Maxing Out a $500 Credit Card to Owning a Painting Franchise

Posted by Pete Gilfillan and Nat Truitt on Apr 22, 2021 9:39:00 AM

Pete is joined by Nick Lopez, the owner of Lime Painting, on this podcast episode. They discuss how Nick went from a college student to franchisor, when he will write his next book, the future of Lime Painting, and how painting services are always in demand


Pete:                Nick Lopez, welcome to the hire yourself podcast.

Nick L.:             Thanks for having me.

Pete:                Oh man, it's not often I get somebody that is so successful like yourself on here. So I'm really excited. And Nick, I know you're the founder of LIME painting, the franchise.

And I want to kind of spend some time just getting to know you; I want to kind of little bit about what the heck got you started in the painting business, to sharing some of the great business acumen that you've gained over the years. So first question for you is, how did you end up in the painting business?

Nick L.:             You know, I never thought I would be in the paint space. I've kind of always viewed myself as a business guy first. But just out of necessity, I started a paint company in college. I was an out-of-state student at Michigan State, initially from Denver.

And really just found myself needing to pay for tuition and books, cost of living. In fact, I actually took out a 500 credit card, maxed it out that's how I got to Michigan State from high school. So next thing you know, I ran a paint company for five years in college while I worked on my undergrad.

Pete:                Yes, that's great. Not many people go from Colorado to Michigan, right? Most time, people are going the other direction, all right.

So you go to college, and you bootstrapped college, right? You just worked your way through it; you just took a credit card loan out to get there, right? So you're painting, all right.

So you learn the trade of painting while you're in college. So what's the next evolution? Then you decided to start your own company?

Nick L.:             Well, it became very clear upfront that clients were struggling to find a reliable and consistent painting service. I was hearing things like thanks for showing up, thanks for doing a good job. Thanks for answering your phone. And I was just so bewildered initially as a 18-year-old, green to business.

I just expected because you pay for something, you get it, especially with the high-end homeowners I was working with. I felt like logic would dictate that everyone would want to work for those types of homes, and that wasn't the case. So as I got into my business degree, I started learning about competitive advantage.

And recognized this need in specifically the high-end luxury painting coatings and surface restoration space. And sought a mentor, and he introduced me to the idea of franchising. And ultimately, bringing the value that I was bringing to clients in these lancing into other markets.

Pete:                Okay. So bottom line is you decided that based on your education, right? That you're going to, you saw a need under-serviced industry, and you created a premium brand to kind of focus on the higher end, more detailed offering multiple different services.

So you get the business, you're going, very successful, and then you decided to franchising. So how long have you guys been franchising?

Nick L.:             Oh, we started franchising in 2019.

Pete:                2019. So how many franchises do you have now?

Nick L.:             We're up to; last year 2020, we tripled in size. We're about 20 locations.

Pete:                Oh, congratulations. So you tripled in size during a pandemic, that's pretty good.

Nick L.:             That is pretty good.

Pete:                All right, excellent. And I always ask people because as you talk about franchising, there's an advantage to a franchise as you go through tough times, this black swan event, right? So certainly, from your franchisees that you had, you tripled in size. What did you do to help the franchisees through the last 12 months of this pandemic?

Nick L.:             I think just support and leadership by example. I'm a board director; I'm an advisor for other companies. And it became clear that they were making conscious decisions to take steps back, and every situation is unique and different.

But for us at LIME, we wanted to be really intentional about defining how we ultimately allowed 2020 to speak to us. And fortunately, circumstances had it that we were deemed an essential business.

So we just had to adjust the way that we operated the business. And at the end of the day, it was about collaboration, a lot of communication. Adapting and adjusting to change, and communicating through that.

Pete:                Okay. So you led through communications, and you also helped them adapt the business model to the new rules or the ways in which we had to just to survive. Okay, so how did your franchisees do last year in terms of business? Did they come out of this pretty good? I mean, from the standpoint of business activity?

Nick L.:             Overall, pretty good.

Pete:                Okay. So good progress. And where do you see it kind of going? So now everybody's getting vaccinated, we're going to move on with life. Do you see a lot of activity with your franchisees in terms of people needing painting services?

Nick L.:             Painting's one of those consistent, it's a need. It's not a sexy business, but it's needed. And it's every household. So I started my painting career in 2008, 2009 middle of the great recession.

And really started scaling the franchise in this latest pandemic. And in the middle, there was some booms, and I'd say consistently across the board, at least from painting, there's been consistent demand.

Pete:                Yes. So in many ways, it's recession-resistant, right? Irregardless of what happens, people need stuff painted and stuff like that; okay, that's awesome. What advice would you give to somebody Nick, that I'm thinking about investing in a business, investing in franchise? What advice would you give to somebody that's kind of thinking about doing that?

Nick L.:             Due diligence is key, right? And culture. And at the end of the day, it's about people and what resonates with you. There's that old gut check, right, and it's important, especially when you're considering a franchise opportunity.

There's so many different variables when you're exploring a franchise, and they're new in a lot of respects. But at the end of the day, it's simplified in the respect that it comes down to people. And your gut ultimately knows where is home for you.

Pete:                Yes. So it's really about the culture and the connection, everybody's got the numbers and all that kind of stuff, but the idea is that where do you feel like at home? That makes a lot of sense. What characteristics do you think people need to have to be a successful business owner like you? So what characteristics would you look for or suggest that people have to have to be a successful business owner?

Nick L.:             Well, I think there's two types of business owners, the crazy ones and the smart ones. The smart ones follow the crazy ones and let the crazy ones pave the way and take the arrows in the back. The smart ones do their research, find the right franchise for them, and invest in a system that's proven and established.

The crazy entrepreneurs need a lot of optimism. A high pain tolerance and a lot of willpower. And the smart ones get to benefit from the years and years of proving out and the resources that are put in place for providing a business that you can step into and plug away in your market.

Pete:                Okay. So one, I kind of heard you say you got to work hard, right? Especially if you're one of those crazy ones, as you say. And then the second is it's about this idea of really kind of working towards following a system, right?

So if you're going to invest in the system, you got to follow the system. All right, so hard work, following the system. What are the characteristics do people need to be a successful business owners?

Nick L.:             You said it there. The coachability is huge, but turning coachability into franchise from learning the system and the processes that have been laid before you and converting that into being a coach, a team builder. Business ownership, I can speak specifically to LIME. It's about working on the business and building a team.

And ultimately, scaling that team and that comes down to the ability to paint a picture for the vision of what you're trying to create in your market. And consistently keeping in touch with your team to make that vision a reality.

And hopefully, there's some really cool technology in the middle that helps you run your business semi-absentee and pull on the levers that you need to within your business.

Pete:                So what I heard you say it's really important to be a leader with your organization, as well as in the community, right? So as a business owner that's your responsibility is to drive and lead the business. Not necessarily do whatever the business does, but be a leader, is that right?

Nick L.:             Yes.

Pete:                Very good. You know if you were going to give somebody that's looking to invest in a business a book. What book would you share with them?

Nick L.:             Well, I would do the kind gesture that that mentor did for me that I mentioned back in college. He recommended me to a book called e-myth revisited by Michael Gerber. It just blew my socks off and changed the way that I perceived the business that I was working in, trying to work on at the time in college.

And gave me that understanding of what a sound franchise business should be. One that has roles, process, systems. Can be duplicated and ultimately scaled through franchising. That book was a blessing for me and is one that's really been profound in the way that I scaled out the past 13 years to where I'm at today.

Pete:                Yes. And e-meth revisited is one of my favorite books too. I actually give it to people every time they invest in a franchise. I share it because I think there's some great insights into it. So we're common there from that standpoint.

Do you follow any thought leaders like Darren Hardy or Tony Robbins? Do you have any thought leaders or kind of mentors out there?

Nick L.:             I really like athletes. I'm from Denver; I absolutely love Peyton. I love the way he was, as we just coined to the leader. He really was an analytic, but also a driver and had a lot of charisma, and had fun in the process.

But put in the work to create the results. And I had a lot of appreciation watching him come to Denver and win the super bowl. And have a redemptive moment after being blown out that first time here in Denver.

Pete:                Yes.

Nick L.:             So yes, I love athletics. And I wrestled in college; I love the locker room atmosphere. And I talk a lot about coaching, and I think that's just the gym rat that's inside of me. I had so much energy growing up. My parents had to put me in like three sports at a time just to keep me from tearing the house apart.

So I really like athletes, and I appreciate watching their storylines and how they deal with adversity, and it's just entertaining. But if you're talking about a thought leader in the business space, I really like a guy named Ed Mylett.

He has a podcast, it's like number one business, and he gets a lot of athletes and entrepreneurs on his show. Different thought leaders across the board, and I think he does a great job.

Pete:                Well, I'll have to check him out. I had not heard that, so I will certainly do that. Do you think all the sports you did, the wrestling and stuff like that? Do you think that sets you up to be a successful business owner?

Nick L.:             Oh, 100 percent. 100 percent, yes.

Pete:                It's that 100% accountability, right? You're on that wrestling match; you can't blame it on anybody else. It's you versus your competitor, and there's no hiding from that standpoint?

Nick L.:             Yes, no hiding.

Pete:                Yes. I wrestled as a kid, and I was terrible, right? So I'm not very flexible; I'm slow, maybe a little mean, right? Chew on people's ankles, but I was a terrible wrestler. But it didn't go very far from that standpoint, that's cool. So as you look towards the future, where do you see kind of the economy going? There's lots of stuff out there today. Where do you see the economy going?

Nick L.:             I think people are resilient, right? And we've shown that we're resilient and recessions in the past. And that crazy entrepreneur in me is very optimistic. So you're going to get an optimistic outlook.

I always feel that in adversity, and the more adversity there is, the bigger the comeback there is. So I'm looking forward to that comeback story. And I think we're on the precipice of it.

Pete:                Very good. And where do you see LIME going in, say, the next five years? So if I had you back on in five years, it won't be five years. But if I had you back in five years, what would you tell me you've accomplished with LIME over the last five years?

Nick L.:             I would say that we accomplished what we're currently doing, which is creating the country's most prestigious luxury painting company. We focus on that top third of home values in a market.

Currently, we're the first and only painting company to be doing that, and because of that, we offer a lot of different services for that particular type of homeowner or property owner. But in five years, I would say we'd have awarded a good amount of viable markets across the country.

Pete:                It sounds like you're building this brand, a national brand, right? You're going to be highly successful. And what I heard you say earlier is that hey, you're really focused on the kind of the top third of the residential market, and you provide something that nobody else does one professionalism.

But most importantly is that not only do you guys paint, but you do other services, right? So if I'm an owner of a nice house, I don't want to go to three different vendors to get stuff done. I want to just focus on LIME; you'll take care of the whole thing for me, so I don't have to worry about it, and you show up?

Nick L.:             Yes, exactly.

Pete:                Yes, that's awesome.

Nick L.:             I always joke about that; it was no different. We have all these things, it's a simple business, we've become a very sophisticated business. But at the core of it, whether it was that 18 year old or the version now and we stick to showing up doing a good job and answering our phone. I mean it's that simple.

Pete:                Wow, and you'd mentioned earlier technology. Do you guys use any special technology as it applies to LIME painting?

Nick L.:             We have a business, whereas an owner, you can scale a team. And so we want to match our technology to important indicators in the business, those KPIs, right? And so on the sales side, that CRM. So to answer your question, yes, we have very robust CRM that really complements our sales process and helps an owner as a coach be able to see where margins are. And coach against where those margins should be.

And then, on the production side, a robust platform that reports against those important KPIs. Whether it's our subcontractor management or job site management, all the way down to a granular level of reporting of jobs on a map. So you see pins, and you report against which subs or team members are in the field and where.

And then our canvassing app, so not only do we have a robust marketing plan, but we have a sophisticated sales process. And as a semi-absentee owner, you're coaching that sales team.

And a big part of that is our sales force canvassing, and so that app being able to get a granular look into a market and report a history of what the activity was on households over a period of time. And then we have our internal communication apps and whatnot. But yes, big emphasis on technology.

Pete:                All right. And technology to drive data, right? Because if you have data, you can really use that to drive your business, right? So that kind of separates you. Okay, got that. And then you also use technology to find customers, right?

The marketing side and things like that, and certainly the communications. But the idea is that you're really leveraging technology to make it a stronger business for the franchisees. Whether it's knowing what you've done to where you need to go and then delivering upon the sales message, is that right?

Nick L.:             Absolutely. And in our business being a service-based company, we need a call center. And as opposed to having to be responsive in the field. And then the extension of that is our proposal building and pricing technology that complements our call center.

So we're trying to minimize our employees and our owners being in the office and focused on being in the field, growing their business, and serving clients.

Pete:                So as owner, I don't have to be answering the phone and scheduling appointments; you guys do that for the franchisees; from that standpoint, even can do some of the pricing, it sounds like.

That's pretty cool, right? Because I don't want to be answering the phones. I don't necessarily want to be paying somebody to answer the phone; that you guys do that for them?

Nick L.:             Exactly.

Pete:                All right. Now my most important question now, you are the best-selling author of a book, it doesn't show up well with the background. But you wrote get LINED, and I even got an autographed copy here, right? So when's the next book coming out?

Nick L.:             Next book, I think there'd be a revision before the next book.

Pete:                All right, very good. Well, I enjoyed reading it, and congratulations on being an author. Nick, you've been great today. Thank you for everything you shared, and congratulations on all your success.

You've built something, and obviously, you worked your butt off to get there from that standpoint. And it's always fun to see success stories like yours, so thank you for everything you shared today.

Nick L.:             Absolutely, it was fun Pete, appreciate it.

Pete:                All right, thanks so much. Pleasure having you here.

Topics: Insider, Funding, Franchise, How To Build Wealth, becoming a franchisee, Podcast

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