but now everybody in the painting industry knows about us and the quality is getting better.
KW: Is there an application process that painters complete? How do you onboard a painter from day zero?
JG: Once they get onboarded, it doesn’t cost them anything. The onboarding process is in-depth, and we source them from reputable places like local paint stores or referrals from current painters. After this, we do a quick phone screen to ensure they meet all of our requirements. We do strict background checks, and they all need to have the proper proof of insurance. From that phone screen, we narrow people down. We like to do an in-person interview to better gauge their knowledge and see that they are presentable. We also give them a quick painting exam that’s either written or oral and check in with referrals. Once they look good, we put them in the platform. We like to send new crews out with existing crews to help fill any holes.
KW: How do painters get jobs today without your platform?
JG: It’s word of mouth, which is about 15 percent. The other 85 percent are waiting for the phone to ring.
KW: What was the turning point when you knew there was a business to build in 2013?
JG: We just put a very unsophisticated site up and just started getting tons of inquiries. By the end of 2013, we were putting together [the]marketing and sales side. We’ve seen great pick up on the customer side and a huge uptick on the commercial side.
KW: Do you put a cap on the number of painters allowed into the system?
JG: Painters are still getting more jobs than they would’ve gotten. We don’t put a cap on it. We want to build out loyalty with our current crews and will wait until our system says we’ve reached capacity.
KW: Do you have a sense of how much of a painter’s income you’re driving?
JG: We do surveys to get feedback — we have two types of painters: those that do one or two a week and those that do multiple jobs per week. Those that do one or two a week, we fill up 80 percent of their time.
KW: What’s the typical project and project size? How do you see that changing in the next year?
JG: It’s hard to say — we paint anything from bathrooms to large retailers. Right now, we do 50 percent commercial and 50 percent residential. Our numbers every year have stayed at that 50/50 level.
KW: How do consumers find out about you?
JG: We work with a lot of partners, whether it’s real estate, designers, general contractors. We put out a lot of content online.
KW: How do the economics around your platform work?
JG: We’re a fully curated/stacked marketplace. We collect the money from the customer and hold it in escrow until the job is completed. Once the job is completed, we take a cut off the top and release the money to the painters.
KW: Do you pay the channels — these contractors or design centers that refer business to you — do they get any commission or subsidy for doing that?
JG: For the most part, they don’t. They’re working on behalf of their customers, and they see we can bring value to their process, whether that’s through better pricing, better project management. We don’t generally pay referrals.
KW: How do you pay the painters?
JG: It’s held in our escrow account, and we release the funds by ACH (digital). Checks take too long for everyone.
KW: You obviously drew on experience from prior business, so you’re familiar with trials and tribulations from these matchmakers businesses.
JG: The pickup in business this year alone is amazing, and the fact that we can still fill at a high quality rate, it’s something we take a lot of pride in. Every year, there’s a large leap forward.
KW: Are there other examples of platforms you draw inspiration from?
JG: I love Craigslist — the simplicity of it. I was using it when I was 18, and so many companies came out of it. Before all these companies, how were people renting apartments or looking for jobs or finding tickets for concerts?