Fine-Tune Your Talent

July 1, 2020
Leaning on training, networking and passion can help you grow

Our technical skills are put to the test every single day at our jobs. But Tony Sanfilippo, painter at Global Collision Center in Troy, Mich., quite literally put his painting skills to the test at the 2020 North American R-M Best Painter Contest. Where each portion of the competition proved his strong technique and talent that he has worked to grow since being a teenager. 

Sanfilippo has been surrounded by the world of paint his entire life. With a father in industry, he started painting cars at an extremely young age. Throughout the years, he has been able to grow his skills immensely by putting a strong emphasis on outside education, training, and networking.

But for him, the main variable that drives his talent, comes down to his passion.

Refine your technique.

In order to prepare for the competition, Sanfilippo did extensive research and put in extra work to fine-tune his skills.

The two-day competition was broken up into different segments, including timing, material consumption, quality of repair, and overall appearance. Sanfilippo has always put an importance on training, but the event kickstarted a larger push to improve his techniques.

“When I got the call that I was going to be competing, I got my product manual, and I read up on every product in the portfolio back to back,” he says.

Every segment of Sanfilippo’s work was critiqued and judged, which he says has immensely helped with his growth and overall efficiency in his career outside of the competition. The opportunity not only encouraged Sanfilippo to put a greater focus into his technique, but acted as another, larger, form of industry training. He also walked away with the R-M Best Sustainability Award.

Constantly reach for education.

As his preparation for the R-M Best Painter Contest proves, if there’s one thing that Sanfilippo is passionate about outside of painting, it’s educating himself on painting.

“I think it’s important to stay up on educating yourself, just for the pure sake of the quality of your work,” he says.

Sanfilippo looks to multiple resources to help grow his paint knowledge and master his technique. In anindustry where things are constantly changing and evolving, staying up with what’s new has helped him become such a talented painter.

“Colors are getting a lot more complex and painters need to stay on top of the latest technology,” he says. “I think the days are over where you can make it with just two spray guns and two different nozzle setups.”

Sanfilippo gets a majority of his technique and equipment updates by attending BASF courses. The classes help expose him to new products that could ultimately improve his efficiency, he says.

He also keeps up with related literature, websites, industry publications, and events, as well as surrounds himself with other top painters to continue to grow.

“There are a ton of tools and people out there to help you as a painter,” he says, “and so many things in place to help you succeed.”

Look to others for inspiration.

Sanfilippo has been surrounded by painters his whole life. And as he continues to further his career, he is constantly growing his network.

In this day and age, a majority of networking comes down to social networking—and that especially rings true in the world of paint. Early on, Sanfilippo’s paint rep introduced him to LinkedIn, which he says has become a huge space for him to connect with others in the industry.

“I’ve met a ton of different people through LinkedIn, and it’s provided a lot of opportunities,” he says.

Instagram is also another place he has leaned on for networking. He even met a fellow painter through the app, and they now call each other constantly to talk shop.

Beyond the virtual space, Sanfilippo grows his skills by meeting other painters at industry events, and watching them work. The R-M Best Painter Contest proved to be a great place for him to pick up tips and tricks from some of the industry’s best painters.

Send it on.

One of the largest challenges facing the industry is the lack of other young painters, says Sanfilippo.

“I think back in the day, everyone was really pushing college education, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he explains. “But I think where they made the mistake was, they didn’t push vocational.”

In order to tackle this challenge, Sanfilippo continues to push the importance of visibility. Industry events are a great way to inspire younger generations to look beyond the career paths that they may be told are their only options, he says.

“The cool thing about events and competitions is that they actively promote young people to get into the business,” he says. “I think it’s a great gateway to attract new technicians.” 

The Sprayout with Tony Sanfilippo


Who is your industry mentor?
My dad.

What's your dream car?
Anything Ferrari.

What’s on the playlist?
Podcasts or rap, specifically Eminem--I have to, he's from Michigan.

Favorite paint color?
I like the color black, or any color on the gray spectrum.

Where do you find inspiration?
The other people I meet in the industry. Also, the owner of the dealership I work with, and the body shop director, they both offer a really good support system.

What’s your favorite piece of painting equipment?
My SATA spray guns, hands down.

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