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Q 1.    Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities. Established in 1995.

Ans:    Polson Painting started out as a one man operation working in the Westchase Florida area. 24 years later, our company has now grown into a family owned and operated, multi crew team handling interior and exterior jobs, offering both commercial and residential services. No job is too small or too big for our team to provide the best paint, Sherwin Williams, to give you a quality paint job that will last. We service Pasco, Hernando and Pinellas counties. Our office is located in the Tampa Bay Area.

Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements). I learned to paint in Fairfield CT starting at the age of 16 and studied to learn the trade from a master painter. I learned all the ins and outs of painting and especially strong attention to detail and taking care of your customers. Started my company in 1995 as a one man operation and built it from there.  We take pride in our work and strive to exceed our customer’s expectations.  My family is very important to me, what’s more exciting is they are part of my business as well. We are family owned and operated and treat our customers how we wish to be treated. We have been listed as an Angie’s List A+ rated company every year since 2008 and have won the Super Service award each year as well.  We are also an A+ rated BBB business.  I regularly attend Tony Robbins business seminars to continue to motivate and spark me to take care of my business, family and my customers.

Q 2.    How did the idea for your business come about?

Ans:    I always knew I was an entrepreneur and would work for myself at a young age. I have always been that kinds of personality that beats to a different drum.  I learned early on that you need to love what you do. I loved painting, but more importantly I loved making people’s dreams come true by adding some color to their life by paint.  To have the opportunity to make a living with both of those pieces in place, was very satisfying. To have my family be a part of that, was a dream come true.

Q 3.    What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Ans:    1. TAKE CARE OF YOUR CUSTOMERS!  Don’t assume you know what your customers want, you have to ask them for feedback and continue to ask as those wants can and do change.  Then take care of those needs always. Referrals will be a huge part of your business and if you build trust with your customers, they will remember that and be loyal. Remember to find a way to thank you customers for that loyalty as well.  2. Learn basic accounting and marketing, even if you hire someone else to do that work, know the basics so you are engaged and aware of what going on in your business. Don’t assume someone will make decisions that are best for your business, make sure you expect to meet and discuss the reasons for these decisions and the return you can expect from those decisions. 3. Build relationships everywhere you go, network and stay connected with people in and out of the business, you will be surprised where the connections will lead you. If anything you will have a great support and referral relationship, but the right relationships and connections can change your business.

Q 4.    What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Ans:    1. Patience – There is a constant ebb and flow you have to get used to. When things are down or challenging celebrate that and learn from them and make changes to avoid them in the future. 2. Charitable/Community authentic presence – Remember to give back when you can and get involved in the community. Yes, it great for business but more importantly it is great for your heart and soul. However, make sure it is authentic and if it is not, ask yourself why?  You will need this amazing feeling when dealing with difficult people or situations when you own a business. Remember you get back what you put out, so make sure it is positive and uplifting.  3 Focus on customer experience – You have internal and external customers (employees and actual customers) Take care of both of them and listen to both of them to be heard and understood. Internalize what you hear each and every time and make changes based on that. Your internal and external customers will make or break your business.  You take care of them and their needs, and they will in turn take care of you and the business.

Q 5.    How many hours do you work a day on average?

Ans:    That’s funny!  24!  My work day is typically between 8-6 however we are always brainstorming or meeting people at my son’s baseball game talking about business, or getting a situation after hours that I need to handle.  My point is there is no average day, you do what it takes to take care of the people and grow your business.  This does not mean you do not find time for balance, but that takes planning and organization and hiring the right people to take care of things for you.

Q 6.    To what do you most attribute your success?

Ans:    My fear of failure to be honest. It drives me to always look for a better way. It has never and will never be an option. If something does not work, then create something else or reinvent the way you do it. I have recently learned to look at an idea or something we are going to implement and think about how it will fail.  This is not to be negative, rather it is think things through and have plans in place to not fail or have a plan to implement and execute on quickly should that issue arise

Q 7.    What has been your most successful form of marketing?

Ans:    My customers are my most successful form of marketing ever! Most of my business comes from referrals or reviews my customers have given me on Angie’s list or BBB. I have tried all kinds of marketing and paid adds but I received a better ROI from taking care of my existing customers, engaging with and recognizing those that do refer us. We are going to be implementing a customer referral program to thank our customers who refer us to others. The feedback we have heard from our customers on this idea is overwhelmingly positive.

Q 8.    How did you obtain investors for your venture?

Ans:    Nobody, just me, I started on my own and each job I put money aside to eventually do some marketing to get more work. Eventually I had enough work to hire a crew and started to get referrals to get more work and that continued for years and I grew.  I never had any investors.

Q 9.    What is the best way to achieve long-term success?

Ans:    Listen to your customers and always be willing to change. Look for ways to create lasting value for your customers and know where your industry or business is heading in the next 5 years. Make sure you know what your competition is up to as well as leaders in business. Just because someone is in a different business does not mean you cant learn from what is making them successful and make It your own.

Q 10.    Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?

Ans:    I see the business really focused on customer growth but more so creating value for our existing customers. We are in the process of brainstorming on ways to do just that, and we are getting our data from customer feedback and other sources. I see us getting a little risky and trying new and innovative things because this industry is going to change a lot in the next 5-10 years with technology and marketing.  Our goal is to really excite the team with changes upcoming and do something that nobody has ever done before which will wow our customers.

Q 11.    Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?

Ans:    Southwest is a company I have always looked at in terms of their business model and the way they do business.  As a customer I have always had my expectations exceeded not just met, and that’s something I appreciate, which creates loyalty from me.  They are always looking to provide value for their customers and be different than other airlines. I am willing to pay more for a Southwest flight because I know they have plans in place to make sure to get me to my destination on time, their staff is funny and friendly and will go above and beyond what I need. They listened to what their customer wanted and they made changes.

Q 12.    How important have good employees been to your success?

Ans:    Critical, they are an extension of me so they must have the same ethics, values and standards that I have. If they don’t, they do not stay with me.  The employees I have had that meet those standards have my trust and support so I know they will exceed the customer’s expectations and resolve any issues appropriately.  A job is not done until we have done everything to satisfy that customer.

Q 13.    How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?

Ans:    I don’t ever give up on an idea, I sometimes table it until I am in a different state of mind, to look at it differently. This can take hours, days and even years.  If the idea came up, it had some type of merit, it just may be a timing issue or funding issue.  Sometimes, when we can not get an idea to fly, we come up with a different idea because of the original, so technically, we used it.

Q 14.    What motivates you?

Ans:    Honestly, making people happy. I love when my customers are happy, when my employees are happy, when my family is happy.  Since starting this business I have done just that, I have seen customers moving into their first homes, newly married customers, newly divorced, customers trying to sell their homes, renovating and older home, you name it.  Getting new paint on their walls becomes part of their story part of their journey in this chapter of their life.  I have also seen employees of mine start their own business, creating a new life for them or their families. Its very motivating to donate your time to painting a church or someone who cant afford to paint their home, and seeing the look on people’s faces when they see the beauty that was under that old paint.  Painting is not just a home improvement process, it is so much more.

Q 15.    What are your ideals?

Ans:    Being authentic, always changing, always learning never giving up. Communicate properly and effectively with people. Learning from all experiences good bad and ugly.

Q 16.    How do you generate new ideas?

Ans:    Listening and watching other companies will spark ideas and things we want to implement in the business. Facing challenges and looking for a solution that does not exist will cause us to brainstorm and come up with different ideas to try. Mistakes we make we will always generate new ideas so we can learn from the mistakes and put mitigation plans in place. Customers suggestions, employee suggestions, our kids suggestions will generate ideas. They come from any and everywhere.

Q 17.    How do you define success?

Ans:    The phone keeps ringing and its for new business, that is success for me. Customers and employees say thank you is success. Sure money is a measurement of success but it is more than money that defines it, because you could have a ton of money and be a bad leader or business owner so you are actually not successful in my eyes. If you can find that balance to make a living at what you do, love what you do, and have the ability to impact peoples lives in a positive way, then that is success to me.

Q 18.    How do you build a successful customer base?

Ans:    It is critical to take care of your existing customer base first and foremost.  They will tell everyone if you do well, and they will tell everyone if you don’t.  Nobody is perfect so if a mistake does happen, take care of it quickly and with strong communication. Follow up is key with your customers. Follow up with potential customers and answer all questions as timely as possible.  Rewards loyalty in any way you can with your existing customers. They have choices and recognize that and be appreciative for that, never take it for granted.  Create loyalty programs to thank your customers as well as referral programs to assist you in building your business. Create value for your customers to stick around in your in a business like mine. People don’t paint every day so give them a reason to come to your website or to call you for a referral for a different service.

Q 19.    What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

Ans:    I like to have the freedom to try new things and not have a lot of politics or red tape get in the way.  If I want to try something new, maybe I will research it or maybe I will just try it who knows. I like that I get out of the business, what I put into it.  If I work very hard on something and put in a lot of hours and time and dedication, I typically see great results and that is very satisfying.  My actions or the actions of the team can produce results that we can measure and tie back to those specific actions.

Q 20.    What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

Ans:    Entrepreneurs are responsible and accountable for everything and all aspects of the business.  If you work for someone else you have a small piece of the pie you are responsible and accountable for.  Each person is motivated by one of those things.

Q 21.    How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?

Ans:    All ideas need to be heard, input is always needed, increase your standards always, customers come first but your family is most important, exceed the customer’s expectations, try and surprise them with your level of service. Work together as a team, communication is key, the fortune is in the follow up.  How? We establish it by leading by example, and this is not always easy. There is nobody on the team who is not willing to do someone else’s job if needed.  We are a family owned business so family comes first, we will work together to take care of the customer needs so that a family issue can be addressed.  If we make a mistake we own it and resolve it, we do not criticize or chastise. We talk openly and honestly on a weekly basis as a team and talk about recent items, past items and future items.  We put checks and balances in place to back each other up and ensure tasks are getting completed.  This is always a work in progress and will forever be as well.  We have a “mission statement” and measure everything against that to prioritize what we do.

Q 12.    In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.

Ans:    Passion

Q 23.    If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

Ans:    I would have listened to some mentors who gave me advise that took me years to realize. This would have gotten me to where I am much more timely.  However, I may have not learned the lessons life handed me along way as everything happens for a reason.

Q 24.    How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?

Ans:    It is a true balance of work vs family. You have show your family that you are a part of their lives and make time for them. Not just the really important milestone situations, but the little things.  Involving your family in the business is helpful as well because you all share in the ins and out of the daily business as well as the large successes as well. I know my family is proud of my and the work I do, that we do together that means the world to me.

Q 25.    What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

Ans:    Again, failure is my greatest fear. I manage it by thinking about and assuming it, so I can come up with a game plan to reduce or mitigate that potential for failure.  I also workout and try and keep my head clear to stay focused. Last, I read a lot of books. Some books are on business that succeeded and others that failed. I want to know what they went through and how they dealt with those situations.

Q 26.    How did you decide on the location for your business?

Ans:    I lived there and what better place to be with your customers then where you live. I was able to know a lot of them initially as they were my neighbors, and I knew the HOA and the rules and their standards as well.

Q 27.    Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?

Ans:    No, I think if you have passion and drive for something and patience anyone can be one.  If you think it will take a year, you are not realistic, and if you think you cant fail, you are not realistic. Its like a marriage, you can’t be married to someone for a year and say you are a happily married couple, you have to go through the tough times and stay together and figure things out when a storm hits, this takes time for these challenges to surface.  Only when you have survived those times and came out stronger can you truly say you’re a happily married couple.  It’s the same for business, you have to be able to handle the storms and have the tenacity and drive to see it through.

Q 28.    Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Ans:    My woodshop teacher in HS because he taught me work ethic and the value of hard work. I worked for him in summer and he worked us very hard.  He taught me that nothing will be just handed to you in life, you will need to work hard and put everything you have into it, then it has value.

Q 29.    What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?

Ans:    I don’t look at it that way I guess.  Nobody is perfect, so any mistake I made was teaching me something or taking me to another direction I needed to go.  Some of my greatest mistakes lead me to the path of some of my greatest blessings.  My goal was not to make the same mistake twice, and I think I have done a pretty good job of not doing that.

Q 30.    How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?

Ans:    Prevent – A few different ways, think about ways you will fail and come up with a game plan to avoid that.  Another way is to get input from others to make sure you are looking at things from all angles not just your own. Look at it from a customer’s angle, from a vendor or even a sales rep angle. Damage control – Own it first and foremost. Don’t spend time blaming or even trying to find out the root cause just yet. First figure out how to resolve it and do it quickly. Involve and engage the right people to resolve the issue and communicate with the customer openly and honestly about he mistake. Trust me they will ultimately appreciate that honesty even if it does not initially seem like it.  Once we resolve the issue, then discuss root cause to put in plans or process changes and prevent it from happening again. Do hold those accountable for the mistake if applicable but learn from it as well as it is your business that created the mistake.

Q 31.    What do you do in your non-work time?

Ans:    I love to fish, read, play with kids, go antiquing with my wife.  We like to travel and go on cruises and drives in our convertible. I love to build things with my hands or renovate things as well.

Q 32.    What makes you happy?

Ans:    My family and being able to build the business with them. Leaving a legacy for them.

Q 33.    What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?

Ans:    I have missed some kids activities because of work sadly, that did have to occur sometimes. Financially you have to be very disciplined when you are starting out, so I missed out on some luxuries I would have liked to have had. I lost some friends along the way who did not support me or believe in me, but realized they were not really friends then were they.

Company Detail:

Company : Polson Painting
Contact    : Bill O’Donnell
Address   : 18801 N. Dale Mabry Highway, #575
City         : Lutz
State        : FL
Zip          : 33548
Phone      : 813-244-5270
Email      : polsonpainting@aol.com

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