In the film, “Saturday Night Fever,” (1977), John Travolta plays Tony Mareno. A “nineteen, almost twenty year old,” he knows that he wants to be something. But he tells Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) that he just doesn’t know what.
WHAT TONY DOES KNOW:
- He wants to become an adult, and build a future for himself.
- He wants to make his own decisions about his own life.
- He wants the responsibility of a regular job.
- He wants to have fun with his friends, but within the law and not at the expense of anyone else’s life.
- He wants to be respected and trusted much more than he wants to be liked.
- He wants to be loved for the right reasons.
- And, he wants his dance partner and himself to win that competition’s first prize of $200 because they really are the best.
Through every situation, Tony works to maintain a set of values that even he does not yet know how deeply rooted they are within himself.
At the time of the movie’s release, beginning painters, under age 21, had the same types of goals and aspirations as young Tony. (And young Travolta, for that matter.) Most painters that I met in the late 1970s didn’t seem to think much about working hard to achieve respect, trust and success. They worked hard because that was what adults were supposed to do. That’s what they did to get the paint job done – on time, within budget, and satisfactorily.
In the 1980s, the climate started to change. I met and worked around more painters that shared my father’s view of the trade – and his set of standards. Painting and decorating was a profession, not just a job. With above-average hourly wages and great benefits, if you were a union painter.
More painters were approaching every aspect of the painting job seriously. And, with intent and focus.
Beyond painting trade, eg. IBPAT/IUPAT, journey-level certifications, they pursued goals and aspirations that were forward-thinking. They sought out training workshops and courses that led to specialized certifications. Some completed two-year or four-year college degrees in chemistry, construction management, construction/materials/civil engineering, business administration, etc. Many looked toward working for themselves: starting their own painting contracting companies.
They worked a lot of overtime to save for business start-up costs.
. Licenses, insurances, permits
. Paintshop space, business phone number and address
. Yellow Pages advertising; business cards, stationery, customer estimate sheets, contract forms
. Enough tools and equipment to take on jobs.
. Start-up capital, business bank account and credit card, account at nearest, major paint store (s).
Many of these painters wanted to build a solid future in the painting trade. And, they were willing to do whatever was necessary to start out, and stay, on the right path.
Some of these painters have done well as contractors. As entrepreneurs. Some of their one-man shops have grown into top contracting firms in their respective area, state and even region. Some keep thirty-to-fifty or more craftspersons busy full-time, year-round. Plus shop people, office staff, and part-timers.
They, their companies and their crews are recognized for doing top quality work. With finely-tuned business savvy, they run multiple jobs simultaneously. And they consistently bring in projects under budget.
Ironically, few of these successful painters and entrepreneurs anticipated such success. They either loved to paint and wanted to do that the rest of their painting career lives. Or, they loved the painting business and wanted to be the big boss. Their way!
My old boss, Ron, was one of those success stories. His company, eventually sold years ago to his partner, continues to thrive. Every painter there pursues his or her job with professionalism. Every painter, and employee, maintains the same commitment to high standards upon which the company was founded in the 1970s.
A non-painter, Ron ran with his entrepreneurial dream. Before taking that step, he grabbed on board one of the best commercial and industrial painters in the Midwest: my father. And, with only a one-painter crew, he opened a union painting company.
I remember hearing part of a kitchen table conversation when my dad and Ron brainstormed about starting a new painting contractor firm. It was very clear: Dad’s boss knew what type of business he wanted to run, and how he wanted to run it. He knew what commercial and industrial clients in the Midwest wanted, needed and expected. And, he knew how to give it to them.
Today, new painting company entrepreneurs can draw from the examples that people like Ron left. They can turn their goals and aspirations into realities. They can build very successful careers in a trade that appreciates creativity, commitment, and core quality.
And, they can thrive in a trade and industry – painting and decorating, and construction – that continues to be linked to strong architecture/design/engineering/building innovativeness, invention, and investment.
Congratulations to every painter-turned-contractor that has stayed true to his or her mission!
Footnote: Travolta and his wife, Kelly, still call “home” their plane-port community near Ocala, Florida. One of the rewards of a 40-plus year career in entertainment.
Stay true to yourself, and always fly true to your mission!
Copyright June 14, 2018. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.