Why a Successful Contractor Wants to Pay Their Foreman $100k per Year

Posted 03/29/2015

I have a coaching client who pays his Foreman $100k per year and his #2 guy $60k. If you’re on this website, you are either looking for a job or looking to hire someone and my hunch is those dollar amounts probably jump out at you for very different reasons!

Some of you are calling “BS!”, employees are saying, “How do I get paid like that?” and business owners are thinking, “I’d never pay my Foreman that kind of money.” Let me give you my thoughts on the matter.

Dear Employee:

I’ve never met an employee in any industry who doesn’t think they are worth more money than they are currently getting. I’ve also never met an employee who says the estimator gave the crew too many hours, but I’ll save that for another article.

Throughout my time as a residential painting business owner, I interviewed countless numbers of painters who all said they had amazing skills and should be paid $20, $25, $35 per hour for their abilities. They would say they deserved it because they had 20 years experience. They would say they could spray or hang paper or had some other skill that our trade puts value on.  They would all say, “I do amazing work.”

These are all good things. As an owner, I see value in having people who know what they’re doing and can do it well. In fact, I believe that much of the success a business has rests on the type of people that are on the team. You, employee of a painting business, are the foundation and are much needed.

You are also giving a great deal of trust to the person who employs you. You are trusting them to run a business that will not only provide for you today, but that will also give you and your family a good future. You are trusting the owner to know how to market, lead a good team and understand basic business math so that you’re not one of the many who are jobless when the business takes a dive! This creates a certain amount of pressure on you to make sure you’re compensated fairly. 

Dear Owner:

As an owner you have different pressures that are put on you. I’m not saying you have more pressure, necessarily, just different than those of an employee. You are tasked with getting more leads, making sure you’re protected legally, finding good employees, training people, honoring warranty work, making sure you get paid, selling at a price that makes a profit, scheduling, etc.

We all have pressures. 

Most owners I know, regardless of industry, work hard building a business that will meet the needs of the clients and the employees for many years to come. Next time you see your boss, tell him thank you for putting the work in long after you clock out each day.

It’s All About Value

When others learn my client pays his Foreman $100k a year they usually ask him “why” would he pay so much for a Foreman, when so many business owners barely make that much themselves?

If you paint a wall and do a nice job, that’s great, but honestly, so can a million other people. I don’t say that to disrespect the trade, but it’s true. If you are an employee who wants to make a 6-figure income, then you need to find ways to add value to the company. Let me give you some ideas. Here are the duties the $100k per year Foreman performs (and the $60k per year guy), for example:

  • They do all the service work
  • They build all the projects
  • They up-sold over $200K in 2014

  • They make daily Facebook posts and engage with the public on Social Media
  • They create power point presentations
 for local events they speak at
  • They work all home shows
  • They go on consultations
when needed
  • They shoot videos for the company YouTube Channel and website 
  • They have most of the daily communications with the customer base

  • They order materials and set up product deliveries to jobsites
  • They collect deposits, do final walk-throughs and get final payments
  • They Blog each month

  • They create and produce brochures and photo books

  • They attend at least 4 industry events each year and present at most of them
  • They always have a great Attitude!
  • They have an owners mindset
These guys are maybe worth half of what they are paid for their “Foreman-type” duties, but they add value in countless ways. They make the company money, which is why the company can pay their big-boy wages.

The Lesson

If you’re an owner, it boils down to two things: find good people and let them perform. I’ve had the privilege of spending time with serial entrepreneur Jerry Nelson, who has started 44 companies including Ticketmaster and at one time owned 27 Golf Courses and developed much of Scottsdale, Arizona. 

I asked him, “At what point did each of your successful businesses really take off?” Without hesitation he replied, “When I learned to get out of my own way.”

We talked for a while about what that meant. Here’s the 30-second version: Stop trying to control everything. Hire talented people and pay them as much money as you can. The main conditions of this agreement are that they need to elevate your brand, make your company more money than you pay them and lighten your load.

If you’re an employee, I urge you to look for ways to add huge amounts of value. Can you schedule your own jobs? Can you make sure the paperwork is in order? Can you upsell? Order materials? Do you have photography or video skills that you can bring to the table? Can you write content for the blog or train other employees?

If you find ways to take things off the owner and these things make the company money, you should be paid for it. If you don’t have these abilities or simply don’t want to, you’ll make what you make.

Owners…expect more and pay more. Get out of your own way and let people shine. You don’t always know best and in most cases the #1 thing that hold a business back is the stuff between your ears.

Employees…if you want more, do more. The business can only afford to pay so much for you to paint a wall. It’s simple math. But, there are many other ways you can add value. There is so much to do in a business. Sit down with the boss-man (or woman) and have a talk about how you can help him reach his vision…then, the money will come.

Tom Reber is a former painting contractor turned coach. He is the founder of the personal development company, MOTOR and host of The Strongpreneuer Podcast, a growing business development show on Itunes, where he interviews leading entrepreneurs. 

He helps small business owners throughout the United States and the U.K. build stronger businesses by focusing on what goes on between the ears of the business owner & not letting them off the hook.

Tom currently lives outside Chicago, but he’s moving to Colorado in June 2015 with his wife and three kids. Learn more or contact him at http://www.motorhard.com/