Bill Nishanian of Nash Painting On The Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During…

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Bill Nishanian of Nash Painting On The Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent Times

Be a planner. Prior to Covid, I had a tentative plan of what we could cut if the economy slowed or reversed, but we had no plans to slow down our company’s goals and growth. We cut all growth spending, especially in marketing that depended on the economy to be successful. We used our extra time to refine our processes and make them more efficient. We focused our attention on retaining existing customers rather than finding new ones.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Nishanian.

Bill Nishanian is a seasoned business owner who has successfully navigated his share of turbulent times. As CEO of Nash Painting, his realistic approach, optimism and commitment to excellence have grown his business to become a leading independent painting company in one of the nation’s Top Ten real estate markets. His tiered strategy for addressing uncertainty, as well as prosperity, can be applied by any business, large or small, that is striving to survive and thrive.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

As a young man, I loved working with my hands, building, repairing, and engineering. I landed a job at a boat dealership with my friend Jason where the manager told me I could get a commission if I sold a boat. I started listening to Zig Ziegler’s books to learn sales techniques. Having both sales and mechanical ability is what laid the groundwork for my success. After several changes to my major in college, I settled on business courses knowing that I wanted to start a contracting business. I met my best friend and wife, Kristin, at college, and after deciding to get married we started a Christian marriage counseling class with her family’s pastor. Kristin’s pastor happened to own a painting company and they were launching their first franchise, so I decided to buy into it.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

We sold an interior project, and I had my crew pick up the paint we needed for the project. They purchased paint in both one-gallon and five-gallon buckets and brought them to the site. They brushed the edges of the trim with paint from the one-gallon cans and rolled out the walls with the contents of the five-gallon buckets. After completion, the customer called me, concerned that the cut-in lines did not match the walls. I showed up to convince him that it looked fine — but quickly realized he was right. His entire house looked like walls of picture frames! We repainted the house and learned that one-gallon and five-gallon buckets must be mixed, or they will not match perfectly. I also learned not to assume that I’m always right!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are so many people who helped with advice, encouragement, and correction. People have helped me financially and spiritually. I have to say that the person who has helped me most is my dad. He always worked long hours when I was growing up, and he was kind and present when he was home. He’s always given of himself and helped other people. Watching him helped to make me the man I am today. We moved to Tennessee in 2009 and he and my mom followed about a year later. I was painting 40 to 50 hours per week at that time and my dad would always come and help and never accept any pay for his work. He just wanted to be with me and help me succeed. On one job, we had to knock out old plaster on a wood lathe. I have a picture of us afterward — covered in dust. We still laugh about it. He does all the receipt and expense auditing for Nash Painting. He’s asked that his title be, “The Complainer,” because he says his job is to find mistakes and “complain” to the right person.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your organization started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

I can’t claim that I had everything about business figured out when I started Nash Painting, but I knew I wanted 5-star reviews, and nothing less. Whether the customer was wrong or right, I was going to do whatever was necessary to make him or her happy, even if it cut into profit. Reviews are marketing proof, and I knew their importance to the success of my business. We want to be the painting company of choice. We aspired to serve country music singers and other local elite who could afford to hire quality. This set the tone for the work, processes, and procedures we set in motion — and we achieved that goal! We still work continuously to improve, update, and refine our processes and procedures. We focus on it every week.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

It’s important to have an effective plan in place and communicate it to your team members so that they feel comfortable and secure. It’s never good to retreat or make cuts under duress as emotions rarely produce the desired outcome. My leadership style is inclusive of my team members. I don’t see it as my company — I see it as our company. We will either sink or swim, but we will do it together.

During the pandemic, we had many customers delay or cancel projects. Our leads were down and so were our profits. Each week we discussed the moves that we’d made as a company, shared what worked and what didn’t, and made corrections for the following week. We focused on wins rather than losses and constantly improved where we could. We addressed errors without calling out whose fault they were. We confronted the mistake, found ways to improve, and looked at errors as opportunities to learn. During an overwhelmingly difficult time, we continued to choose optimism over pessimism.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Of course! I’ve entertained the idea of quitting multiple times over the last several decades. There were times when my hard work earned me only as much as a 9 to 5 job would. In hard seasons as a business owner and CEO, I’ve had to drain my personal savings to keep the company afloat. But ultimately, the challenge of running a company, and the potential it offers fulfill me more than trading hours for dollars. I’m passionate about the planning, development, and execution of contracting business demands.

I’m an author and I believe that books have the power to change lives. Do you have a book in your life that impacted you and inspired you to be an effective leader? Can you share a story?

I’ve read many books on business, but so many times, when it comes to their key points, I realize I’m already employing the strategies they recommend. The book that has had the most impact me — in business and in all of life — is the Bible. It’s the inspiration for the type of leader I have become. A biblical approach to business leads to servant leadership, humility, love for your customers and employees (who may not seem lovable), hard work even when no one is looking, honesty, and accountability. Someday I intend to share what I’ve learned by writing a book on biblical business principles.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

The most important role of a leader is to inspire people, and that’s especially important during challenging times. It’s essential to develop the best plan of action possible. Then it is the leader’s role to inspire confidence in the plan and secure buy-in for the mission. Rather than punching a clock and fearing the worst, a good leader rallies the team around the goal and instills confidence. A positive mindset is more likely to succeed.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Communicate. Bring everyone into the conversation. Help them understand that they are valued, and that they are an important part of something bigger. For our business, it is essential that we succeed and win as a team.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

We are not a perfect company. I am not a perfect leader. The best way to deliver difficult news is with humility.

Hard news is much more difficult to hear if the leader delivering the news is deferring blame rather than accepting responsibility.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

It’s important to have both a growth plan and a retreat plan. It’s not always possible to control external circumstances as we’ve all experienced in the past couple of years, but it is possible to choose how you will respond. A retreat plan should consider what position could have to be cut or eliminated and what products, marketing, processes, or procedures could need to change? It’s not an easy process but anticipating the unknown and creating both plans will give you the confidence you need to boldly grow.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Plan and be patient. In turbulent times, you’ll likely miss key performance indicator goals like leads, efficiencies, profit, and everything else that comes with a well-run business. You’ll survive making less money, barely breaking even, or even losing money only if you have financially prepared for the storm. If you’ve planned well, you can implement your plan and monitor the situation patiently.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

I’ve seen businesses let their employees go, only to desperately need them back. I’ve seen businesses close.

A retreat plan helps to avoid this by identifying which positions would be most difficult to lose.

I’ve seen businesses use disasters to save as much money as possible, disregarding employees’ and customers’ needs. The customers and employees quickly realize that the money is more important to you than they are, and they will remember that when things return to normal. The best way to avoid this is to constantly be thinking about how you can bless people, even when resources are not abundant.

Take care of the people who are important to your business rather than taking care of the business.

I’ve also seen businesses retreat from their long-term goals out of fear of a second round of bad economic news. Instead of moving forward as if the economy were good, they take their foot off the gas. The best way to avoid this is to set long-term goals and make sure you hit short-term milestones along the way to prove to yourself that you are heading in the right direction. It is important to avoid a scarcity mindset.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Be a planner. Prior to Covid, I had a tentative plan of what we could cut if the economy slowed or reversed, but we had no plans to slow down our company’s goals and growth. We cut all growth spending, especially in marketing that depended on the economy to be successful. We used our extra time to refine our processes and make them more efficient. We focused our attention on retaining existing customers rather than finding new ones.
  2. Be a communicator. When Covid hit we discussed the changes we were making to adapt to the new challenges. Each week we discussed what was working, and what wasn’t working — and we adjusted. I made sure my team members knew exactly how we were doing and how important it was for us, as a company, to meet the goals we had set.
  3. Be ready. Have a multi-stage retreat plan. Have resources available to fund stage one — the initial time when you first begin to feel the impact. That will tide you through until you can sort things out and scale down to stage two (If necessary). At stage two the cuts are going to be more drastic and more impactful to your business should the economy recover. If possible, have enough resources available to fund stage two and even stage three. Stage three is survival mode. We had a retreat plan in place when the pandemic hit, and we only had to back down to stage one. We didn’t lose any employees.
  4. Be humble. Let the team know that you are not perfect, and neither is the company. Instill confidence that as a team you will make it through together. On the contrary, if you operate from a wounded ego, it will alienate your team and make them less likely to want to work with you through a difficult time. At our weekly meetings, I let everyone know where the company is financially, how far we are off our normal goals, and our retreat goals. I let them know the pandemic was being hard on everyone, including me as the owner.
  5. Be inspiring. During challenging times is no place for pessimism. I’m not advocating for fake smiles or masking bad news, but where there is a positive spin take advantage of it. Everyone deals with stress in different ways and additional negativity at work can create a feeling of hopelessness. Positive thinking enables the team to overlook the looming issue and focus on little victories that add up to a season of victory.

Hear more from Bill Nishanian in his video “Five Things You Need to Be a Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent Times”:

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I was told at a young age that I should never hold back out of fear of failure. Someone would always be there to catch me if I fell — so dream big and don’t hold back. I always wanted to do something big with my life, but without that advice, I may have never tried.

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Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Bill Nishanian of Nash Painting On The Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.