Jesse Larson said his favorite thing about owning a small business is that he can grow the company as he sees fit.
From sales to operations, “I have a say in everything,” Larson said. “I just love building every aspect of the business.”
It seems to be working. Together with his brother Sam Larson, “we just celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Larson Bros Painting.”
The business has about 20 employees.
1. What was your first job?
My first job was at Ace Hardware in Concord, California. I started when I was 14 and I worked in every department at some point through high school.
2. How did you get into this business?
I started painting in college with my father’s painting tool kit (he and my grandfather worked on a painting crew before I was born).
Even being so young, I built a loyal following that expanded each year. By the time I graduated, I had a legitimate business.
3. What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
Locating great employees. We prefer to hire from other industries and train as apprentices through our system because of how difficult it is to find great experienced painters locally.
4. What’s the biggest project you’ve done?
Probably a renovation at Francis Ford Coppola’s new winery, the White Doe in Geyserville.
5. Who do you most admire in the business world?
Brian Scudamore, who founded 1-800-Got-Junk? I read about how he “cleaned up” the junk-hauling industry. I’d like to make that same kind of impact on the painting industry, which is known for painters that do not live up to their word and promise an experience that they can’t deliver on.
6. What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?
Having kids. I’m still fairly young and it’s in the near future for me, but it’s the biggest challenge I plan to undertake.
7. If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
Unfortunately, our industry is known for cash business and under-the-table employees because companies can charge less by not paying taxes and workers compensation.
Because it’s so common, customers don’t always realize that hiring companies that aren’t functioning legally leaves the customer liable. These businesses are also usually run by less-experienced or capable owners. It’s also common for painters to over-promise on quality and customer satisfaction in order to win a bid.
8. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
I speak fluent French. I studied in France in college and I make at least one international trip a year because I love to travel. Occasionally, I meet a French customer and I try and perform the estimate in French.
9. What was your childhood ambition?
I wanted to own a grocery store since I was in elementary school. I used to draw layouts of how my grocery store would look and how it would function.
10. If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
My painting shop. It sounds dull, but I love business and making systems that help us function better. When I work at my shop I get to see tangible evidence of an efficient system. I would welcome any of our customers to come look at it, too.
Bonus questions for online:
Which three people would you most like to have dinner with?
Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Ayn Rand.
What’s the worst job you ever had?
Electrician assistant at a Dow Chemical factory. I worked in this capacity during a summer break in college and I really liked it, but in comparison to my other job experience it was probably the least exciting.
What job would you like to try/not try?
Not try: Mover.
What’s on your to-do list?
We are redesigning our website right now, which is a big to-do for us.