Years ago there was one house I would walk by that always left its shades up at night to expose a big orange wall in the living room. It was impossible to miss, and more than that, it made me want to know more about the people who lived there and why they painted the room Florida Sunshine Orange. It turned the most mind-your-business walker into a nosy neighbor.
The answer to “why” is probably a lot different now than it was those 30 years ago. It’s hard to miss how colors have been trending bolder, brighter, darker—whatever they’re doing, they’re moving! Where does that leave orange? We had a lot of folks weigh in on this one: who would want it, and why?
2018 could turn out to be a big year for this color, whether you use it for quirkiness or complexity, predicts Ashley Banbury, Senior Designer at Pratt & Lambert. “For 2018, you’re going to see orange trending from fashion to home interiors—it was a prevalent color on the Spring 2018 runways, which will influence color in a home,” she said. “You will see pops of orange being incorporated in accessories from pillows to wall paint.” You may see it in small doses to compliment shades of blue, she noted, but it will also be used monochromatically, where an entire room will use different shades of orange from chairs to walls.
There are lots of ways to combine it to keep a smile on someone’s face. “Red and yellow are mixed together to create orange; yellow itself is a natural warm color that invokes happiness,” she reminded us. “Trending oranges are going to be slightly darker and muted. You will see different shades of orange, some showing a little more of a yellow undertone and some reading more red.” Pair it with blues and mustard yellow to complement those shades, or pair it with navy and red for a bold sophisticated look.
Your way to selling orange may be to show customers these different uses of the color, focusing on how it blends into a 2018 scheme as described above. But first, see how they react—don’t shove it down their throat. “It’s always important to get an understanding of what colors a customer gravitates towards,” Banbury recommends. And remind your grown-up customers that it’s OK to have some fun. “Orange connects people and is a color that is vibrant and inviting,” she described. “Because it combines the cheerfulness of yellow and stimulation of red, it’s a social color that gets people to think and it sparks conversation!”
Add Some Pulp
Hannah Yeo, Benjamin Moore Color and Design Expert, continues with some ways to juice up interest in orange. “Brighter shades are certainly appropriate for kids’ rooms or in commercial spaces, while muted oranges can have a sophisticated look,” she said. “Place it against browns and grays for a cozy, comforting color scheme. Natural wood and metal accents are also great way to infuse into toasty hues.” Still not sure? Start off with some small accents: chairs, table, or front door. “You’ll be surprised how versatile it can be,” said Yeo. You might just surprise those customers who previously ruled it out.
Yeo isn’t surprised, and neither are we after all we’ve heard, that warmer colors are en vogue. The Halloween-Thanksgiving season gives orange a boost—hues from burnt umber to bright orange evoke harvest time. For a year-round orange, pairing it with different hues keeps it fresh and appropriate. “Whites, yellows and young greens with a dose of pale orange signifies spring. Brighter oranges against blue are energetic for hot beach weather,” she said.
“Orange in the home will stay muted, but at the same time, brighten up a bit,” she predicts. “If last year was a warm cognac to terracotta hue, this year the oranges are richer and more saturated—think of exotic spices or ripe papaya. Vibrant yet deeply rooted, these bitter orange hues bring life into any living space.”
For a business, orange might be just the thing to keep customers coming back! “Zesty orange accents will continue its use in commercial spaces,” she said. “A little glimpse of intense orange against all white or all black is undeniably eye catching. The drama it creates transforms a space into an experience.”
Dee Schlotter, Senior Color Marketing Manager at PPG, notes that there are quite a few shades of the color in PPG’s 2018 Global Color Forecast, but not the orange you might expect. “All of the trending oranges in our 2018 forecast are not what most would see as a ‘true’ orange—the happy, bright, energizing hues. The trending oranges actually lean more towards pink hues and are trending in matte and metallic finishes,” she said.
Dee agrees with our other color experts that orange is being seen differently; these new shades are giving it the ability to succeed where it may have been overlooked before. “While the top trending colors for 2018 are darker hues, like the PPG Paints™ 2018 Color of the Year, Black Flame (PPG1043-7), softer, more pinkish-orange hues are trending for 2018 and offer a balance and grounding effect. Although these colors still can evoke happiness, they are less energizing and less distracting than a traditional orange color,” she said.
Take a tour through the PPG Paints 2018 Global Color Forecast and you’ll notice that shift. The colors vary from muted, faded oranges that lean toward a light pink—such as Pale Taupe (PPG1073-3), Bermuda Sand (PPG1074-3), and Suntan (PPG1068-4)—to more saturated, sun-scorched tones and darker brownish-oranges—like Cranapple (PPG1190-5), Summer Sunset (PPG1192-6), or Apple Brown Betty (PPG1062-2). “These shades are toned down versions of orange—as I like to say, we’ve taken the edge off—meaning they are invigorating, but are more modern versions of the clean oranges we saw years ago,” said Schlotter.
Your way to sell this idea, she adds, is to educate and discuss by showing customers new shades and their applications in inspirational photos. They more they explore, they more they might consider orange as a legitimate option. “A customer may want something attention-grabbing and inviting, which orange can exude,” said Schlotter. “However when orange is a recommendation, customers likely think of the traditional, child-like color and may not want the bright, distracting shade. For this scenario, having the names and swatches of trending oranges can open their eyes to different shades that still meet their expectations—but with an unexpected color.”
Disco is Back
How Deep is Your Love” for Orange? The ’70s are influencing 2017, opines Mary Lawlor, Manager of Color Marketing at Kelly-Moore. Browns will be the dominant neutral in 2018, she pointed out, which is good to make sure orange is “Stayin’ Alive.” “This introduces muddied colors like burnt orange into the palette, however, brighter oranges will remain to keep the palette fresh,” she said.
“For a seasonal entry door try a muted darker orange like Pumpkin Pie (HLS4306),” Lawlor suggests. “Keep those pass thru areas like laundry rooms or hallways accented with brighter oranges like Deagsy (KM5401) and Candied Yams (KM5343.)”
Since it’s a happy color, orange can keep the “Good Times” going. “It’s perfect as an accent for someone unsure about adding color to a room. It is timelessly uplifting when used sparingly, as in the back of a cabinet or in stripes on a small wall,” Lawlor concluded.
The beauty of orange is that in many cases it’s unexpected. “Orange for interiors and exteriors tends to be applied as an accent and then heavily influenced by reds, browns and gold,” said Sandy Agar-Studelska, Marketing Manager at Diamond Vogel Paint. “Consumers looking for inspired color reach for colors influenced by orange as they are welcoming and connect so well with nature.” Often, a little goes a long way. “The larger-than-life personality of orange can add a dramatic element to a space, but usually in small doses as it can overwhelm.” Today’s oranges, she noted, are trending darker, saturated and influenced by reds and browns.
Combining orange with a neutral is a great way to kick a room into high gear. “With the popularity of neutrals like gray, many homeowners want accent colors that coordinate well with neutrals. Even dark neutrals and orange-influenced colors are a great choice,” she said.
Outside it can also make a statement, and Sandy pointed to a trend toward rust or cinnamon, especially for front doors (see photo, far left). “Orange is a great color for an exterior front door as it offers a happy and welcoming vibe,” she concluded.
Bridging the Gulf
Emmett Fiore, Senior Color Strategist at Fine Paints of Europe, states that orange is heating up. “Orange is going bolder and off the center line, skewed either to the yellower or redder side,” he observed. “Its brightness makes it a very effective, fun accent color that becomes even brighter when juxtaposeed with shades of grays, blue, brown, and even black.”
Some of us are still recovering from our orange history, he says. Gulf gas station signs have given people a perception of orange that they’re just now coming to terms with—they’re finally breaking free, and the younger generation in particular is leaving the Gulf behind.
“They’ve been weaned on those signs their entire lives and they feel the image problem,” said Fiore. “These are powerful associations and it’s time for a change. Orange, the color of enlightenment, is the perfect venue for their mission statement, so it is being reinvented (skewed off that center line, swerving away from the Gulf station), repossessed, and used creatively by many new companies and individuals to get their message across.
Behold! A new orange and a bold, new generation of orange lovers.”
Perhaps that one house in the old neighborhood was just ahead of its time. Hopefully they haven’t repainted!
Room by Room
We gave color expert and consultant Kristin Summer (of Colors With Kristin in the Boston, MA area), a challenge: how would she use orange in various situations? Or…would she try it at all? Color makes a difference, even past what the eye sees. “Choosing the correct colors for your environment is essential to your health,” she says. “Colors make you feel. They have a strong healing element. Color is one of the key elements of creating energy in a room or space.” Here’s her take on orange in a variety of spaces:
• In a small bathroom: I could see it in a burnt orange, super bold and fun. The powder room should be fun! I’ve done some of my most fun murals in the powder room. One older woman had me do a scene like it was inside a French dance studio—you could see the Eiffel Tower out one of the windows, and lots of drapes in the room. She wanted a full-size painting of her in a tutu—and she was a rather large woman! Her leg was flung over the ballet bar…it was awesome.
• How about a full size bathroom? I would only use orange as an accent, with a teal as your main color. Shades of blue are my “go to” color for the bathroom (if we have to use a blue-grey we can), because I always feel like a bathroom with a shower/tub should be soothing.
• Funeral home: So not, unless we were doing a sky on the ceiling and incorporated small areas of orange.
• Stately bedroom: only if the stately room had a lot of “stately wood” to counter-balance!
• Coffee house: that would be cool, but you’d need to balance the orange out with a lot of brown.
• Home entry: definitely, if it’s a Tuscan style house in a coral shade.
• Candy store: Great idea! Orange can make you hungry, so it is a wonderful idea in a candy store, with black, which will intensify the orange.
• Ceilings: I always use orange when I’m painting skies on ceiling for the drama it brings. Usually just a touch, so as not to take away the soothing effect of the blue sky. But it will just give it a little kick around the edge of the room with some yellow.
“Delivering good customer service is a habit. You know what’s right.”
One day my assistant came in late. Not a big deal….until she came in late two more times that week. The following week the same thing happened again. This was becoming a habit—and not a good one.
We had a short talk about it. I asked her what our mantra was at Shepard Presentations. She said, “To be amazing.” She was right.
So, I asked her, “Is showing up late three or four times a week amazing behavior?”
She gave me the obvious answer, “No.”
I replied, “I agree. This is a habit that must stop. So, you have a choice. Be amazing or go home.”
She smiled and said, “That’s a great title for a book! You better write that down.”
I did, and guess what? It became a book, officially titled Be Amazing or Go Home: Seven Customer Service Habits that Create Confidence with Everyone.
You see, if showing up late is a bad habit, then showing up early is a good habit. Delivering good customer service is a habit. You know what’s right. You practice it day after day on real customers. You get better at it. You may even get special customer service training. And, when it becomes natural, it’s like many other good things you do over and over. It becomes a habit.
When I was just twelve years old I started my own business: magic shows for children’s birthday parties. There were several important habits I picked up from my parents. I wrote thank you notes to the parents that hired me to perform for their child’s party. I always showed up on time. I always did the best job I could, never giving less than 100%. I always stayed a little longer than expected, and the parents really appreciated that. I had to consciously think about doing all of that and more until I did it enough times that it became natural. It became my version of common sense. That’s what makes it a habit.
Those habits as a twelve-year-old magician stayed with me. Today, these habits drive my business. I’ve shared with you a story about my assistant. That’s the first lesson in the book. It’s simply this:
Amazing people show up ready to amaze!
What that means is if the office opens at 8:00, showing up at 8:00 isn’t really showing up on time. It’s getting there on time. Showing up on time, ready to amaze, is arriving early enough to be ready to go at 8:00. There’s a difference.
By the way, my assistant broke the bad habit and started showing up to work on time. She chose not to go home. She chose to be amazing!
Jack Welsh, the highly regarded former CEO of General Electric, used to say, “You can’t grow long term if you can’t eat short term!” It’s hard to argue with that logic. And would I ever be so arrogant as to disagree with the man at the helm of GE while its stock price increased over 4000%? According to my ex-wife, I am that arrogant…and I think I’m about to prove her right! It’s not that I think Jack Welsh was wrong when he said that, it’s just that in the life of an independent paint retailer, I find his statement to be a gross oversimplification.
The food I am eating today (and with a daughter in college, food is almost becoming a luxury) was bought with money I made from my efforts before today! When I make a big sale is generally not when I make my money. No, it’s when I get PAID for that big sale that my daughter and fiancée seem to know it’s time to start circling around while complaining that they need new iPhones!
Even when you get that big “walk-in” sale, it may have happened today, but you were only able to make that sale because of work you did previously. You had the paint in stock because it was previously ordered, you were able to sell it profitably and at the right price to get the sale because you had previously negotiated with the vendor, and you were able to service the sale because you had previously hired enough employees to manage the traffic coming through your store.
So with all due respect to Mr. Welsh, I find myself advising dealers that “if you take time to manage your business for tomorrow, what you eat today will take care of itself.” Managing your business is different than managing your stores: even if you only have one store. And the difference between the two is no small distinction!
Even though my two stores each have managers, I still end up managing the stores from time to time. Whether I am covering a vacation or day off, ordering product if one of them is too busy, helping figure out how to deploy drivers, or counting out the drawer at the end of the day, I cannot take the day-to-day retailer duties totally out of my schedule. If you have one store, I suspect that you do even more of this type of work than I do. Don’t misunderstand me, these are crucial responsibilities and if your business is going to do well in the short term, you need to take them seriously. But no matter your day-to-day obligations in your store(s), you must take time away from managing your stores and spend it managing your business!
How much credit you give one particular customer may be a store manager level decision; but how much credit you have outstanding in total is a higher-level decision that you must leave yourself time to make. Losing control of their accounts receivables is one of the most common (and tragic) mistakes I see dealers make. By failing to manage the total value of all your accounts receivable, you can get yourself into a world of trouble.
Each month, if your A/R gets $10,000 larger because you fail to manage it well, you had better have that $10,000 on hand and ready to invest in your business or you won’t be able to pay your vendors and employees on time. Since total accounts receivable cannot be allowed to grow unfettered, you must leave yourself time to think about how much money you can afford in total, to put “out on the street.” Only then are you able to make the store manager type decisions of how much credit to give one particular customer.
Inventory is another area where you need to leave time to make business level decisions. How many gallons of Regal Flat Base One each store stocks is up to the store managers. But how much inventory in total each store has is my responsibility. I don’t set these figures arbitrarily nor do I “just let them happen.” I need to leave myself time to analyze my sales, look at the product mix, vendor delivery schedules etc. so I can make an informed business decision on inventory spend. By taking time away from managing the stores so that I can spend it on managing the business, I can assign a total inventory spend per store, a crucial decision, without getting into the less than crucial decision of how many 9 x ½ microfiber rollers we stock.
So while you need to spend time managing your stores today, always remember to take time to manage your business for tomorrow and beyond. Remember, it was also Jack Welsh who said; “Any jerk can have short term earnings!” So don’t be a jerk: run your stores like they’re going to be here in 20 years.
The month of October has always been one of my favorite months. The leaves are still changing, and…sports! The St. Louis Cardinals are usually playing post season baseball (wait ’til next year!), my St. Louis Blues still have a chance at Lord Stanley’s Cup, and college and pro football are rolling along.
This year things are a bit different, and hopefully it won’t sully my feelings for this wonderful time of year. On Wednesday morning, Oct. 18th, my mother and owner of this company, Heidi O. Mugler, was called to Heaven. She had battled tirelessly a blood disease, MDS, over the last 8 or 9 years, a disease she contracted from the chemo drugs she had to take while battling breast cancer many years ago. Mom died peacefully and pain free in the city and state she wanted to, Durango, CO., in the care of a brand new beautiful facility, Mercy Hospice House, and on her own terms. My two sisters and I were on our way to see her when she passed. Mom knew we were in transit and had repeatedly told us she did not want any of us to see her on her death bed, so when her Hospice staff reminded her Tuesday night that we would be seeing her Wednesday morning (the next day), she told them she knew we were coming, but that she would not be here when we arrived…and she wasn’t. Mom had all her wishes answered, again on her terms.
To all our readers who own your own companies: if you have not written out and discussed your succession plans with your families and staff, please do it. Many of you won’t know when death comes knocking at your door, and without extensive, well thought out succession plans, nothing but chaos and pandemonium could be the order of the day for your survivors and staff. Whether you choose to leave your business to your spouse, family members, siblings, a trusted member of your staff, or even to the entire staff, ironing out all the details prior to your passing will save everyone involved a ton of heartache! You’ve worked tirelessly to build an empire, or at least a fine business, and passing it on to someone as your final wish can and will change their lives, usually for the better. Consult your attorney for all the legalities that will be necessary to transfer your business to whomever. Make sure that whomever retains your business when you pass is at least aware of your plans so that it is not a shock!
As for a will, if you don’t have one, get to work on one ASAP! Again, having a will locked away in your safe, safe deposit box, or with your attorney will save your loved ones (hopefully) from additional heartache, hand-wringing, second guessing, and infighting. You are probably not going to make everyone happy—someone in your family is almost always going to get the short end in their mind, but you can only do so much while here on terra firma, so do the best you can BEFORE you get your wings.
Dad had a will, and everything went to Mom. Mom’s will is something she worked on for about two years with about 10 different drafts, but in the end, it is exactly what she wanted for her children and trusted friends. I will do my best to honor every wish in her will, I will do everything in my power to run this company to the best of my ability, to the benefit of our readers, our advertisers, and my staff. Mom was a big believer in these magazines. She loved the fact that we try every month to give independents a leg up on the big box stores, and try to help them to be the very best they can be. She may not have understood everything about this business, but she did love being a small part of it!
A display from ArroWorthy; the company can provide you with larger or smaller displays to fit your available space.
How to explain applicator prices
Sticker shock! When Starbucks increases its already inflated prices, it becomes international news. Latte lovers may grumble, but then they’ll pay up and go about their business. Plenty of folks will avoid Starbucks and get their coffee at QuikTrip, but those who want what the Seattle grinder has to offer will swallow the upcharge.
It’s somewhat the same with you; folks who want the products and the atmosphere you have—and when you get down to it, both of those figure into it—will pay the price they need to in order get the products you sell.
Even so, Carl Rumpf, VP of Sales at Premier Paint Roller, argues that newer manufacturing technology lets you carry quality products without having to forklift your customers off the floor after they eye up the price tag. We asked him how to deal with the inevitable customers who will ask about price. “Over $20 for a brush?! I’ll just get the three-for-$10 at Family Dollar.” Surely you’re heard that at least once.
“I agree with the consumer,” he said. “You don’t need to pay over $20 for a paint brush anymore. While I don’t think they should buy the low end three-for-$10 brushes, improvements in manufacturing technology allow the average consumer to purchase professional quality paint brushes for less than $20.”
If your customer is either a DIYer painting just a few square feet or a contractor buying a bagful of brushes for a crew of sixteen, chances are they’ll be thrilled to know you have something to keep them on budget. “Most paint stores carry nylon/polyester or polyester brushes that deliver a professional finish for prices the average consumer can afford. Premier Paint Roller manufactures the BM series, Avant Garde semi oval series, and a plethora of private label options for ALLPRO and many large independent dealers throughout the United States,” said Rumpf.
Easy and Pretty? Pretty Easy!
Another solution, adds Ben Waksman, President of Corona Brushes, is to fully explain to the customer what they are paying for. Make sure they know how springing for that better brush will make their project easier—and prettier! If they’ve already got quality paint, why waste it on bad bristle and a faulty ferrule?
“A better quality tool helps the user achieve better results,” he says in a nutshell, so let’s crack that shell and see what’s inside. “The application will be much easier and the finish more pleasing. And, of course durability is a factor.”
Walnuts, pecans, whatever you’ve cracked, it’s time to explain why you’re not nuts to sell a higher priced applicator—you’re selling know-how along with it. “We use the finest raw materials, but we also have to process, blend, and formulate the materials to make them the most effective in paint pick up, cutting in, spreading the coating evenly, and leaving a smooth finish,” said Waksman. “After that, we work on matching types of lumber and shapes of handles to insure optimum balance and comfort. In selecting a Corona tool, the painter is not just buying a good brush. He or she is investing in a good paint job.” And that’s it, again, in a nutshell. It’s not just a brush. It’s a paint job.
Sell Confidence With Confidence
Surely you know some painters who bonded with a brand they liked 25 years back—end of discussion. If you don’t have it, do you send them to the dealer next door who does? Or again, do you explain?
With Corona, says Waksman, you can be confident in the brand, therefore you can inject that confidence into your customer. “Dealers know they can sell Corona handmade painting tools with complete confidence in customer satisfaction,” he asserted. “We appreciate that painters build brand loyalties, both to paint and to the brushes and rollers they use, and we work hard to earn that loyalty,” he continued.
Since part of your job of helping them pick the right tool for the job, if you can demonstrate that the brush you have will get the job done, they might just save some time and gas and buy right off your display!
“Paint has changed dramatically over the last few years,” Rumpf reminds us. “As a result, the applicators have had to adapt to today’s coatings. Professional paint store employees are trained to offer the proper tools to be used with the brand of paint they are selling.”
Too Much is Not Enough
Then there’s that exasperated customer: “Last time I came here you had 10 brushes to pick from and now you have 27! How do I begin?”
It goes back to adapting to changing paints, of which there are more and different varieties than there were the last time that customer bought a brush in 1997. “There are many kinds of applicators because there are many variances in quality and sheens of paint,” Rumpf explained. “Also the texture of the surface has to be taken into consideration before you can buy the proper tool for your intended project. Other key factors to consider are the customer’s budget and if they want to reuse the applicators.” Buy asking these questions, you can help them narrow down to just the right product.
Not to mention, adds Waksman (well, we are going to mention it), a larger selection helps the pro or DIY customer slip in with just that right tool. He agrees with Carl that the can of paint you sell can answer the question of what brushes and rollers to take along.
“There are differences in paints, whether in the viscosity of interior and exterior paints, alkyds, acrylics, latex, hybrid-waterborne-alkyds, enamels, varnish, stains, and more. The wide range of materials actually provides the painter, whether professional or not, the best possible applications of this wide variety of coatings,” he said. Corona offers guides for you to post near your display to help customers choose. For example:
• Natural bristle for solvent based finishes.
• Natural bristle and ox-ear hair for solvent based ultra-fine finishes.
• Performance Chinex® synthetic filament for high viscosity acrylics, waterborne finishes and primers and all coatings.
• 100% nylon for latex paints (especially Corona’s Champagne Nylon for water-based alkyd hybrids).
• Nylon/polyester blends for all interior and exterior paints.
“Our guides are available for our customers to display next to brush walls or as part of a brush wall,” said Waksman. Keep an eye out for updated guides as new paints and coatings demand new brushes and rollers.
The more educated your customers, the better choices they can make—including that amazing choice to get their next applicators from you, whether it’s next week or the year 2037.
Aspen, Colorado evokes a certain type of lifestyle, even if you’ve never been there. Snow, skiing, mountains, tourists, healthy snacks, and clean living. High priced living too, while we’re at it, which is why business owner Sam Taylor moved Summit Paint and Decorating out of Aspen and 18 miles up State Highway 82 to Basalt, Colorado. Basalt offered him twice the space at half the rent. He became a Benjamin Moore Signature Store and is now in line to become a Benjamin Moore “Store of the Future.”
Speaking of future, in the very near future this store is moving again—across the hall to the front of the building instead of the back. Again, more space, less hassle. “We’ll be right off the main street so customers won’t have to come around and park in the back,” he said. You know how customers can be, one more turn in the parking lot and you’ve lost ’em.
Basalt is a growing city of almost 4.000, with an official altitude of 6,611. Summit serves that community, of course, but also serves as a hub for Apsen and surrounding communities including Snowmass, Missouri Heights, and Glenwood Springs. There aren’t a lot of big box stores around—none on the 40-mile route between Glenwood Springs to the north and Apsen to the south—and Sam prides himself on being “built for speed.” Contractors who work in Aspen often don’t take to its high rent, so they live north of Basalt and drive past Summit on their way down. “They come down 82, get loaded up here and away they go,” he said. If a painter calls in advance, they can pare the visit down to just a few minutes—pay at one window, load at the next, and get to work.
The store is very “lived in,” but it was also getting ready to uproot—even if they don’t need a truck, there’s a lot of poundage to move from one spot to the other. As you’d expect in Colorado, a large portion of this shop is devoted to exterior stains; there’s a separate room to house the various brands. As the area grows, people come in from all over—often people who have invested a lot of money into a home and want it to blend in with the surroundings. They certainly don’t want their house to spoil the view! After all that investing, they get picky about their stain.
While Summit carries Benjamin Moore paint almost exclusively, its stain section is a smorgasbord of treats from around the country. “We carry Cabot, Messmer’s, Penofin, Superdeck, and Sikkens,” Sam noted. They also do a good business with Colorado-based Sashco’s Log Home product line. The wide brand selection is a must in serving the diverse clientele, some of whom only live here part of the year. “We get asked for a lot of different products,” Taylor explained. “A guy who lives in New York and has a cabin in Missouri Heights wants a stain he knows from the east coast, but a customer from the west might want Penofin. We have Benjamin Moore’s exterior stains as well.”
You have to read a customer, however, and try to sell the stain or paint that fits financially as well as aesthetically. It might be futile to try selling a $59 gallon of paint to someone who has to watch their dollars. If it’s a builder on a big condo project, they’ll want a good product but something affordable at the same time. Part of Summit’s success is selling the product that fits the customer’s budget as well as the project.
Part of that is selling samples to color-hungry customers, and Taylor goes through them at a rate that even confounds the folks at Ben Moore HQ in Montvale. People want to make sure they like their color and they’ll spare no time or expense to get it right. “We sell more quarts and samples than any store in the country,” Taylor asserts, adding that pint-sized sampled will be available soon. “We start ordering from Ben Moore and they’ll say are you sure you want that many? It’s typical for a decorator to go through 20 quarts to pick a color. Our record is over 100.”
Taylor clocks in 29 years behind the counter. He got a degree from the University of Colorado, and he filled up his semester breaks as a painter and carpenter. “After college I worked for some of the municipalities in the Denver area, then I got into a paint store because it had health benefits,” he said. “I was active in football and skiing and needed the benefits, so I switched out of municipal work and went into construction, which at the time offered health. Then I was offered a job in Glenwood Springs managing a paint store and have done paint ever since.”
The importance of health benefits is not lost on him, and he offers that to his employees now. “They’re active. They motorcycle, ski…so it’s important. I needed them when I was younger and I realize their need for it as well.”
His 29 years has made its mark on the community and offers some stability in a rapidly changing environment. “I have the longevity and the trustworthiness of being local,” he said. Staffer Cody Diaz is also a known quantity—he first came to Summit in 2002, while newcomer Richard Marques was in his first month on the job at the time of our visit (August 2017) with plans to stay around. “We have a lot of knowledge and customer service, and we’re fast and effeicnt. That’s what keeps us going,” said Taylor. “We have everyone from the painter to the laborer to the ultra-rich coming to choose colors, or they’ll hire a decorator. We set up a retail area so customers can be comfortable in the decorating section, but painters and contractors can pick up bulk items in the back.”
He emphasizes again the need for speed. “Fast, cheap, easy, and yesterday,” he smiles.
Catch Me Outside
Cody Diaz needs that health insurance. He likes four-wheeling, paint-balling, fishing, and hunting. When he’s not working, he and his family are often on an outdoor adventure. From his home in Rifle, Colorado, 15 minutes any which way and you’re away from it all in the mountains, he points out.
While he started at Summit in ’02, his retail experience includes six years’ leave of absence managing a store for a large national paint chain, perchance a chain with a hyphenated name, before returning to Summit a couple years back. Of course, we had to ask what he liked better, even (or especially!) with the boss in the room. And of course, he noted that at this store, he’s treated like a human being. “Sam is a real person who cares about his employees,” Cody said. “At Sherwin-Williams, all their employees are is a number. I sold $12.5 million and once they were done with me it was easy for them to part ways. There were things going on with my family at the time, and they didn’t treat me like a person.” Even so, he notes, he learned a lot from that experience and it’s helped him work better at an independent.
Cody’s t-shirt (above) shows the easy-going atmosphere here, in that Sam and customers aren’t worried about what he puts on when he makes his hour commute from Rifle to get to work at 6:30. They aren’t worried about Richard’s tattoos or his turquoise earrings. Diaz likes the constant change among the daily paint milieu. “Every day it seems like you’re doing the same thing but it’s always something different,” he said. One of his favorite facets of the job, fortunately, is color matching. “I picked it up really well. I can do it for stain, paint, faux, plaster, glazes, whatever needs it.” Over the years he’s become fascinated with the drip of tint into the can of paint and he’s taken several amazing photographs of that coalescence, including the one in this article and on the cover. Quite the impressionist!
Color matching at Summit is done with a bit of eye and a bit of computer, he said. “We scan the color in the spectrophotometer to get a formula that’s close, then we use our eyes to find the color in the formula book that’s close, then we use those formulas to come up with one of our own. We’re perfectionists here,” he said. “It doesn’t leave the store if it doesn’t match.” These days customers don’t even want the color they originally bought, they want the color it faded into, providing an additional matching challenge.
Even if it’s not old and faded, many people want a color they can call their own, They want a color called The Martinez Living Room or Countess Razumovsky’s Kitchen Window.
“Decorators love to take the top color of the card, cut it in half, and make it off white, but it’s custom to them,” said Diaz. Which is good, because it’s likely that Razumovsky Brown won’t be available anywhere else. Brown is very popular, he added, as it helps a structure blend in with the surroundings.
Another issue they deal with here is altitude. Most paint is made to perform at sea level, not the mile or two up that you find in Colorado. “Here you’re a mile closer to the sun and it bakes finishes,” Cody said. “Paint that is supposed to last five years will last only two or three, especially on the south side of a structure.” Painters with maintenance contracts need to keep track of where and when. “They do the north every four years and the south every two,” he explained. This makes selling the right product important, and also emphasizes the need for quality. “If it’s a home exterior in Aspen we try to sell our best paint. We don’t want to go with a lower grade of paint. It may not perform as well.”
Gotta Start Somewhere
Then there’s “the new guy,” the guy everyone is afraid to buy paint from, but a new guy has to start somewhere and Summit is a good training ground. Richard Marques, now 28, spent five years as a pro mover driving a 40-foot box truck. Earlier this year he took a mosquito control job in Aspen. “Cody hit me up about a month ago with a job offer and I started here,” he said.
Following in Cody’s footsteps, Richard’s picked up paint matching quite handily. “It’s great to have Cody and Sam here to ask them questions. I’m learning from two pros instead of one person teaching me one way,” he said. He’s still got a lot to learn, so no, they don’t put him out with a customer and say “go,” but he knows what he doesn’t know and how to find out the answer.
“Out of all my jobs, this is my most relaxed,” he said. “I get treated better here being new than as someone at an established company after five years.”
Up next? Moving the inventory to the new spot, so he should be right at home.
Coming to the Bridge, But Not Crossing It
One reason it’s important for customers to have their product “yesterday” is because getting it tomorrow is not guaranteed. A state known for its ski seasons and snow can put up a lot of barriers to timely delivery. Basalt is a bit out of the way on a good day, and on a snowy week, good luck. “Freight is a constant problem because it can take days to get material,” Taylor noted. “If someone runs short on a job and can’t get a product, and then we have to tell them it won’t be here for two or three days, it slows the job down. It’s not like Denver where you can drive across the city and get it someone else. There is a limited number of vendors, so when something runs out it is out for a few days.”
In the winter, mountain passes get closed, there are rock slides on occasion, and what nature doesn’t do, humanity can complicate. The week after our visit, the bridge from
Glenwood Springs to the Aspen area was going into three months of closure. There was going to be a one-lane detour which was going to make the trip significantly longer, keep some trucks from making the journey at all, and Cody and Richard would have to get up even earlier to get to work on time.
But once it’s fixed, they’ll get there…fast, easy and yesterday.
In June 2013, The Montreal Mural Festival kicked off a season of what would be one of the city’s many festivals over the summer. For this festival, Montreal invites approximately 20 artists from all over the world to show one of their art pieces or even to fabricate it right in front of your eyes! Artists are given a wall or a complete building anywhere from two stories to this year’s biggest ever of nine stories high. After the festival, their art work is displayed all year round to anyone who passes by.
Over the festival’s 11 days—which bring in over 2 million visitors—the artists will use over 500 gallons of paint and over 1,000 cans of spray paint. Being a small business, customer service is key to survival nowadays and that is how we got to be the sole provider of all the background paint used for the Mural Festival. This got me thinking…how can I expand my business from this to last all year round? I am not selling them the spray paint since an average store like mine doesn’t have enough colors or supply of spray paints that these artists want.
After dealing with a lot of the artists for each year’s festival and getting to know them, I could see what they wanted. They consider a German-made product called Molotow as the best spray paint on the market. I did some digging and saw that the only way to get these colors in Montreal was online, although as you all know, seeing colors on a computer screen is not too accurate and if they order online, they must pay for shipping as well. After a lot of discussions with artists and my staff, I decided to bring in all 250 colors that this company offers. We started with 6-12 cans of each color, an investment of about seven thousand dollars. We created a huge display with all the cans for customers to see—it created quite the sight!
If you’re thinking that this will increase the riff-raff graffiti in the city, that kind of ugly graffiti is usually done by young kids who steal cheap spray paints from a big box store. We make sure to keep all our sprays and anything they can use behind the counter to prevent this from happening to us.
At the beginning of summer, it started off quite slow as the word first had to spread that we had this all in stock. In Montreal there are thousands of people that use spray paints to do different types of art. It started off with us getting maybe two or three clients coming in per week for some sprays. Now about three months later, we are getting maybe five or six clients per day coming in and buying many cans at a time. Our regular house paint customers have also been buying a lot of spray paint—I had no idea that they used this much of it! It turns out my regular clients were going to big box stores to buy spray paints. Now they come here.
To try to spread the word, I have opened an Instagram account and have contests on there, for instance if someone follows my store and tags two of their friends, they can win six free cans. I do this contest every month so I can keep my current followers and add more all the time. I have made stickers with this brand’s logo on it, also listing our store as the place to get it. When graffiti artists pick up a few cans, I give them a couple stickers. They like to put it up with their artwork so others can see what kind of paint they used and where to get it. I also recently hired as one of my regular staff members a local graffiti guy who is very involved in the graffiti art scene in Montreal in hopes that he can spread the word even faster, since he knows so many people in this field.
With profit margins of about 35-40% per can, after three months we are already close to paying for our initial investment in the spray paint. With every week, the way our sales are increasing on this, by the end of summer I am hoping that not only will we have paid off our initial investment, but that we will double it and have all that we spent in profits as well.
My goal for next year is also to not only supply the Mural Festival with the background paints for its murals, but to supply it with spray paint too.
Blue—timeless, familiar, and easy, is a hue that always seems to top “favorites” lists. In both the 1993 and 2000 Crayola Color Census, blue was voted the most popular crayon color. Crayola recently released a crayon based on a value of blue inspired by a new pigment discovered by scientists at Oregon State University. A “name that color” contest received 90,000 passionate entries.
Yes, Blue is a Favorite
Interestingly, the connotations of blue being true and trustworthy still ring spot on for most consumers. Blue is a “go-to” for fashion, home, and soon, cars. It is anticipated to be a hot car color within the next couple of years.
There are as many variations of blue-hued paints as there are customers who will put them on their homes and walls. From sky blue to navy blue, you can find something for practically anywhere you want to apply a brush stroke. As we navigate stressful times, blue has become even more important as a color of harmony and honesty. Blue is our color-friend.
With all that is in its favor, does it ever go wrong? Well, yes, and while that’s often in the eye of the beholder, when it does go awry, gray is usually the culprit. Very grey blues often appear too cool and a little depressing, and they generally don’t create a space enhanced with joyous color. Even blue-undertoned whites should be used with caution.
Embrace the Dark Side
Something of note emerged during some recent research: the darker the value of blue, the more authority it commands. Think about when you see navy blue military and airline uniforms, or the head of the country club holding court in a navy blazer. In addition, the best tuxedo color is midnight navy, not black, as it photographs better on almost all complexions. That’s a fairly powerful attribute for a color! To that end, almost anyone can use it to offer a more stable visual note. From store uniforms to branding (lots of blue at banks) to interiors, dark blue is a good way to connote confidence.
You’d think any dark color would do that, but no, dark blue comes out the winner. It’s not as heavy as black (funereal), not as regal as plum (too grand), as plain as brown (dirt), nor as seemingly uncomfortable as maroon (dried blood?). That’s not to say all of those colors aren’t incredible in their own right, just that dark blue commands a different respect.
Pay close attention when someone asks for blue. Aside from creating a specific color for a design scheme, have customers look at slightly bright hues. Then, try using a slightly darker value of the color. The depth will help balance the stronger chroma and can offer you a good mid-point.
The Blue and the Gray
Of course, gray-blue is not a bad thing; it simply has to be used with care. In general, blue is a tough exterior color. Buildings, inherently part of the landscape, rise up as an integral part of the earth, and toned, earthy colors often create a sense of place. Blue tends to be horizontal in nature: the water below or the sky above, and it feels slightly off when painting a house or high-rise.
This is where that gray undertone comes in handy. Think of a blue that has been beaten by coastal weather—rain, wind, and sun all softening it and making it easy on the eye, sort of a “driftblue” hue. It feels far more part of the earth and is easier to translate to an exterior surface.
In trend arenas, we have watched blue for a number of years—it’s been very powerful in its influence on forecast stories. It has hit the “color of the year” spot numerous times, including twice at Color Marketing Group. One discussion point has been the ubiquity of denim worldwide, crossing gender, generational, and economic lines. Blue jeans have come to be thought of as neutral; you can wear anything with jeans! With that, it takes its place as a classic hue, translating blue from fashion to home in an instant.
As great and as popular as blue is, it doesn’t live in a vacuum. It has become an accompaniment to a range of on-trend colors:
• Navy, white, and coral connote the freshness of the seashore.
• Cobalt, yellow, and orange feel as crisp as a garden.
• Sky blue, bright green, and pink still have a preppy vibe.
• Midnight blue, grey, and black offer an urban edge.
• Various blues with white are a classic combination inspired by Chinese porcelain.
Time to be Narrow-Minded
With blue so popular and with so many options available from new iterations to historical, you can help your customers narrow their choices for a great result. Here are some “true blue” marketing ideas:
• What blues look most natural or have historical relevance in your area? Feature them on mood boards or create a custom mini fan deck to highlight them.
• Pinterest boards are one of the top design research tools used by Millennials (and rapidly growing with Boomers). Set up your own blue page (or a page each for various colors), then feature the printed pages in your store. Of course, promote it in your store and on social media.
• Let the seasons speak! Though color has become almost season-less in fashion, consumers still tend towards lighter values in warm weather and darker when it gets cold outside.
Blue, stands the test of time, offers broad options for design, and still creates a mood of trust and honesty. From crayons to jeans to walls, blue is a color that can create not only a sense of style, but also a business boost.
Mark Woodman is a practicing designer and the color and aesthetics consultant to Corian® Design surfaces. In addition, he facilitates trend panels and served as President of the Color Marketing Group, to study and discern color direction. Mr. Woodman’s aesthetic understanding of “real-life” color and design helps balance his approach to product specification, complementing practical application with the excitement of “the new.” Find him at facebook.com/markwoodmandesign/
There’s an old proverb that says, “Outward appearances are not a reliable indication of true character.” In other words, you can’t—and shouldn’t—judge a book by its cover.
One of my favorite examples of this is from the movie Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. This classic movie from back in the 1990s was about a wealthy man, Edward Lewis, on a business trip in Beverly Hills, who falls in love with a prostitute, Vivian Ward.
Edward wants Vivian to attend some of his business functions throughout the week, so he gives her some money (as in thousands of dollars) to buy some conservative, less revealing clothes. In her “working clothes” Vivian walks into an upscale store where the employees won’t sell her anything and ask her to leave. Dejected, she returns to the hotel. The next day, the hotel manager takes her to a different store and gets her outfitted in some beautiful clothes. As she is walking back to the hotel, dressed in one of her new outfits and carrying several bags with different Beverly Hills store logos on them, she stops back into the store that asked her to leave. She asked the salesperson if she remembers her from yesterday. She reminds her, and then comes the famous line from the movie: “Big mistake. Big. Huge! I have to go shopping now.”
I experienced something similar years ago when I was looking to buy a new car. I was just 22 years old and driving an older car that had 170,000 miles on it. I’m not exaggerating! I walked into the dealership and none of the sales people would talk to me. I knew it was the car. They saw me drive up in an old car and decided I didn’t have the money to buy a new one.
The next day I went back, but this time in my father’s car, which was quite nice. This time I had no trouble finding a sales person who wanted to sell me a car. I shared the story with the manager of the dealership, who was quite embarrassed. As a way of apologizing, he sold me a car at a fantastic price.
In business, it can be economically dangerous to make a snap judgement based on someone’s looks, what they are wearing, the car they drive, or other outward appearances. The founder of Walmart, Sam Walton, used to drive a pick-up truck. He didn’t look like a man who was worth billions of dollars. How many times did he “fool” people with his unassuming looks? It wasn’t intentional. It was just who he was.
Unless they prove otherwise, customers should be treated like…customers. Don’t make the mistake of judging a book by its cover. As Vivian Ward said in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Big. Huge!”
I have to admit: at the time I started making fun of my daughter in print—in front of the entire paint industry—it never occurred to me that she would have a chance to reply. As my regular readers know, I have written many times about some of the (really) stupid things my daughter has said over the years! Turns out that if you say enough dumb things in your life, you get your own byline and a job writing for this magazine! That realization does make me wonder a bit about what I’ve said over the years to earn my space here. Turnabout is fair play though; so I’m readying myself for the assault!
My daughter Miranda, a journalism student at THE Ohio State University, is now a contributing writer in both The Paint Dealer and The Paint Contractor magazines (the other magazine that comes with the one you’re reading now). While this is not exactly what people mean when they ask me if my daughter will be following me into the paint business, I have to admit to enjoying the connection and the time working on columns together, and I do feel like she’s joined the family business.
We are lucky compared to other families where one generation follows another into the paint business. Family life as an independent paint retailer comes with some challenges that Miranda and I just don’t face. We do not spend endless hours together in a paint store. We don’t bump into each other; we don’t disagree on pricing issues or whether or not someone is carrying their weight. And, we never fight about who is going to open after a winter storm or work the weekend. Our collaborations can happen miles apart, our suggestions are only that and when we get sick of each others voices (hey…we are a family), we just say goodnight and hang up the phone.
I worked with my father in a paint store long enough to know that to make it work—for the family and the business—you need to have defined roles just like any other two employees. My dad and I often disagreed when we were in the store together, but to make sure that the work got done and the business was well managed, we had defined roles to keep the arguing to a minimum and to make it easier to settle the arguments that did come up.
For example, it was my job to slog my way in after snowstorms, work the weekends, unload the trucks coming in, load the trucks going out, answer the phones, and open every morning. His job was to schmooze with the customers and order lunch! Mostly when we fought it was just because he was annoying.
But jokes aside, we did have responsibilities that were uniquely ours and that kept the frustration down. I handled the outside sales while he handled the store operations. I was free to share my opinion on who we should give credit to; but it was his money so he had the final say. I could adjust the inventory if I felt it was needed, but the total dollars invested in inventory was exclusively his decision. We did not go so far as to have any of this written down, but we always knew between us who was responsible for what.
Having a good sense of roles and responsibilities is what can keep the “family” in “family business.” By assigning roles and setting expectations just as you would for any other employee, you make for a smoother workflow and cut down on the finger pointing. But with family, assigning roles in your stores should be a more collaborative process than just having the elder laying down the law. In a family business you have unique opportunities to identify strengths and weaknesses…you know each other better then you’ll ever know an employee! Use that intimate knowledge as a means of setting the responsibilities at the feet of those most qualified to perform the task!
Remember when you write the words “family business” that “family” comes first! I hope my daughter remembers that now that she’s writing in the same magazine I write in. I’ve often told my daughter, “If they’re not named Lipton, I don’t fully trust them!” Now that The Paint Dealer has given her some ink and some paper, I’m worried that the secrets of life in the Lipton house are not so safe!