One of Florida’s largest painting contractors, Service Contracting Solutions (SCS) is celebrating 40 years in business. It boasts a team of specialists whose combined understanding of architecture, engineering, estimating, financing, and project management guarantees a full-service perspective on every project.
We sit down with the Co-Owner & President of SCS, Liz Perez-Lavin, to discuss the history of the business, current growth, and the company’s investments in software. As a woman working in a historically male-dominated field, Liz shares valuable insights and reflections as to how she has navigated such challenges and continues to lead SCS through a period of great success.
The business specializes in commercial painting and waterproofing. “The main distinction is that painting is for aesthetics, whereas waterproofing is required to ensure structures are water resistant and remain unaffected by water for years to come,” Liz begins. “While you might see waterproofing in basements across the country, it’s particularly common in Florida because of the subtropical climate and unpredictable weather.
“We specialize in commercial projects, whether it’s for general contractors who make up a large portion of our customer base, or directly for hospitals, municipalities, and colleges, including repaint and remedial work, as well as industrial coatings.
“We aren’t family-owned, but we’re in our fourth generation,” she continues. “What I mean by that is the company has been purchased and sold to employees multiple times. Personally, I started at SCS as the Controller to manage communication between the office and the field, with my experience in the field bringing a different level of empathy to the role. Similarly, my business partner, Burt Whitenight, began as a Project Manager. We’ve worked our way up over time, becoming minority partners in 2011 and owners in 2012. I was named as President and Burt is the Executive Vice President.
“One of the most interesting things about our business is that two people who couldn’t be more different can come together to do great things. I was born in Chile, I’m Hispanic, I’m fairly short, and I am female. Whereas Burt is six-foot-four, from Pennsylvania, and we even support rival football teams! We come from very different backgrounds, but when it comes to values, we couldn’t be more aligned.
“We also added a Director of Operations, Jason Fike, to our board, who we then promoted to Vice President of Operations in 2019, completing our leadership team,” she continues. “However, we wouldn’t be anything without our incredible people. One of our core values is creating an unbeatable, supportive team, and I see our people support each other every single day.”
It’s clear that Liz is passionate about her employees, which translates to the training and education of such individuals. “We’ve tried to hire experienced people in the past, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hire skilled personnel, especially in Florida,” she reveals. “Historically, a push towards attending college versus working in the trades has led to a shortage of newcomers to the construction industry.
“So, we’re tasked with encouraging people without experience to join the industry and provide them with the training needed to be successful in their role. We are designating people within our company as trainers to support newcomers and we’re in the process of merging our classroom training with field experience to create a holistic training program. It’s important to have both aspects because there are so many additional factors to consider when working on a job site.
“For example, we recently completed Uline’s newest distribution center in Naples, Florida, which is nearly one million square feet. It takes 2376 steps to walk around the entire site, which is equal to one-and-a-half miles. You can imagine that someone without field training or experience would be completely overwhelmed, having gone from spraying a small wall in the workshop to then painting hundreds of square footage.”
Turning to investment, SCS has completed a series of software investments in recent years, with a particular focus on enhancing efficiency. “We’ve onboarded a Software Implementation Manager, who is constantly searching for new software to increase our productivity and efficiency,” Liz explains. “We’re using a platform to manage all our extra work on job sites, for example, which allows us to upload photos and other information, which is then all stored in one place, making it easier for us to track.
“We’re also super excited to soon implement Arcoro, an HR management software, which is going to transform how we monitor people,” she adds. “It will be particularly valuable with our new training program, as it will enable us to better monitor and evaluate progress. It means we’ll have one accessible place for our employees and trainees to directly see their feedback.”
Throughout our conversation, it becomes evident that while Liz is passionate when talking about her team, this confidence disappears when talking about her own career journey. “I worked for my dad’s painting company, often being the only woman on a job site, while I studied for my accounting degree,” she recalls. “Not to mention I had my first daughter three days before finishing high school, and my second daughter three years later, one year before graduating college.
“I certainly didn’t sleep much in that crazy time,” Liz laughs. “I was on a scholarship at my university, so I had to take full credits. My Mom taught classes at night, and I would go to night school on the opposite days so she could watch the girls. My Dad and sisters were also incredibly helpful, and I wouldn’t be where I am without their support; when they say, ‘it takes a village,’ it really does take one!
Commitment to growth
“My parents raised me to be independent, courageous, loving, and strong. They always told me that you can be strong and direct, but that doesn’t mean you’re not caring and nurturing – you can do both. It’s important to look at who’s at your table and think about the people you’re surrounding yourself with. I’ve always aligned myself with people who are supportive, honest, and constantly working to better themselves. That’s why I love working with Burt because he’s so supportive and always champions me.
“You can be a badass, fierce woman, but still be kind and thoughtful,” she summarizes. “We need to set examples for younger women and girls entering the industry. I always find ways to be courageous, for example, pushing myself out of my comfort zone. During the pandemic, I achieved my MBA at the University of Florida with the goal of bettering myself as a leader and preparing for the future. One of our values is commitment to growth, and obtaining my MBA was my way of demonstrating that value at a personal level.”
Liz’s story is truly inspirational. Not only has she grown within her career, but she did so while raising two children and fulfilling her commitment to education. As our conversation turns to the future of the business, she concludes: “To put it simply, we’re looking for further growth, not just in terms of revenue but in seeing our people grow. I’d like to see us helping individuals to grow through our training program and perhaps even an additional US location, but we’ll see what the future holds.”