George Williams, who represents the third generation of the 107-year-old Pelham-based A.G. Williams Painting Company, surely cares about the bottom line. But, maybe even more so, he cares about those who rely on a steady paycheck—his 50 employees and their families. “Everyone who works here feels like they are part of the family,” says employee Paul Viggiano. “He’s even been known to lose money on a project just to keep the staff working.”
“Painting is a seasonal, transient business, with many companies shutting down during the slow time in winter,” Williams explains. “We factor the slow period into our annual projections, and sometimes we bid jobs at cost—or lower—just to keep our employees busy. It pays off in the long run because we retain them.”
That refreshing attitude was instilled in Williams by his grandfather, Arthur George Ratskis. “When he came to America through Ellis Island in 1904, they changed his last name to Rogers,” says Williams. “But he decided on Williams instead, to align himself with Sherwin Williams paint.”
Williams lives by his grandfather’s one rule of business: Pay your employees first, then utilities and vendors, and, finally, yourself. And there have certainly been some lean times that tested this mantra. “Ten years ago, our credit line was maxed out; we were waiting for payment from some big jobs. I had no idea how I was going to make the next payroll—let alone holiday bonuses. And then my father died suddenly,” he says.
In between buying a casket, picking out a burial site, and planning the wake and funeral, Williams was on the phone calling everyone who owed him money. His employees were paid, right on time—and even got a Christmas bonus the day after the funeral. “Other than me closing up shop the day of the funeral, I think my dad would have been proud of the way I handled everything.”