Painting was going to just be a temporary job for Joe Ferrera (third from right above), but it became his lifelong career. We sat down with the owner of Consolidated Painting, LLC in Kapolei, Hawaii, to find out what he’s learned over his long career in the trade.
How did you get started in the painting industry?
My grandfather was a painting contractor in New York. He painted the RKO and Loews movie theaters, and I would work for him in the summers. When I was discharged from the Marine Corps with a business degree, it was hard to get a job. I met a painting contractor who offered me a job as an entry-level apprentice and that was the start of my career in the painting industry.
Then you moved to Hawaii?
Yes, I worked for Honolulu Painting, starting as an apprentice and worked my way up to assistant superintendent. I worked for Clark Painting for four years on the Red Hill fuel storage tanks as head superintendent. At the end of the project, I was offered the position of training coordinator for the Painting Industry of Hawaii. I became a master instructor, teaching class at Honolulu Community College.
I have also served on the board of directors for The Associated Builders and Contractors of Hawaii (ABC). As the ABC Chairman and as the chairman of the Contractors Education Training Trust. You give back to the industry that has made you successful.
After a short attempt at retirement, you started Consolidated Painting Company, LLC with Jeff Waiblinger in 1998, and have tackled some of the islands’ biggest commercial paint jobs. What is the secret to your success?
Our success in the painting and coating industry is based on looking ahead to see what new technology is coming up and seeing where we can apply this to our needs and the marketplace to remain competitive.
We do this by training technicians on the new equipment and getting personnel trained so that we become a certified coating applicator in the new materials. We kept our eyes on the changing industry and decided to expand into special coatings like waterproofing coatings, special lining coatings and exotic deck coatings which gave us the competitive edge in the industry.
We got a bigger piece of a small pie by diversifying our skills. This increased our manpower needs from 20 to as many as 45 skilled workers.
What’s your biggest challenge in running a painting company?
The most challenging part of owning your own company is to put together a compatible team that thinks and works together for the common good of the company. They have to buy in and make it their own. Second is that all your assets are on the line – to support the cash flow of the company.
What is the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding thing to me is seeing a project completed on time and on budget. Whether a new building, a commercial store like Bloomingdale’s, a hotel that is refurbished on the exterior and interior, a historical building at University of Hawaii, or the Maui CONRAC project, seeing the finished product is the greatest reward to me.
What advice do you have for a young person getting started today in the painting and coatings business?
It would be the advice I was given by my grandmother: “Work hard, like what you do, do what others won’t do, do it to the best of your ability, take pride in what you do, be honest and be a person of your word.” Also, stay on top of the up-and-coming technologies of the industry. Keep in mind that a painting and coating contractor is the only trade that will return to repaint or recoat the project every five to eight years. No other trade has this. Something to think about!
Joe Ferrera was interviewed by Mike Starling, PPC Editor. A condensed version of this article was originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of PPC magazine. Read more of what pro painters have discovered on the job in the PPC What I’ve Learned archive.