COPs for Painting Operations? They set you free!

Co-written by Mario Guertin, President of PDCA Craftsmanship Forum
and Tricia Huebner, E-Myth Coach and Seminar Leader

If you are a Painting Contractor with at least a few employees, the concept described in this article may hold the key to bringing extraordinary value to your business. The issue facing most small businesses of any kind (even much larger ones) is that the business is run without any documented systems in place, which means that the business is totally dependent on you and a few people who run things for you. If you or they disappear, even for a short while, the business is thrown into chaos and can quickly perish. Sound familiar?

How can you break free from this business quagmire and bring extraordinary value to your business in the process? First of all, you must create a highly effective way of doing business and then, second, you write down the procedures and practices that ensure the delivery of that unique way of doing business. The documents generated are known as Standard Operating Procedures and become part of the Company SOP Manual. This approach ensures that your systems and way of doing business are not just in your people, but in the business itself. That creates value for your business. In other words, it makes your business valuable to a potential buyer!

In other words, creating a unique “way” to do business is how you build a “brand”. Your brand of doing business is what distinguishes you from your competitors. By documenting that unique way in the form of SOPs, it helps you to deliver your promise to your customers each and every time. The consistent delivery of that experience is what creates customers for life, is what brings extraordinary value to your business! The “system” runs the business and your people operate the system. You purposely make your business system-dependent, not people dependent. The result is an owner who is more effective, relaxed and can enjoy life more fully. SOPs set you free!

There is more. What about the employees? Might this systematization create or result in a dehumanized experience for the employees? Not unless you make it so. In fact it is the opposite. If systems and procedures are well designed, people experience greater creativity, more productivity, less waste and more satisfaction. How can this be? The reason is simple: people are more relaxed when they know where the target is and how to hit it consistently. Everybody likes opportunity to be an instant expert and be “brilliant” every time. Might this be the biggest payoff of all: A workforce that is relaxed, confident, creative, innovative, engaged and inspired?

I believe so!

In all businesses, the “Operations” part of the business is at the heart of how you deliver that “unique experience” to your customers. Therefore, it is vital to do a great job at developing the Operational SOPs. In the painting business, we call those “Craftsmen Operrating Procedures” (COPs) and would cover topics like: Room setup, Surface Preparation for Gypsum Walls, Power Washing of Decks, Application of Elastomeric Coatings to Brick Surfaces, Site Cleanup etc.

In 2001, the PDCA Craftsmanship Forum was formed to promote the advancement of Craftsmanship across all the sectors of our Industry. Three aspects of its work include:

  1. The development of the Skill Standard for a “Master-Level” Painter and the related tests.
  2. The dissemination of Craftsmanship Tips and Tricks.
  3. The Development of COPs for painting.

As a tangible example, if you go to our web site at, and click on “COPs”, you will find a COP Template, as well as a Draft for an COP on Painting a 6-Panel Door with Waterborne Enamel. It is the Forum’s goal to produce COPs for all aspects of Residential Painting and eventually for all aspects of the work performed by this sector of the industry. The COPs will be downloadable and customizable to the needs of every painting company. There will also be a liknage with the Pacer program and the Estimating guide, thereby closing the loop between estimating, prescription of procedural steps and instructing/training of the workforce.

If you are interested to participate in the development of COPs, I invite you to join the Craftsmanship Forum by downloading the Forum Membership Application and faxing it back to us or e-mailing it to us. Check off the COP (or SOP) box on the application and we will contact you immediately. If you have any questions, please call Mario Guertin at 847-612-5812. Please download the article (under the “Articles” page of the Forum’s website) for more information regarding how you can participate in the COP development process.

Also, consider participating in the Forum’s yearly Craftsmanship Conference in September 2006 (more info in the “Event” section of website).