My name is Stephen McPhatter, and I am the president of Southern Painting of North Carolina, Inc. I am one of four generations of paint contractors in our family. After learning under my dad for years, in 2004, I formed our painting company. The one thing that I learned early on from my family is attention to detail. I have been devoted to superior customer service—always aiming to please our clients. I have dedicated my time to learning all I can to help our business succeed. I continue to seek education in all areas of the painting industry. As the world around us changes, so do the products we use. As newer products become available, knowing the right paint and technique to use is very important.
How It All Started
Being that I was born from a generation of painting contractors, you would have thought that my future was set, and I would have been happy to jump right in after high school. On the contrary, I didn’t want much to do with the painting business. I saw how my parents scraped for everything they had. I never wanted a life like that. Looking back on our family history, I can say it was a lack of vision, and not understanding the BUSINESS side of owning a painting company that had caused my other family members not to succeed
I was attending college in Atlanta, Ga. in 1997, when I received a call that my dad wasn’t doing too well physically, mentally, and struggling in his business. He was too much of a proud man to ever share his pain or struggles. Because of my being so close to him, my heart was broken. So after a few days to a week of contemplating what I should do, I picked up the phone and called Mr. Kenneth Rust, a franchise owner of McDonald’s in which I was employed prior to attending college, and also participated in their management program the last year of high school. I told him my situation, and after listening he asked if I needed a job? My response was yes sir, and that I’d be home in a few weeks. From there I decided to drop out of college and head home.
Still not wanting to be in the painting business, but wanting to be close to my dad, I would help him when I could. Over time, and getting tired of hearing my dad ask me to come help him in his company, I decided to go down a road I never wanted. I began working with my dad, and he began to teach me the skill set for the craft of being a professional painter. His attention to prep work was remarkable. I didn’t see that as a kid growing up. I was on the job with my dad whenever he had work, and when I wasn’t in school or working in a public job. All I saw as a young teenager was the hard labor of filling nail holes, sanding trim, and nasty sticky caulking.
My dad passed away within a few years of our time working together. All I ever learned from him was how to be the best I could be in our craft. Never anything about the business side of the company. I took over right after he passed, and by the next year had changed the name of the company. Though my dad was a great man and was well liked, the reputation he had set was his, and our visions were not the same. I wanted to start fresh and establish my own painting company. I wanted people to really see me as a professional painting contractor.
School of Hard Knocks
With no business degree, the next several years were a tough struggle for me. I didn’t know how to estimate, how to charge the right amounts, or know the financial status of the business. I did not even know what a profit and loss sheet looked like. I thought that if at the end of the job there was $500.00 plus left, I was doing good. Boy, was I way off. I slowly started getting more work and eventually needed more help. Our work came by word of mouth, and by a builder that continued using me after the loss of my dad. I also found out that the insurances required for running a profitable business would be one that I did not want to take on. Especially when I was already not making much money to begin with.
By the grace of God, we made it through. Our service and quality reputation kept us with work, but I was still truly struggling. I was always trying to find better ways to do things, but nothing ever seemed to work. I knew there was a problem, and that problem was me. Just like that in the generations of painters before me, I didn’t know what I was doing. Like them, we all had our craft down, but the business side left much to be desired. I decided to begin looking into a different direction by buying into a painting franchise. In my eyes, they had everything that I needed. They had the marketing layout, the business education, and a brand name that was already established.
However, many people who have supported me in life could not support this decision. We prayed, and I chose not to move forward in buying into the franchise. Instead, I continued back to the same way of life. Then on one Saturday when we were just sitting around the house, I picked up a APC (American Painting Contractor) magazine. While flipping through the magazine, I came across an article by Mr. Monroe Porter. He was addressing sound business management, contractor failures, and rags to riches stories. I reached out to Mr. Porter and became a member of PROOF Management. I began to feel I had a solution to my problems. Being a part of PDCA (Painting and Decorating Contractors of America), and being a part of his consulting firm helped me to start making progress in my business. Now I finally began making money and understood the importance of the business side of running my company.
A year later, and still looking for more ways to keep growing, I came across a webinar that Mr. Steve Burnett was in. It was from a PDCA convention. The topic was really interesting, but Mr. Burnett was what truly peaked my interest. I began to research everything about him. The stories I would read were fascinating! I have started interacting with Mr. Burnett and his wife April in their business/marketing coaching business. I can only thank God for all the new things that I am learning from the people He has placed in my life. I never realized how much there was to learn. I can only hope to think that my dad is proud of me for taking what has been a generational family business and turning it into a thriving company.
My vision is to provide a quality service that is well branded in our area. Also while impacting the lives of not only our clients, but the communities in which we work, our employees, and their families.
I want to personally thank Mr. Porter for your consultations. Thank you, Mr. Steve Burnett for all your guidance, as well as Mrs. April Burnett for your help and allowing me to see your support for your husband, Steve. Thank you to all of our clients, those who have allowed us to provide our painting services to them. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to my business success and for supporting me in bettering myself so I can better the lives of others. Most importantly, thank you to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who is always guiding my footsteps and who is constantly in my corner.