CertaPro Painters Franchise Sucks - CertaPro Franchise Sucks - CertaPro Complaints
CertaPro Painters
CertaPro Painters Franchise Sucks  
"Selling dreams that become nightmares"      

The Myths


CertaPro's motto should be:
"CertaPro Painters: We put the pain in painting"

Let's look at some of the myths you may be
led to believe about a CertaPro franchise:
CertaPro Painters Complaints
It's Not The Franchisor-Franchisee Arrangement I Expected

I didn't understand, or pay any attention to CertaPro's structure prior to purchasing a franchise.
I had thought it was a "traditional" franchisor/franchisee structure:
      Franchisor <==> Franchisee

This is not the case.
CertaPro is owned by a company called The Franchise Company, which is owned by First Service  Corporation (NASDAQ symbol FSRV).
     First Service <==> Franchise Co. <==> CertaPro <==> Franchisee

Thus, CertaPro appears to be a profit center for The Franchise Corporation which appears to be a profit center for First Service Corporation.

CertaPro is the small fish in a three-fish food chain. It can certainly lead one to wonder about what (and who) drives CertaPro's decision-making.


"Franchises Have A Much Better Chance of Success"

That's a myth which has been promulgated for years but which some have recently disputed. Some say franchise survival rate is no better than a non-franchise business, and maybe even worse..

A CertaPro franchise may have a survival rate of 66% (and I suspect it may be substantially less) after 2 years, which may be lower than the "average" for all new business startups.

The following is excerpted from a 1995 study byTimothy Bates, a professor at Wayne State University, who studied Census Bureau data on 20,000 new enterprises and found that 38 percent of franchises failed within four years of opening their doors, vs. 32 percent of independent start-ups that went belly-up.

A recent ad in Business Week succinctly states the conventional wisdom on the risk involved in entering self-employment by purchasing a franchise: "A franchisee has a four times greater chance to succeed than an entrepreneur who launches a new independent business."

The franchise, we are told, is a safe bet. However, findings of this study indicate that young franchise startups exhibit both higher rates of firm discontinuance and lower mean profitability than cohort independent business startups. When owner and firm traits are controlled for statistically in logistic regression, the franchise characteristic is found to be negatively related to firm survival prospects. These findings are based upon analyses of approximately 20,000 young small businesses, utilizing nationwide data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

A report from the Small Business Administration says:
Although some have maintained that a franchise affords a franchisee a greater chance of success than starting a completely independent business, not all studies support that conclusion.

...Despite the popular view that franchises are much more successful than non-franchises, SBA's experience with defaulted loans does not support this. For example, the loans identified by SBA as franchise loans that originated from FY 1991 to FY 2000 actually performed slightly worse than non-franchise loans.

Based on my review of some CertaPro franchises (here and here), the failure rate may possibly exceed the normal failure rate for any startup business--franchise or non-franchise

Don't Have Any Painting Experience? No Problem.

False: Knowing how to prep. surfaces is critical. Knowing what paint to apply is critical. Make a mistake, and it could cost you thousands of dollars--not to mention a very disgruntled customer.

Be prepared to learn "on the job", and it may be expensive.
Most people believe there's little involved with painting--you just brush on the paint. Far from it; there's more involved with painting than you may realize.

Yes, CertaPro offers training. Based on my experience, it may help you learn the basics but may also give you a false sense of confidence. You will encounter situations for which you're not prepared, and they may prove costly.

For example: What happens when on your first job your painter waters down the paint? What happens when your customer demands he be kicked off the job? What happens when you find out he's on drugs? (This all actually happened to me--on my first job. Was CertaPro onsite to help with startup? No.)

For example: What happens when you've quoted a job for $4,800 and it ends up costing you $6,400 because of worthless painters? (Yes, it actually happened to me. You won't make a profit if your painters are worthless.)

For example: What happens when a customer calls you a year after you painted his house to tell you he's got black mildew growing on all the windows you glazed? (Yes, you guessed it. This is called "learning as you go"--and it can be costly.)   

You should also read this brochure published by the California Department of Corporations. Pay particular attention to page 5 ("V. Before You Buy A Franchise"). It discusses the importance of knowing the business and knowing the industry.

Why Doesn't CertaPro Focus On Experienced Painters?
  CertaPro appears to focus on selling franchises to white-collar workers who have no painting experience. From CertaPro's website:

I do not know how to paint. In fact, I donít like to paint.
Good. We seek assertive individuals who possess leadership, tenacity, attainment, introspection, and precision. This opportunity is about brand building and generating revenue of a million dollars or more with in a 3 year time period.

In my opinion, this is pure hype: "...generating revenue of a million dollars or more in a 3 year time period". In my opinion, It plants one of many subliminal seeds scattered throughout CertaPro's marketing.

It would be interesting to see what percentage of CertaPro franchisees actually generate revenue of "a million dollars or more" within 3 years.

And the marketing tells you that you don't need painting experience.

If this franchise represents such a great opportunity, why doesn't CertaPro aggressively market to existing painters?

Why not start with franchisees who already know something about the painting business? For example, CertaPro's website also says:

What if my area has pages and pages of painters in the phone book?
That is good. This means you have a very strong market with a lot of demand. Remember, you are taking market share from your competition when you begin your franchise. The more fragmentation that exists, the more opportunity for you..

Why not go into that "fragmented market", recruit an experienced painter, and sell him a franchise? My guess: Experienced painters might seriously doubt CertaPro's claims (such as revenue of "a million dollars or more" within 3 years).

The more competitive ("fragmented", as CertaPro calls it) the market, the more price is going to be a factor.
For some customers, pricing is an important consideration, maybe the primary consideration.
A CertaPro franchisee may very well be unable to match other painters' painting quotes (remember: The CertaPro franchisee has to cover an extra expense--his/her franchise fee).
Many of the existing painters in this "fragmented" market may provide excellent service and quality work, and they may have an established base of satisfied customers. Why would those satisfied customers want to switch to CertaPro?

The downside of "fragmented market":
In my opinion a new franchisee can kiss off the "price conscious" customers as well as the customers who are perfectly pleased with their existing painter. What market share does that leave? Who knows? It depends on the local market. In my opinion, herein lies a significant fallacy in CertaPro's marketing and "the plan": Not all markets are the same. One size does not fit all. Maybe CertaPro will work in some markets, in others it may be a failure precisely because of that "fragmented market" which CertaPro touts as a positive factor!

Another possible reason why experienced painters might not be interested in a CertaPro: They have observed CertaPro franchise failures

There is one multiple-location painting company out there which DOES recruit experienced painters: The Painting Company, which has locations in Atlanta, Birmingham and Arizona (there may also be a location in Texas). The Painting Company hires people who are experienced painters or trains them by working them up the ladder, from painter to salesperson. Qualified, and experienced, people than have an opportunity to open their own branch location (I believe The Painting Company calls it a "branchise").

"Nationwide" Painting Company
  That sounds pretty impressive, doesn't it?
What does that really mean?
CertaPro calls itself a nationwide painting company (or words to that effect).
See for yourself how well-known the name is, after nearly 20 years of franchising.

Pick 20 or 25 people at random and ask them if they've ever heard of CertaPro Painters.
You Don't Paint - You Manage People Who Do
  Utterly Foolish: If you don't do some painting, you will never fully appreciate what's required, and it may impact your estimates. And when you're in a rush to get a job done, or when you're strapped for cash, or when your painters don't show up, be prepared to pick up a brush and paint.
"Recession Resistant"
  I've seen that phrase in some of CertaPro's advertising: "Recession resistant".
Don't believe it.
Call a couple of paint stores and ask them if they know of painters who have gone out of business.
Or search for "Coleman Publishing franchise failure". Its 2009 report on franchise financing by the SBA says, "Franchise failures for SBA 7(a) and 504 borrowers increased 43%"

Startup Costs

Based on my experience and that of other franchisees I've heard from, CertaPro's estimated startup costs (capitalization) are seriously understated. Moreover, there's this: "This table estimates your initial start up expenses for the first three months of operation".

THREE months?
Then what?

And there's this: "CertaPro does not list living expenses" (income for you).


Inadequate: CertaPro's training is, in my experienced opinion, rudimentary. A substantial part of it is spent teaching you how to use CertaPro's "proprietary software" (which, in my opinion, was seriously limited and which actually serves CertaPro).

CertaPro's "training" does not prepare you for everything you will encounter. And if you need help, it's unlikely you will get a fast response from CertaPro (my opinion, based on my experience). They may very well simply tell you to contact the Sherwin Williams paint rep.

If a Sherwin Williams paint rep. is your source for technical support, why pay tens of thousands for a franchise? Why not just contact the Sherwin Williams rep. for help in starting a painting company?

Here's an example of how things can go wrong (and become costly).
From a forum about Costco:
   - Homeowner hired CertaPro via Costco for an exterior paint job.
   - The paint peeled "the same day"! (There are photos.)
   - This was, presumably, a "trained" CertaPro franchisee.
   - He/she (or somebody) had to spend three+ days and buy 15 more
      gallons of paint
to repair it.
How much profit do you suppose was earned on that job?

And, btw, CertaPro's franchisee fee comes off the gross--it doesn't matter if your jobs are profitable or not.

Startup Assistance
Based on my experience: Don't count on it.
Ongoing Support

Don't Count On It: You may find that ongoing "support" revolves mostly around asking you "How much did you book this week?" "How much will you produce?"

Here's an excerpt from one of CertaPro's ads:

We work with you "Shoulder to Shoulder" We are there to support you every step of the way. CertaPro offers a comprehensive initial training program that covers all aspects of building a successful home-based franchise that will quickly scale to something much bigger over time. In addition, support is available to help market, recruit and train your key staff members in your efforts to scale. Some examples of these key staff positions would be: Office management, sales management and Production management. With CertaPro residential and commercial painting, you're working on the business...not in it.

When they say they "are there to support you every step of the way", it sounds reassuring, doesn't it? If they truly are there "every step of the way", why do you suppose so many franchisees have failed? From my own experience, I certainly didn't find CertaPro there "every step of the way".

When you are stuggling to get started, when your revenue is less than you'd hoped, or when you watching your life savings disappear, you will not even be thinking about hiring "Office management, sales management and Production management"!

This is, in my opinion, another example of creative marketing (another of those subliminal seeds), using the power of suggestion. You see, they want you to think you're going to be a success. Look at that wording: "building a successful home-based franchise that will quickly scale to something much bigger over time."! (Emphasis is mine.) You'll probably hear the same sort of talk from the franchise salesman.

Mentor program: I believe CertaPro has established a "mentor program"--franchisees assisting other franchisees. I have no idea how well this program has worked, but I have to ask myself a few questions:
   1. If a franchisee is paying handsome sums of money to CertaPro
       for training and support, why is CertaPro asking franchisees to
       assume what should be, in my opinion, CertaPro's responsibility?
   2. If a franchisee needs help from a mentor and it's springtime
       (often the busiest painting season), how well does that work?
       If the mentor is up to his eyeballs in work, will he be able to
       properly assist the new franchisee?
   3. Geography and availability: Some franchises are geographically
       close, some are quite far apart. What impact does that have on
       the mentor/franchisee effectiveness and availability?
   4. What's the depth of the mentor's knowledge and experience and
        how might this impact CertaPro's assertion of "uniformity"? I
        believe different franchisees may develop different practices.
        Are franchisees in different areas learning different practices?
   5. If this mentor program is effective, has it reduced the failure rate?
   6. Depending on the mentor's experience and knowledge, could it be
        a case of "the blind leading the blind"?


Are You Prepared To Spend Your Life Savings?
CertaPro's marketing methods for new franchisees can be EXPENSIVE!

I believe CertaPro quite meaningfully understates the amount of capital required to successfully establish a CertaPro painting business. It can take years to establish a reputation good enough to bring in regular business. Until then, be prepared to spend thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars on marketing.

While CertaPro touts its "national" presence and "national marketing", that may or may not mean anything in your territory. Test before you buy: Approach 40 or 50 people when you're out and about and ask them, "Are you familiar with CertaPro Painters?" If the majority of responses are "no", that probably means you'll have to spend more on local advertising.

If your revenue is low, CertaPro's suggested solution may be to advise you to spend more on marketing. After all, it's your money, not theirs. It may cost you several hundred dollars for each lead you obtain, and you probably will land only some of those.

From CertaPro's marketing:.

How will I attract customers?

The main method in a first year franchise is through the CertaPro direct mail program.

Don't stop at "the first year"! Based on my experience, it will take a new painting contractor 3 to 5 years to establish a regular customer base (if you have decent painters). Based on my experience and in my opinion, this direct mail mailing method will be required for years! And let me tell you: It is not cheap! A rough estimate might be 45 to 55 cents per letter. If you send 10,000 letters, that's $4,500 to $5,500 per mailing. According to some direct-mailing articles, a "normal" response rate might be 2.5%...it may actually be 0.5% or less. Based on my experience, a franchisee might send 3 to 6 mailings per year to try to get business. Direct mailings can be a big reason for cash drain, especially if the franchisee's net income doesn't support it. It might mean you spend $200 to $300 (or more) for every job you land.

You can find yourself in a Catch-22:
"I need more work to try to make more money" and
"I need to send out more mailings to get more work" and
"I need more money to pay for the mailings".

(Been there, done that...with 3 or 4 credit card companies.).

Minimum Sales/Royalties

  CertaPro demands you meet certain sales goals.
If you don't, you're still obligated to pay the minimum royalty on those goals:

You must achieve minimum Gross Sales of $250,000 or pay $12,500 of royalty in the first twelve months of operation which starts upon completion of Training Session A; $400,000 in the second twelve months of operation or pay $20,000 of royalty; and thereafter must increase the Gross Sales at a minimum of $100,000 per year or pay the equivalent amount of Royalty (5%) corresponding to that year''s Gross Sales requirements.

Are those reasonable sales goals?
ed on my experience and CertaPro's own numbers, I don't believe so

These minimums guarantee only one thing: Money for CertaPro.


CertaPro's Other Revenue Streams

According to CertaPro's UFOC, RESTRICTIONS ON SOURCES OF PRODUCTS AND SERVICES, you are required to buy materials and supplies from CertaPro-approved suppliers.

According to the UFOC:
"To offset the cost of maintaining brand consistency and compliance with standards, Certa Pro may require that approved vendors pay a licensing fee of up to five percent of franchisee sales from such approved vendors"
(CertaPro gets a cut).

"Certa Pro''s total revenue for the sale of these goods and services, as well commissions earned on franchisee purchases from approved suppliers, for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2007, was $1,977,540"

Almost $2 million...from suppliers to its franchisees.
Not too shabby, eh?

Want to buy your business cards cheap online?
Want to find a lower cost direct-mail supplier?

I can understand, for example, McDonald's requiring its franchisees buy french fries or buns from certain suppliers. That's a quality and uniformity issue.

But business cards?

Mailed letters?


You Hire Painters or Subcontractors

Learn How Bad It Can Really Be:

You will either be hiring painters or, quite likely, hiring subcontractors to paint.

Based on my experience and what I've heard from others, expect it to be worse than you can possibly imagine: Theft, absenteeism, shoddy workmanship and drug use are among the issues you may certainly face.

All the while trying to promote "certainty"...when you may not even be certain your painters will show up for work. And if you use subcontractors, mention that to your customers and see how well it goes over.

Here's a complaint about CertaPro I found on the web. THIS had to be a subcontractor, and this is the sort of thing you may face with subcontractors.

The painters came out without the owner who quoted the job. They damaged the walls with the spray gun (I had to fix). Painted the walls the wrong color. Painted the door trim on one door, painted half the trim on another and just did not paint the 3rd door at all. Painted over switches and fixtures.. I am so disapointed. I was charged more then $2000 for 3 rooms that all need more painting and priming to fix. Buyer beware..Certapro painters in Windsor Colorado is a rip off.

source: http://www.measuredup.com/review/CERTA-PRO-PAINTERS-Complaint-Poor-Management-9087

This sure sounds to me like it was a subcontractor.

Here's another:

It was alright. I didn't like the fact, they hired a subcontractor to paint my house. I was not informed that they were goint to subcontract my painting job. They were not certapro painters. The people who painted my house, while at my house, covered the name on their business truck with a sheet of poster board. I called the owner, of certapro, to return to paint a part of my house that was covered by weeds. He said he would send someone over within a week to fix it. That was 3 to 4 weeks ago, and I haven't heard from him.

source: http://www.servicemagic.com/rated.CertaProVentresca.8727716.html#ratings

Certapro ads seeking subcontractors:

Many people just don't like to hear that you are using subcontractors ("They were not certapro painters").

So if CertaPro tells you that you hire subcontractors and get a guaranteed profit, you should also know you will get guaranteed problems. And some customers don't like to learn you use subcontractors.


"The Country's Largest Painting Company": Double-Edged Sword
  You'll see that in CertaPro ads and at websites.
It can be a double-edged sword.
If you search the web for "CertaPro complaints", you'll find a number of complaint sites containing customer complaints about CertaPro. Some of those complaints may not identify the place where the customer lives, just "CertaPro".

There may be more customer compaints about "CertaPro" precisely because it is "North America's largest painting company".
Competition Cometh

In recent years other painting company franchises have sprung up. Companies like Five Star Painting, Fresh Coat, The Painting Pros, ProTect Painters, and others.

It will undoubtedly happen, if it hasn't already: Competing painting company franchisees in the same territory, each of which may make the same claims in its marketing material.

Failed Franchisees ("Following the Plan")

My Guess: Hundreds of Them: (note 1)

I have learned of -- or suspect there have been -- a number of failed or failing franchises in Alabama, Minnesota, New York, Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, Florida, New York, Texas and Missouri. I'm sure there are others. Chances are good that CertaPro will not tell you about the failures. If asked, they will probably blame the franchisee: "He/she didn't follow the plan". I heard that several times from Mark Titcomb. The same Mark Titcomb who told me that if I bought a franchise, "You won't regret it." In my opinion, Mark Titcomb possesses the greatest quality a salesman can have: Master bullshitter. Maybe he truly believes his own bullshit--in which case he is not, in my opinion, paying attention or doesn't really understand the world of a today's CertaPro franchisee. Remember: His pay isn't based on your success--his job is to sell you the franchise.

If "the plan" worked, there wouldn't be so many failures.
So when you hear Mark Titcomb or some other franchise salesperson blame franchisee failure on "not following the plan", ask him exactly how many franchisees have gone out of business in the past five years and if it was because all of them "didn't follow the plan".

And think about this: If, as they say, CertaPro is there with you "shoulder to shoulder", why would so many franchisees fail? Perhaps "the plan" is deficient because if they were there "shoulder to shoulder" as all those franchisees went under, what else could it be other than a deficient plan? Well, it could be that the franchisee ran out of money--perhaps CertaPro's startup figures aren't reliable.

Where Are They Now?
I've compared franchise listings from CertaPro's website from 2007 with 2009 for 4 States. Of 52 franchises, 40% no longer appear and 11.5% show what appears to be a change in owner (some of those could have failed).
Getting Out

What happens if you find it's not working and you want out?

If you're lucky, you might find somebody who's interested in buying your franchise. If you're struggling, don't plan to get all your money back--you may only recoup a fraction of what you've spent. I recall that Mark Titcomb offered to sell my franchise with an asking price of $40,000. How much would I get? $0.

If you're not lucky, bend over: If you get to the point, as many have, where you've spent all your money and are deep in debt, be prepared for CertaPro to demand tens of thousands (or more) to allow you to escape from the franchise agreement. And they might also demand that you sign a non-disclosure agreement. A non-disclosure agreement helps keep people from talking. That's probably why you will find precious little about failed CertaPro franchisees from a web search.

Settlements With Failed Franchisees

Carefully Record EVERYTHING CertaPro and Mark Titcomb Tell You!

I believe there may have have been settlements by CertaPro with failed franchisees--financial reimbursements, possibly for misrepresentations.

If you are talking to CertaPro about buying a franchise, be sure to document everything you are told. If possible, get it in writing (e-mail works well). Your attorney may later be able to put it to good use in a "misrepresentation" action...and possibly get some of your money back.

Lawsuits Against Franchisees Who Fail

Let's say you operate your franchise for several years and realize it's a loser. You're not making any money--or certainly not as much as you'd been led to believe you would--and you may be sinking deeper into debt each day.

You're broke.

You decide to get out.

What's it going to cost you?

Your franchise agreement may hold you responsible for minimum franchise payments for the years remaining on your franchise agreement. $100,000? $200,000?

So there you are: Broke, disillusioned, despondent and possibly finding CertaPro demanding as much as $100,000 or more (number of years remaining in franchise agreement multiplied by minimum annual franchise fee).

CertaPro may not care that you've spent every cent and are deep in debt.
CertaPro just might file a lawsuit demanding the money.
You may find yourself "standing shoulder to shoulder" with CertaPro in court.
If you don't show up on the court date, there will probably be a default judgment.

So then not only are you broke; CertaPro has a default judgment against you. Maybe they'll try to collect, maybe they won't, maybe they'll sell it to a collection agency for pennies on the dollar...and if that happens you might find yourself hounded by a collection agency.

Has it happened? Sure.
Could it happen? Sure.
Read the franchise agreement.

BTW, your franchise agreement will probably include an arbitration clause.
IMHO, arbitration sucks.

So, be sure to seriously consider:
"what happens if it doesn't work?"

If it doesn't work, it could be the most costly mistake of a franchisee's life..

You Will Go Ahead And Buy The Franchise

I've seen it, and I've heard it from other franchisees or former franchisees:
"I talked to him/her/them about the problems I was having but they went ahead and bought a franchise anyway."

If you are considering buying a CertaPro Painters franchise, chances are good that you have, or will, buy the marketing pitch. The pitch is good -- they've had nearly 20 years to perfect it. And you have become infatuated with the "be your own boss" concept (which really isn't true). Do yourself a favor and ask them one question before you buy: What percentage of CertaPro Painters franchisees fail within five years?

If you do buy, and if it doesn't work out for you, send me an email.
I'd like to hear about your experience before you sign the non-disclosure agreement.

Other Resources

CertaPro's estimate of franchise startup costs
Certapro Forum
Certapro Painters complaints

| home | Certapro Forum | contact me |

CertaPro Painters Franchise

This could be the motto of hundreds of
former CertaPro Painters franchisees:



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