Owned and Operated #99 - Communication Strategies That Professionalize Your Home Service Business

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John and Jack are diving into the crucial role communication plays as businesses grow. They're sharing practical strategies to boost team collaboration and alignment, covering everything from one-on-one meetings to huddles, L10s, and skip-level meetings. John stresses the ongoing challenge of sharpening communication within his team, highlighting its pivotal role in the year ahead. Together, they're dishing out valuable insights on how to foster effective communication and build a strong organizational culture.

Episode Hosts: 🎤
John Wilson: @WilsonCompanies on Twitter
Jack Carr: @TheHVACJack on Twitter

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John Wilson, CEO of Wilson Companies

Jack Carr, CEO of Rapid HVAC

Owned and Operated Episode #99 Transcript

John Wilson: I'm John Wilson. Welcome to Owned and Operated. Twice a week, we talk about home service businesses, and if you're a home service entrepreneur, then this is going to be the show for you. We talk about our own business in residential plumbing, HVAC, and electric, and we also talk about business models that we just find interesting.

Let's get into it.

If you like what we talk about on our social media, on Twitter, on this podcast, then you should be signed up for our newsletter. Go to ownedandoperated. com where every Friday we break down our business, we break down insights, things we're learning, things we're working on, and it's good stuff. Check it out, ownedandoperated. com.

Today on owned and operated, we're talking about communicating and rhythm. So as the business grows, communication with your team and driving culture becomes really, really complicated. And I don't pretend to have this all figured out. This is one of the big challenges in the year ahead, is to learn how to communicate better to my team.

So today we talk about what we do, the different levels that we communicate with, the different strategies we use and how to implement them in your own business. Thanks for tuning in.

John Wilson: Welcome back to Owned and Operated. What's up, dude?

Jack Carr: Owned and operated. Hey man.

John Wilson: It's snowing. We have three inches of snow on the ground, which is beautiful. We had you up in town this week, and we were like tightening up the March workshop, so that's gonna be a bunch of fun. That's gonna be really cool. We only have a couple seats left. And I think we're going to end up doing another one in like June or July.

Yeah, seemed to be a big hit, so we're pumped.

Jack Carr: Very excited. Yeah, I mean you said you had three inches of snow on the ground, the weekend roll around. How is that going for you? Running weekends full-time.

John Wilson: Yeah. it is really interesting. I was going to bring that up. So weekends, you know, if you've been listening for a while, we launched weekends back in I think December, might have been early January, but it's taken a really long time to get up and running.

We are finally, like, full trade on Saturday and Sunday. And it took us a lot of time.

Jack Carr: I mean, there was a decent amount of positions you had to hire. I mean, I know we talked about it. You had two in each category essentially, and then you had a manager and a call center that you had to hire. So a total of 10 people, is that right?

John Wilson: Yeah, so we think at scale it's about 15. So right now we have two plumbers on Saturday, two electricians on Saturday, and then one HVAC. And then on Sunday we have a plumber, electrician, and an HVAC. And then we have two and a half people in office. What we're prepping to hire now is the manager to manage that weekend team.

Cause average tickets and conversions tend to be a little bit lower cause they don't have as much support. So we're trying to tighten that up. And then we're just going to keep building bulk around it. Like the schedule fills, which is the cool part. So today, like the schedule filled for today and tomorrow.

And I think they came in, with half a schedule full, so it just fills in. So yeah, it's really cool. We're pretty excited about it.

Jack Carr: Yeah, man. Absolutely love this because at the end of the day I'm over here and I received, I watch our board even when it's the weekends

John Wilson: So yeah, we're getting ready to hire a manager for weekends. And then we think we just keep filling out the team. So right now there's eight total people or nine total people. And we think it's seven more. So a manager, probably another call taker. We're thinking about some ISRs for the weekend.

Like inside sales folks and probably a warehouse or a parts runner. The goal is, by the end of March, it is a fully functioning, indistinguishable day at Wilson. Saturday and Sunday. Which, we're already not that far off. And we've been really, pleasantly surprised with how it's worked so far.

Lot of flips, lot of referrals. Each weekend seems to be about 20 to 30 grand in sales. Which we're obviously excited about. That's a million to a million and a half.

Jack Carr: Does it drive, like going into Monday, does it make driving into Monday easier as well or does it make it more difficult? Because normally you'd stack the Monday.

John Wilson: I would say much easier. And I think it's going to continue to get easier, but like the weekend call center team works from Friday through Monday So they're Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. That's like a really nice smooth segue. Instead of like Monday being a total cluster, we have a team that like was working on the weekends, they were still taking emails, they were still handling customer concerns.

So like Monday at 9 isn't a total cluster. Which it used to be. So it's been a big win and I think our customers are happy about it, which is awesome. I think the next big change that we're gonna make that looks like that is adding a second shift and starting to run a 12 to 8 shift, or like a 2 to 10, something like that.

That way we can handle after hours emergencies better.

Jack Carr: Yeah, I think that definitely is nice, but the first thing during weekends is definitely the key.

John Wilson: Yeah.

Jack Carr: Can't imagine how much stress that would take off my plate to have that running fully like an actual like your normal business. Because I have so much stress from the amount of calls we receive on the weekend and missing opportunities that we just can't afford to miss.

John Wilson: Yeah. Same for us. It's been helpful. Especially with like HVAC, like we're getting no heats that we wouldn't have previously gotten and we're selling systems off them. Last weekend, I think we went in we had no installs on the board Monday when we left the office on Friday and we sold two or three systems on Sunday.

And so we had a full board for three crews. It was awesome. Yeah, it's been a really big win, but it's taken a ton of work, and we're 60, 70 days in. So it's taking a long time, and a lot of work but the juice is worth the squeeze. So we're gonna keep pushing on it, cause every weekend it gets better.

Jack Carr: You definitely have to do it right. If you do it wrong, it just does the opposite. It pisses people off and you don't have good transitions and it's a nightmare, which is kind of what we're dealing with right now is we do weekends on call and it just, it's not there.

And it's hard cause like I said, you miss the opportunity and, or you just fumble your way through every weekend and deal with the stress.

John Wilson: Yeah, this is now it's taking a big lift from Brandon to get this like off the ground He's personally involved in it a lot. That's why we're really excited about the manager coming in but like it has without a doubt been a win for us. So we're excited about we're gonna keep pushing and now we're just trying to deepen the teams. So it's not just one or two we're trying to get three to four per trade and then we have to add some installers. That's gonna be the next probably big part of that, is okay, Hey, I sold this water heater.

Hey, we sold this repair. Yes, someone can come out today and install it. And then we hope to, really beef out that team.

Jack Carr: That's neat. Sweet. So I know today we wanted to dive into it's actually a great segue is one on ones and how you communicate with your team. Especially now that you have weekends, right? So there is a little bit of overlap on Friday and Monday, but that does provide or does prove to be a little bit more difficult now that you have two going on three different schedules.

What does your framework look like for one on ones and just communication in general?

John Wilson: Yeah. This is something that has been a big focus of ours over the past two months. And, so there's a few different ways that we communicate. And every time we add a new one, it's sort of like, man, that was good, I wish we would have done that sooner. And one on ones was the most frequent one, or the most recent addition to our like, communication stack.

So I'll go through our communication stack real quick. The first one is huddles, like weekly huddles, or daily huddles. Those huddles are you know, most people probably have one, like you bring the team in, you talk about sales, or you talk about, hey, here's this new product, or hey, here's how you call off vacation, or whatever.

You use it as like a town hall almost, once a week. Most companies do that. Then we started doing L10s, which is an EOS term for a level 10 meeting. We started doing those about two years ago. And that's been really good. Helps us communicate as a team and solve issues, which is good. The most recent addition has been one on ones, and we're excited about that.

That has had benefits that I really didn't expect. What we're finding, so one on ones is exactly what it sounds like, and it's a one on one meeting with your directs once a week. it's a lot. Like, we have 140 people, so that's 140 one on ones. There's a lot going on there in order to make that happen.

But, what has been really great is how fast you can drive change and how much more alignment we're getting with our one on ones. I'm five six weeks into mine with most of my direct reports, so we sit down, I do mine on Friday. And Chris Hoffman actually posted his weekly one on ones, like form, yeah, we just go through a form.

Our form looks roughly the same, because we're part of the same uh, program. Like, hey, week go? What were your significant activities? Where did you spend time? What metrics were improved, or not improved? How were you challenged? How can I help you? What roadblocks are in your way? What are the big areas of focus next week?

And it's meant to be very, like, tactical. Very, let's get in here, let's talk about something, and let's be aligned for the next seven business days. And then next week, we're gonna do the same thing. It's really helped us move things along and identify issues way faster. And I never would have thought that it would have helped as much, because it's not like we weren't talking before.

We were doing huddles, and we're talking in L10s, and, like, we're having frequent hallway conversation. I was honestly blown away by the impact that one on one's had because again, it's not like we weren't speaking or weren't communicating. We were already doing a lot to communicate, but this just gave you a very clear way to communicate once a week that you could dive into specific issues with just that individual.

And I think that's what we were missing.

Jack Carr: What's the key to making those work though? Cause anybody could schedule a one to one tactical meeting, but it won't necessarily be effective. For example, like I've had multiple bosses throughout my W2 career at fortune 500 companies, some one on ones were the waste of an hour once a week and we all thought that and everybody moves on with their life.

The other one on ones which I found incredibly affective would be I had a manager at one point who if you told him anything in that one on one that became one of his priorities. Any issue you were running into, it was like his number one thing to get fixed that week or to solve that week.

Very, Very high level of urgency on your problems as a subordinate. Do you keep that same mentality or what do you find is the most effective way to make the one on ones effective?

John Wilson: Yeah I guess a couple things, One I think it's important that they're all a part of the communication stack. And I actually think we're still missing a piece. But I don't think one on ones would work as well without the L10s. You go widespread with like Town Hall, Whole Team Huddle.

You go team specific to L10s, and you go individual with weekly one on ones. And I think that they all build on each other. And it's just this, like, rhythm of communication that keeps you all moving. So like, hey, as a company, here's our goals. As a team, here's how you help hit those goals. And as individual, what are the roadblocks that your team needs you to overcome in order to hit those goals so the company can hit their goals.

I think that's a big part of what makes it effective, is like, I don't think this is a stand alone tool. I think it could be good stand alone, but I think the reason it's working so well for us right now is because it is a part of the stack. Then the next one, you know, we're the size of business where each of our like business functions are full teams. Like marketing isn't like a person, it's a team. Or HR isn't a person, it's a team. Accounting, same thing. Warehouse, same thing. Which adds a lot of complexity, and a lot of, like, intercommunication needs to happen, and we're trying to bridge the gap. So a lot of what's happening inside those weekly one on ones is turning into, which I love, like, leadership development, basically.

Where someone's like, hey, I've got this problem, how do you think I can solve it, and sometimes it's a very tactical problem. Like hey, we have a software tool that we use over in this team that we're not using in your team. Like, do you want that? So sometimes it's that easy of like, hey Let's just connect to the dots here that aren't currently connected because you guys you just don't talk very often or it's hey, I have an issue with someone on my team.

How do you think I could deal with this? And then helping guide them through the process. We're seeing this as a big part of our future leadership development and that's the next thing that we have to add is like a strong weekly rhythm of leadership development. That can be even further compounded by the weekly one on one.

That's something that we haven't done a great job at yet. But we're adding leadership, we've had leadership trainings for the last year. Wednesday morning at nine. They haven't had as big of an impact as I would have liked. We've kept it, kept the habit, but now we're gonna start making those better, which we have a new curriculum for those, and then reinforcing it again through the one on ones.

That's how I've seen a big impact, is one, it's a part of the big stack, and two, it's like giving them tools, either leadership tools or literal tools, like a software, or like a framework to think through their roadblocks.

Jack Carr: And for listeners, what size do you find that this should be implemented? Because I could see a argument that if it's implemented too soon, there's a lot of wasted time. But if implemented too late, there's also a lot of wasted time through fixing communication channels. So where do you see like, everybody should be doing huddles.

That's the top of the funnel. I don't care if you're two people, three people team. At least in my opinion, you're talking to them daily, but still gathering once a week to have a state of the union is very important. When do you start to see those second and third levels come into place. Cause I mean, you were talking about this fourth level that you're thinking about at, 30 million or 20 million or whatever you are. But where does that second and third level start happening?

John Wilson: I think as soon as you can when we were two and a half, 3 million, we had a daily leadership meeting. I don't think that it's odd to have a daily huddle, or a weekly L10 to solve stuff. And I wish we would have done one on ones earlier, because we probably would have reduced churn.

I think what one on ones do, is they invest they help develop people, they remove roadblocks, and they ultimately retain good people. And solve problems. Like, we would have reduced our employee churn if we would have implemented this a long time ago. And, like, our people would have probably performed much better along the whole way.

Like, hey, what's a roadblock getting in the way from you doing this better? Awesome. Like, let's resolve that. I wish we would have started that at, much earlier. The things that we're starting to work on now is, like, all these, communication stack's probably the best way to think about it.

And maybe not everybody has the same issue, but, the bigger the organization, the more complicated the communication gets. I had an exit interview, maybe a month ago? And, we were sitting down, the guy leaving frankly, really good feedback and I was like why are you leaving, if this is the feedback that you're giving?

But his feedback was like, he was in the office. He was like a front line leader. And he's like, I see what you are trying to build here, And I know that you will build it. And like everyone in this office knows that you will build it. And like I've never been in a place where somebody was like, hey, we're gonna do this, and then they actually went and did it.

Because he's been with us for like a lot of the ride. And then he followed up with, everyone in this building sees that, but the guys in the field don't. And I was like, that is really interesting feedback, and he's probably right. Where like, the culture between office and field is different.

And I get to interface all day long with our call takers and dispatchers and leaders, but I don't get to do that with our techs. I think the bigger we get, the more I have to drive what I'm believing in our culture down throughout the whole organization. So like, the next big thing is we're launching like a weekly town hall video thing directly from me.

So it's gonna be video based and we're gonna drop it like almost a podcast into our Slack. That way I can share whatever is on my mind for the week. So it's gonna be that, then followed by the town hall, then followed by the team specific L10s. And then the one on ones where our manager should be driving all of the above into each conversation. So I don't know if that answers the question. You were like, when do you start? I think as soon as you can. Because like, we outgrew our communication stack. And our retainment is probably suffering due to that.

Jack Carr: This episode is sponsored by Home Service Engine. So this is a company that I would highly recommend if you are thinking about getting onto the Service Titan, or if you're like me and you have to rebuild your Service Titan every few months because you set it up incorrectly. So this is my go to team for any Service Titan needs, and I really wish I had them from the start.

Give them a call today and start utilizing Service Titan to its fullest potential.

Yeah, I remember my first million Sean and Sam talking about what they wanted to build internally was like an internal newsletter that they would send out weekly for the same reason was communicating with a lot of the frontline folks. And I mean, in home services specifically, it's hard, especially if they dispatch from home too. Because they dispatch from home. They go around all day long and they talk to the dispatcher. And so there's no community between techs. Or there's low community between techs. There's low community between sales and accounting and HR. They just don't get to see a lot. And so it'd be very interesting to try and build that.

A lot of work, but I think that it would increase. It'd be worth a tenfold to increase you know. Everything on the front line.

John Wilson: 100%. And I think, the bigger the business, like, the office culture, office specific, becomes its own animal. Like, our office culture is its own animal, which, it's fun, and it's exciting, and we have a really good thing going. But, our guys might only stop into the office once a week.

It's sort of like, how do you push culture?

It's something that we're trying to resolve. Because it's a big, complicated thing. We want everyone to know where we're going, know why we're going there, know how we're going to get there, and believe in it.

And that's, yeah, that's proving to be challenging. And we're hoping that the one on ones is the next new addition to help reinforce everything that we're communicating up here the whole way throughout the organization.

Jack Carr: And with that I don't think we spoke on it just yet, you're communicating with your direct reports, right? So all the manager level, are you ever going to be doing one on ones like maybe once a month or once, a quarter with the you know, front line?

John Wilson: Yeah. So we're trying to figure out the cadence for that now That's called a skip level, where you skip a level. So like, instead of me doing a one on one with Brandon, I would go do a one on one with Brandon's direct reports. Or their direct reports. So maybe skip two levels. So that's something that we're trying to do now.

I did my first one literally yesterday, and it was pretty ad hoc. I just wanted to see like, how it worked. Get a vibe on it. It was really interesting. And it's the same thing, maybe I shouldn't forget, but you forget all the different things you learn when you personally grow and like, you start running these different teams and the business has grown so much that I often forget how much I know about how to resolve these, like, different things.

So, yesterday, I was in a skip level, one on one, and I'm sitting there and talking to them, and a lot of it is just like, listening to the issue and I'll be like, man, I remember having that issue for the first time, it was like four or five years ago, but I remember that, and here's what I did to resolve it, and here's how I think about that, and, what I'm finding our one on ones like, I'm enjoying it, it's a very new to us coaching thing where you get to help somebody resolve these problems that like they just don't yet have the tool to figure out.

And that tool is maybe a framework or like a way to communicate or something like that. But that's been a lot of it. So that's what happened yesterday in our skip level.

Jack Carr: That's one of the benefits too, right? That's one of the benefits of working for you. Working for a family owned and run business is the guys can talk to you. They can actually have communication. They can work with you. They can talk to you. They can feel heard. Whereas if you're working for a giant private equity firm, like what are you going to do?

You're going to call the guy up in San Francisco who runs the giant private equity firm and be like, Hey, I want to chat about something. It's just not going to happen. And so I find that is one of the drivers and the keys to being a family run business is having that communication.

So very interesting that the skip level I'm invested to hear more because in the long run, I think that's a huge lever to pull in recruitment.

John Wilson: This is something that we're actively working on for a number of different reasons one. We want to be able to promote from within and in order to make people promotable they need to like get it. They need to be coached which it historically is not something that we've done a great job of. We're really putting in the time and energy to get better But it's a big area of focus, and we're bringing on a new HR generalist now, and that's gonna be a big part of their core responsibility, is like, yeah, we have the low hanging fruit to, to accomplish, but we also need to make sure that we're driving these big things through, and we're figuring out how to communicate and drive culture throughout the whole place, because it's hard, but it's also like, yeah, the thing that matters.

Jack Carr: Yeah, speaking of culture though, shout out to John's team. I know some of y'all listen to this and if you hear this part, shout out to you guys. Honestly, the nicest group of guys as I'm walking through the office first time, Hey, Jack's shaking my hand.

Good group of people like genuinely nice, friendly group of people. So shout out to you guys. Thank you for making me feel welcome. Really appreciate it.

John Wilson: Yeah. No, we have an awesome group. I think it's kind of funny, and I'm saying this knowing that they're listening

The fact that some of our team follows me on here, and like, listens to the show, is probably the best embodiment of one of our core values, it's betterment, and it's like, winning individually and as a team is how we define it, but it's also just like a hunger to continue to win and thrive. And I think it's cool that is a part of their personal development, that they've chosen to spend some time with me once or twice a week and listen to whatever I'm bullshitting about.

But I think that this is a good example of why that would be effective as a company level newsletter or I'm thinking podcast because we have so many people on the road

Jack Carr: While they're listening in their cars, it's

John Wilson: Yeah, it's an effective and it's an intimate medium to get to know me and get to know our organization better.

Like, if I only get to see you once a week, one, that sucks, because I like working with everybody that I work with. But two, how are they supposed to, like, get buy in and understand that, like, we are gonna do this. And you can be on here for the ride and you can contribute.

And that's hard to do when you only see people once a week.

Jack Carr: Yeah and that's cool. Cause there's two sides to it, right? Everything you do, there's a theory side. Like, why are we doing this? What's the reasoning behind? And for me, I'm the type of person that wants to always know why if you're going to make me put on booties and lay down a mat and do all these kinds of weird things that don't feel like my nature, why are you making me do that? And when you can sit there and talk to someone about the why, not only just, hey, we do this because they tell us to do it, but like, we do this because it shows a 78 percent increase and blah, blah, blah. It's huge. And, for me personally, if I was in a W 2 position working for you, I would want to know the why.

That's an awesome medium to be able to share those strategies and the behind the scenes and it builds a culture of people you want working with you.

John Wilson: Yeah. And I think openness, I'm looking forward to it. So, you know, If you're listening and you're on the team, you're already probably seeing the studio that's being built up front. And that's a part of what we're doing is that we're going to be able to record one for our ads, for our TikTok, for meta, all that stuff.

But also to be able to just speak to the team in a regular cadence that helps. Cause I think, yeah the bigger the team and the more widespread it gets it is difficult. Like it's one of the big challenges on my plate is how to communicate best in class to the whole team and drive culture as we continue to grow.

It's a top of my mind.

Jack Carr: Yeah. It's difficult at 10, I can imagine it being difficult at 140.

John Wilson: Yeah.

Jack Carr: Too funny.

John Wilson: Solid ep. Thanks everybody for checking out owned and operated. This was a episode about communicating in rhythm with your team. If you like what you heard, give us a five star on Apple, follow us on Spotify. I don't even remember all the different things, but you should just do it and we'll catch you next time.

Jack Carr: Come see us in Akron too At the workshop.

John Wilson: Yeah, that'll be fun. And if you miss the amount of seats, then yeah, we're going to do another one in June or July. We'll probably announce that here this week. And then probably one in September too. It got good demand. So that was really cool.

Jack Carr: Sweet. All right, John. Appreciate it. Thanks guys.

John Wilson: Thanks for tuning in to Owned and Operated, the podcast for home service entrepreneurs. If you enjoyed today's episode, please hit the like button and subscribe to the podcast. If you have any questions or topics you'd like us to cover, feel free to reach out. You can find me on Twitter at at Wilson companies.

I'll see you next time.

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