A Life’s Work
Old-school approach stands the test of time with R.W. Stein Painting, Inc.
As Robert (Bob) W. Stein reflects on the past 61 years of his career, one word sums it up: satisfaction.
Bob has had an entrepreneurial spirit as long as he can remember. As a child, his father rented out a warehouse in Brownsville, Texas, to people who imported mesquite charcoal over the border from Mexico. That’s when 12-year-old Bob saw his first business opportunity.
“I noticed a lot of charcoal would fall on the ground from the railroad cars as they were unloading it, so I picked up that charcoal and sold it to local stores in the area,” he says.
A few years later, his family moved to California, and Bob found himself in a predicament. For the first time in his young life, he couldn’t find a job.
“You needed to be 18 to be a box boy in those days, so I looked around and saw some guys painting and thought, ‘That looks easy,’ ” he chuckles.
Thus, his painting business, Have Brush – Will Travel, was born, inspired by the popular Western TV show at the time, “Have Gun – Will Travel.” To get the business off the ground, Bob persuaded his brother and buddies from high school to work for him.
Six decades later, that youthful venture has evolved into R.W. Stein Painting, Inc., a full-service Southern California-based painting and general contracting business that delivers first-rate paint jobs for condominium complexes, office buildings, factories and homes.
The company, a proud member of the Community Associations Institute and lead-safe certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, also offers a range of other services including, but not limited to, carpentry, wrought iron welding, deck rebuilding, earthquake repairs and waterproofing.
What sets seasoned R.W. Stein Painting apart? An old-school commitment to thorough, high-quality work.
“We don’t just slap a coat of paint on a wall,” Bob says. “We’re committed to the quality of the work and the integrity of what we do.”
A Brush with the Law
Bob may have stumbled upon his passion early in life, but it took him years to realize it.
When he graduated from college, Bob was more focused on pursuing his childhood dream to become a lawyer, so he enrolled in law school and attended night classes that allowed him to paint during the day.
Just one year into law school, however, life threw him a curveball. In 1968, Bob found himself activated for Vietnam. While he was never deployed, he was forced to set studying law aside to spend the next year and a half in the Army National Guard unit at Fort Lewis in Washington.
“Vietnam was a rough war,” he says. “We learned that the last time our unit had been activated, 90% of the unit was wiped out due to not having the proper equipment supplied to them. Most of us were college students, and so we asked a lot of questions. We started writing the government because we didn’t want to go under those circumstances.”
Bob was prepared to go to Vietnam as a second lieutenant until a good friend was deployed and killed after just one day in the country. According to Bob, between that and concerns over the outdated World War II equipment that was being supplied to soldiers, he resigned his commission and returned to law school.
By the time he graduated from law school, Bob encountered another unforeseen twist: He’d become disillusioned by law. It was then that he realized his true passion was painting.
“With painting, you actually see what you’ve accomplished each day,” he says. “We get to work with our hands, and then when a job is complete, I get personal satisfaction. In law school, I didn’t see that.”
In hindsight, though, he says that time was not spent in vain.
“I loved law school because it gave me an understanding of how to write a contract and apply the law in various circumstances,” he says. “Staying out of court is my desire. In all my years, I’ve never been sued in court, and I owe that to my knowledge of writing a contract and knowing the law.”
Taking Painting to New Heights
Once Bob had finally turned his full attention to R.W. Stein Painting, he was prepared to take his business to new heights.
First, he transitioned from new construction jobs into what would become his niche: repainting jobs for homeowners associations that budget money for projects and expected work to be done right.
Since then, the company’s track record of success and reliability has garnered repeat business from homeowners associations that have hired R.W. Stein Painting for a staggering array of large-scale projects, including multiple high-rise buildings—some 32 stories and more—and jobs that required more than 60 workers.
One project that stands out is painting for the Village Green Owners Association in Los Angeles, which has relied on R.W. Stein Painting’s services for more than 20 years. The condominium complex includes more than 600 units and is a National Historic Landmark.
“It presents unique problems because it has old buildings built in the early 1940s with wood siding, so you have to find ways to protect it,” Bob says. “You have to use your ingenuity and experience to figure out the best way to preserve the wood before you paint. It’s a challenge.”
Other large projects involved the welding, repair and painting of 32 miles of wrought iron railing located in the hilly terrain of Stevenson Ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley, which required a year and a half to complete, and another that involved painting 30-foot-high sanctuary ceilings using eight different colors on each level of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley.
According to Lenore, Bob’s wife who joined the company as a co-owner in 1991, they get many challenging jobs—and the reward of happy clients upon completion is what Bob strives for with every job.
“He really enjoys making sure his customers are satisfied with the work that he’s done,” she says. “He loves seeing a building transformed and truly appreciates a job well done.”
They’ve Got It Covered
Bob says these jobs would not be possible without a dedicated crew that’s focused on quality work and meeting the standards that R.W. Stein Painting clients have come to expect over the years.
Bob says all his employees take a great deal of pride in their work and making customers happy, but he has a straightforward way of determining whether or not someone is up for the task.
“When you hire someone, you want to know quickly how proficient they are,” he says. “One of the ways you find that out is if they get satisfaction from their work. You can’t ask them that; they have to show it to you.”
This approach has paid off, and Bob has had workers remain loyal to him for decades. One such employee, who goes simply by Eleazar, joined R.W. Stein Painting nearly 20 years ago.
“He comes a half-hour early every day without me asking him to and is eager to do whatever it takes to make the customers happy,” Bob says. “You don’t find people like that very often. He’s a gem, and we’re blessed to have him.”
According to Eleazar, that appreciation is mutual.
“After all these years, I’ve continued to stay,” Eleazar says. “This is a good company, and we do the best quality work. I love the energy and doing something new every day, and I like painting because it makes me happy when people tell me they like what I’ve done.”
Satisfaction That Doesn’t Fade
Bob says that the satisfaction he gets from a job well done doesn’t fade.
“What’s so impressive to me is that my dad taught me to appreciate working with my hands,” he says. “I just love thinking of everything we’ve been able to accomplish over the past years.”
Lenore wholeheartedly agrees. “The world is changing,” she says. “These days, so much of the time it’s just, ‘Here’s a cheap price, and we’ll do it fast.’ That’s not what we’re about at all. There are some of us who are out there just doing it the good old-fashioned way and doing things right.”
With a career that’s lasted 61 years and counting, Bob can’t help but marvel.
“I’ve basically had one job all my life and enjoyed it! Who can say that? And while I’m not ready to retire—I don’t even know if I could do it—even now I can look back and say I’m satisfied.”