The Painting Life: Ricardo Ortiz Has a Winning Formula

For this installment of The Painting Life, Pintor Pro spent a day with Ricardo Ortiz, owner of Live Painting in Naperville, Illinois. Here is his story:

A job well done

Ricardo Ortiz was born in the Mexican state of Jalisco. “Please write down that I am a fan of las Chivas,” he says with a smile.

A follower of Club Deportivo Guadalajara, the soccer team of the city where he was born, Ortiz is manager and owner of Live Painting in Naperville, Illinois. Located about 45 minutes from Chicago, the city is one of the most affluent in the state.

“There are very big houses here, many residences of five to eight thousand square feet,” he says. That’s why Sherwin-Williams is critical to the success of his company. “Given the area, I need to use the best products, to make sure that they’ll call me back.”

Ortiz, 41, lives in Naperville with his wife Imelda and their four children: Marcy, 21, Estefany, 18, Angel, 6, and Ricardito, 11 months old, the family newcomer. Graduated as an electronics technician, Ortiz worked in Mexico fixing computers. “But since I came to the U.S., everything I do is using the brush,” he says.

When did you enter the painting business?

Around 2000 when I was 22. I worked as a painter for different companies until 2009. Then I started my company doing small jobs, and in 2012 I renamed it Live Painting. We are almost a 100 percent residential company, doing houses and apartment buildings and a few commercial interior and exterior jobs. Lately I’m getting into drywall as well.

Is it difficult to hire and recruit painters?

Very difficult. Many workers want to earn more than me. There are not enough painters. We currently have a team of seven painters and my manager Erick and my daughter. Many want to leave for another company for two or three dollars more.

My Sherwin-Williams rep asks me how I can maintain the same staff. Maybe the most important thing is to treat them well. Many employers put pressure on them, give them a hard time if they use their cellphones, send them home if they are late. But from the beginning I tell them that I want a job well done no matter how long it takes, but I don’t want to go back to the customer’s house because he has complained of a spill here or for paint on the floor. And when a job goes well, I give them extra money, breaks, vacations and holidays.

And something very important: their paycheck is always there on payday. Some people say “I will pay you this and then I will pay you the rest later.” I am committed to always paying my people on time.

What advice do you have for those who start their own company?

First, to have insurance coverage for the property and for the workers, to offer warranties, to work with good products. The customer is aware of all of that. And I would advise them to go to their local Sherwin-Williams store. They can lend them a hand, just as they lent a hand to me.

What’s the best business advice that you’ve ever received?

None at all. On the contrary, I have always been given bad advice. Everyone told me that I wasn’t going to do well, that it’s not easy, that I shouldn’t do it. My mother told me not to listen to them.
“You’re going to be fine, you will see,” she told me. I just had to learn from my mistakes.

What’s your biggest challenge?

Dealing with the competition. Some of them lower their prices too much. I tell customers that I can’t go any lower because the quality of the product will suffer. That’s the hardest part.

What are your plans for the future?

I haven’t thought of retiring yet. Right now, I want to have more locations in other areas. In a short time, I will open another company in Tampa, Florida. I am training my manager Erick to lead our operations here. The company here is now called Live Painting Chicago, and the one in Tampa is Live Painting Florida. But no matter where I go, I will always keep using Sherwin-Williams, always keep using quality products.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of Pintor Pro magazine. Story and photography by Jorge Arboleda, Pintor Pro editor. Read about other successful pro painters in the Pintor Pro digital edition archive.