Blending Business with Caring
Andy Shearer, owner of Big Horn Paint in Cody, WY, tries to take the guesswork out of painting projects.
To help ensure optimal results, he stocks only premium-quality paints and stains. Brand names include Benjamin Moore, Pratt & Lambert, Old Masters, and Sashco. Andy also uses his custom tinting and matching expertise to ensure customers have the right products for their jobs.
“Someone can bring in a piece of paint, a little chip maybe the size of a dime, and then I can match that as close as possible to the right sheen and color,” Andy says.
Andy will even visit jobs sites, both large and small, to provide specialized assistance.
“I’ll go out with the contractor or homeowner who has questions about what to use,” he said. “I do a lot of technical calls, helping people figure out what they need.”
After working part-time at Big Horn Paint for several years, Andy entered discussions with the previous owner about buying the business. But valuation and price were major sticking points. So he contacted Bruce Morse, the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network’s regional director for Big Horn, Hot Springs, Park, and Washakie counties, for assistance. Despite a false start or two, Andy and the previous owner finally reached an agreement, and the sale was completed in July 2017.
“I wouldn’t have bought the business if not for Bruce helping get the numbers in line,” Andy said. “I wouldn’t have gone through with the purchase if it hadn’t been for the SBDC.”
Once the deal was finalized, Andy immediately went to work making major changes.
First, he spruced up the appearance of the store. Then he overhauled the point-of-sale and accounting systems. He also streamlined his supplier list and negotiated better prices, which in turn, allowed him to restructure discounts for contractors. His prices overall have dropped an average of 10 percent across the board. Andy also has increased his inventory by about 30 percent and hired new people to serve customers better.
The bottom line is that Big Horn Paint’s sales have doubled when compared to year-earlier figures, but the operational changes plus Andy’s solid professional reputation were no doubt contributing factors.
While contractors are his biggest customers, “homeowners are just as important to us. They’re the ones who talk about us,” Andy said.
And since Big Horn Paint’s marketing has been largely through person-to-person referrals, customer satisfaction is another important factor in the store’s success.
Big Horn Paint currently has three employees. Andy’s wife, Sarah, who teaches color theory at Northwest College in Powell, also does color consultations for the store.
Serving the Community
Previously, Andy worked for many years as a painting contractor. So, he is keenly aware of the challenges contractors face.
Painting contractor Hans Schnackenberg maintains almost daily contact with Big Horn Paint.
“We’ve always been happy with Andy’s knowledge of the products,” Hans said. “When I call in a paint order, they have it ready within minutes. It’s always ready to go for us. No lags in supply, which is really important.”
Hans also appreciates the extra effort Andy takes in finding the right color match for a job. “Sometimes, a customer wants a specific color, but there is nothing I can take off the house to bring in to match. So, Andy will match it on the site, which is super helpful. He’s able to dial it in really well.”
For Big Horn Paint, being an asset to Park County and the Bighorn Basin goes beyond selling top-of-the-line products and providing great customer service.
“We model our business after what we would want,” Andy said. “These are things that can make a business that much better. And we’re all about the community. We love our community.”
Jody Horvath sits on the board of the nonprofit Cody Country Art League. When her group wanted to remodel an interior space, she went to Big Horn Paint for guidance. To her surprise, not only did Andy offer his advice, he donated the paint for the project as well.
“He was so generous,” Jody said. “I didn’t even ask for a discount. I just wanted his expertise on the paint. I never expected that he would give us the paint, but he did it.”
In the future, Andy hopes to find a larger space, add more paint lines, and bring in more employees. “Just keep it rolling,” Andy said, on the path for success he has already charted.
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