College Works Painting Informative - Valuable info for potential clients, interns and painters!
For potential interns, painters, or home owners looking into college works painting, please be sure to review the information I'm about to provide.
Interns really do not know the full scope of what they are getting into; if they have no painting experience prior, just know they paint one house before they are on their own. So the training they give you, though a district manager is there on your first day to "train", is only what they are told, so again it is basic. They are all about the sales, one thing I've learned is they are told to do anything to get the sale, and will because it means more money for them. The pay works like this for painters, I'll try to explain this well but briefly before I go into why this sounds good, but you get screwed.
Each job is allotted a certain number of hours for work, we'll assume only one painter is working to make this explanation easier, as each contract and price is based on the hours allotted for the work needed. If the intern decides all of the prepping and painting will take 50 hours, it means that based on your salary you will make a specific amount for the job even though you have an hourly rate. So if you make $8/hour, for a 50 hour job you will make $400 if it takes you 10 hours, or if it takes you 100 hours. To sell this to painters, they will tell you that you can "beat the budget" so by working only 40 hours on a job budgeted for 50 hours, it's really like you're making $10/hour. Now you know how the pay works for a painter.
Here's the problem. An intern is given a sheet that tells them how to budget the hours for the contract, and that amount of budgeted hours is what the painters are told, giving them an idea of how fast they would need to work to at least make the hourly wage they are given. But the info the interns have does not take into account things such as: difficulty, ladder movements, amount of scrapping/prepping and unforeseen problems such as working on a roof, landscapes being in the way (flowers, bushes, trees, etc.). The reason this is a problem is that they will budget (if I remember correctly, if not it is still an example) 200 square feet of spray for one hour. So if there are bushes, and you must drop sheet it, work around it, and make 10 ladder movements to do that 200 sq ft, you are then going to take a lot more than an hour. Not to mention the fact you will be slow because you're just learning to spray. To keep this short, there are many, many ways that it will take you longer to do something than the hours budgeted for it. And obviously over the course of a job, this means you are very likely to exceed the budgeted hours, and therefore make much less per hour than your given wage. Your first day or two will make you think you will kill every budget, because they make sure that the first house is the easiest, simple, and able to be finished within no more than two days. Also, managers are likely to cut the amount of hours given, leaving money for themselves to pocket. What I mean is, if the total hours budgeted for the job is really 80, they may tell you that it's budgeted for 75, or some amount lower than 80 and give themselves a higher profit.
Finally, another aspect that costs you time and force you to go over budget are the unforeseen issues. Interns will put anything in the contract that the homeowners want, meaning whatever the client says they want painted, the intern will put that in the contract. They do this for obvious reasons. If they say they can paint everything except the third story dormer, the client is much less likely to do business with them since they cannot provide the service needed. The problem with this is that the intern does not realize how difficult some things are, what needs to be done to get it painted, or how long this part of the house will take. So if it is a third story dormer, they will budget it for an hour because that is what the sheet tells them, that it takes one hour to do a dormer. So if the dormer needs a 40-foot ladder, and requires multiple ladder movements, a roller with an extension (and remember you are just learning), etc. These are all tasks that will take extra time but was never budgeted into the hours, and the painters then go over budget and make less per hour.
Another problem involves the materials. Painters are given two brushes, and if they get ruined, the painters are then supposed to pay for the new ones. The problem is even if you are very conscious about making sure brushes are kept clean, due to long days and having so many other things to worry about, you will go through brushes very quickly.
Painters are also supposed to work four days per week, ten hours per day. The company wants you to work five of those days the first week of the bi-weekly pay scale, and the other three the next week. So you technically work 50 hours one week, but are not compensated for overtime because of the incentive-pay system. Plus, if you end up working over 80 hours in the two week incentive-pay system, an intern can just move those extra hours onto the next scheduled bi-weekly pay period, again you are not compensated for overtime pay you rightly earned.
Also, interns are told that for every hour a painter works, they make an addition forty cents ($.40) and are paid in one check at the end of the summer when painting is finished (well you would actually get the check once the interns accounts are closed, so it would be more like late fall). Basically, it's a bonus check you would receive. The problem is, they do not have to give you this "bonus", and even if they do tell you, they are able to keep it because they can say that a bonus was not earned. It's basically a loophole, so if you do become a painter, make sure to inquire about this.
The final information for painters I have regards when you are paid. Two painters did not receive their first check for over six weeks. The problem was that of the company and not the intern, which shows how unreliable they actually are in terms of running a business correctly. One painter did not receive their final paycheck until January, even though their last week was in August. The company is notified frequently, and the intern and painter are told that things are resolved and they will get their check, but often this happens for weeks, and as you can see also happens for months. This goes for interns as well, College Works likes to hold your money for whatever reason, and I have seen it too many times to not think its intentional or a sign of malpractice.
Also, remember that jobs are budgeted for so many hours and you are always working with at least one other painter, remember that if the other painter is very slow and unskilled, no matter how quick and productive you are they will waste hours and cost you time and money.
One last thing, remember that interns are looking out for their own best interest. They can promise many things but usually do not follow through or are unable to do so. This is partially caused by their “boss”, the district manager, who will do the same thing in promising those things but not following through. This is one of the biggest problems with the company, they use top-down management, and each tier is told something that more often than not does not happen or is a complete lie. I have read many reviews online about College Works being a “pyramid scheme”, and while I don’t see as being one exactly, it definitely follows the formula and the results back this. Clients invest money but usually have their start date pushed back, the amount of estimated time for the service elongated, and the final product involving extra time for fixing bad work and cleaning up materials. All resulting in giving a lot of time as well as money that results in a weak return on investment; Painters invest their time and are screwed (by losing pay) through the budget system and lack of experience/knowledge of interns; Interns must invest $1,250 for their “kit” and book $10,000 worth of work before they can even start, as well as give a lot of time for the training, marketing, and sales. All of which results in not receiving compensation until the cost for the kit is deducted from their personal revenue (and remember their start date can be pushed back due to the $10,000 booking total to begin production), which means you will most likely not see a dime until end of May at the earliest but most likely in June, while you will have by then put in hundreds of hours and a lot of money for travel and other expenses. So as you can see, College Works is not by definition a pyramid scheme, but it sure as hell follows the same formula.
While some of the prior information will be helpful, I’ll give you some information that should you should be aware of, and provide examples if needed.
First off, I would like to say this can be a great resume builder, it can help you with experience and knowledge in terms of sales, as well as learning how to paint a house, handle clients, manage workers (as well as training, hiring, etc.), and earn money. But the earning money part is very rare, while you can, when it is all said and done make a profit, the chances are you will spend more during the course of your work on extra materials, gas, phone bill, eating out, etc. So keep that in mind, as I’ll continue to the problems you will face.
The main problem you will find comes from your hired painters. Finding quick learners, hard workers, and dedicated employees is very difficult. One intern I was told about had his painters quit on him near the end of the summer, which is the worst part, considering the work he needed to finish. The best advice is to not lie to those you want to hire, make sure they understand the difficulties you face and deal with, and make sure they fully understand the budgeting system. This is the biggest issue, and I would estimate at least 90% of interns have at least one painter quit, but usually one painter quitting results in a snowball effect, so be very careful in regards to hiring.
The best way to help your painters is to paint! Your district manager will tell you to never do this; they will be completely against it and say you should be doing scheduling, making phone calls, marketing, etc. But as long as you have a decent amount of work booked, try as best you can to help, and here is why. For one, it looks good, it shows you want your painters to succeed and are doing what you can to make them beat the budget, Remember, your hours do not count for the house, you do not get paid for the time you spend painting. But, if your help saves them four to five hours, they might then make budget and be paid accordingly. This makes them happy, shows your hard work and honesty, and also creates a level of commitment. This is the best advice I can give, the problem is in the other interns I have worked with or been told about, none help paint.
Your “job” is to book work and finish jobs, but remember: this will only work if you have painters who can get the jobs done and do them well! The painters need to be happy and motivated, and the motivation is supposed to be in beating budgets. As I have stated and really stress is that beating budgets is difficult and these painters will work long hours in the hot sun, so near the end of these days they will obviously work slower. So if they are not beating budgets, you need to do everything you can to get them to where they need to be, to be happy and not quit. If this means adding a few hours to the budget so they get their hourly wage, do it. If it means buying them drinks to show you care and want them to be able to endure the heat better, then you should do it.
In terms of clients, you need to actually care about them and their home. You cannot put on your sales pitch and big words, because frankly, as a beginner in the painting business you will often end up biting your tongue.
One big problem you may face is houses that require different work than just painting, such as a house that you contract simply for prepping and no painting. One good example is a job I was involved in that cost just under a grand, and required taking the “loose” paint off of wooded shingles, not cedar shakes but close, they had small indents in the wood throughout making regular scrapping nearly impossible. This was budgeted for 12 hours I believe, and the guy was unhappy with the process the first day, and said it required a heated gun (I don’t recall the official name, it’s sort of like a blow dryer, using heat to extract the loose paint). The job ended up taking almost 40 hours. Here’s the problem, unless you are willing to take a loss financially on the job, which I doubt you would, you will not get the job done, have an unhappy client and a lot more to deal with. So you understand how problems like this can arise even on a regular jobsite, where things take extensively longer than budgeted. This again comes down to if you are willing to add hours to the budget, but remember it is stuff like this you are not fully knowledgeable of from the training and information you are given. So these problems can happen with any job, making the likelihood of disgruntled painters, who feel they are then being cheated more likely to quit. As you can see, the problems you will face always comes back to the fear of painters quitting, forcing you to lose time and waste time finding new help, training them, and then you face the same issue. You get the point I’m sure, so beware of this if you want to be an intern.
Another problem is not knowing how paint will look on a house, depending on the siding, as well as the shade used and the coats applied (including or not a coat of primer). One house I managed a job site for had cedar shakes, and wanted one coat of a light color. The problems started shortly after spraying began, because only one coat of a light shade on cedar shakes causes it to look very blotchy, meaning there is no cohesiveness to the single coat applied. The homeowner refused to have us spray the house, even though this was the best way in terms of speed, and would only allow us to hand paint it with a brush or roller. The house was budgeted originally for (I believe) less than 20 hours, since this intern just used the equation given for an hour budget per every 200 square feet of the house. The house was re-budgeted to 39 hours (for the painters, not the actual contract) by a district manager to compensate for the lack of hours in the original assessment. Long story short it ended up taking 90 hours to paint. The client refused to buy a second coat, which I cannot blame them since they were obviously not informed one coat of spray would look sloppy, so it resulted in taking three times as long and the district manager paying out of pocket for extra compensation. As you can see this is another great example of how you will face problems because of your lack of knowledge about different siding, how paints and colors cover, as well as not knowing if they wanted one coat it would need to be hand painted and therefore make the budgeted hours much higher. As an intern, in situations like these you need to add to the hours and pay the painters accordingly, since no one will work three times the amount of hours budgeted and made 1/3 of their hourly wage. So it’s either have your painters quit or pay out of pocket, obviously both are terrible options but this is what you deal with if you are an intern. Again, this reiterates the theme of what College Works provides: a system where you are set up to fail.
The final piece of information I will give involves everything I know about how you are paid, what you can make, and how your district managers can screw you out of your hard earned money.
One job I know about involved a house that had been contracted for over a year, but do to difficulties and it being extremely underbid, the project was given to someone with extra pay incentive. Long story short, due to a problem on the jobsite (that was easily resolved and dealt with nothing regarding the actual work done) the person who was given the job had it taken away from them by their district manager. Not only was the person screwed because they had the job taken from them, they also had pay the wages of the workers. So, not only did they earn nothing, they lost several hundred dollars for compensating the workers instead of the person who took over the job. Not only is this bad practice, there was nothing the person could do to stop it. This just goes to show you that those above you the system can take jobs from you; they also have great reason to do so. They can make money off of your sale, your work, and have you pay for the hours already put into the job.
Side note: The reason it was under-budgeted is something you, and potential homeowners looking to use college works should note. Some (not all) interns and district managers who leave the company, are offered the option to bid out houses and get contracts at the end of the summer/fall to be painted the following summer. They are compensated $20 for every contract, plus 1% of the contract when it is completed. Since they are leaving the company, they do not care about the problems of the job; they just want to book work to make their money quickly, plus the 1% when the job is completed (meaning they will under-budget the best they can to get contracts). The problem for interns or even district managers is that these jobs are very likely to be extremely underbid, causing you to lose money. For homeowners, you may face the problem of having to pay more for additions to the contract, or have to deal with a lawyer to make sure the contract is carried out (I have witnessed this more than once). And for painters, well I guess you can see the problems as well, like I stated earlier, you may be painting a house that is budgeted for a lot less hours then it will take and may cause you to waste time and earn less than your hourly wage. This practice is one of the major problems with College Works, and shows that they are focused on their income and not to teach and prepare interns. They use people who are skilled in sales to get contracts, knowing that these contracts will be underbid (I use the term “knowing” because they must realize the incentive given to those who book work, along with them not having to deal with any problems of the job is clear. It is not something they are unaware of because this issue is brought up when interns are given these jobs), and because they know this they are screwing clients and interns alike.
For interns, you can see from the previous example how a job was taken away, and this can happen for any job you have, for a simple reason like not doing something correctly or using the wrong materials (many of which can happen because you are ignorant, by no fault of your own, on aspects of the job). While I understand reasons a job is taken away is due to circumstances that are technically against the rules of the company. But, in your quest to make budget and get things done you are often forced to find the easy way, and in doing so put yourself, your time, and your money at risk.
One thing I will add, simply because it is something you would not know (or should not be told) unless you stay with the company and become a district manager, involves the house you are trained on. The house you learn how to paint is a prime example of how the company works; the painters (you and the other new interns) are not compensated for your work. As in, you do not receive a check for the hours you work…seems wrong doesn’t it? They do this in such a way to not even make you think about getting paid, as this is simple part of the training process, yet you are painting someone’s house and they are obviously paying for these services. So your district manager is making their 4% (like they do for all of the jobs completed by interns), an additional 15% (the percentage you as an intern would make on a job-which is standard and does not include extra money you’d make from using less than what the client paid for in terms of what was budgeted, meaning the difference in materials and labor hours-whether hours you skimmed from the beginning or skimmed because they beat budget), and they also make whatever percentage the labor hours budgeted came to because they are not paying you for your work! Ironically, this in itself is a “benefit” to get former interns who they deem fit to stay another year and become a district manager.
To Potential Clients (Homeowners):
While everything I have written previously are examples of the problems with the company, how they operate, and how the interns and painters are given a great opportunity on paper but are most likely set up to fail, the work itself is not always bad and you are not definitely getting yourself into a bad situation.
As a hard worker and dedicated employee, I saw many homes that turned out wonderful. Many times this involved painting an entire house, and when finished, looked absolutely amazing. This refers to the end product though, meaning the problems mentioned prior and including what I will mention in the following passages, are still issues with the process. I did not want to discredit the fact that the finished product can be amazing, because it can be, but is very rare in terms of not having to deal with or face problems throughout the process.
One benefit to hiring college works is actually the inexperience and practices they have, that if you are lucky, can allow you to get what should be expensive for the work needed, done for much less. If you have read this entire passage, the two previously examples of jobs I have mentioned are prime examples of how clients received a job done that should have cost at least double what they paid. Another example which I have yet to mention was one of the first jobs for an intern, involving a wooden fence. It ended up costing the homeowners $1,300 (roughly) but was under-budgeted for both materials and hours just so they would get the contract. This was their district manager’s advice, and in the end they worked on it for over a day to not have the painters go over budget and cost themselves more money. I’m not sure how much the job would have cost if it were done by other professionals, but in terms of what it should have cost in their contract to what they paid, they saved a few hundred dollars. I’m not sure if that is a risk you are willing to take, but through my experience, you should always get at least three estimates.
Here are some tips when dealing with the interns attempting to sell you a job:
1. Do not let the discount for signing the day off fool you, interns will usually just add what the discount would take off to the price, meaning you will not really save anything. I think the discount is 5 or 10 percent, and I am not saying this always happens, but I am pretty sure the district managers will tell them this trick, and if not they are likely to figure it out for themselves.
2. They are taught during their making of the contract to get you off topic and talk about your dog, family, or things of that nature to seem more caring. While this is nice for you, and a great sales tactic, it is to make you feel more comfortable with them. They do this during the walk around when they see a playhouse, a doghouse, stuff like that. So now you know, just remember this is what they are taught to do; this is not them being themselves.
3. Another sales tactic they use and you should be aware of, is that after you complete the walk around outside and tell them everything you want done, they will ask to use your bathroom. This is so you and your spouse (or whoever is with you) can talk about everything and give you a few minutes alone to feel more comfortable. Again, it’s nothing bad; just understand this is all strategy to get the sale.
4. MAKE SURE to always know the extent of the problems with your home and the siding, dormers, windows, etc. If the wood is extremely bad, it might need to be replaced, and getting it painted is a waste of money. Usually this is only in some spots, not the whole house, but when you see the final product and looks awful it may be due to the quality of the wood (or whatever the siding is) and not the paint or job done. This can save you time and money, but will also help you if the intern eventually tells you that a different product is needed, and more needs to be done, adding more to your contract and costing you more.
5. You are often told that your house, the siding, or whatever needs to be power washed before it can be painted. While this is most often true (sometimes I power washed for hours siding was so bad, and others it was only bad in one spot), you will be paying a hell of a lot of money for something you can do yourself, In fact, what is budgeted for power washing is usually more than it would cost you to buy a power washer and do it yourself. That’s just a tip, while it’s obviously easier they do it, remember it is very expensive just to have water sprayed on your home.
6. Interns will usually try to up-sell you after the painting has already started. This usually refers to painting something you did not originally want, or adding decorative paint to certain aspects of your home, it really depends. Just know this will often be priced higher than it would have had you suggested it prior to the bidding of the contract.
7. Be aware of the fact that the materials will stay on your property! This has happened multiple times involving homeowners complaining about materials being left on site after the job was finished. Interns are supposed to have vehicles that can carry ladders, but they are not always available, so if the painters do not have vehicles able to remove power washers, ladders, or other materials, they will sit on your property until they are picked up. I do not think is as big a problem as it has been with my experience, but it happened at almost every site I have been to (over 40 jobs). Also, if materials are left on your grass it will often kill it, and at sites that take weeks to finish can really be a problem. So if you plan to have your whole house painted, make sure you have a place they can keep the materials to prevent this. If you do not have a spot, then make sure it is in the contract that they will be removed each day from the site.
8. One thing you will be told by the interns in regards to their inexperienced workers is this: Would you rather have painters who have worked for many years and are experienced enough to know every way possible to cut corners? Well, our painters may be inexperienced, but they are taught the right way to do things and will not have the long term experience that can hurt you in cutting corners to get your job done as soon as possible.
This is what they will say to give you peace of mind, and it may make sense, but do think this is realistic? It depends on how you answer that question, but at the very least, keep this in mind when they mention it. I know of many cases that painters put only one coat of paint when clients paid for two, times where painters begin the second coat before the first is totally dry, instances where scraping paint off (prepping) was done minimally and to compensate the coat(s) of paint were just put on thicker, and so on and so forth. What makes it worse is, you cannot really blame painters or interns, the system if set up for them to fail in most cases and this is the only way they can earn what they deserve. With that said, right or wrong, fair or foul, it happens and you are now aware.
9. Finally, talk to friends, family, or neighbors about the proposed contract before you sign anything. Just see what others think in regards to price, the coats you are getting, etc. to see if things seem right. While you can use other painting offers to compare, this may be very helpful since all propositions are to make money.
Finally, one thing that College Works does that I really respect is that they paint some houses at the end of the summer for those who are financially unfortunate. This is done by the interns and district managers (ironically enough this good deed is done with leftover paint that is mixed together, which I find somewhat unsettling). Even still, it is a very positive thing they do for communities and a great thing for interns to experience. I wanted to make sure I mentioned that, to end this on a positive note since this is something that you should hopefully remember if nothing else from this review.
In conclusion, I hope I was able to shed light on the realities of College Works Painting. After working for them for several years, I felt my knowledge of the company and their practices was strong enough to be able to help those who would need or want this information. Please note that all jobs I have written about were those in which I was involved in some way and were not secondhand accounts. While I have witnessed and experienced many negative things in my tenure, I have also gained many skills in terms of painting, sales, management and many other things. While at times I was very upset with what was happening, or with what the company was doing to me and others, looking back I am happy to have worked for them. My resume is much stronger because of College Works, but at the same time, my circumstances were unique. Even though I did not succeed in terms of making a deserved and respectable income, I succeeded on a personal level, while so many others failed. My motives during my tenure were also much different, and the position I was put in did not allow me to quit, for reason that include my own morals, work ethic, dedication and commitment. I did not allow myself to write this while I was still employed by College Works. I felt I was able only now to write this without bias since I have been away from the company long enough. At the very least, I hope all who see this enjoyed the read.