Kevin Nolan, president of Nolan Painting

Don’t Fly By the Seat of Your Pants. Do This Instead. (Video)

Want to take your business to the next level? Then see what Kevin Nolan has to say in our Pro On the Go video series:

Nolan is president of Nolan Painting in Haverton, Pa. He and his brother Brian also run Nolan Summit Services, a consulting business for other company owners. Kevin shared how the small business owner can take their company to the next level by building a sound infrastructure. Some excerpts from our talk:

Why you need structure

When I meet a new client for my consulting company, one of the things that I try to impress upon them is the need to build structure into their company.

Often they’re good contractors, they do great work, but they don’t have much structure. As a matter of fact, they went into business with maybe an “entrepreneurial seizure” and they immediately started doing the work. They fly by the seat of their pants. They don’t really need much in the way of security. They don’t need a regular paycheck. So they can continue on that way for a long time.

They start to hire employees and the employees are not entrepreneurial, necessarily, don’t fly by the seat of their pants, and expect to get paid every Friday.

So it’s really important that you start establishing good business practices around structure in your organization. Your employees crave it.

Ingredients of a good business structure

So what does that look like? It looks like a job description, an understandable pay structure. It looks like structured communications.

So one of the things that I started doing many years ago was having regular meetings. And I remember thinking, “Boy, I never got into this business to have regular meetings.” But I’ve come to realize the value of a well-run meeting.

A well-run meeting has to have a purpose, an agenda, and a length. We call that a PAL. It has to have a set timeline, it has to start on time, it should be structured. I don’t know about you, but I really like a well-run meeting – one that is not wasting my time.

Introducing financial discipline pays off

We built in weekly meetings that deal with the various topics of our business. I remember one of the first ones I had was a finance meeting.

Since I’m the president of my company and I’m the owner, I can spend any amount of money I want on anything I want. And I did. What happened is: I would spend all the money I had every year on the business – investing back in the business, taking whatever was left out for myself. And I didn’t realize that I needed to put some disciplines in place.

So what I started doing was having a finance meeting, and before I bought a new piece of equipment, or made an investment, I would say to my group: “Do you think this makes sense?” Just pause and reflect and get some other opinions. And I found out that they often would sort of control some of my impulses. And, I would be making better decisions when I had the advice of my co-workers.

Inspire employee buy-in

So from the finance meeting, we moved on to a weekly operations meeting.

Once a week we have a meeting about our operations. We bring in our whole organization and we explain to them what’s happening, how much work we have, how much money we have, what are the issues, what are the customer service issues, what are the challenges that we’re facing.

I find that when we talk to our employees like this, they develop an ownership thinking. They develop a sense that they’re part of this team and that they want this team to win.

And that’s what it’s really all about. It’s about developing an organization that functions as a team. Because people that are on teams know what winning and losing look like, and people want to win.

And they want to win because winning is fun, winning is profitable, winning is rewarding. Those are the reasons why people come to work every day. And ultimately, when the team wins, there’s more money to go around for everybody.

Keep it short, keep it focused

So we’ve since moved on. We have a human resources meeting once a week, we have a training meeting once a week, we have a safety meeting once a month. So the meeting structure – if the meetings are short, well-run, start and finish on time, and everybody knows what’s expected of them at the meeting – can be a very, very good way to run the business.

The payback for company owners

As a matter of fact, that’s one of the things that’s helped me. I can be sometimes unfocused and scatterbrained. That can happen to me. What should I be working on next? What should I be doing next? I find that by having this meeting structure, that I can table problems that are related to finance to the finance meeting. So I can simply put that away. I know I’m going to be dealing with that on Monday morning at 9 o’clock.

An HR problem? Can it wait until the HR meeting? If so, let’s deal with it then. It’s really helped me compartmentalize and think in a more structured way.

Bottom line: You look (and are) more organized

So go figure… I started my business as a fly-by-the-seat of the pants operation, and now I run meetings. But it’s really helped provide the structure that my employees crave. They know what’s happening. It doesn’t look like I’m out there making things up and moving in a million directions. It makes me look like I’m organized. And that has really helped our company function as a single, cohesive team.

Watch the first Pro On the Go “Taking Your Business to the Next Level” video: Building on Dad’s Dream.


You can watch more videos in our Pro On the Go series on the Sherwin-Williams YouTube channel or on the Sherwin-Williams painting contractors website.