Textbook Painting is headed for a great season. With little more than half a month under their belts, the student-run house painting and deck staining firm had booked enough jobs for its two local crews to keep busy into mid-June.
According to managers Brian Stecker of New Haven, who heads the northeast crew, and Troy Sutterfield of the southeast crew, they were well ahead of last year's pace and hoped to have enough jobs lined up by the end of this month to carry them into July. About half the jobs to that point, 30 in fact, had been scraping, power washing and staining decks, while the other 30 had been house painting. Total revenue for the two local crews and the one in Auburn as of Saturday was closing in on $100,000.
The week of May 14, Sutterfield's crew stained the deck and painted trim around the screened-in porch at the home of State Sen. David Long and his wife, Melissa.
“A door-to-door canvass of our neighborhood by Troy a couple weeks ago turned out to be perfect timing,” Melissa Long said. “Getting the deck stained was on our to-do list this summer. I was impressed with his thorough presentation and we decided to take them up on the offer.”
She liked their professionalism.
“They showed up when they said they would, got right to work, cleaned up, finished by late afternoon; we did a walk-around with Troy and approved the work.”
She's satisfied with the job the crew did.
“They did a nice job, and we're very happy with the results.”
Crew members work 30 to 40 hours a week, while Stecker and Sutterfield put in close to 60. They agree that the toughest part is tracking down jobs by contacting customers who are looking for their services and doing some door-to-door cold-sales calls at residences and business to keep the crews busy.
When they see a business that looks like it needs a face lift, they drop in. The technique has proved successful. Marketing and publicizing also falls under their job description.
Managers make all the paint purchases for their jobs. Sherwin-Williams' spring paint sale came at an ideal time for the young entrepreneurs. They were able to buy top-of-the-line paint and stain at a good price to cover them through May and fill the Stecker family garage. Then, it's back to Sherwin-Williams for more for June's jobs.
Textbook Painting gets a discount set up through its corporate office, Student Development Co., based in Lakewood, Ohio.
Managers are responsible for getting their own supplies, ladders, drop cloths, power washer, buckets, brushes, rags, rollers and caulk guns. Part of the money earned goes to pay for these important items.
Before putting a brush or roller to work for a customer, the managers and their crew members trained for three days to learn prep work, practice painting and deck power washing. Included were a house in South Bend and a deck in Kendallville. Power washing is done five days before painting or staining. The Longs' deck was one of their training sites.
Stecker, a Ball State University senior who is studying business management and psychology, headed the Summit City's first and only Textbook Painting crew last year. This summer's crew includes six area students from BSU, Bethel College and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
This year he recruited Sutterfield and helped him get started along with a new manager in Auburn.
“Though I've been able to put some of the business principles and theories I learned at school to work,” Stecker said, “there's no better way to find out what business is all about than on-the-job training. We've learned that the most important thing is delivering what we promise, doing a good job and being professional in the process. It's really been a great experience and one I can take with me into future business ventures.”
Indianapolis native Sutterfield is a junior studying construction, civil engineering and architectural engineering technology at IPFW. He assembled his crew by posting a job listing on IPFW's Creative Services website in early March. Fifty people applied.