Respect for Clients and their Premises – “The Golden Rule of Painting”

By Mario Guertin – President, PDCA Craftsmanship Forum
President, Painting in Partnership, Inc.

Jim Opelka – Foreman,
Painting in Partnership, Inc.

This article is written with the Residential sector in mind, although the principles outlined here are applicable to any sector of the industry. Throughout the ages, the Golden Rule has been a universally accepted standard for human conduct: “Do unto others what you would have others do unto you”. When you deal with a painting project, in someone’s house, what does “The Golden Rule” mean, exactly? This article will lay out the Basic Principles of Respect for clients and their premises and give the reader specific examples of how respect is displayed in different phases of a painting project.

Basic Principles of Respect

There are a few basic principles in displaying respect during a painting project. Listed below are the main one’s:

  • The Client Comes First: It is very common for painters to focus on the tasks at hand and forget for whom this work is being done. When doing work in someone’s house, the client’s convenience comes first, not the painters’, not the contractor’s! We must resist the temptation to think that no one will notice and take the short cuts.
  • First Impressions: The earlier you can put the client at ease, the better. First impressions matter a lot. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression; so make it a good one!”
  • Their Place is Your Place: How would you want someone to behave in your own house when doing work there? This is the MINIMUM clients expect! If you do more, goodwill with the client will surely be enhanced.
  • Communication is Key: No two clients are alike, so check with them how they like things done. If they tell you and you do what they asked, trust is increased. Knowing what is going to happen during the day and what is expected of them for the next day also contributes to clients being relaxed and comfortable. The bigger the project, the more vital it is to have good communication.
  • Minimize Disruption: Part of the job of painters is to keep the disruption of the clients’ life style to a minimum. Clients want you to get done and make it as comfortable as possible in the meantime. The idea is that, when the project is completed, the client does not know you were there, except for the beautiful surfaces you left behind (I am stretching a little here of course).
  • Money Well Spent: Parting with their money is no small act for clients. When they write the check, they want to know that their money was well spent. All the steps taken to complete the project must have produced that feeling for the client. Otherwise, the client feels disrespected and goodwill suffers; we failed!

Respect Over the Course of a Painting Project

We will list ways that respect for clients and their premises can be demonstrated over the course of an average painting project.

    1. From the Moment you Arrive:
      1. Timely arrival.
      2. Notify client if arrival is delayed.
      3. Park in an area where you are not in the way of the client and neighbors.
      4. Watch out for No Parking signs.
      5. Reconfirm parking spot(s) with client.


    1. When you First Enter Client Premises:
      1. Introduce yourself and stall in a professional manner.
      2. Provide client with business cards for everyone on the project.
      3. Lay down a clean tarp when first entering the premises. to protect flooring where supplies are first brought in.
      4. Remove shoes until shop is set up, especially if the outdoors is messy.
      5. Confirm with client the first area where the work is to begin.
      6. Confirm that the shop location will not present any problem for the client.
      7. Ask which bathroom can be used during the project.
      8. Ask the location of the utility sink.
      9. Protect access route to work area with proper coverings.
      10. Confirm client wishes regarding picture hooks, window treatments or other concerns they may have.
      11. If pets are in the house, confirm any special requests clients may have.


    1. As the Work Progresses:
      1. Inform client of what will take place during the first day.
      2. At the end of the day, inform the client either verbally or in a note about what will take place the next day and what is expected of them. More than an overnight notice may have to be given when closets, big rooms or multiple rooms are involved.
      3. Inform the client of any pre-existing conditions or any other problems as they discovered.
      4. If non-paint issues are discovered that may impact the client such as mold, moisture damage, structural issues, etc., communicate them to the customer right away.
      5. Always request that children and pets be kept away from the work area to avoid accidents and poisoning.
      6. Be sure to allow time at the end of the day to put the shop in a neat and orderly state. Cover the shop area with a tarp for added safety.
      7. Hang wet rags/towels in an appropriate area.
      8. Vacuum or sweep any debris in the work area.
      9. Never leave an open bucket of paint, thinner or other materials.
      10. Remove tarps from stairs and other areas that could be dangerous to the client.
      11. Be sure to take any garbage with you every day.


  1. At the End of the Project:
    1. Make sure all furnishings, window treatments and hardware are put back where they belong.
    2. Vacuum, sweep and wipe as needed to leave room in at least as good a condition as you found it.
    3. Take client on a walk through to ensure complete delight.


The list of items above is only a sampling of what, on a given project, it might take to gain the trust and respect of a client. In some situations, it might take a lot more! Every project and every client is different. Respect requires Vigilance, Care and an Engagement with one’s work. The reward is a client who is relaxed, comfortable and appreciative, every step along the way; a client who will call you back every time and refer at every opportunity they have. Now, isn’t that dog heaven?

By comparison, the cost of nonchalance in the Client Respect area can be devastating to a business. We all have heard of nightmare stories of people getting removed from job sites, companies losing entire projects, lawsuits and broken client relationships. The cost of poor performance in this area can result in more subtle costs, harder to detect: clients who will not call again, who will not refer and be a source of negative advertisement for you. Outcomes like these are THE WORST KIND OF PAINT FAILURES!