As a recent immigrant to Atlanta, and with the experience of having owned a business in Mexico City, Carlos Velez was eager to start a business in this country.
His two brothers, Roberto and Raul Velez, were already working as painting assistants and, seeing the possibilities, Carlos founded Three Brothers Painting, Inc. in June 1991.
“I bought a truck and some equipment, and then we needed a sign,” Carlos says. “When the sign painter asked me what name was to go on it, I couldn’t think of anything. And he said, ‘Well, since there are three brothers, let’s call it Three Brothers’. So that’s how it turned out, and we’re going on 30 years with that name.”
With Carlos as owner and general manager and his brothers supervising the work crews, the company has tripled in size from its humble beginnings. They have painted thousands of homes and entire subdivisions, as well as private and government offices.
For 10 years, Three Brothers was the official painter for Reinhardt University, a private college in Waleska, Georgia. The company has also done a lot of work for actor, TV and movie producer Tyler Perry, painting his 35,000-square-foot residence – which he sold a few years ago for $15 million – as well as his movie studios in Atlanta.
Now, with Carlos’ son Oscar in charge of sales and daughter Cindy managing the office, the time has come to pass the company torch to a new generation.
Second generation family pride
Married and the father of two children ages six and 10, Oscar Velez has been working for his father since he was young, and is now preparing to take over the management of the company when his father retires in two years.
But it wasn’t always like this. He laughingly confesses that, when he finished high school, he had the illusion of dedicating himself to a music career playing bass and guitar with a punk rock band. But at the end of that artistic hiatus, which lasted two years, he decided to return to the family business – this time very seriously.
Although he learned to paint and became familiar with all aspects of the company, he always knew that his forte was talking to people, concentrating on sales and estimates. Today he feels he is part of a tradition in which he wants to make his mark.
“I’m very proud of what we have accomplished, what my dad has built in 30 years. And I’m trying to continue the same success. You see, this year we’re not only surviving, we’re moving forward.”
Good products, strong warranties fuel growth
Steadily growing, even in the midst of the pandemic, Three Brothers now posts annual revenues in excess of $3 million. They run 10 crews working simultaneously, each with three to five workers. To achieve that success, the firm has developed maintenance programs where they regularly return to pressure wash and touch up the exterior caulking.
They also offer no less than a five-year warranty, a promise to customers that requires the use of good coatings, proper application techniques and top-notch customer service from their paint supplier.
“We believe that Sherwin-Williams has the best quality products,” says Oscar. “I use them to paint my own house. We love the products, the service, the support, and the fact that they have dozens of stores in Atlanta. If something goes wrong, reps come to the job site to investigate the reason, whether it’s the preparation, the weather, the materials we painted on, or the application itself.”
Following the American dream
For Carlos Velez, the company owes its success to its stable nature as a family business, with more than 20 years of operating from the same building in Woodstock, Georgia.
“We are not like the painter who arrives with his truck and a ladder and, if you have any complaint when he is done, you can’t find him anymore,” adds Oscar.
But while this is an advantage, he also recognizes that these painters are precisely their biggest challenge.
“People sometimes have the expectation of a certain price because of that competition, since many of them work on their own, without offices, insurance or licenses,” he says. “Of course, we have more overhead, so our prices will be somewhat higher. Unfortunately, you can’t convince everyone that they have to pay a little more for quality.”
Over the years, Oscar has seen many employees want to go out on their own.
“Many have left to start their own business, but sometimes they haven’t been able to make it and then come back,” he says. “We don’t think it’s wrong to want to get ahead, that’s the American dream. But if they want to go back to being crew heads instead of business owners, we are here for them.”
Carlos Velez tells us that most of his workers have been with the company for many years, some for almost 30 years, and are almost like family. For his son Oscar, his retention strategy is simple.
“We pay them well, better than the competition. And we always try to be attentive to their needs.”
This article was originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of Pintor Pro magazine. Story by Jorge Arboleda, Pintor Pro senior editor. Photos courtesy of Three Brothers Painting. Read about other successful pro painters in the Pintor Pro magazine archive.