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So You Want To Be A Painter...

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jQuery(document).ready(function($){jQuery(function(){jQuery("#msg_23286").css("overflow-y", "hidden");});});So You Want To Be A Painter...

The meaning and requirements involved with that statement have changed quite a bit over the years, no more so than what it is becoming right now. There has always been a lot of people who believe that a box of brushes and a rag or two made for the instant "interim" career, side-business, even life-long pursuit. But for the serious, dedicated tradesman/craftsman, the words involve a commitment to education and training that goes far beyond a white van with a cool logo...

For centuries the system was patent and effective; A young man would be mentored and trained by the journeyman. Often a father-to-son passing of secrets and skills, that for the bulk of history did not only include learning to tint coatings (white was predominant), but to make them in the first place. The most tried and true form of teaching in human history, apprenticeship, served humanity without the need for curriculum, schedule of classes, or chemistry courses. The apprenticeship system, though still in existance in isolated instances, has only recently gone the way of the Studebaker, and sadly, did that not long after...My own apprenticeship ended in 1990, and I've hardly heard the term since, much less met anyone in the painting trade younger than I who claimed to have trained in kind.

There was a wild and crazy span of time between my journeyman certificate being signed and the late '90s where the demand was so high for journeyman painters that anyone with a brush and a story could easily (and mistakenly) be hired on the spot and paid wages that true tradesman spent years working their way towards. "Anyone can paint!" became a rally cry for the laid-off IBM and Motorola exec who had a BA in BS, and the way that painters came up through the ranks has still not recovered. A conscientious contractor trying to weed through the used car salesmen to find real painters found they were up against not only smooth talking hacks, but the nanny-state; the government developed rules and hiring requirements that made it more and more difficult to fire those who didn't measure up. In Arizona it became fashionable to hire illegals, most of whom were at least honest enough to admit they knew nothing of painting but were either eager to learn or willing to take simple laborer positions. There were more than a few advantages to the employer to take the risk of hiring illegals; For the most part, they did what they were told how they were told to do it--They trained well and fast. Rarely did they argue or risk their tenuous employment, and they made their employers a LOT of money by being paid under the table, bypassing the exhorbitant fees and tax-matching and paperwork that documented citizens required. But this post is not about illegals, only mentioning their contribution to the evolution of the trade...

There will always be the "Anyone can paint!" mentality. Mostly because it is true. Put a loaded brush in the hand of a two-year-old and he will prove it to you right before your eyes...But not just anyone can fix what "anyone" paints. I've known self-trained painters who stuck with it long enough to actually know their stuff, but it took them twice as long to get to a journeyman level and a lot of their technique was questionable. The just-out-of-high-school summer house painting crews are, for the moment, still around, and the economy is convincing more and more potential customers to become their own painters, also a topic for another thread. Paint contractors aren't hiring right now, and I don't see that changing anytime soon...

My dad worked for the Bell Telephone system from the early fifties to shortly after the AT&T breakup. He was an electrical technician, and knew his stuff--For his time...One day they came up to him and said "Vern, you have two choices: Go back to school and relearn EVERYTHING YOU KNOW or take early retirement--We're going digital!" My dad took the retirement. The system the phone company was changing to was literally a new, completely different world. This is about to happen to the painting trade.

Without trying to get political, if you look objectively at the course of events the government has taken over the last thirty years or so regarding a vast number of industries, one can legitimately assert that our own government is effectively criminalizing EVERYTHING we do. Think about it; Rules, rules, fines, fines, rules and fines. Certification. They are dictating even the tools we must use. The fines they intend to impose can amount to more than a contractor's yearly income for one simple incursion. The sole proprieter is being pressured out. These rules will apply to the "college painters" and the handymen and the associated trades such as remodel specialists, window installers, etc. I am being faced with the same question my dad was all those years ago, and I'm afraid I have no desire to reinvest my entire life in order to prolong the inevitable. I am effectively retired as of this weekend. I cannot afford the tenets of a bureacrasy with no interest in my success or livelihood.

So you want to be a painter...

...The response no longer refers to skill or experience or education, but whether you can afford it...?

jQuery(document).ready(function($){jQuery(function(){jQuery("#msg_23287").css("overflow-y", "hidden");});});Great Eric- thanks for taking the time to do that! 

jQuery(document).ready(function($){jQuery(function(){jQuery("#msg_23290").css("overflow-y", "hidden");});});What would be your perfect scenerio then as to how our government should handle this?


jQuery(document).ready(function($){jQuery(function(){jQuery("#msg_23292").css("overflow-y", "hidden");});});Carl, there is no "perfect scenario", not unless you subscribe to the current utopian ideal that your nose be blown for you and your butt be wiped from birth to death by a benevolent government. There is and there will never be a such thing as a benevolent government. Once that is understood, the ONLY scenario that has a chance of 1) Allowing people to determine their own direction and goal as per their own level of desire and ambition to achieve that goal, and 2) Allow those same people to work an honest day to make and charge an honest fee, and 3) Maintain a price schedule that gives the most amount of homeowners the ability to afford PROFESSIONAL painters instead of letting their houses go or having the choice taken away from them to be able to hire someone at all, and 4) Maintain a status quo that has worked just fine for the last century or more, the scenario is simple:

Keep the government out of what they know not.

The American government (or any country for that matter) cannot claim even one success in the business realm. NOT ONE endeavor has broken even, much less made a profit, and all that still exist either exist by the grace of government subsidy or are constantly under the threat of needing it. Please name for me even one gainful business ever run by any government anywhere. People in government have no concept of scratching and clawing and competing for their income, most have never known a paystub that wasn't provided by the taxpayer.

The more industries that the government lays it's heavy thumb upon, the more industry that leaves the country, downsizes, or shuts down altogether. But they insist on telling us how to do our jobs.

But back to the topic of this thread...

How does one go into business as a painter? How about a hypothetical...OK, he hires on and works up the experience ladder with a contractor or series of contractors for whatever amount of time it takes to to earn a journeyman status, then invests in a vehicle and tools and advertising and licences and periphery overhead like phones, bookkeeper, the like. Then he's out there, on his own, underbidding himself in order to get some jobs, some word of mouth, try to build his business. But he's new to being in charge, doesn't quite have his legs under him, and once, just once, he forgets a required tool, forgets a step in the government's Little Red Book for paint contractors, and somebody calls it in...

Does a $37,500 per incursion, per day fine sound even remotely rational? Do you believe that the government will take this poor sot's position and "green-ness" into account? The entire structure of how a painter does his job has now changed. Billy-Bob Bucksnort, the local handyman, has just been put out of business because he can't afford the fees, certificates, and the chance that he gets one of those rational $37,500 fines slapped up-side his head. This will repeat countless times across the country. No more can someone simply develop their skills and and take advantage of the God-given Right of opportunity to let the market decide whether you're good enough.

The wheels of this type of government progression do not stop either. The time will come where being a painter, self-employed, hired on, regardless, will require a degree. Certification classes will become courses in a broader requirement, but all those poor homeowners who can't afford a professional yet aren't even covered in the EPA rule and are the single most prone to create exactly the damage we're supposedly being certified against will be on their own in those lead-based death traps that have been killing untold millions since the first brushful hit the first windoe sash.

This will apply to a great many other trades as well. And you absorb the costs how? By raising your fees? Look around, there's not many buying now, see how many throng to your doorstep once you've raised your price even a little. Then there will be insurance. Think your business policy will cover fines? Not at the current premiums...

I know I sound indignant, but people need to give this move by the EPA some serious thought. No longer will it suffice to do good work, or even exceptional.

Now it will be necessary to be a painter, a chemist, an investigator, a car salesman and a lawyer, all in order to paint someone else's house built before 1978...

jQuery(document).ready(function($){jQuery(function(){jQuery("#msg_23293").css("overflow-y", "hidden");});});Well, the issue for me is that nobody has been fined $37,500 yet.    I don't know if the government will actually fine small companies the full amount.   I'm hoping that is the maximum fine.   I'm hoping that huge figure is just there to scare us all into getting certified.   I'm hoping that the maximum fine is reserved for large companies, not the small guys.   I'm hoping that small companies will get fined $500, $1000, $1500, etc.....more reasonable amounts so that the contractor can get the message, but still survive.    I know I may be naive.    But, I am not so naive that I don't think that the government will use whatever they can as a tool to collect money.   I know that is their primary goal.   But, they still have to be reasonable.   You can't fine people half their salary and expect them not to come after you .... they will.


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