Today we’d like to introduce you to Greg Miller.
Greg, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
In the fall of 2008, my wife and I decided to explore options for buying our first home. Both of us grew up in a small town on Long Island in New York. We picked a few locations based on climate and cost of living. At the time, Greenville had been an up-and-coming top 10 place to live.
As a child, my parents owned their own franchise cosmetics business (Merle Norman). They became friends with a locally owned and operated business near Greenville and we traveled to visit them on our road trips to Florida every year to spend time with family. Since Greenville naturally made the list we decided to come and spend a weekend.
I called a local realtor and asked her to show us some homes so we could get an idea of what to expect, this quickly turned into us making an offer on one. With a newly accepted offer and our second child on the way, we wrapped up our affairs in New York and moved here. Our fate as it turns out was impeccably timed with the housing recession. Both of us were in college at the time and one of us had to get a job.
I started painting in the summer of my junior year of high school. I got a job with two family members and they trained me to do wallpaper, carpentry, and painting. I worked weekends, nights, and on occasion during my shorter days at school. Not only did I get to be their apprentice I also became my cousin’s mentee. He taught me how to build rapport, organization, cleanliness, and most importantly integrity.
Over the next few years, my need to earn grew so I went on to work with different painting organizations. With my work ethic and polished skills, I quickly rose to management positions. Coming from a family business to a larger company was a complete eye-opener. Originally, I thought of painting as a great skill to take with me anywhere I lived, but these companies were different animals.
They had multiple fleet vehicles, office staff, marketing materials, websites, and benefits. I was blown away by what my employers had built. They were true entrepreneurs and trailblazers. I took my job seriously, even while studying for my architecture degree. I worked my schedule out to only miss one day a week. I spent a lot of my free time reading blueprints for my employers and helping them develop their commercial estimating platforms.
It was a win/win as I needed to develop that skill for my school work as well. Since we decided to move on a whim, we mutually agreed that starting a painting business would be a good move. I spent the next few months developing my plan and getting my tools together and begging our family friends for referrals. I have always liked the expression “the squeaky gear gets the grease.”
My persistence paid off, I had my first job sold, an entire exterior repaint! I was really excited to get going, but I had so much to learn. First off, the bugs are fierce here. I had a first-generation iPhone and I remember googling venomous spiders so I could keep myself alive. The other thing to take into account is the heat index, I could barely last 3-4 hours without taking serious breaks.
Getting your first job is only a small fraction of what you need to do. I decided to spend every moment I could improve my business. Listening to e-books all day while I worked, doing estimates at night, developing my brand, building my website, making business cards, etc. Believe it or not, I think the recession is a large factor in propelling my business to where it is today.
Once I got the phone ringing, I was able to sell a good portion of my estimates. What I had come to find is that a lot of businesses were over-extended and over-leveraged during this time. My punctuality and professionalism helped me keep things moving. The first year was very difficult, not knowing anyone and having a very small network, I had my work cut out for me (paint pun intended).
After hiring my first employees I was able to focus on business development and keeping the machine moving. I developed great relationships with my vendors and local businesses. Without their support, I would not be where I am today. We have had so many challenges and trials by fire it’s hard to list them all.
One thing I came to realize is that without a great team, it is nearly impossible to achieve your goals.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
It has not been the smoothest road by far. Upon being awarded my largest project to date, I could not be more thrilled. This meant that I could scale back the number of hours I had been working and spend more time with my family. Until that time, my largest scope of work was $10,000, this project was $200,000.
It was a new construction project, an athletic facility that included a bowling alley, restaurant, Olympic indoor swimming facility, full court basketball arena, lounge, and offices. I immediately got to work hiring staff, adding equipment, and expanding. Growing at a rapid pace has its challenges without mistakes. One of the first portions of the project included us painting the steel structure for the pool.
Originally, we were scheduled to paint this still on the ground before it was erected. Unfortunately, the general contractor decided to erect this steel without our knowledge. This presented a couple of obstacles for us, first off we had to rent boom lifts to get to the steel. ones that were big enough to boom out over the empty pool. Once we got the logistics figured out we went to work.
After the crew was started, I scaled back my role in the daily fieldwork to focus on the business side. I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment. It felt good to know that I had worked so hard to get to this point and I was reaching my goals.
One day while I was in the office, I received a phone call from the mayor of the town we were working in. “Mr. Miller, this is the mayor of… To what do I owe the pleasure, Mr. Mayor? Well Mr. Miller we just got our new squad cars and county vehicles in, and they are white, and they were meant to be black”.
My breath paused as I felt the weight of what he said come crashing down on my moment. Learning how to successfully operate a small business is the most expensive education you can get yourself without knowing it. As I am now well aware, catalyst epoxy paint cures and does not dry without the chemical process completed.
The paint floated into the air and rained down on the town’s vehicles. Let’s just say, it didn’t stop there. I jumped in my vehicle and rushed to the scene. On the way, the mayor and I decided it would be best to hire a mobile detail service to get started right away.
Unfortunately, this company was not properly trained in removing this specific type of paint. This incident proceeded to get progressively worse by the day. Vehicles were permanently damaged, and this led to just about the entire town getting a free paint detail.
My insurance company flew a special team in to handle the triage. One of the hardest blows was that each individually owned vehicle was a single claim with a deductible. One by one we got a front row seat to the vehicles lined up down, sometimes as far as we could see.
Another thing that we have come to learn is that not every business pays its bills. We have encountered more unethical people than I care to admit. One of my mentors told me early on “to be successful in business you need three things: a good attorney, lawyer, and banker”. Sage words from a person that has accomplished a lot in life.
There are so many things that occur to you in hindsight. The most important takeaway is that when you face your obstacles head-on, you survive. We have changed our contracts, training process, and willingness to adapt along the way. If you do not innovate you will die in business.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Green Pro Painting?
Green Pro Painting specializes in commercial, and industrial painting, and concrete floor coatings.
Some of our noteworthy projects include BMW, Volvo, Drive Automotive, Canvas Lofts, Palmetto Bluff River House, Camperdown Academy, Oaks on the River Boutique Hotel, Aldi, Publix, Spinx, Loves, Greenville county schools, Greenville County Rec, Foothills, NCEES.
We are known for our integrity and for seeing projects through. Our staff loves what they do and their pride shows in the extra effort they put into our projects. What sets us apart is our process. We are very organized and can accomplish large-scale projects with great communication, follow-through, and accuracy.
We are most proud of our team and what their personalities/skills bring to the table. Our staff loves what they do and have a great sense of accomplishment on each project they complete. To see a pile of dirt turn into a functioning place of business or learning feels good.
Our brand is important to us. We are philanthropic by nature and get involved in a lot of community charities and not non-profits.
Our company offers interior and exterior painting for offices, HOA communities, buildings, machinery, flooring, liquid-applied roof coatings, and the list goes on.
We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you.
Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Personally, I think that the most important attributes are persistence and discipline. If you give up when bad things happen you will never see the other side of what you can accomplish.
I have had moments where things got so hard I wanted to quit, but that little voice in my head told me to keep going.
I started this business in an old pickup truck with hand tools and step ladders not knowing many people. With the help of my employees and everyone’s hard work/dedication I am sitting in an office of a building that we own, that has an attached warehouse filled with equipment while our teams are deployed in 2 states.
I would say luck sounds more like a team that came together and made things happen 8).
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