Some people find inspiration in a painting. John Evans found his while looking at painters. Before he was the owner of EverLine Coatings and Services, Evans spent considerable time around hardware stores, buying paint for his first entrepreneurial endeavour. There, he saw some parking-lot painters dressed in sloppy smocks, toting dirty drop cloths. “I thought: there’s an opportunity to thrust professionalism into that industry,” Evans says.
It seems he was right. In its first year of business, his parking-line-painting and property-maintenance company earned a Contractor of the Year nomination from Alberta Venture, and it won the Breakout Business Award from the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. Both recognitions are a testament to the imperative on which Evans founded his start-up: that it conduct its business with principles, high quality, and a level of refinement uncommon in the construction industry.
Evans first wielded a brush when he joined College Pro Painters while attending the University of Calgary as an ambitious student, and the experience offered him far more than a simple summer wage. “A lot of students come out of university having only worked grocery store jobs, and [they] don’t see the scope of business that College Pro [CP] exposed me to,” Evans says. “When you’re put into a situation and have never touched a paintbrush but are accountable to a client whose biggest investment is their house, that’s real. It makes you grow up significantly.” Evans quickly built the company’s largest Alberta franchise and became one of the top franchisees in North America.
With great success came greater aspirations, though, and Evans sought a new challenge that would allow him to apply on his own the business practices and skills he had cultivated in his three years with the company. “I couldn’t see myself working for anyone after I had been my own franchisee,” Evans says. “To bridge the gap from a mentored environment at CP to a whole new company with no support, I hedged my risk by deciding to move to a business that was different from summer painting but familiar.”
Dumping all the earnings from CP and a few contributions from family into capital investments for his next venture, he was able to forego a storefront in favour of trucks, trailers, and line-stripers, and thus EverLine was born in January 2012. Though it was the off-season for line painting, Evans didn’t really take a break, and he still doesn’t today. If he’s not working from dawn till dusk alongside his crew, he’s networking and seeking out new clients. “It pushes my abilities to micromanage without losing scope of the grand vision for the company,” he says. “I want to push forward, not just spin my tires in place.”
The Road Ahead
A look at what’s around the bend for EverLine
1. Expand the business to include property sweeping. This is the logical next step because it is a service many of EverLine’s clients already want. Evans is looking to build relationships with clients now so that when he has the capacity, jobs are lined up.
2. Move into highway marking. It’s another specialty industry that complements what EverLine already does. Alberta is a very competitive market, so Evans has to build a reputation of quality at his company in order to break into new areas.
3. Expand into seal coating for full maintenance of parking lots and commercial property. Evans is also considering offering services in tennis court resurfacing.
Growth for a start-up is tough, and Evans faces additional challenges because of his seasonal-employment model. It’s hard to retain good workers when you can’t offer work year-round, and student employees can be hit-or-miss, making them a liability for a company that prides itself on superior service.
To combat such inconsistencies, Evans focuses on perfecting his recruiting and training tactics. In the interview stage, Evans is most interested in identifying candidates who demonstrate pride in their work. “Everyone will tell you they’re a hard worker,” he says, “but people who hire labour know that’s not always true. If candidates are proud of their work, that commitment to quality that defines EverLine is already hardwired into them, and I can trust that it’ll be there when I’m not on site to ensure it.”
On the employee-development side, he has created a checklist for training to ensure every employee receives the same information and delivers consistent services. Many of his hires gain some of the same business acumen Evans learned in his early days, helping them land full-time work. “This makes for more loyal and engaged employees during the whole summertime process,” he says, “because there’s a greater return on the investment of their time than just a paycheck.
Evans may be incredibly busy as a company owner, operator, and marketer, but he says his business model is simple: have ideals, execute them, and do what you say you will. Those are business fundamentals, really, but according to Evans, they’re still novel in his industry, and they’re how EverLine is setting itself apart. “Our work is virtually the same as any other company that is competent at line painting,” Evans says, “but our credibility differentiates us. It’s a risk to hire any company but us.”
Evans sees a world of potential yet unrealized for EverLine. He hopes to expand its services to include sweeping, resurfacing, and highway marking. In the meantime, though, it’s still validating that other companies are looking to EverLine as an example of sound business principles and a commitment to excellence.
“It doesn’t matter how sexy your business sounds,” Evans says. “What matters are principles and quality and how you present yourself as a company.”