The show designed to answer the question, “What does it REALLY take to succeed?
EP01: Justin Flora | Flora Brothers Painting
How two brothers scaled to seven figures with a few ladders, cans of paint, and persistence.
In this episode Bobby uncovers what it takes to build a team, how a modern painting business uses technology to fill their calendar, and what one young entrepreneur, husband, and father says is the key to breaking out of the six-figure hamster wheel.
Bobby Hicks: Now, we’ve got a really special guest today. His name is Justin Flora.
[Intro] I’m on a mission to find entrepreneurs who disrupting their industries. I’m looking for game changers. What does it really take to succeed? Welcome to disruptors.
Bobby Hicks: Thanks a lot for coming on the show.
Justin Flora: Thanks for having me, Bobby.
Bobby Hicks: I appreciate that. So listen man, I mean, you’ve done something really great. I mean, from from being able to take your business from nothing … I mean, just an idea, to seven figures in just a few years, I mean, that’s really incredible. How did you get the idea for your business?
Justin Flora: So, (my) uncle actually has a painting company along with his two brothers and father about an hour north of here. (When) I started out, I was about 15 years old and started painting with him and did it as a summer job, and did it through college and decided once finished college that (I) wanted to be an entrepreneur and do our own thing. And so, decided how to do a painting company, and so decided to start a painting company. Yeah, that’s how we got the idea.
Bobby Hicks: That’s interesting, man. I know a lot of people are very good at what they do and a lot of people would like to go out and do something on their own, but the problem is they lack the capital, they lack the resources to be able to do it. I think what a lot of entry-level business people or want-to-be entrepreneurs … We all started off as want-to-be entrepreneurs at one point. But I think a lot of people who are just now getting started, they don’t know how to raise capital. You know, it’s really impressive. I see what you have now. I saw you pull up in a nice big truck and you live in a big mansion. We see what you have now, but how did you get started? How did you raise the capital to get started?
Justin Flora: Well, thankfully with us being in the painting industry, we didn’t necessarily have to have a lot of capital. You go out, you buy a few ladders, buy some drops, throw stuff in the back of your truck and you’ve kind of got a painting company. So with us, we just … once we got a few jobs under our belt, we were smart with our money and we put away some to start growing and building the business, and then also obviously a little leftover to put on our pockets.
Justin Flora: Again, with us it was fairly easy for us to start out with little capital, but in order to grow to a seven figure business we had to be really smart with our money and obviously make the right hiring and hire the right people and get them in place. That’s how we were able to kind of scale pretty quickly, is just being smart with our money and not … because I could’ve paid myself a lot more, but probably wouldn’t be where I’m at today with the business if I would have done that.
Bobby Hicks: Yeah, I understand. I feel like a lot of people treat the business money as their money, and when the business starts making a little bit of money, they say, well that’s my money, I want to keep it for myself. But I think really whenever you need to scale your business, you need to reinvest that money into assets that can help you generate more income. One thing I’ve always said too is I see that there are a lot of different painting companies out there or a lot of people go out there and they’ll paint on their own and they’re kind of a self employed business owner, and that’s great, but see, I think to get to seven figures, you can’t do that on your own. You have to build out a team, you have to create processes and procedures. You have procedures and processes in place to be able to work more efficiently, that way you can do a larger volume of work.
Bobby Hicks: Can you share more details about how you able to do that in your business and how you’re able to essentially replace yourself? I know that you’re still working in the business, but essentially replace … A lot of entrepreneurs wear a lot of different hats. How were you able to replace a lot of those different hats in your business and create the procedures and processes so that you could take on more volume?
Justin Flora: Yeah. The big thing is to document those procedures along the way. If you’re just flying by the seat of your pants and, oh, I remember I need to do this, this way, and this, that way, you’re just going to be disorganized. So if you really document your procedures, and then when you say, okay, we’ve got these procedures in place, now I can bring in someone, I can hire them, I can show them the procedures, I can show them the way that we’ve done it, then it’s pretty much training that person and letting them go. Really, I don’t want to be breathing over every employee’s back everyday. I want to hire good, smart people, experienced people, that know what they’re doing and yeah, I can teach them some stuff, but I also want them to teach me stuff along the way. I want to hire people that are smarter than me to help show me how to run the business instead of vice versa.
Bobby Hicks: Yeah. It’s very interesting that … I do agree with you, I think that’s smart to document your processes on the way … procedures and processes as you go. I feel like more often than not, a lot of entrepreneurs get stuck at is … it’s like they hold all that intellectual property or they hold all that information in their head and they’re trying to train people, and they see turnover and then they get upset at the employee for not knowing what to do, but the the employee is not the expert like they are. And so, when you do document those procedures and you document those processes, it does give you … equip you with a really incredible training tool that allows you to essentially show them one time what to do. If they have any other questions or concerns, they can default to those procedures and make decisions on their own without having to consult to you. That allows you to focus on bigger ideas.
Justin Flora: Absolutely. And employees want … As an employee, being an employee and obviously now a business owner, but when you’re an employee, you want to know what your expectations are. You know, what are your goals for me? Obviously you set personal goals as well, but employees want to know what’s expected from them and then hopefully go above and beyond that. If you don’t have a clear line of expectations for your employees, then they’re going to fail and ultimately you may fail.
Bobby Hicks: Yeah. That’s incredible. I always love hearing story about how people got their first customer, because unless you have customers, you’re not a business, right? It’s just an idea. Can you share the story of … you know, how you and your brother, you came up with Flora … like look, Flora Brothers Painting, we’re going to do it. How did you get your first customer and how did that … How was that? How was that experience?
Justin Flora: Luckily with us, my brother, my partner in the business, he has got engaged to a gal from down around this area. Luckily, she had some friends and some family [inaudible 00:07:15] referral to us that we are able to pick up our first few jobs. We started doing jobs for them and then they obviously started kind of referring us out, and before we knew that we had a little working capital to spend on some advertising. I’ll never forget it, we were able to put $800 aside and save for a full page ad in the newspaper. Man, after that ran, I think we got 30 calls and we booked 20 jobs off of it, and that was just boom. That started us.
Bobby Hicks: That’s an amazing story. Yeah. How long ago was that?
Justin Flora: That would have been about eight years ago.
Bobby Hicks: Really? Eight years ago?
Justin Flora: Yeah. Started out me and my brother painting.
Bobby Hicks: That’s when people actually read the newspaper.
Justin Flora: Yeah. A lot has even changed in eight years. You still got that certain clientele that does enjoy picking up a newspaper and reading it.
Bobby Hicks: See, my dad, he used to do black top paving. Evening I remember there was a point in his business where he would do an ad in newspaper. He just did the loose leaf papers in the newspaper and he’d get 10, 15 calls in a day. That doesn’t happen anymore.
Justin Flora: No, no it doesn’t, and that brings up a whole ‘nother box of how do you advertise and market your company. Again, newspapers aren’t the … not everybody reads the newspaper anymore. People want to pick up their phone and get their information, their source of information. There’s still some of that with some of the smaller local newspapers that we really enjoy being a part of and supporting, but yeah, it’s definitely changed.
Bobby Hicks: The principles of marketing have never changed, but the medium or the way we consume content has changed, right? TV ads I still think are the number one most effective ads you can run. It’s cost prohibitive for a lot of people, but it’s still very effective. There’s more money spent on TVs right now than anything else, and that’s very quickly changing. A lot of people though, don’t watch TV. I for one, do not have TV. Do you have TV?
Justin Flora: No.
Bobby Hicks: So we don’t have TV. We’re kind of millennials so we don’t have TV, but we watch a lot of YouTube. Video ads are still very effective, but we don’t consume content on TV anymore. We’ve kind of switched to YouTube. Yellow pages at one point used to be … that’s how you found businesses. If I wanted to find a painting company, I’d go to the yellow pages and I would … People are still searching for your business, but there are no longer searching through the yellow pages, they are searching Google. And if you’re not running ads on Google AdWords, they’re not going to find you. A lot of the principles are still there, it’s just the mediums have changed. I think a lot of people get their news from social media now and Facebook. I think that’s a great place to be advertising your business. Are you doing any ads on Facebook right now?
Justin Flora: Not specifically right now. We have in the past, and moving forward we’ll probably look to do some, but we’ve created a really good following on our Facebook group. Again, it’s all about the content that you put out there. If you’re just putting out blogs with useless data, people aren’t going to want to click on and read that. I mean, we put pictures up of pretty much every single one of our projects. People are seeing our guys working and what we do. You know, going live on Facebook, stuff like that.
Bobby Hicks: I love to see the before and after photos.
Justin Flora: Yes, yes, before and after is big, but also knowing that … We want to be fun and entertaining as well, so doing a $20 gift card giveaway for how many gallons of paint was used on this painting project or a funny a caption contest where you give away a $20 Starbucks gift card or something, or use a local company gift card too. It’s stuff like that. So, using it to create value and also entertain and even … you put out a funny or something. Make it fun and also provide value.
Bobby Hicks: Because you got to think too, on those networks, people aren’t there to really learn. It’s not a learning network, it’s an entertainment network. They’re there to get entertained. If you can have entertaining content that also [inaudible 00:11:33] your business, I think that’s also an excellent idea to generate buzz about your business.
Justin Flora: Absolutely. Just anything that you can do to set yourself apart from the competition. We don’t want to be right along with our competition. We really want to dominate the market and I feel like we’ve got … we’ve kind of stacked our flag here and really have a good hold on the market. We love our clients, we love continuing to grow, and it’s been been a lot of … been a fun journey so far.
Bobby Hicks: Now Justin, what I found is that a lot of people get trapped in what I call the six figure hamster wheel where it’s like … and it’s usually with people who are in a self employed business and they don’t have standard operating procedures and that sort of thing. They get stuck in this six figure hamster wheel and they kind of plateau or they just get stuck. Can you explain a time where you’ve got stuck in your business? Because I think a lot of people who are watching this video today, they’re probably stuck somewhere in their business. Can you share a time where you were stuck in your business and what you had to do to kind of break through that so that you could continue to grow?
Justin Flora: I think back to a time when we were looking to hire more, we were again, kind of stuck. We were stuck around the half million dollar mark and it’s like, okay, let’s bust out at a ceiling and let’s get to seven figures. And-
Bobby Hicks: So would you say … Sorry to interrupt you, but would you say the plateau wasn’t necessarily generating interest or generating new customers, it was just fulfillment? Would you say that would be your plateau?
Justin Flora: Yes, and I understand that it’s different in all markets. I mean, obviously we’re in home improvement. If I’m selling a good to you, a cell phone to you … I understand there’s different variables and whatnot, but yeah, for us at the time it was we want to grow, we know the market demand is there, but we need the people to help generate that income.
Bobby Hicks: Yeah, exactly. That’s great. Now, I also know if you try to hammer a nail without a hammer, just kind of pound on your fist, it’s going to be hard, right? What tools do you use to basically increase productivity and increase efficiency in your business, that way you can continue to grow and-
Justin Flora: Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. We use a lot of apps. We could be using paper to give our estimates or using paper to give our work orders to our guys, but we use apps for pretty much everything. We’re a pretty much paperless company and we utilize a lot of of apps within our company. You know, Google Calendar, Google Docs, stuff like that to help streamline our business and make it more efficient. People aren’t waiting a week or several days on an estimate for us. We have our iPads out, we’re providing an estimate to you as soon as we’re done. So it’s very quick, it’s very efficient. This day and age people aren’t wanting to … they’re wanting to go online, buy something, boom, you show up. So it’s again, making it easier for the client start to finish and providing what we call that perfect painting experience.
Bobby Hicks: I think a lot of people, like you said, we live in kind of an I want it now society, and a lot of people do not want to wait weeks to get a proposal. I think by being able to present them a proposal very quickly and be able to get to the job very quickly because you’ve been able to really … you don’t have a backlog of work because you’re very efficient, you’re very productive. I think that not only helps you get more jobs, but also helps you fulfill faster. I think that is what is important to help you scale to that seven figures.
Justin Flora: Absolutely.
Bobby Hicks: Now, you’ve mentioned a lot about how valuable good employees are in your business. Can you give us a secret to hiring a good employee?
Justin Flora: A lot of people just want … generally when you’re hiring, you need that warm body in that seat right now. People are quick to … yes, you can find people. I mean, you can find people. People want to say all the time, I can’t find people. You can find people, you’re just not working hard enough to find those people. But you’ve got … This day and age, you have to hire off a character. We hire off a character. I can’t teach you how to be respectful. I can’t teach you how to show up on time. I can’t teach you how to not curse every other word. That’s stuff that you needed to learn a long time ago. Whereas, I can teach you how to put paint on a roller or how to prep off an area.
Bobby Hicks: So you hire for character and train for skill.
Justin Flora: Absolutely.
Bobby Hicks: That is so incredible because I feel like that’s what a lot of people do not do. That’s the difference between Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s, or Steak and Shake for example. Steak and Shakes really struggling. I don’t know if you’ve been reading the newspapers or just seeing it on social media, but they’re really struggling. But you go to Chick-Filet, the lines are huge. And I’m telling you the reason why people love Chick-Filet, first of all, their food’s good. It’s good, I like it a lot, but it’s just the quality of people … the quality people behind there. I mean, when I say, “Thank you,” they’re always like, “Oh, it’s my pleasure.” Right? So they hire really good quality people, and I think if you can find people with lots of enthusiasm, a very positive attitude … Hire for character and train for skill, I think that’s very smart.
Justin Flora: Absolutely. The thing too is that there’s sometimes you’ll go in to a restaurant and you order something, and the person doesn’t even say hi or how are you, whereas you go to Chick-Fil-A and they’re, “Oh, how are you and how is your day?”
Bobby Hicks: They make you feel welcome. They make you feel like you’re part of something.
Justin Flora: And they care.
Bobby Hicks: And they do care.
Justin Flora: They truly care.
Bobby Hicks: And people want to be cared for. They want to feel valued. I think that’s one of that’s really contributed a lot to Chick Fil-A’s success. A lot of people don’t know where to start or they don’t know who to look to for advice. Do you have a mentor? Who’s been a mentor to you and how they helped you be successful in your business?
Justin Flora: Yeah. I have several mentors, but the one thing is knowing your industry and how to get involved. For us being involved in the painting industry, there’s several groups and painting related networking groups that we can be a part of. Through those networking groups and getting to know people, we’ve joined a mastermind group and now we’re a part of a mastermind group that’s painting contractors around the nation. We’re able to bounce ideas off and stuff, and we have a mentor in there that has really helped us and helped get our business organized. Some of the other groups that we’ve been a part of, just people that have helped us grow our business and have helped us when we’ve had issues. That’s really helped us. So it’s just, again, you’ve got to be proactive, you’ve got to get out there, you’ve got to find out what other successful people in your industry are doing and then go a step above that. That’s kind of what we’ve done.
Bobby Hicks: That’s really great. What influencers do you follow for inspiration and guidance, and why do you follow them?
Justin Flora: A big one is definitely Mr. Grant Cardone. I love … just he’s a motivational person. He’s a let’s go get it done and get out of the way, I’m coming through. I really enjoy following him for just that motivation, and then also I really like following Darren Hardy. He’s another good one. Just a good inspirational person that just puts a lot of good content out there. So, yeah.
Bobby Hicks: One more person.
Justin Flora: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Bobby Hicks. Come on. No, I really liked Gary Vaynerchuk as well. I mean, again, he’s just … you can kind of see the type of people I like, just a let’s get shit done. Let’s get it done.
Bobby Hicks: Listen, you can plan forever, but if you don’t put any action behind that, you’re never going to get anywhere, right? I always like to make the analogy … I’m kind of a bigger guy and I suck at sports. I am terrible at sports, right? But there’s a game called knockout. You ever played knockout?
Justin Flora: Oh, yeah.
Bobby Hicks: I used to play knockout all the time. But I’m telling you, my chubby little butt would win every single knockout game because I would just hustle as hard as I could. I’d be out of breath, but I just … I would not even … I would shoot the free throw and I’d miss every single time, but I would run up there and I grabbed the ball and I’d just keep making layups until I finally got it. I’s that hustle, man, I think that really drives. It’s perseverance, it’s the hustle, because you don’t have to do everything 100% correctly. You just got to have determination, you have perseverance, and you had to put some action behind it because we’re all going to fail, we’re all going to make mistakes, but if you learn from those mistakes, you can correct those. As long as you have the action behind, it’s always going to be driving you forward. So, that’s really great.
Bobby Hicks: So Justin, if you had to share the single greatest secret to your success, the thing that gets you the most gains in your business, why would that be?
Justin Flora: Boy, I would have to say just being persistent. It might sound like a canned answer, but persistence for us has just … it’s really been able to take our business to the next level. In fact, I’m even thinking about some ways that we’re wanting to grow our business right now, and those doors might seem to be shut right now, but I’m going to keep being persistent until that door opens and I get a foot inside of it. Yeah. Again, for us it’s just being persistent, being consistent with your persistency. Yeah. Again, it sounds simple, but until you get in it, yeah, it’s a lot of hard work and yeah, man, just be persistent and just don’t give up.
Bobby Hicks: Would you say that you’re a person who is really committed to growth, committed to learning, committed to education? How has that played a part in your success as well?
Justin Flora: Yeah. It’s definitely played a big part in our success. In fact, I was listening to an audible book on the way in here and I like to call it my truck or my automobile university. I’ve learned so much by just … Again, how much time during the day are you behind the wheel of the vehicle? We use that to learn and grow. I’m behind the wheel of my truck quite a bit, and obviously, thankfully now you’ve got audible books that you can listen to it and stuff like that. So, little stuff like that. It’s just kind of that compound effect of little things that you do that turn into big things. It’s not just audible books, but it’s also some of the networking groups that we’re a part of. We’re constantly learning new things and getting tied with people, new people that have helped us grow. Again, just taking our business to the next level.
Bobby Hicks: Yeah. I think one of the ways that you can really accelerate your success is to invest in yourself through education. You know, find people who have already done what you’re wanting to do, who have been successful at it, and invest in whatever training that they provide or just learn from them and finding those good mentors. So that’s a really great way to accelerate success. Based on … and I know you said you’d like to read a lot of books. What has been your favorite book so far and what would you recommend as the best book for our viewers today to read on the other side of that screen?
Justin Flora: Oh, boy. I’ve got a long list, but one floats to the top pretty quick is The Power of Full Engagement. I think it’s Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, I think. Don’t quote me on that, but yeah, just the name in and of itself, the power of being fully engaged.
Bobby Hicks: Well Justin, thank you so much for coming on today’s episode of Disruptors. I really appreciate you sharing your success story and the insights that you’ve had in your business. Now, if we have people here in the Indianapolis area who are looking to actually get some residential commercial painting done, how can they contact you?
Justin Flora: Yes, so the best way to get ahold of us would be to go to our website, florabrotherspainting.com. You can learn a little bit more about us there and you can also book a time that works best for you and your schedule to do an estimate. We actually have a whole calendar there of our estimate schedule. So again, you can pick a time that works best for you and we’ll be there. Also, you can call us, good old fashion telephone, (317) 447-5227, or you can email us info, I-N-F-O@fluorbrotherspainting.com.
Bobby Hicks: All right, well thanks a lot, Justin. I appreciate your time today.
Justin Flora: Thanks for having me.
Bobby Hicks: All right guys, if you want to watch more episodes of Disruptors, make sure you go to BobbyHicks.net/disrupters. There we’re going to have all of our full episodes for you to watch and indulge. That wraps up this episode of Disruptors. Thank you for watching.