Bigger Than a Business
CE Painting, Inc. grows through planning, purpose and perseverance
Eric Crews may be the President and head of CE Painting, Inc., but according to him, his partner and Vice President of Operations Chris Sullivan is the face of the company. Together they head a team of professionals who, Eric says, are focused—obsessively even—on three unique value propositions: projects being on time, on budget and done right.
Additionally, everyone who works with the company has to be the kind of person who has what they call GWC™: Get it (does an employee actually get what it means to do their job properly); Want it (do they genuinely want to do their jobs); and C standing for capacity (does the employee have the mental, physical, spiritual, time, knowledge and emotional capacity to do his or her job).
Eric is proud of the team he and Chris have built over the past six years since expanding from a 20-plus-year career with Collegiate Entrepreneurs Painting Services, a painting company that focuses on residential and small commercial jobs. Collegiate Entrepreneurs mostly hires college students who show an aptitude for business as well as a willingness to work hard and keep on task.
It is important to Eric that the students are able to gain real-life business skills while they work with Collegiate Entrepreneurs, which they do by becoming branch managers of a residential painting branch, all while earning money to pay for their college expenses. The experience running these companies also led him to become a volunteer mentor for members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), founded in 1987 by a group of young entrepreneurs to enable business owners to learn from each other, leading to greater business success and enriched personal lives.
A Smart Business Model
Started in 2013 and based in Braintree, Massachusetts, CE Painting serves clients in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, and focuses purely on commercial painting projects. The company’s first job was at the Telamon Insurance Network building, located in Westwood, Massachusetts. The company has been able to reach a tri-state clientele in its young life by applying focused business practices. For example, Eric and Chris have developed a True BID business model. They wanted to implement processes that streamlined business practices while promoting growth.
Chris specializes in estimating and crew accountability. He is the one who meets with prospective clients, discusses their needs, makes suggestions to streamline costs and defines a timeline for project completion. Chris works closely with Joanne Lunn, the firm’s Business Development Manager. Chris, Joanne and the firm’s sales team build relationships during networking sessions with The Blue Book Network®. Chris says that he attends as many as he can because, while not all lead to new work, he either learns something new or meets a potential customer or subcontractor every time he attends.
To explain the True BID process used by CE Painting, it’s helpful to follow it from the beginning. Once a new client is identified, Chris sets up a meeting to discuss the scope of the work, documenting any special needs. While all projects include site preparation and clean up, some places, such as medical or scientific research facilities, will require a higher level of cleanliness, sometimes including sectioning off critical areas.
Also important to consider is whether the area is occupied during normal business hours, as a premium may need to be paid to work off-shift hours. If a job has to be completed in a limited time span, overtime may need to be considered as well. These details may seem minor, but in keeping with the values of the company of no surprises and on-budget delivery, anticipating these needs results in a “true bid.” Eric says, “We may not be the lowest bidder on the job, and we may lose some bids, but we know that when we win the bid, the customer will be satisfied with a job done well, on time and on budget.
Chris’ estimating expertise is enhanced by his past experience as a painter. As he prices a job, he carefully considers materials and methods that may improve quality, longevity and reduce costs. While not distorting the vision of the designer/engineer, his knowledge of innovative advances in the field helps produce a final product that serves all parties involved.
Memorable Work Practices
Once the bid is accepted, the customer meets with the project manager (PM). In most cases, these PMs have been with CE Painting for almost as long as Chris and Eric. They know their crews’ capabilities and availability. They establish a schedule, answer questions and offer solutions to problems as they arise. They set up a pre-job walk-through just before starting work. They may confirm site details with the general contractor or site supervisor and establish relationships with their production/working team.
Depending on the size and the duration of the job, there will be daily or weekly meetings to go over schedule and quality control. They are on-site to handle any unforeseen circumstances or changes as they occur. The crews and PMs are focused on the job quality. Because of the division of labor within the company, they are not looking for their next job.
Painters are frequently the last trade on a new construction site, so job wrap-up is very important. One company motto is “Customers tend to remember you for how you finished, not how you started.” The PMs make sure there is a quick turnaround for occupancy, as well as an adequate amount of extra paint left with the customer for the inevitable touch-ups. When the job ends, the relationship typically lives on. “Our friendships with customers develop over time through mutual respect,” Eric says.
Matt Sluter, President and CEO of New England Construction Co., Inc., has been working with Eric and his team for almost three years. They have collaborated on projects at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island; DICK’S Sporting Goods in Waterford, Connecticut; Middlebridge School in Narragansett, Rhode Island; and Wayland Town Center in Wayland, Massachusetts. He finds Eric’s management style to be client focused and fair. ”He listens to his employees and sets clear expectations about the client experience,” Matt explains. “He takes pride in the quality and professionalism of his staff.” Matt calls Eric “a true gentleman; a very fair and approachable person and one who holds people accountable.”
Where Business And Charity Merge
With a full-time team of over two dozen painters and laborers, plus the office staff to manage and develop business, Chris and Eric have selectively hired individuals who understand the company philosophy both toward business and charity.
“No matter who you are, if you come to us for a donation for charity, we will contribute. The amount is dependent upon the cause and the depth of our relationship,” Eric says.
Some work crews volunteer together on Habitat for Humanity houses, while Eric is very involved with mentoring/coaching within the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and working with Special Olympics and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He runs the Boston Marathon every other year with all donations going to his favorite charities.
Jeff Nothnagle, a retired chairman of Special Olympics of Massachusetts, met Eric and his family in Massachusetts at the Cohasset Yacht Club when Jeff’s son Jay was sailing there with the Special Olympics. According to Jeff, “Special Olympics helps promote self-esteem and life skills. People like Eric have contributed time and money to support this cause, which does not charge the athletes anything to compete or train. He is a total class act, a great friend and a committed Special Olympics supporter.”
“Enjoy the ride” is more than just a saying for Eric; it is a way to live life to the fullest. Joanne Lunn says of her boss, “He is true to himself and lives his life in a way to give back to the community and his employees.”
Every quarter the company hosts employee appreciation days that include salary bonuses. It hosts charity bowling nights and donates to the employees’ childrens’ fundraising. The firm also gives random bonuses to employees who live their values of punctuality, quality and adherence to budget. The key to CE Painting’s success lies not only in sound business practices, but also in its contributions to the communities it serves.