The Edmond Sun

June 14, 2013

Father-son duo start business in tight economy

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — A struggling job market affected two men coming from opposite ends of the work force.

A local father-son duo, Jeff Norris and his son, Robert, both experienced layoffs tied to the economy. Jeff had been working for 25 years in management, and Robert couldn’t find a job that remained viable after graduation.

Jeff spent 25 years as an executive with companies like Grainger and General Electric. After two decades working on the distribution side, Jeff left General Electric last year when the company went through a series of salary cuts for lower level employees that he did not agree with.

Jeff’s son, Robert, had been laid off three times since college with jobs in the mortgage industry and human resources. Robert learned quickly that his career couldn’t get off the ground in this economy. The jobs he was getting, though well paid, were in industries all cyclically tied to the economy and since he was typically the last one in, he was always the first one out.

After several talks with his son, Jeff and Robert soon realized they had no control over their careers and needed to find a business where Robert could work for himself.

As the pair discussed opportunities, they realized for any type of substantial money they were going to have to rely on owning their own business.

“Franchised business is the way to go,” Jeff said. “Service businesses are pretty much immune and my father worked 45-50 years painting. He made a good living but I told Robert if he worked harder he could have made a better living. After looking at franchises, we chose CertaPro and have been very, very pleased.”

CertaPro Painters of Edmond is at 7321 Classen Blvd.

As a young boy, Jeff was a union apprentice painter in his teens working for his grandfather, who worked in home décor painting and hanging wallpaper.

“I did just the labor for three years,” Jeff said. “I never painted in all that time. I scraped off paint and wallpaper and learned it was very hard work. I knew when I went to college I wanted to be an engineer because I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather.”

Even though Jeff started a full-time career path separate from the painting business the week Robert left the business world, Robert said his dad is his coach, mentor and financial backer of the business.  

Following in the footsteps of Jeff’s grandfather which was something he never thought he would do, the father-son team applied for, were accepted and opened a CertaPro Painters franchise serving the greater metropolitan Oklahoma City area in December. But, they didn’t actually start working in client’s homes until February.

“Working with an established franchise has made owning our own company easier,” Robert said.

They have four crews working for them.

“The guys we work with have been background checked and they have references,” Robert said. “We do our due diligence. Painting is personal. I would never want to put someone in someone else’s home that I wouldn’t want in my home. Most of our painters have 10-20 years experience painting and one guy has been painting for 35 years.”

They’ve now been in business since February and Robert, 31, is in line to be the 2013 Rookie of the Year for the company, based on sales numbers. CertaPro is the only large-scale, full-time, franchised commercial and residential painting business in the home improvement industry.

“I like working for myself, the freedom it gives me and the time I have to be with my family,” Robert said.

The business supplies painters for exterior and interior house painting and staging a home to put on the market for sale. There is an online painting estimator and ideas to help choose colors to use.

“Customer service is the No. 1 thing we work on,” Robert said.

Robert learned from his grandfathers that community is part of your life. Recently he was able to step out of his role in business and he led 30 people seven days in a row taking care of their needs and helping with clean-up efforts after the tornadoes struck across the metro in May.

“I was unbelievably impressed at his efficiency and how many hundreds of people were helped through his leadership role,” Jeff said. “Taking on a role of leadership in the community helps him in his profession as being a leader in his business. It helps him when he steps into the community to help. Both sides of his life commingle making him a better leader and businessman.

“I live God, family and business, and I teach my son to live the same way,” Jeff said. “Out of that order you are doomed for failure. I coach my son on my mistakes so he doesn’t make the same ones I have.”



TO LEARN MORE about CertaPro Painters of Edmond, go online to edmond.certapro.com.