Case Studies

Cooper Drywall & Painting Inc.

Interior finish services in Knoxville, Tennessee

Cooper Drywall & Painting Inc. has been in business since 1979. Now in its second generation of family ownership, the business provides turnkey interior construction solutions, including framing, drywall, painting and acoustical ceilings. Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, the business serves primarily general contractors in the commercial market.

Mike Cooper, president of Cooper Drywall & Painting, has worked in the business with his father, Buddy Cooper, for several decades. He bought into the business in 2000, when the company was exclusively a painting contractor. At that point, he and his three partners integrated drywall and framing services, providing a more inclusive line of services to a growing customer base. Over the following years, Buddy bought out all other partners and is the current sole-owner of the business.

Mike currently works alongside his brother and his21-year-old son, who are learning the operations of the business. While nothing is set in stone, Mike is hoping to turn the company over to the third generation someday.

In the meantime, the team works diligently to provide value to customers. Cooper Drywall & Painting stands out from competitors with attention to detail, efficient performance, honesty and integrity. “Our company name and reputation are above all else,” Mike says. “We stand by our word and what we say is what we do.”

Cooper Drywall & Painting Inc.

Maintaining quality

As a turnkey interior contractor, Cooper Drywall & Painting performs nearly every aspect of each project in-house. “By working almost exclusively with an in-house labor force, we have better control over our response to owners and general contractors,” Mike explains. “This allows us to better control quality and provide better value to our customers. It also cuts down on some of the logistical issues a general contractor can face with multiple subcontractors on a job.”

With a strong staff and company-held resources, the business has been able to complete a range of complex projects in a number of market sectors.

On the University of Tennessee campus, the team recently completed a student apartment project. “We actually came in quite late in the game,” says Mike. “Another contractor was unable to complete the job so we had to take over. Our team hanged and finished the entire project in two months. I would estimate we completed 2,000 panels of Sheetrock per week.

“We started out just doing the sheathing on the outside of the building because the contractor that had the job couldn’t do the entire project,” Mike continues. “That expanded into taking over the whole project scope. Inside, we did the studs, drywall and ceilings, but no paint.”

The team has also finished a renovation of Anderson Hall, a historic building on the Maryville College campus. “We did the metal stud framing, Sheetrock, acoustical ceilings and painting on that one,” Mike explains. “The contractor gutted the building and left little but the brick standing. The exterior stayed largely the same and we weren’t involved in that. Our scope of work involved completely renovating the inside, bringing the facility up to modern standards.”

The crew is currently working in a 12-story occupied professional building. “We are working right now on eight of 12 floors,” Mike notes. “We have it set up as several jobs to where we are working in it while people are working there.  We have taken on different hours, working around their schedules. Our scope includes studs, drywall, ceilings and paint.”

Still growing

Cooper Drywall & Painting has been able to stay busy over the last few years. While the economic downturn hit volume and margins, steady relationships have kept the team going. “Things are improving and we are doing more volume this year than we have in years past,” Mike says. “Contractors see the value in what we do, so I think being vertically integrated has helped us maintain those relationships.”

Mike’s largest concern now is finding the right people to continue the business. Many of his long-term employees are aging out of the industry. As they talk about retirement, he is working to fill project manager positions while maintaining a strong labor force. He hopes to attract some younger talent in the coming years.

“I see us growing, but we won’t expand just for the sake of doing it,” he notes. “We need to have the right people in the right roles. Strong management is very important to us and we need to ensure that our growth is sustainable.”

The market continues to improve in Tennessee and Mike and his team are seeing more new construction projects popping out of the ground. With strong values and a dedicated staff, Cooper Drywall & Painting Inc. will be ready to take on more work as opportunities arise.

Published on: July 9, 2015

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