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Industry Insight: Why Reputation Is Everything

Photo courtesy of Phil Scisciani.

Phil Scisciani, owner of Specialty Coatings & Consulting, Inc., made these comments on a recent episode of the CoatingsPro Interview Series. To hear the complete podcast, listen below.

With people in the coatings business, and especially young people, what stands out to me is those who take pride in their work. The big key is finding somebody who pays attention to detail. This is a very detailed business. 

Whether you’re coating an exterior of a tank or interior, or whether you’re doing a floor or polishing it, it’s all about paying attention to detail and having a good attitude.

Wanted: Driver’s License and a Great Attitude

I recently ran an ad to try to get one or two new people in, and I put this out there as a requirement: “We require a driver’s license and a great attitude.” With any position out there, you just need to have a positive attitude.

And it goes both ways. I try to treat my crew like I would want to be treated. That’s the way I’ve always done it. I won’t put anybody in a position where I myself wouldn’t do that work.

It’s also important to have an open mind. This industry is a specialized industry; there’s no question. It’s different business; we need to give people a chance to get into it and learn it.

Creating the Competition

Fortunately, or unfortunately, in the Pittsburgh area, I’ve probably created three or four competitors over the past 30-plus years. I’ve had people come in and work, and they say, “Well, I think I can do this myself.” They’ve gone out and done well, and they’ve been good competitors. We don’t really run into each other, but they’re in the marketplace.

I look at it like this: If I make competitors, then I guess I’ve instilled or done something right to get people into the industry. It’s just one of those things that’s going to happen. People get in and they think, “Oh, this is easy to do. All you have to do is go out, buy a machine, and hook up with somebody to sell them material. I can do this.” But sometimes they can’t because you don’t know if they’ve been trained.

Some of the competition makes it, and some of them don’t because it’s not just about applying a product. Cash flow is always the ultimate evil in this business. It can corrupt. You’ve got to try to keep that moving while also try to grow as a company.

We’ve all had our ups and downs, but Specialty Coatings & Consulting has always maintained that when we do a job, we do it right the first time. And if we don’t do it right the first time, we’ve got to go back and make sure to take care of what we didn’t do right.

If the job goes sour, we go in and fix it. Whether it’s a year later, or if it’s right after we’re done, we take care of our problems. I think that’s what keeps us alive in this industry. It’s because we have a reputation that when we do things, even if we do them wrong, we come back and fix our mistakes.

A Good Reputation

When my son came into the business about six years ago, he said “Dad, how do you get your business?” I thought that was the best question. I said to him, “Ninety percent of our business is referrals or word of mouth.” I don’t think I’ve ever advertised.

The point is, we have a good reputation out there. I told him, “When we do a job, we don’t make it about the money.” The bottom line is we go in and we treat the customer fairly, and we do the best job we can. In the long run, the customer will come back or refer us.

I think too many people in this industry make it about the almighty dollar. I think that’s where a lot of failure is. To be honest, it’s very gratifying when you can walk in to a customer, solve a problem, and walk away and look at the floor. And you sit there and say, “Okay, I did my best, and it looks great.” And the customer says it looks great, too.

I’m not a great business mind. But I know that what makes my customer happy is what has made us a success. Reputation is the big thing, and honesty is the only thing I know to do. That’s my advice to people getting into the industry, and then stop trying to grow too fast.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in the January 2023 print issue of CoatingsPro Magazine. Reprinted with permission.

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