Apr19

Getting back on track

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New North B2B
April 20111

The entrepreneurial spirit thrives with Ruben Contreras, who started Action Painting & Carpet Care in Appleton in 2005. In just six years he went from working three separate outside jobs to support the business he was starting into a six-employee company which provides interior and exterior painting, carpet care, snow plowing and landscaping service across the Fox Valley region, primarily to single-and multi-family residences.

But a variety of circumstances related to back taxes and financial picture that’s correctable-but right now feels as if it’s out of control-are keeping Contreras from taking his company to the full potential.

After moving from Mexico to the Fox Valley 14 years ago without the ability to speak and understand English, Contreras enrolled in the English as a Second Language program and Fox Valley Technical College, and a few years later began working for a paint contractor and learned the trade. After five years of working for two different paint contractors in what Contreras learned was an unstable industry, he decided to go on his own with the support of his wife, June.

At first, Contreras took one or two jobs here and there as they came his way. But by the end of his second years, he had resigned this other three jobs, taken fulltime to his business and even hired his first employee. From there, he steadily grew his menu of services, his customer base, his workforce, and ultimately the complexity of his business.

Today, business is much more vibrant than it was five years ago. But Contreras acknowledges a number of missteps in regard to an unintentional lack of payments made to the IRS and the state Department of Revenue. Not surprisingly, it’s a mistake a number of new small business owners make-particularly in the building trades-and often leads to their eventual dissolution. But Contreras won’t succumb to allowing past due tax payments to shut down his business.

“My biggest goal right now is to be straight up with the state and federal government,” Contreras said. “But right now we feel like we’re adding more water to the bottle and more water to the bottle, and it just starts flowing over.”

In addition, due to some past bookkeeping errors, Contreras has paid too much for his worker’s compensation insurance, and as a result he’s considerably overspent on his insurance budget. All six of his employees were rated as painters-which carries one of the highest rates of worker’s comp coverage because they’re routinely climbing ladders and scaffolding-even though some of his employees strictly clean carpets and never leave the ground.

Lastly, marketing is an area that continues to challenge Contreras. An avid networker and a well-known fixture at chamber of commerce events in the Fox Cities and the Heart of the Valley, Contreras most certainly is the public face of Action Painting. But he admits he struggles with how to effectively spend his marketing budget.

Despite the troubles in his business, his heart is in the right place. Contreras and his crew regularly donate their time to paint facilities for non-profits around the area. For his efforts, the Fox Cities YMCA recognized him as its 2011 Volunteer of the Year.

He’s hoping Vaughn and Guident Business Solutions can help him lay out a road map for Action Painting to follow and get on the track to success for years to come.

“This is the first generation of many,” Contreras said, echoing the storied American dream. “I hope to be able to build this up and pass it off to my kids.”

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