Customer Service with Every Stroke of the Brush

Shahan & Son Painting, Ltd.

Since 1946, Shahan & Son Painting has provided commercial, industrial, and institutional painting services in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas, where the company is recognized for quality, reliability, and above all, customer service.

With a population of over seven million, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington region in north Texas is the fourth largest metropolitan area of the United States.

The region began its growth trajectory 75 years ago, at the same time emerging as a leader in the technology industry. That was when, in 1946, Eddie Shahan founded the commercial painting contracting company, positioning it to take advantage of the real estate development that accompanied the growth in technology.

Among the services offered on any size commercial, industrial, or institutional job are joint treatment of sheet rock, painting, application of wall coverings, special coatings and floor coatings, along with the most critical service for any contractor – customer service.

In addition, the company established a separate department dedicated to servicing tenant finish-outs, remodeling and maintenance. Because of the excellent service record it maintained from the beginning, much of the company’s work is repeat business.

By the time Eddie Shahan’s son Howard took over the business in the 1960s, Dallas was on the cusp of another major building boom that lasted through the 80s and 90s, grinding to a halt when the dot-com bubble burst in 2001. Fortunately, it did not last long and by 2004, there was an economic turnaround and real estate development continued, and along with it an opportunity for Shahan & Son Painting to expand their painting business, securing contracts as large as $5 Million.

Company President Brian Shahan, the third generation at the helm of the family-owned company, took over in 2009, and now it is his turn to maintain the extraordinarily high level of customer service that has become synonymous with the name of Shahan.

“I think one of the main things that sets us apart from competitors in North Texas is how we do customer service,” he says, emphasizing that the company’s mission of doing the job right and making the customer proud applies even if it costs money. He says his team has not finished the job and will not stop work until there is 100 percent customer satisfaction.

Moreover, once the job has been completed to the customer’s satisfaction, Shahan does not walk away, because he believes it is important to continue to provide support. If clients have concerns or questions after the job is done, they know they can call and someone in the office will pick up the phone.

Sometimes customers will call years later, wanting to know a color number or type of paint that was used, or they might call about a service the company doesn’t offer, in which case they will be pointed in the direction of another reputable company that can fill the request.

Shahan sees his role as one of helping people and that has never been more important than during this time of pandemic. “People are worried, and they are not comfortable about the future. They feel that if they’re going to pay someone to do a job for them, it’s even more important to do it right, do it on time, and on budget. So, I take care of those people, and we haven’t slipped up one bit on our standards during the past year.”

Shahan & Son Painting has come through the pandemic without laying off any of the 100 employees. There has been enough work lined up for the company to stay busy and manage cash flow, even though there were a few projects put on hold.

He admits that moments of this past year were scary, as no one had ever lived and worked through anything like this. He recalled how, in the beginning of the pandemic, he struggled to get PPE and hand sanitizer for employees.

Since most of Shahan’s clients are general contractors, it fell to them to take the lead on safety on the job sites, which included implementing temperature checks and questionnaires before entering.

Even so, COVID-19 is a sneaky virus, and in spite of the best efforts of safety managers, there were outbreaks. Every large project Shahan worked on since last March had a COVID-19 outbreak, meaning the job sites had to be shut down and disinfected, pushing schedules back. In addition, each time this happened, everyone had to be tested for COVID-19 to make sure it was safe to return to work.

Some COVID-related shutdowns began before Shahan painters were even on site, while others occurred just as they were trying to finish. “There’s no good time for a shutdown,” Shahan says, “and it happened at all phases.”

In order to complete the job including the tape and bedding process, which makes sheet rock panels into one solid surface, and the application of paint or vinyl wall covering, the team worked staggered shifts, day and night. By doing that, they could accommodate the timeline, even though painters are always the last trade to begin work. Not only that, Shahan painters invariably created a finished appearance that exceeded the client’s expectations.

During the past year and a half, Shahan & Son Painting completed work on two huge projects, along with a number of smaller ones.

The first, completed just before the pandemic took hold, was the largest development built in Texas at the time – a 10-story, 1.2 million square foot office complex which formed the regional headquarters of Pioneer Natural Resources, an oil and natural gas company.

Next, came the interior finish of a five-story, 300,000 square foot office complex for the giant hospital corporation Baylor Scott and White.

This was one of the projects which involved some really tight scheduling, as a result of the pandemic. “We had to work at night,” Shahan recalls, “while trades worked during the day. That was different for us and took some getting used to.”

Currently Shahan is planning for what he says will be some great projects, but which haven’t been formally announced, so he’s not able to talk about them. However, he did hint at several high-rise commercial projects that will change the Dallas skyline and that have been budgeted for, and also several educational projects that are under contract.

The local economy is resilient, he says, however, he concedes that it has not been an easy ride for all companies.

“Having a healthy business before the pandemic hit really makes a huge difference,” he says, reflecting on his good fortune to be leading a company with a three-quarter century history and comparing it with the difficulties newly established companies are facing. “If a company was struggling before COVID-19, it would have a really hard time to survive after it.”

Being able to adapt is essential, he believes, citing examples of painting contractors who converted paint spray rigs into sanitizing machines and are making a success out of cleaning entire offices after they experience an outbreak.

We asked Shahan about the industry in general and he spoke about the elimination of toxins like lead and asbestos, and the role science has played in the last twenty years, allowing paint to be formulated with a latex or water base, so there are zero VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).

He also spoke about the infinite variety of color and shade that his two preferred paint suppliers, Sherwin-Williams and PPG Industries, are able to achieve. “They always get the color right,” he says. Clients also have a choice of commercial wall coverings, made of thick 54”-wide vinyl, “definitely not your grandmother’s kitchen wallpaper,” which are available from a large number of suppliers, too many to list.

Ever since its founding, Shahan & Son has been a member of the Painting Contractors Association – formerly known as the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America – a national professional association, and for the past two years Shahan has been president of the Texas chapter.

“It’s a forum for competitors to get to know each other, network, and figure out solutions to common problems. I have really gained a ton of knowledge from belonging to it and that’s something you can’t put a price tag on. It’s invaluable.”

He goes on to say that if a general contractor or building owner anywhere in the U.S. is looking for a commercial painter, it is wise to check if the company is a registered member of the professional association. “If they belong, it’s a good sign they will be a reliable painting contractor.”

May 5, 2021, 8:30 PM EDT