Have you tried and failed to leave the family business? Have you tried, failed, and then succeeded on your own terms? You’ve got a kindred spirit in Mike Katounas. Although Mike’s family has been involved in the painting industry since he was two years old, he didn’t have a liking for it.
Mike left home to go to Virginia Tech for engineering, but it was a poor fit. He was then accepted into a physical therapy school, but before attending, he changed his mind and got a Master’s degree in health education instead. If only he had known before getting that degree that it was not his passion! He moved to Chantilly and had a couple more jobs. When he was getting ready to be married, his father approached him about giving the family painting business one more try, with the goal of eventually taking over.
When Old and New Collide
“My dad had been successful,” Mike admits. “Everything had worked for him.” And if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Mike, however, wanted to try new things. He saw that the internet was booming and business opportunities were spreading west of the city. His dad didn’t want to invest time and money into learning how to utilize the internet for painting and was moving more towards the city. “We butted heads, and he actually fired me right around Christmas of ‘04,” says Mike. Although the two reconciled and Mike went back to work, the firing was a wake-up call that made him realize that the situation was not going to work well in the long-term.
When Mike’s father-in-law mentioned that he could start his own business, the light bulb went off. “The wheels started turning, and I scared the life out of my wife with the idea, and within a couple of months I got my license and insurance and was off and running.”
His Own Business on His Own Terms
Mike was nervous that his dad would be upset to learn that he didn’t want to continue in the family business. “But the funny thing was that when I finally approached him about starting my own business, instead of being upset, he was actually very excited,” Mike says. They’d been fighting a lot, and it removed that drama. It also relieved the pressure of having the burden of providing an income for Mike and his family. His father was instrumental in helping to get Mike off the ground, both in terms of knowledge and experience and by helping him get his first two employees. “If I didn’t work for him, there’s no way I would have started my business,” says Mike.
Home Works Painting
One thing that sets Home Works Painting apart from its peers is communication. “We’re asking a lot of questions over the phone to get an idea if we’re the right fit,” says Mike. “If we’re not, we’ll tell them right away. We don’t want to waste their time or ours.”
They also have free color consultations. People want to change up the look of their home, but get scared by the Swatch Ness Monster because color indexes have thousands of colors and it’s hard to know where to even start.
Home Works Painting also offers a six-year warranty. They believe in what they do, and if they don’t meet those expectations, they’ll make it right.
Mike encourages customers to look at reviews online on Google, Facebook, or Yelp. He could give a list of references, but who puts a displeased customer on a reference sheet? “I can tell you all day how great we are,” he says. But don’t take it from him. Check them out online.
Paint It Forward
The second annual Paint It Forward nomination went to Still Brave, which deals with cancer-stricken children and their families. Having gone through cancer himself, Still Brave is close to Mike’s heart. Still Brave connected Home Works Painting with a child with cancer and his brother, and the two boys got their rooms repainted. “We let the boys have their creative freedom,” says Mike. The boys planned out exactly what they wanted, and Mike had one week to make it happen. Mike got to get creative himself, buying supplies from Ikea and Home Depot and using materials he’d never used before. The best part, though, was the boys’ reactions. Mike loved seeing their faces when they first saw their upgraded rooms, and hearing their excitement and joy.
An unexpected benefit was the effect it had on his team. His employees gained pride in knowing that they work for a company that isn’t just about making the profit, but also cares about the community. “It was a great team-building that I hadn’t even considered,” he says.
On the Horizon
Home Works Painting is gearing up for a busy 2018. “I’m about to bring on a new salesperson,” says Mike. “It’s endless possibilities right now. I see a lot of growth happening.”