The efficiency with which materials are stored in and distributed from it has some bearing on profits. In the experience of the writer, who is familiar with the paint shops of many firms, ranging from the large contracting establishment to that of the small man, there is room for great improvement in this respect. It can only be assumed that many concerns do not appreciate the waste of materials which results from the lack of any proper system, or they would surely not allow such a state of affairs to continue.
It is best to keep two separate books for materials: one for entering details of those which come in, and the other for particulars of those that go out. In this way, stock can be checked and the amount of all material sent to any job can be seen at a glance. The headings of such books can be as simple as the following:
All entries should be either in ink or indelible pencil, and block letters should be used. As estimating is simplified by an accurate knowledge of the amounts of materials used on past work, and as the details of such amounts will be wanted in any case, these books should be kept as carefully as any other book in the office.
On the completion of a job there will always be a certain amount of material to be returned to the shop, and any reasonable quantity should be entered in the materials book, labelled, and put away with other stock of the same kind. It is of little use, however, to include odds and ends and small quantities in the entry. The smudge pot should be avoided when possible, but it is difficult to dispose of remnants of paint, especially when they are of dark colours. Probably the most practicable system is to keep several large drums, clearly labelled, one, for instance, for all light-coloured flat paint, another for light-coloured oil paints, a third for medium shades of flat paint, a fourth for medium shades of oil or gloss paint, and a fifth for remainders of dark colours. This system has its limitations, but is more satisfactory than the practice of lumping all left-over materials together in one tub; this means, in effect, the accumulation of a large amount of smudge of doubtful quality and indescribable colour.
In our experience it is only in the largest firms that job sheets are kept with any degree of accuracy. This is because, with such concerns, the foreman usually has little to do except to supervise. With smaller firms, the job of entering up the sheets is continually being put off because he is busy on other work; what happens, more often than not, is that in the end he has to rely on his memory for most of the entries. Time sheets and a properly kept material book will give all the information wanted, and more accurately than job sheets as they are usually kept, but this is a matter on which the individual master painter must make up his mind.
A point to remember is that an order book should be on every job, so that extras can be entered when they are ordered and can be signed for by the client. This makes everything clear when the statement goes in and prevents such additional items from being overlooked.
Dealing with Customers
Between the time an enquiry comes in and the estimate goes out, there are often visits to be made to the proposed job for the purpose of interviewing the customer. In the case of large decorating firms, a salesman may be entrusted with the duty of discussing the work, but more often than not he will be accompanied by the estimator.
On the first visit, as much information as can be obtained will be collected and, if a drawing is wanted for some part of the work, measurements and details will be taken. The estimator and an assistant will usually make a second visit, to complete the task of measuring and to secure further data. On this basis a provisional estimate will be prepared and delivered, together with finished pattern boards, colour schemes, and other samples which the client may have asked for. As little time as possible is wasted and thus the expense is kept to a minimum.
This proceeding applies mainly to the larger kind of contract, but is mentioned to indicate that a not unimportant aspect of the estimator’s work is to make personal contacts with the client. It is no use being competent at pricing work if the orders do not come in, and very often the impression given when calling on a prospective customer carries great weight. If the estimator is ready with helpful suggestions, is able to make the property owner visualise the complete work as it will ultimately appear, and can inspire confidence by the way in which he discusses the subject, he will have gone a long way towards securing the order. He should have some knowledge, not only of such matters as colour and combinations of colour, and current decorative trends, but of other aspects of decoration, as, for instance, lighting, furniture, and fabrics. He should, in brief, take advantage of the opportunity which the work of measuring gives him of getting into touch with the client, to exercise his abilities as a salesman.
Enough has been said, perhaps, to show that estimating is not only a big subject but one which has more sides to it than the average decorator is apt to realise. To compress it into a single post inevitably involves the exclusion of detailed accounts of many processes and their approximate costs, but it is hoped that those matters which have been dealt with will provide a good foundation for the beginner; if he has any natural aptitude for the work, a little practical experience should do the rest.