My name is David Klappenberger. I founded Klappenberger & Son while working as a dishwasher in a restaurant. One of the guys at the bar said, Hey, would you like to paint a townhouse for me? I was 16 years old at the time. So I did some painting, then just got started distributing some fliers around the neighborhood before eventually letting it go.
My second start came while I was in college. I was working as a bartender at Red Lobster when I overheard a regional manager discussing getting some red lobsters painted. And, believe it or not, despite my lack of experience, I offered him an estimate. And I did it. I painted three red lobsters inside and out and thought, I could make money doing this. So in 1989, I got sucked in by painting some red lobsters. And after graduating from college, I went straight into painting.
After building my business for 25 years, we fixed some work by another well-known painting franchise. We fixed their work many times. I went into a Sherwin Williams store, and I was talking to the lady behind the counter, and I said, “I could do a better job than that franchise,” and she said, “Well, why don’t you do it?” So I did it.
I had to convince my wife, which took another three or four months. Then I spent a couple years creating the franchise and putting everything together—training videos and everything that I had in my head had to come out and be replicable and duplicatable. That was my big two words that I kept on using: it has to be replicable and duplicatable. And that’s what I tried to create.
David’s Advice for Other Painting Business Owners
First and foremost, self-reflection is crucial. To enhance your company, you must assess your limitations. The success of any company relies on its leader. Rather than blaming others or external factors, focus on your weaknesses—whether it’s leadership, lack of focus, discipline, or enthusiasm. Avoid pointing fingers at mistakes or external challenges; instead, look in the mirror and evaluate yourself. Develop skills to become a better person, acknowledging that change requires effort.
Entrepreneurial success hinges on personal improvement. This includes refining leadership qualities. Treat people with respect, but hold them accountable. Eliminate mediocre team members, as a company can’t thrive with average or inconsistent crews. Convincing customers of your value is secondary; the primary focus should be on maintaining skilled and reliable teams.
Avoid the trap of being overly friendly or accommodating with subpar subcontractors. Running a business is not a social or babysitting club; it’s a profit-driven endeavor. Letting go of underperforming team members is essential for growth and reducing stress. In business, the goal is to make a profit, pay bills, and have financial flexibility without stressing over expenses.
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