The desire to succeed plays a huge role in the years of success for Carlson & Strand Painting. Owner, Russ Strand can trace this desire back through the history of his company as easily as he traces his own family history. Russ' grandfathers and father were painters. His mother was the daughter of a painting contractor, and it's no wonder that his son David is preparing to assume management of the family business.
Lloyd Strand Painting was launched in 1948 by Russ' dad, Lloyd Strand. (A former PDCA Oregon Council president.) Russ remembers working for his dad as far back as grade school, and through junior high, high school and even college. After earning a Biology Degree from the University of Oregon, Russ planned on becoming a dentist. The pull of the painting business was greater than his desire to go to dental school, and Russ eventually ended up back in his father's business.
In 1971, Lloyd Strand sold the business to his son, Russ, and Frank Carlson, a long-time employee. The partnership of Carlson & Strand Painting was born. Russ and Frank were partners from 1971 through 1989 when Frank sold his half of the business to Russ. "Frank was a great guy," says Russ, "He was an awesome painter."
Though the owners changed, and the name changed, the company has been steadfast in its approach to the painting business. Russ points out that the company has always done residential repaints with only a small amount of commercial work. In the residential market they work with designers and upper end homeowners. The business has also been consistent in size. They currently have 11 people in the field and may run as many as 15. And that's fine with Russ. "Growing bigger has never been one of our goals. We are not driven in that direction."
So, if you aren't bigger then how do you set yourself apart from your competitors? For Russ, taking pride in your profession is what he believes sets his company apart. "Don't worry about your competitors, forget it, deal with what you can control." And for Carlson & Strand Painting, professional pride goes beyond a job well done. It is reflected in the very culture of the company. "It's important to be proud of what you do," says Russ. From the look of the vehicles to the neat and clean appearance of the staff, every detail shows company pride.
Being a painting contractor is a tough business. Russ feels the toughest part is the seasonality of the work. It not only creates peaks and valleys on the balance sheet, but according to Russ, it can take its toll personally. "I discovered that I was taking the highs and lows way too personally. I finally realized I had to change the way I looked at things. You can't take the ups and downs as personal success or failure. I had to separate myself from the business. This is tough when you are self-employed because you pour so much of yourself into the business."
Marketing too can help smooth out the peaks and valleys, according to Russ. "Sell the work before you don't have it," is his motto. For Carlson & Strand Painting that means consistent mailings of several thousand mailers throughout the year to past and potential customers.
For Russ, PDCA has also provided a steadying force. As a member of the PDCA Mid-Willamette Valley Chapter since 1985, Russ has held every position at the Chapter level and has been Oregon Council president, a National Board Member and a member of the National Residential Committee. "Over the years I have learned so much from PDCA," says Russ, "I enjoy being around successful contractors who take pride in their profession. You truly gain from PDCA through the process of participation."
Russ is currently transitioning the business to his son, David, 37. But, can dad give up the reins? "Yes," says Russ, "But you have to be able to delegate responsibility. And in order to delegate, your people have to be capable of making decisions. You have to gradually bring them along and let them row to make decisions . . .and mistakes on their own." With this in mind, Russ plans to turn over the operations of the business to David, while he remains involved on the sales level. This change in day-to-day management will free Russ, and his wife Linda, to pursue some of their own hobbies. Over the years, Russ has been active in his church, Rotary Club and Eugene Executives Association. Linda is a school librarian who plans to retire at the end of next year. The couple would like to pursue their travel adventures. (They were bitten by the travel bug after their photographic safari to Africa.)
In addition to son David, the Strands have a daughter Kelli, 33, who will make Russ and Linda grandparents with the birth of her first child in October. With their family history, they had better get the finger-paints ready, because there's going to be a new painter in the family to train!
Carlson & Strand Painting
1115 Main Street
Springfield, Oregon 97477
Reprint is from the Summer 2003 | Volume 1, Number 1 Your Council Connection News & Information publication of the Professional Painters of PDCA Oregon Council