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Project Manager Onsite

How Do You Transition Employee Painters Into Project Managers?

Many paint contractors have a difficult time getting their best painters fully out of the field and into management. Often you try to slowly shift them into the management role doing maybe 70% management but they can’t help but spend 30% of their time still in production.

This split time can be difficult for the upcoming manager to juggle everything and it leaves your team needing a manager for that extra 30% of the time.

Here are what many of our PCA contractor members do to manage the switch.

Clearly define the role and responsibilities.

Brian Reis of Bella’s Army is strict about the Project Manager role being 100% management with no painting responsibilities at all. They do site pop-ins and offer advice and training tips while checking site progression. With this all in approach he says, “The second you give that person two different tasks, they don’t do them both 100%.”

Something as simple as changing their work uniform from painter whites to a company button-up shirt and nice pants may be enough of a mental shift to remember that it’s not their responsibility to paint anymore. But in other cases, it may take clearly drawing a line between what is part of their job description and what is not and holding them accountable for the difference.

Acknowledge and verbalize the production gains and losses.

Having a one-to-one meeting with your new project manager about the gains and losses of them dividing their time can be a helpful way for them to see why project management time is so essential. Jason Paris of Paris Painting in Minneapolis says “draw it on a whiteboard with a scale.” On one side of the scale, show the production loss of him/her not painting for 30% of their time. Then on the other side of the scale illustrate what will be gained by him not having to “mentally shift gears” and by having more time for managing teams.

Potentially look outside of the company

Some PCA Contractors have noted that the transition from field worker to project manager is so difficult that it is sometimes easier to find someone outside of the company that has those skills already. This isn’t to say that your painters shouldn’t have the opportunity for promotion. But sometimes when you need to get the job done it requires finding the right skills, experience, and character for the job. If this person isn’t in your company today you may need to hire for it.

Finding this person who can be a good manager requires certain traits which can be called out during the hiring process through job ads. It’s not a bad idea to look outside of the company as well as from within to fulfill this role. It could be possible that your current staff doesn’t want to leave the field or they may not have the personality profile suited for the role. Many professional contracting companies use the DISC profile assessment to find the traits they want in a quality project manager.

Tim Perryman of Perryman Painting & Remodeling confessed, “The PM role has been the most difficult position for me to fill…They need to have solid management and leadership skills, a crystal clear role, and the skill set to do it well. The transition from crew lead to the new role will most likely require a new skill set that needs to be mastered. Top-performing crew leads are used to running one project with 1-2 painters. Multiply that by 5+ and it is a whole new level.”

Invest in training

Ryan McGowan of Simple Clean said that he outsources training with programs for similar positions that can be applied back to the role of project manager for painting. You can find these training programs online, through PCA PaintED webinars, conferences, and Overdrive content, as well as through a few of our Industry Partners who offer coaching and consulting.



Article by Torlando Hakes

torlando hakes

Torlando Hakes is a PCA Brand Ambassador and the Host of The PaintED Show. With 17 years experience as a painter and contractor Torlando understands that the struggle is real. Out of necessity, Torlando wrote the book Sprint: The Scrum Playbook For Paint Trade And Craftsman Professionals as a manual for managing a paint contracting company. Now as a national speaker and author he is on a mission to help paint contractors gain greater life balance by getting their business to start working for them instead of the other way around. Read more Articles by Torlando on Medium. You can connect directly with Torlando by booking a time with him at Torlando.Periodic.Site for a complementary Ask-A-Peer mentoring call.

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