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BKMs: My Secrets to Delivering the Best Painting Projects Every Time

In 2019, we figured out the special “something” that our team needed to do their best work on every job: Best Known Methods, or BKMs. One of the catches of running a successful business is that I can’t be everywhere on every job, but still want my team to deliver the consistent, high quality work that I built Pearl Painters on. The work had to be as good or better than if I were the one doing everything. 

In order to standardize our training and our practices, we began to write literally everything down, and that was the start of our BKMs. We want to make sure that what we say will happen actually does happen, without me being there. The team follows my proven process so that you get the positive experience on your painting project that I would always aim to deliver personally.

SOPs Aren’t Standard

In the painting world, SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) are a newer buzz word. Most companies are self-taught. I’m self taught. SOPs are not standard – ask other painters about their documentation that ensures that every person does everything the same way, in the same order, with the same tools, and you will be very surprised to discover that it is not consistent across the entire company. Our BKMs put the customer experience first because they are set out with the clear goal that every Pearl Painters project has to be consistently done right. 

And I want my customers to feel confident in every step of our process, and know that they are getting the best work that we can give. The BKMs eliminate any unreliable guess work on our team’s part, and speed up the learning process for our new hires. It’s a win-win scenario because we get an expert team benefitting from our growing documentation, and you get a consistent, high end result for your project with every step in the timeline communicated to you along the way based on well-informed past experience rather than rough estimates.

Also, let’s be honest, the term “Standard Operating Procedures” sounds way too formal and stuffy for the hands-on, passionate individuals that make up the Pearl Painters team. So, instead of SOPs, we use our own BKMs – that’s Best Known Methods – to set a high bar for quality on every single project we work on, from start to finish. 

Before and after photos from a successful interior project, beautifully executed with our BKMs.

What is a BKM and how are they used?

One of the other reasons I call them BKMs is because, well, my name’s Brian Kemnitz, so my initials, “B.K.” are right there in the name. The process is so important to the business that I put my name on it. It’s my way of ensuring that the quality I strive for in all of my work is present in every project my team completes. Also, here’s an added bonus, Urban Dictionary defines “BKM” as “Butt Kicking Mode” which I think accurately describes how our team arrives for work every day!

The BKMs live in a 16-tabbed electronic spreadsheet that’s accessible to every team member at all times. Each tab contains an ever-growing, up-to-date wealth of general tips, instructional videos, supply maintenance pointers, or is focused on the tasks that need to be completed in specific areas of any house. Interior surfaces such as ceilings, walls, trim, cabinets, doors, and handrails, all have a place in the BKMs as well as exterior surfaces like decks, soffits, gutters, garage doors and all types of siding from stucco, to cedar, to HardiePlank. The Job Site Manager even gets their own tab in the spreadsheet to check that every single thing on the list gets covered before the job even starts, and every day the team is on site.

Screenshot of a document detailing a cleaning checklist with various tasks related to Pearl Painters' cabinet painting projects.
Here's a snippet of our cabinet painting BKM, and below is one of our actual BKM videos:

Our Core Values

Throughout the spreadsheet, we have constant reminders on every tab of Pearl Painters’ Core Values, which are:

  1. Trust
  2. Deliver What You Promise
  3. Respect The Individual.


I
’d be doing a disservice to my employees and my customers if I didn’t teach my team how to put those core values into action on every single job. The core values inform every checklist item in the BKMs – from critical items like applying that first coat of paint, to basic details that ensure we respect your home. That even includes checking we parked the truck in the right spot or that we use the right wash sink.

Painter painting trim inside home.
The details matter to us.

I set the BKMs, my team refines them.

Everything I know about exterior, interior, and cabinet painting from the last 20 years is written down in our BKMs for the benefit of my entire team. Our entire process from start to finish has been documented and placed in a checklist that we follow at every home we work on. From arrival, to setting up, to prepping, painting, inspecting, cleaning and signing off on a job well done, the BKMs ensure we treat every step of the process with care.

It means every team member from the most junior to the most senior can be trusted to not miss important steps.

But sometimes, I’m proud to admit that the student becomes the master. In fact, we encourage every member of our team to surprise us with new BKMs that even our combined decades of experience wouldn’t have prepared us for. Let me tell you, it’s a good day when one of our painters presents us with a new BKM to improve our process.

What if your BKMs don’t work for my project?

Our first golden rule to deliver a great paint job is to follow the BKM. But the second is to use common sense. If our BKMs aren’t going to work for your particular project, my team is encouraged to think outside the box, and find alternative solutions that benefit the customer first and foremost. The reason we have BKMs in the first place is so we can tell you exactly what we’re going to do before we do it, and avoid nasty surprises. So, if you aren’t happy with what we plan to do, we talk about it and save everyone a lot of time and frustration by making adjustments up front. 

Painting a home is a big and important task and anyone who turns up to do that job without the full project planned from start to finish is probably biting off more than they can chew. Not us. We have every one of our key processes outlined in full: Walls and Ceilings, Interior Doors, Cabinets, Interior Trim, Stairs and Handrails, as well as Exterior Siding, Decks, Garage doors and more. Each one of those jobs has a dedicated page in our BKMs, listing anywhere from 33 to 73 individual steps in the process that have to be checked off before the next step can start. No stone is left unturned. 

Photo of BKMs: My Secrets to Delivering the Best Painting Projects Every Time in Portland, Oregon

Ready to see our BKMs in action?

With that level of thorough attention to detail, I firmly believe that no matter what you need for your next paint project, we have a BKM for that and we’d love to share it with you. Whether it’s an interior space or the outside of your home, get in touch for a no-obligation quote.

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