Ryan Toelkes, founder and president of Neighborhood Painting in Kansas City, Kansas, is an independent thinker. He started his own business at an early age and pursues an unusual business model: He runs two separate crews on every job. First comes the “wood-rot and prep team” that repairs damaged surfaces and trim, and there are in-house carpenters available who can rebuild windows when needed. Then, Toelkes lets the house sit quiet for a week, to give the owner a chance to inspect the prep work. Afterward comes the specialized team for actual painting.
The Neighborhood Painting approach has met with approval in the community. About 70 percent of Toelkes’s business is residential repainting, interiors, and exteriors. The company serves the entire Kansas City metropolitan area, about a 40-mile radius straddling the Kansas-Missouri border. It has received honors such as being named a 2015 Top 25 Business Under 25 Employees in Kansas City; Angie’s List’s Super Service awards for six consecutive years; and being named the Ingram’s 100 Fastest Growing Corporation in the Kansas City area.
Another measure of Neighborhood Painting’s success is the projects that go beyond the routine, such as historical restorations. The company recently repainted the Rice-Tremonti Home, believed to be the oldest standing frame house remaining in Jackson County, Missouri; the current farmhouse at the site dates back to 1844.
Toelkes’s paint of choice is the PPG PAINTS™ brand, for two reasons. “We like their products and their customer service,” he explains. “We use PPG Paints products pretty much exclusively—I’d say 95 percent of the time.” For example, he uses MANOR HALL® paint for virtually all exteriors and considers it a breakthrough product. “Unless a customer really requests an alternative, we’re using PPG Paints products. I like the durability, the longevity of their coatings. I like how they treat my customers when they come in for a paint match too,” says Toelkes.
He is also not deterred when his customers ask about the paint he chooses. He tells them PPG is a leading global coatings company and explains why he likes their products. “Once I explain to people who PPG is, customers are pretty much open,” says Toelkes.
Toelkes not only favors the solutions offered by PPG Paints products but is also enthusiastic and eloquent about dealing with the company. “It’s their people. From the reps to the store managers, anytime we need something, I feel like we’re taken care of. If my customer goes into the store, I feel like they’re taken care of. All of our orders go in on time. Everyone seems to be happy going to the [PPG Paints store on Nieman Road]. It makes a difference to me that my customers are happy with PPG. I used a competitor for the first five years, but I’ve been happy with PPG for the past 10,” he explains.
One customer service advantage he really appreciates is the extended store hours. “We always try to buy things in advance,” he asserts. But as in any other business, things happen. “For example, if we have to work around rain and we’re working the weekend to make up for it, the PPG Paint stores’ extended hours and weekend hours make it a lot easier for us to get product. It’s made a huge impact in our business.”
He sometimes directs customers to PPG Paints’ web-based tools, like the Color Visualizer tool on PPG’s The Voice of Color® site, to help them focus on the look they want. Ultimately, he finds a live color consultation is valuable, too, saying that “my customers really like having that service available; it makes them feel more confident.”
As a professional, Toelkes values the relationship he and his company have with PPG. He feels that it is a two-way street, too—that the way the company treats contractors indicates the high value PPG places on professional partnership. “For example, their willingness to include us in charity events and cross marketing … It’s important to them that they have good companies using their products,” he concludes. “They show that with the support they have for us.”