Rick Hernandez of Sepi Painting: “Just give back”

The real estate market, in terms of new construction has been on an uptick. Builders are producing more new homes now more than at any other time, and buyers should take advantage of the low interest rates and builder motivation to move inventory. As a part of our series about “Homes of The Future”, I […]

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The real estate market, in terms of new construction has been on an uptick. Builders are producing more new homes now more than at any other time, and buyers should take advantage of the low interest rates and builder motivation to move inventory.

As a part of our series about “Homes of The Future”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rick Hernandez.

Rick Hernandez’s career in the painting and coatings industry started with a part-time job at Sears Roebuck and Company, and then quickly grew to an Assistant Store Manager at Sherwin Williams Co.

When hurricane Andrew hit South Florida on August 24, 1992, he decided to open his own company and in October of 1994 Sepi Corp. was born. The growth of Sepi Corp. went much better than anticipated. The new company was able to service both residential and commercial work.

A few years later, the company was rebranded, and the name was changed to Sepi Painting and Waterproofing, Inc. which aided in marketing and lead to additional growth. As the years passed, services were added, such as: waterproofing, electrostatic painting, and chemical.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My Parents sacrificed quit a bit to put my brothers and I in a Jesuit Prep High School. I did not know at the time the privilege it was to attend on of these High schools and was not the best of students, academically. In my sophomore year I was removed from the school for poor grades. After graduating for another local public high school, I realized college was not in my path. I got a job at Sears working in the paint department and move up through the ranks quickly. Three years later I was able to get a position at Sherwin-Williams Paint Co. and was there for 10 years. At SW I learned both side of the business, the retail DIY and the professional applicator (painters). I started to feel as if God was pushing me in the direction of being self-employed. I never thought that this would turn into such a successful enterprise. As a first-generation son of Cuban refugees of 1959, I can say the painting industry has been very good to me, my family and employees.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The most interesting thing that’s happened to me in my career was the impact of hurricane Andrew. That was the decisive moment when I went from the supply side in the industry to the application side. Looking at the destruction around me and how quick you can lose it all, I decided it was time to move on and within two years I was self-employed. Back then in ’92 I was making good money, but I gave it up to step into the void and it really paid off. Making the decision to move from Sherwin Williams and start my own business got me to where I am today.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

There was no real tipping point in this, but for me it has always been this basic concept of answer the phone and tell people the truth. Don’t make things up as you go along. If you can’t make the appointment, do not commit to it. In this industry it’s pretty simple. Either you can speak truth to people or not, and that will define whether you are successful or not. People are fed up with contractors who don’t follow through. We answer our phones and tell potential clients the truth. That’s what has made this business grow and got me to where I am now.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My wife. When I first started this venture, it was just me and my wife painting whatever we could find. A house, a door, whatever. Whenever there was a moment I had to take off and go bid on something, she was the one that would stay behind to keep working on the projects until I got back.

It’s not one particular story but almost a routine. I had to jump in my car and change out of my painting attire to put on a shirt and spray some cologne on to go measure the next house and try to close the deal. Without her help to start this thing, it would have been way more difficult.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I was a member of the Painting Contractors Association (PCA) when I started out in this business years ago. It was their guidance that got me going. They have been a major contributor to the professionalism to what we do around here. Over the years we followed their training seminars closely, to the extent that we became an accredited painting contractor with them. The content on their website is written by experienced painters and has modeled to me what to do and what not to do for over 20 years.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I heard someone say many years ago that “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Turns out it was Benjamin Franklin who had first said it, one of our founding fathers. And his words are what I live by life by. If you are not preparing to succeed, you are going to fail. The way I translate it to my team is prepare your plan and work your plan. Don’t let anyone let you deviate from your plan.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Homebuilding in the US has grown tremendously. We’d love to hear about some of the new trends and techniques that are being used to build the homes of the future.

Some new durable coating products on the market are being applied to homes that are self-cleaning and mold resistant. Now you can actually clean and wash your wall and not affect the coating, which adds to the longevity. This new technology is not only a selling tool to get someone a better product on the wall, which lessens their maintenance, but it’s avoiding the need to paint as frequently as people used to.

Can you share with us a few of the methods that are being used to make homes more sustainable and more water and energy efficient?

There are coatings that are more energy efficient that are actually ceramic based. Because of the reflective and insulative value that those coatings have, it gives you that energy efficiency and ultimately more value.

There is a lot of talk about Smart Homes. Can you tell our readers a bit about what that is, what that looks like, and how that might help people?

A home that is self-sufficient by being easier to maintain.

Aside from Smart Homes, can you talk about other interesting tech innovations that are being incorporated into homes today?

Electrostatic painting is the application of a coating to a metal surface that you electrically charge. When that coating is drawn to the surface through negative grounding, it actually coats all sides of the surface without having to redirect the gun. If you are painting a railing, for example, you could paint one side of the railing, but the other side would also get paint on it. The coating is drawn by polarity. Electrostatic powder coating is applied to metal and then must be run through an oven to finish the process.

In today’s market, we can now do that with fluids. Now you can get a liquid paint, positively charge it and spray it in the direction of a metal that is grounded and have the same effect. This way you eliminate the baking process completely.

We just did the residence of a gentlemen in Coral Gables who had just purchased a home and needed to replace all of its windows. The window frames were made of aluminum mullion and were so chalky, it looked so bad. We were able to save him two thirds of the cost of replacing each frame just by repainting.

Can you talk about innovations that are being made to make homes more pet friendly?

Going back to 1978, painters stopped using lead-based paints do to governmental regulations and the toxicity of lead, making paint far more eco-friendly with zero VOC in them, which makes it safer for pets chewing at your baseboards. Also, now you can get low odor products on the market. Its important to use these in order ensure pets are not ingesting dangerous materials.

How about actual construction materials? Are there new trends in certain materials to address changes in the climate, fires, floods, and hurricanes?

There are products that address fire and hurricane safety in the painting industry. These products can withstand hurricane winds penetrating up to 120 mph in order to prevent water penetrating from the outside in. There are also specialty fire coatings that are fire retardant, so they would slow down the speed in which the fire would burn.

In terms of climate, all of these coatings are now low VOC. VOCs are the Volatile organic compounds that are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids such as paints.

For someone looking to invest in the real estate industry, are there exciting growth opportunities that you think people should look at more carefully?

The real estate market, in terms of new construction has been on an uptick. Builders are producing more new homes now more than at any other time, and buyers should take advantage of the low interest rates and builder motivation to move inventory.

Let’s talk a bit about housing availability and affordable housing. Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

I personally do not like to bring politics into my professional life, but I will say however that I think we, as a society, need to humanize the homeless. I believe the overall attitude towards people experiencing homelessness tends to be extremely negative. This even goes for those with homes, but just take the time to interact with people and acknowledge them as not being invisible.

Is there anything that home builders can do to further help address these problems?

I think that by acknowledging the struggle we can have more compassion towards those people experiencing homelessness. Sometimes by lifting people up, by dignifying those who have lost all dignity in themselves, we can all find common ground and realize we are all experiencing our own struggles.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Just give back. It’s such a simple concept. There are some of us that make a whole lot of money and we don’t need all of that. The one thing I learned during my four years of Jesuit High School is the motto they live by. It is basically “for the greater good of God”. That is written in Latin at the front of most of their buildings. If you walk in that direction, it doesn’t matter what religion you are, everything will work out.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow Sepi Painting on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, and at

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