Innovation in House Painting? That's Right
Some industries seem impervious to innovation. Take house painting. If your painters will work on cloudy days and don't miss that bit around the doorbell, what more can you expect?
How about your whole house painted in a day? That's the promise of 1-888-WOW-1DAY!, a Vancouver, British Columbia, company that aspires to be North America's largest house-painting service.
CEO Brian Scudamore knows the value of applying big-brand marketing power and economies of scale to a stubbornly mom-and-pop industry. He first did it 23 years ago with 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, the $100 million junk-hauling service that ABC News dubbed "the Starbucks of trash." For years, Scudamore mulled his second act, compiling a fat file of business ideas in the home-improvement sector. Then, in 2010, he hired Jim Bodden to paint his family's newly renovated five-bedroom home.
The company's name was One Day Painting. What sold Scudamore on the service was Bodden's professionalism, neat uniform, and gleaming, decaled truck-all hallmarks of the GOT-JUNK experience. "Jim told me the job would get done in one day, and I said, 'How is that possible?' " recalls Scudamore. "But I came home at 6:30 p.m., and there it was-floor to ceiling, moldings, trim, three coats in the kitchen, all of it immaculate. Even after they were gone, I left his lawn sign up for a month. I kept looking at it and thinking: I need a piece of this."
Bodden's secret is the surge: He deploys teams of up to 16 people on a single job. "It's simple math," says Bodden. "If one person can paint a room in a day, 10 people can do 10 rooms in a day." (The company also paints exteriors in a day, although complete interior and exterior jobs sometimes require two days.) Employee crews are bulked up with contractors. Before a job, team members meet off-site-usually in a Home Depot parking lot-so they can arrive together wearing matching uniforms. With more people working fewer hours and time saved on repeated setup and cleanup operations, Bodden found he was able to offer competitive prices. (The one-day model is not unique, according to the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America. But none of the large painting services offer it nationally.)
By the end of 2010, Scudamore had acquired One Day Painting and invested $300,000 to relaunch it as 1-888-WOW-1DAY!. (The phone-number names are an effective marketing tactic, Scudamore says: "Whenever anyone mentions the name, people know immediately how to reach us.") Bodden, who owns an eighth of the company, is director of field operations.
Scudamore says the new business is surprisingly similar to his other company. "We've been able to take much of what we developed for the junk business and apply it to painting," he says. Both companies are franchisers. GOT-JUNK has 177 operators in 45 states and Canada, and WOW-1DAY expects to have 50 by the end of the year. The two firms' marketing, customer service, and training operations are virtually identical, and the businesses share office space and a call center. Scudamore projects WOW-1DAY will do $5 million in business this year and $75 million in 2017. By comparison, GOT-JUNK was at $36 million after five years. "I think this opportunity is even bigger," says Scudamore. "Everywhere I go, I see walls that need painting."
One way house painting and junk hauling differ: Painting creates opportunities for grace notes. Customers of WOW-1DAY return home to bouquets of fresh-cut flowers and cards signed by the whole crew. And on those rare occasions when unusual circumstances-such as an enormous house or the need for extra prep work-make having everything done and dry by 6 p.m. impossible, WOW-1DAY puts up the homeowners in a hotel and treats them to dinner. "They're small things, but they seal the fact that we're different," says Scudamore.
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