We spoke to Kenn Burns from Fully Promoted Vancouver about how he worked with PLE Painting to produce all of PLE’s shirts, caps, and other promotional materials for PLE’s rebrand process. Kenn is the owner of the Vancouver franchise and is an expert on creating impactful, memorable products that stand out in the market place.
About Fully Promoted
Fully Promoted is the largest international promotional product customization, embroidery and screen print service franchise in the world. Each location is independently owned and operated.
Fully Promoted started with the first EmbroidMe store in 2000 with franchising veteran Ray Titus, who realized that the $45 billion dollar promotional products industry could use some of the same expertise and initiative he’d already applied to building Signarama, the world’s largest sign franchise in the world.
They are a privately held company based in West Palm Beach, Florida with 10 brands and over 1,800 locations worldwide. EmbroidMe was rebranded to Fully Promoted in 2016 to offer more services to their clients.
How did you first get started with Fully Promoted?
Kenn: I was doing an import business in the late nineties. It was mostly soccer uniforms and it all came about because I had studied in China for a while. And I kept a connection there for some custom manufacturing.
When I wound that business down and I wanted to do something was a little more flushed out I came across, Fully Promoted which was in 2006. And, the advantage to it was that, when I was doing in-house production. We own our own equipment and we do our own imprinting.
And then also it’s really more business-focused. So as opposed to being seasonal with uniforms, we really had something for all seasons in particularly for businesses like trades, uniforms, et cetera. They always need something. And so, it was a transition from being a very niche business, doing soccer uniform importing to being a more fully fleshed out uniform supplier for businesses as well.
What do you like best about your job?
Kenn: There’s a lot of guys out there who are brokers and they just buy from one person and sell to another. And I actually really enjoy being the doer and owning the equipment and having the shop that actually does the work of putting the logos on the shirts.
There’s that aspect to it. And then also there’s the creative aspect to it as well. I’m not a branding specialist. I certainly have folks I refer to regularly for branding. PLE actually uses a branding company which is also the one that I refer to the most.
But still, there is a very creative side to what I do. I get that nice blend of having both creative aspects to every day at work, but also the actual physical work and machinery that’s just fun to be around.
What are some of the challenges you face in your job?
Kenn: I think like everybody, staffing is always a challenge. We have long time long-term staff but we have a lot of seasonal aspects of our work. We are scalable in terms of what we may be doing in January versus what we might be doing in April.
In a city like Vancouver, staffing is always a challenge. I think that runs across industries, but we’ve been, we’ve been bused, always be able to find really good experienced professionals. I work a lot of late nights with part-timers and contractors just making sure we keep quality control.
How many staff do you have during your busy season?
Kenn: On a regular year, like, especially in the spring-summer is the schools wind down with their end of year swag, but the camps are, are ramping up with stuff for their camp goers and conferences, et cetera.
We have as many as seven to eight people working in the shop a day. Sometimes that’ll be split over a couple of shifts. But regularly we have four people at a time.
What is something that people don’t know about your industry?
Kenn: How easy it is to waste money. It’s so easy to waste money on this stuff that my industry does. It really helps to work with good marketers and good branding specialists to really get a handle on what you want and what’s going to be a benefit for you. Probably one of the most common things I say, honestly, is don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy selling expensive shirts, or I really enjoy selling expensive pens, something of that nature, but the truth is that your marketing dollars don’t necessarily have to go into the most expensive items. And, not only that, but folks will waste money on things that aren’t achieving their marketing aims.
I often find myself in a position where I’m actually asking them to second guess what they’re doing. I may just suggest something else that they should buy from me. But working with a good marketing agency or branding specialist will definitely help you spend your money wisely when it comes to the imprints.
What is one project that you’ve worked on that particularly stands out?
Kenn: They come big and small. There’s so much mask stuff going on right now. We do all sizes in all quantities, but one piece that I really enjoyed doing in the spring as kind of the dust settled on what we needed to be doing in terms of wearing masks and what constituted a good mask and what constituted an adequate mask. Most of us just need to be wearing adequate masks.
We did a project for a local Aboriginal family and children’s services support group. We did a thousand masks for them using what actually was a photograph of an artwork that they had. Essentially it was a large panel that basically took a photo of a block and then it became the actual piece of the mask at the front.
The artwork was beautiful and the piece itself ended up being a very artistic piece. We really like doing that kind of thing. We do left chest logos day in and day out, but every now and again we get to work on a project that really has a little more artistic merit to it.
How have you worked with PLE Painting and what do you like about working with them?
Kenn: We worked with them in a couple of capacities and in a couple of different directions. First and foremost, all of these nice things I’ve said before I realized you were going to ask this question were they do work with a marketing agency and one of my favourite ones. They had a very specific aim when they come to me to talk about uniforms.
We did a lot of variations of uniforms for them, everything from caps and t-shirts, to hoodies and jackets. They had a very specific approach. It makes the initial portion more challenging. We had to be very particular and go through proofs and go through a few different samples to understand what they wanted. But then once that’s done, it’s a front-loaded effort on my part and on theirs. Once all of those decisions are made, it makes everything else easier.
A lot of folks in my industry would love somebody to just walk up and just say you need a thousand of something and then they print it off and it’s done. But it’s a very transactional way of doing things when you actually invest time.
When you find a client that’s willing to invest time in what they get, then you get to enjoy it much more than just the transactional nature of the process. You actually become involved in their business and invested in their success because their success means that you did things right with them.
And they come back to you. PLE also happened to be my preferred choice for a painter as well. So I have referred my own clients to them and my own friends to them. I always get great feedback on the work that they do. I spend time as a strata council president and I referred work that I know ended up going to PLE and everybody was just, was just really happy with them.
We spoke to the Attley Brothers who are the owners of Attley Stone, a local stonemason company that severs Vancouver to the Sea-to-Sky corridor. They are a cool duo who have been in business for over 10 years and are go-to people when it comes to anything stone related. We managed to take a few moments to chat with them last week about their job and why they like working with PLE Painting.
About Attley Stone:
Co-owned by John Attley and William Attley, these brothers are dedicated to keeping Stone Masonry an art, paying attention to every detail and creating a surrounding that feels right. With a background in Heritage & Traditional Masonry, Attley Stone works hard to keep an authentic look and quality to our stonework while delivering the utmost in craftsmanship.
How did you first get into your trade?
William: We always loved working with my hands and working with other people. I always like to see what I can create and see my customer’s reactions to what we built.
What do you like best about your job?
John: Building relationships with other trades and other people. I think that is kind of the foundation of what we’re doing. It’s one of the most enjoyable things: when you can come together with another company or trade and execute a job.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face on the job site?
William: I think it’s, being efficient with what we do and making sure that everybody’s working together as a team and really doing everything together so nobody’s higher than anybody else. We’re just all on the same level, trying to get the job done.
What is one thing most people don’t know about your trade?
William: That it’s a dying trade. Not many people are doing it anymore. It’s very rare to have young people into this trade and it’s good to see younger people getting into it.
What is the favourite project you’ve worked on?
John: I think probably a project we did with IKO Building Group on Angus Drive. It was a restoration of an old home in Shaughnessy. The stone was big focal point of that and I think the project turned out really nicely. And it’s, it’s definitely a marquee home in the area.
What do you like best about working with PLE painting?
William: I think their leadership really goes a long way and looking up to them and how they work with their employees. I think they’re just really leading the way with how to run a company properly.
John: To build on that, I think that their selflessness on-site and the ability to work with all their peers is really exceptional.
How does working with PLE painting make your job easier?
William: I think just the communication with them is probably the best aspect of it. just knowing where we are on the project and what needs to get done next.
We talked to Sam Wainwright of Refine and Design, a Vancouver contractor who specializes in high-end, custom homes. PLE Painting has worked with Sam and his team for many years and apart from a close working relationship, we also consider him a personal friend.
Sam has hired us to paint many fun and interesting homes over the years and we value the relationship we have built with him.
About Refine and Design
Refine and Design aspires to deliver the best quality renovation and building services in the Vancouver area. The company started out renovating lofts before graduating to full-house renovations and new construction. Now, with decades of experience, Refine and Design is one of the leading construction and renovation companies in Vancouver.
How did you get started in your job?
Sam: Initially Refine & Design started 15 years ago and when we first started we were a home flipping company. We were primarily buying apartments and some houses in North Van and West Van, and we were completely gutting them, renovating them and putting them back on the market. We did this for about three, four years. Then the lovely recession came along and people didn’t have the money and the market just completely dried up.
People just stopped buying and selling properties there for a number of years. That is when we had to change directions. And that’s when we wanted to take the skills that we utilized throughout those years and the team that I built and redevelop that into a contracting company where essentially we were doing the same work but now for clients.
What do you like best about your job?
Sam: What I love best about my job is it’s creative. Every job is unique. Every client is different. Every client’s tastes are different. Every room is a different shape, and that allows us to be dynamic.
Also with our jobs, specifically in renovation work, there’s a lot of challenges and a lot of problems every day. So having these challenges and difficulties thrown at you every day and having the ability to adapt and do problem solving keeps it unique dynamic and, fast-paced and I enjoy that aspect of it.
What is the biggest challenge that you face on the job?
Sam: The biggest challenges are probably the devil’s advocate of what I was saying. Just the challenges that arise each day. It’s very important to us that our clients are happy. This is our number one goal. We want our clients to be happy. And so just working long days, making sure that those goals are accomplished. I would say that was our biggest challenge, making sure our clients are happy and our team is happy and we’re having a healthy, successful company.
What is one thing people don’t know about your trade?
Sam: I find every member of our team has a particular skill set. My skillset is developing these projects from concept to completion, and a lot of that is working with people. I’m in the construction field, but as the owner of the company, I’m working with people, I am working with homeowners, I’m working with designers, I’m working with the trades. I’m working with representatives from the city engineers, architects, and being able to work with a passionate team of people to accomplish a task. And I would say having that skillset of working with people and keeping this dynamic team altogether moving forward is the best skill that I have.
What is your favourite project you’ve worked on?
Sam: Honestly, the project we are doing right now is for a dear friend of mine. We’ve been friends for over 30 years. His wife and him are just a fantastic team. He is a success story and he’s done very well for himself. We are doing a $550,000 rental on a 2,000 square foot apartment right now, which is approximately $450 per square foot for renovation.
That’s quite a bit of money per square foot and we are able to do fun, creative things. And this is probably one of our most rewarding projects right now so I’m quite enjoying this one.
What fun creative things are you doing on this project?
Sam: We have beautiful wood feature walls that have secret doors going into powder rooms and laundry rooms because they’re right in the middle of the living room and we don’t want that to ruin the flow of the space.
We have these functional ways of having doors in the middle of the living room space. So beautiful. Just the cost of the wood is $30,000 for this one wall and that doesn’t even include the doors that are being made. So literally having the secret doors on this beautiful panelled wall where you push a latch and the door opens into a powder room and there’s another secret door into a laundry room. That’s just one of the many cool aspects in this project.
What do you like best about working with PLE Painting?
Sam: I love working with PLE Painting because the owners, Jay and Elliott, are probably some of the most passionate people that I’ve ever met about painting. They take their job very seriously. They’re very detailed. They’re very experienced and they’re very knowledgeable. And whenever I want a job done very well and I don’t want any hassles that’s when I hire PLE Painting because I know they’re going to do their job well. They’re going to do it with passion and they are going to execute it well so I don’t have to worry about anything. I know the clients are going to be happy.
How does PLE Painting make your job easier?
Sam: Their experience, their knowledge, and a lot has to do with their prep work. Jay and I actually have had many conversations about prep work, making sure they have a great foundation, a strong foundation for them to do their job properly.
And that comes with knowledge and experience, whether it’s residential or commercial. And doing it once, doing it right, that’s something they do very, very well.
In this session, we talk to Anthony Duggan, a manager at Sherwin-Williams, one of our trusted paint suppliers. For many years, Sherwin-Williams has been a great partner where we get a lot of our specialized paint to ensure that we complete the job so the end result looks amazing, and the client goes away happy. If we need the paint on a tight schedule or have specific requirements, we can count on Sherwin-Williams to meet our needs.
Sherwin-Williams headquarters is in Cleveland, Ohio, where they manufacture, distribute in the sale of paint, coatings, floorcoverings, and related products to professional, industrial, commercial, and retail customers primarily in North America and Europe.
Sherwin-Williams operates in over 120 countries and was founded by Henry Sherwin and Edward Williams in 1866.
How did you start in your job?
Anthony: Right after college, I got a great opportunity to come work for Sherwin-Williams in the management training program. And after working for a few years in a variety of different roles, I got into the outside business development representative role.
What do you like best about your job?
The best thing I like about my job is always being able to work with complex problems and try and come up with creative solutions to make sure everybody gets the best solution they are looking for.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face on a job site?
Anthony: One of the biggest challenges I face is managing people’s expectations and trying to make sure that we’re all on the same page as to what’s reasonable and what can be done. Because if one person’s expectations aren’t aligned with the other person’s then there’s going to be that disconnect and no one’s going to be happy at the end.
What is one thing most people don’t know about your job?
Anthony: There’s a lot more to being in the painting business than just painting drywall, whether it be finishing a garage floor or working on commercial buildings or large exterior roofs. There’s a lot more to it than just latex paint on drywall.
What is one of your favourite projects you’ve worked on?
Anthony: The first one that comes to mind was the first large project that I was able to participate in. It was a warehouse building in North Vancouver, where I came in before the drywall was even installed and was able to work with the construction company all the way through from beginning to finish. And that was satisfying because it was the first.
What do you like best about working with PLE painting?
Anthony: The thing I like about working with PLE is they always go above and beyond, and they take everything to an extreme with regards to customer satisfaction and making sure that everything is organized and that there were no issues. I really admire that and it’s a partnership that I really value and I like being a part of.
How does working with PLE make your job easier?
Anthony: On the same note with regards to that organization, there’s never any question as to what needs to be aware when everything’s really organized so there isn’t any guesswork. It’s all very straightforward with regards to organization and it allows us to focus on making sure we execute what we need to do.
In this session of PLE partners, we talked to Ian Gray of Actis Projects. We really gel well with his team of young, talented individuals. Ian brings fresh ideas, innovation and an enthusiasm for every project that is unique in the industry.
About Activs Projects
Actis Projects is a full-service Vancouver-based construction company. They provide a wide array of construction services including home renovations and additions, home building, condo and strata renovations, commercial projects, and remote access work. With a diverse range of experience and a reputation for timely, clear communication, Actis consistently delivers the best possible product.
How did you get started in general contracting?
Ian: I walked across the alley from my home for a summer job and joined a crew working on a house. That’s how I started. It was a summer job and then part time during university. I found myself keep going back to it, gained experience and skills. I was one of the guys on site who would try and find solutions instead of just throwing their hands in the air and be like, “I can’t do this.”
I then worked my way up because it was more money and more fun. And then eventually I hit the top of the ladder and then you say; “what’s beyond the ladder and you’re like, well, I build my own ladder. I’m going to start my own company.” That’s kind of how it happened.
What do you like best about your job?
Ian: I like working with a great team of people to actually produce something cool and it is something people get to use for 30 plus years, whether it’s a house or something commercial.
I like bringing a plan to fruition, navigating the ups and downs of any construction job, leading the clients through that. I’ve been through it all. I make the journey as enjoyable as possible and the design aspect is really cool.
I also like the management side, coupled with the hands-on construction part. There’s a lot of planning that goes into construction, such as spreadsheets, plans, coordination, but then the result of that are very tangible. You get to see the fruits of your labour.
What is your biggest challenge on the job?
Ian: I’d say the biggest challenge is just being clear on what everyone’s expectations are, whether that’s finding out exactly what the client’s looking for or what their priorities are. If I’m really clear on what their priorities are then I can design and plan something really well.
If their ideas are less clear, then it becomes more difficult. We make every effort to make communication as clear as possible. I think we do a decent job, but I’d say if we know what people expect and what the subtrades need then that’s like 80% of it.
What is one thing that people don’t generally know about your trait?
Ian: We are the centrepiece in the wheel that brings the house together. We need to know quite a bit about every single subtrade.
Although we are not plumbers, we need to know 70% of what plumbers do, electricians, roofers etc. The trades bring professional opinions and their expertise, but we need to have a pretty good handle on their skills and be aware of their scopes.
We need to frame things with their jobs in mind. We need to know what they are talking about so we can plan and build accordingly.
What’s your favourite project that you worked on?
Ian: The list is so long. I would say one of my favourite projects would be this four-unit heritage home I did in Kitsilano. It was an earlier project I have done and it was a pretty large, lifted house. We moved it seven feet and laid new foundations and all heritage elements had to be intact. That was kind of early on in my career too so it was pretty formative as far as like: ‘Hey, can we do this?’ And then we discovered yes. So that was really exciting. I drive by it frequently and it still looks good. It’s holding up great. The people are taking care of it. There are a lot of cool things we’ve done. That was one that probably sticks out right now as one of my favourite ones.
But you know, we’ve done lots of the first high-performance homes too.
I’ve also done some remote access jobs which are pretty cool too. We had the guys over on Keats Island. That was the coolest day I’ve ever had in construction. It was the day that we helicopter-installed a bunkhouse onto some foundations down a crazy slope. That was very exciting and awesome.
That brings slightly different construction challenges because you’re running into what makes financial sense which starts to change as the cost of people being there increases so that you focus more on large material deliveries which necessitate more planning. Coordination becomes super important because you can’t just go to the supplier for something so it just presents a few other challenges. It’s not something everyone has the appetite for so some of those jobs could be pretty cool as well.
What do you like best about working with PLE?
Ian: One of my favourite things is just the communication. I’ve always got four or five jobs going on at the same time and they’re all at different phases and I’m all over the place. I’m getting new jobs, running jobs, and their communication is great. They let me know, basically every day, what the status is, where they’re at, and what they need for me to continue to do their job well.
It’s always very clear, concise communication. My other favourite thing is quality, great value, and trusted people as well. I like have no equivocations leaving them completely alone on a job site. Even members of the crew, even those who I haven’t met yet, or are meeting for the first time, are great.
We can chat about the job real quick and then I know it’s going to be taken care of. With some other painting crews maybe the salesman communicates well but the people actually on the job don’t, and that can create issues and headaches that I just don’t have time for.
How does PLE make your job easier?
Ian: They make my job easier by quoting accurately as well, not giving the best-case scenario price but giving me the price that is not going to change. That helps a lot.
When they say they’re going to be there, they’re going to be there. That makes a big difference as well. The professionalism of their crew speaks a lot to the types of people that we work with and our other trades and just gives everyone peace of mind.
And if everyone is at ease, than I am at ease because one of my primary jobs is to make sure that the trades are comfortable with the whole situation.
Experience is key. As you’re working on someone’s house and, depending what you’re doing, it could be a significant expenditure for the client and probably the biggest one of their lives. And if one of the trades has never done a large construction job before, it can be problematic. I need to feel comfortable with the people working on the client’s house. That is super important. PLE brings the experience to every sing job so I don’t have to worry.
PLE’s Partnerships Part 1 – Cameron Burr of Burr Electric
In the very first episode of PLE’s Partnership series, we interview Cameron Burr of Burr Electric. PLE and Burr electric are long-standing partners and have worked on many different projects together and we are thrilled to feature him!
About Burr Electric:
Burr Electric specializes in residential and commercial installations – new construction and renovation services. They promise their clients exceptional value through a high standard of workmanship and superior service quality at a competitive price.
How did you first start as an electrician?
Cameron: When I initially got into electrical, I was always interested in construction and right out of high school I always worked for a company and I was doing more labour work for them. I was there as a framer on the job at the time. And the foreman said you need to make sure you get a trade and get your ticket in something. I took that and I was lucky enough that at the time, I had a girlfriend who was building a laneway house and I brought it up to the contractor.
One of his best friends was an electrical contractor and so I ended up meeting with him and I basically worked for him for nine years. And after that, I finished my whole ticket through BCIT and then moved on from that company to another company and then eventually to working for myself.
What Do You Like Best About Your Job?
Cameron: I love the interaction with people. I love dealing with the clients and showing them the whole project from start to finish. You get to see the rough beginning stage, but you also see when the whole job comes together and you show it to the client and see how happy they are with the final product. It is such a great feeling.
I also love being out in the field and communicating with everyone. It’s great to be part of a bigger team with the different trades and to meet all the clients and giving them a good product.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face on a job site?
Cameron: Organization is a big one. Being organized is a huge key to success on any project. The number of changes that can happen sometimes can also be challenging. Sometimes you end up doing things over. We have a process where we box out a house first and we’ve always walked through with the homeowner and really get them to give us the approval prior to actually wiring everything.
But other challenges are figuring out stuff with BC Hydro, making sure that we’re following their protocols. Some things are never easy when it comes to different job sites and the way the main power is brought in and keeping all the clearances.
What is something that people don’t know about your trade?
Cameron: A lot of people think it’s very simple to just add some lights and plugs wherever they want. They don’t really realize the amount of work that goes into getting a wire from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. And so when you explain everything, for example, this drywall needs to be opened and somebody’s going to have to fix that afterward, it can be really eye-opening. Then a painter is going to have to come in and finish that to cover the drywall so it looks clean and polished afterwards.
Some homeowners think that it’s a lot easier than it really is. And I think that’s definitely something that more people just don’t really have the knowledge or the understanding to see how everything is actually behind the walls.
What do you like best about working with PLE?
Cameron: The best thing with PLE is how organized they are. PLE is a clean, efficient company to work with because they always put their stuff in a certain area of the house, not like with some other painters.
Sometimes we go into a job site and a painting company is not a hundred percent done their job. That is never the case with PLE. They take really good care to ensure they do a great job of everything. They are very detailed oriented, ensuring they mask and tape everything off which is key. It allows me to still proceed in finishing what we need to get done without getting in their way and without any holdups.
How does working with PLE make your job easier?
Cameron: Communication is always key. They let us know when things are completed and where we can follow in behind. They are also easy to deal with which is great. When you can get along with the other trades on a job site, it just makes things so much smoother and they definitely have that skill for sure.