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Tag Archives: car body painter

What a painter should learn from coronavirus pandemic?

Nowadays press, internet and television bombard us with threatening statistics about COVID-19, or coronavirus in plain English. Everyday a new country is added to the list of infected areas, numbers of sick people with a death toll statistics cause panic and fear. Dust masks and hand antiseptic disappeared. People from all over the world have been chasing for any protective masks to sell to China (50% of all masks worldwide are produced in China, by the way). Yet, I am not writing this article about the virus itself. There more than enough experts and non-experts speculating about this subject anyway.

Last week I visited one of our customers in Greece. During my visit, a painter walked in, asking for the dust masks P2. “How many are there in the box?” he asked. “Twenty?” “Give me five boxes. I have three kids at home”. The guy paid and left within a minute. My distributor laughed after the painter left. “His name is George (I changed the name, of course), and he has never used any respiratory protection neither for prep jobs nor for painting. At least he knows now that there are different masks, like P2 available.” “This virus will do well for these folks”, he added with a smile on his face.

It was somehow funny, but alarming at the same time. The painter took these masks obviously because of all the panic around coronavirus. But, why would he expose his health to toxic dust and solvent fumes? How happened that a very distant danger of the exposure to the not-so-deadly virus outweighs the everyday, very real work hazards? I have no reasonable answers to these questions.

We all have people we love and care about. Often a car sprayer is the only person to provide for his family. Not using personal protection in a bodyshop is not only stupid, but also unfair in relation to the close family, especially children. They need you healthy and well. Car paint sprayers have about 90 times higher risk of getting asthma than other working population. Therefore, the chances of dying from breathing related illness if infected by COVID-19 are negligible if compared to the health issues caused by unprotected work as painter. Personal protection products are affordable, widely available from the paint stores and there are no excuses to avoid using them every time you grab a sanding machine or a spray gun. Stay healthy and, please, protect yourself!

Why being “a Jack of all trades” in bodyshop is a disaster.

Not a long time ago I met a bodyshop owner in Greece, with whom I had a long and friendly conversation about life in general and business particularly. The guy, let’s call him Giorgos, gave me his courtesy card, which looked like it was designed by a five year old child. Giorgos was very proud and told me that he created his business card himself… I put the card in my pocket trying not to stare at it too much. “I do everything myself”, Giorgos told me, and invited me for lunch. To make the story short, we had a good meal enjoying sunny Greek afternoon. While having frappe – very popular iced coffee in Greece – Giorgos asked me what would be my advice for him to grow his business. My reply came rough. “Stop doing everything yourself”. Naturally, I didn’t have any intention to upset otherwise a good professional car painter and a friendly person. In fact, I really wanted to give a valuable advice. Frankly speaking, I meet people like Giorgos a lot in the collision repair industry, so below is my vision.

Jack of all trades, and master of none.

Probably you already know this proverb. Luckily, most of the people I rub elbows with, are real masters, craftsmen in their job, whether it is doing quality car repairs or selling materials for the bodyshops. On the flipside, many of them try, like Giorgos, to do every single business related function themselves. But until now I haven’t met a “master of all trades”. If you are good at color matching, it doesn’t mean that you will choose the right color for your business card. If you have deep knowledge about automotive refinish products, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be that great in bookkeeping or advertising. Having two thousands friends on Facebook doesn’t guarantee that your company page will bring you any customers. “Maybe you are right”, said Giorgos reluctantly while studying my business card. “But I can’t afford any employee or marketing manager”. My reply was laconic…

Outsourcing

What big international companies understood quite some time ago, yet small businesses struggle to comprehend? You have no reason to do everything in house, yourself or by hiring an employee. Business tycoons in every imaginable industry outsource a good deal of their operations. Call centers, customer care, accountancy, logistics, IT security, legal issues, advertising, organizing holidays, you name it, have been outsourced by narrowly specialized professionals from different parts of the world. So, why, for God’s sake, Giorgos designs business cards himself?

In Etalon we outsource accountancy, logistics, legal matters and IT. Our team is concentrated in developing, sourcing, testing and marketing the best car refinish consumables. This is what we do for living. I cannot imagine doing everything within the company.

Family affair

In order for the outsourcing to be successful, what you really need to do yourself is a good market survey. Ask people around you, not only colleagues from the trade. If you liked your doctor’s business card, praise it and ask for the reference. She will be more than happy to give you the contact details. Do not fall into the trap of giving the job to your cousin, who “is good with computers”. Do not delegate the bookkeeping to your wife just because she was good at maths in high-school. Frequently relatives or close friends are the worst help, even if it comes free of charge.

Giorgos was clever enough to listen to my advice. Now he has new business cards, website and corporate identity. Luckily he didn’t print too many of his previous cards.

Jack of All Trades illustration by Matthew Stumphy

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Be a craftsman, not just a guy who paints cars!

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Have you ever thought why some, at first glance, ordinary bodyshops never lack customers, while some others struggle? Well, there could be too many reasons for that, you could say. Nevertheless, putting aside external factors, it is down to the owner of a place or the painter, whether he or she will succeed or not. Apparently not all professionals in the industry were born equal, just like in any other business, be it a gardener, a carpenter or a baker. Car paint sprayer’s success depends on the perceived value customers assign to his job. This perceived value depends on painter’s attitude to his job, experience and, very importantly, reputation. In Etalon we call a car painter with high perceived value – the craftsman. Why is this important? Well, usually the real craftsmen prosper. They are respected and are very well paid.

So, what are the characteristics, which distinguish craftsman in car refinishing business?

I came up with ten:

  1. A real craftsman will never skip steps in repair process. Whether he repairs his brother’s car or complete stranger’s one, the quality of the job will not change. This car sprayer will make sure that the repair will be invisible, clearcoat will be blended properly, seam sealer will be applied just like in OEM, body will be properly protected from corrosion. The vehicle is handed clean. Most of the customers will never know or understand these steps, but for craftsman it doesn’t matter. All that matters to him is that fulfilling feeling of satisfaction after a properly done job.
  1. He provides a warranty on his job. No “ifs”, no poor excuses, no blames on a third party and materials, no “small letters” behind. Period.
  1. He is a good payer. All his suppliers are happy and fight to get his business.
  1. He is paid well. In order to be a good payer, you must be paid on time by the customers. A true craftsman won’t work on ridiculous payment terms imposed on him.
  1. He charges fair prices. A craftsman is never cheap, but he is not overpricing either. Competition is irrelevant.
  1. A real craftsman is the Boss in his shop. Neither customers, nor insurance companies, or suppliers would tell him what to do.
  1. His bodyshop is neat, tidy and ergonomic. A craftsman’s place may not be fancy with luxurious reception and all the dust is in the customers’ eyes, but it is appropriate.
  1. A true craftsman has his tools in tiptop condition. Spray guns are clean, always in place, spray booth is tidy, mixing room reminds a surgery room. And don’t you dare touch this special edition spray gun!
  1. Real craftsman knows how to choose materials he works with. Paint, clear or any other consumable he chooses solely on its performance, not on the price or brand alone. He has his own opinion based on tests and experience. No use of sales pitching.
  1. Finally, a real craftsman shares his knowledge with apprentices, he teaches and guides the new generation through the maze of refinishing craft, helping them to avoid mistakes and pitfalls. He will be called “master” or “teacher” by his successors.

And what is your definition of a car refinish craftsman?

Etalon – a real craftsmen’s label.

If you want to survive as professional in this industry (or any industry), follow these 7 rules.

by Alexandros Aslamazis

The last month was quite challenging for Etalon. We have just started our exports to the UK, Ireland and the United States. Not that the other countries we sell are not challenging, but in the countries I just mentioned the car refinishing industry is extremely saturated. It implies that the customers expect from a newcomer to be different, efficient, innovative, high quality …and on top of that to be the cheapest from the cheapest on this planet. How is that? Nevertheless, my blog post is not about obstacles we faced, but about attitude of some people in the industry towards their competitors.
Incredible as it may seem, but car body repair industry is a small world in fact, notwithstanding you act on a global scale, not to mention any particular country alone. Nonetheless, some individuals believe that badmouthing the competition is worthy strategy to go along with. No, it’s not.

badmouthing guy

As I already said during the past month, I have traveled quite a bit. I recall this presentation of Etalon polishing compounds in a bodyshop in California. Halfway through the testing an old woman appeared. With an annoyed expression she asked what were we doing? It appeared that she was a current supplier of this bodyshop. “This is crap, you try to sell it in America, cause you can’t sell it in Europe”, she said. Luckily, the bodyshop owner cooled her down and showed her the door, wondering how she could judge without even seeing the product. By the way, Wayne Dyer once said “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.“ Another example from our launching presentation in the UK. A sales representative from one of the Italian brands was spreading false information about one of our products, in order to defend his own product missteps. Large international brands fall into this trap just as well. I can recall numerous cases when premium (the word used by the major paint manufacturers extensively) paint company was calling its rival’s product as “rubbish”, which never matches the color. Therefore I am following myself and ask my sales team to follow the following 7 rules:
1. Never use words like “rubbish”, “crap” or similar while talking about your competitors’ products. Not only you drop your professional level, but also you make your prospect to feel stupid. Doors will be closed forever.
2. Never joke about the business size of your competitor. In fact, smaller companies can grow really fast, supply high quality products and outperform their bigger rivals on flexibility and customers service.
3. Never spread negative rumors, whether or not the information you have is quite trustworthy. Remember that nobody likes people who bring bad news.
4. Never talk bad about competitor’s personality, background, origin, race, politics or sports preferences. You can easily put yourself in an embarrassing situation.
5. If you are asked to compare your product against competitor’s, speak about your advantages rather than negative sides of the competitor’s product. For instance, if you are asked to compare two clearcoats tell, “your product is transparent, dries after 15 minutes in a spray booth and easier to use” instead of saying “their product is yellowish, slow in drying and not possible to imitate OEM texture.”
6. Avoid direct confrontation with rival sales rep albeit he is badmouthing your product. Instead emphasize that the great number of your satisfied customers is the best proof of your product and service.
7. Finally, never lie about the competing product. If it has some great features, recognize them and make an effort to emphasize yours advantages as well. Honesty will always win you respect and customer’s attention.

In conclusion, I would like to stress one more time that our business life and career are unpredictable as everything on this planet. If your are a sales manager for a particular brand, you may find yourself in the rival’s camp if a good job offer comes along. If you own a car paint supply shop, you might be selling other brands in a few years. Life is unpredictable, so watch your mouth and be positive!

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11 steps a healthy paint sprayer never overlooks

It has always astonished me how many articles, white papers, presentations and videos have been made about spraying techniques and correct usage of refinishing materials in a bodyshop. On the other hand, I still don’t understand why so little is said or written on painters’ health-related issues. Simply Google about this subject, and you will find just a few quality articles. While the majority of the information comes from the government organizations, written in a rather incomprehensible manner.

From my point of view, the lack of coherent information reveals the ignorance all paint suppliers show towards their products’ end users. Whether we like it or not, but spraying automotive coatings, especially 2K materials is very dangerous for health. Asthma, breathing problems, allergies, fatigue, weakened immune systems, isocyanate poisoning and  dermatitis are among numerous health problems that a car painter faces throughout his career. Nevertheless, in contemporary world, if properly trained and informed, the collision repair professional can avoid all of the above-mentioned dangers by following certain steps every single day.

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Personal protection equipment

  1. A health conscious painter always uses respiratory protection while painting. Supplied-air respirators are the most effective to protect a sprayer from isocyanates, which all 2K urethane coatings contain. Half-masks with A1 or even better with A2 protection level are second best choice. The problem with visors is that many sprayers find them bulky, with limited visibility, yet it is all about your habits and getting used to it. Simply push yourself and in a couple of weeks you will easily sleep in it.
  2. A responsible sprayer always uses safety glasses while he is painting. Droplets of base or clear coat may easily penetrate through eyes causing irritation and sight problems (supplied-air visor protects eyes anyway, thus one more reason to use it).
  3. An educated painter on every occasion wears protective overalls, preferably category III, type 5 or 6. There should be no exposed skin in a spray booth.
  4. A professional painter uses nitrile gloves when mixing or spraying paint. Nitrile is the only affordable material to withstand solvents and isocyanates. Note that cheaper latex gloves do not provide adequate protection!
  5. An experienced sprayer wears disposable masks throughout the preparation process. Filler dust and other aerial particles have no place in your lungs!

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Equipment maintenance for healthy working environment

  1. A serious-minded collision repair professional keeps a spray booth well-maintained and filters clean. Without mentioning quality problems when the spray booth filters are loaded up, by failing to keep them clean, you do not have enough air flow. As a result paint overspray is not exhausted as it is designed by spray booth engineers.
  2. A serious car body sprayer keeps his equipment in uttermost condition, because a spray gun with excessive overspray or a sanding machine with high noise and vibration levels do not help to keep the working place safer.

No-nonsense tips on personal well-being

  1. Take a real break for lunch, so that you have the possibility to eat decent food. Many of us just grab a sandwich and drink plenty of coffee, while overeating in the evenings. Bad habit for health, especially for those who struggle with the bodyweight.
  2. Drink a lot of water. Physical work, going in and out of spray booth dehydrate your body. Plain bottled water or water from the cooler is an inexpensive way to stay healthy.
  3. Visit regularly your family doctor or physician. Let her know the hurdles of your work. Frequent blood tests, screening your liver and lungs are the best ways to prevent serious chronic illnesses.
  4. Exercise and keep fit. I know that being a car painter is physically demanding job, however a lower intensity exercises like cycling, jogging or walking will help you recover. Stretching and yoga are very good for professions where you spend a long time in one body position.

 

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The above list is not all-inclusive, of course. To stay healthy for yourself and your family requires discipline and good habits. Remember that there is nothing in this world more precious than your health. Take care of yourself!

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