Owned and Operated #80 - How to Create a Winning Culture for Your Business

Winning Culture = Winning Business
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In this episode, John and Jack are exchanging ideas about building and keeping a thriving company culture. They stress how the leader's actions and choices shape the vibe for the whole organization. It's not just about rules; it's more about the day-to-day attitudes and behaviors of everyone. They share their own experiences in creating a culture that's all about accountability, growth, and success. Don't miss out on strategies for understanding the impact of your daily actions on your company's 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 #80 Transcript

Thanks for tuning in to Owned and Operated. So today Jack and I talked about creating culture inside your organization. And how you show up as a leader or as the owner or the manager of your business is going to ripple throughout the organization. So whatever behaviors you bring in every day, you should expect to have mirrored back at you.

It's a great episode. I think I caught Jack by surprise a little bit with it, but there's been a lot of Twitter conversation about this recently. That's really just caught my interest. Wherever you're listening to this, make sure you give us five stars and thanks for tuning in.

Welcome back to Owned and Operated.

Jack Carr: Welcome back. Hey, what's going on, John?

John Wilson: Dude, got a weather alert. Means snow's falling. Ready for some no heats. Ready to get into it this week. How about you?

Jack Carr: About the same. Like we were talking about last episode. It's a little slower, but it's still chugging along. HVAC needs to get colder. Needs to drop. I'm wearing a short sleeved t shirt. I need to be wearing a long sleeve. A sweatshirt and be freezing and I'll be happy.

John Wilson: Yeah, I assumed that was just to show that you've been working out or something, but it's cool. All right.

So today , we're going to put up our Dukes a little bit and we really don't know each other's positions on this. So it should be entertaining. And the conversation was going to be about managing culture or creating culture.


Jack Carr: And what's your position?

John Wilson: I want to know yours first. All right. So walk me through your position on creating or managing culture inside your business.

Jack Carr: I know we're in a different room today. If anyone's watching on the video portion of this, I watched clanging around in the background because we have the festive lights behind me. I'm in the kitchen. But speaking of festivals and Christmas and everything company culture, I think that this is a big glory point in.

Your company where you get to show your company culture and how you appreciate your employees. And I think it ties into bonuses and spiffs and company alignment. There's a lot of things. And so when you say company culture, I don't know which way you're going with it. Like where do you want to take this?

There's the other side of benefits and how you treat your employees and.

John Wilson: I think that all ties in. So like company culture every company has a culture. It's just whether or not you actively manage it and how much thought you put into it. So like you've made decisions that you've talked about on our conversations where you're like, Hey, my guys are flat rate..

That's a company culture decision. You've created a, you eat what you kill. Uh, You participate in the upside culture. That's very different than like a new construction culture where you just go in and you get paid your hourly and whatever it takes, Right, And that is a cultural decision.

So that's going to impact how you hire, it's going to impact how you retain, it's going to impact how you bonus, how you reward, the behaviors that you like, the behaviors you don't like, what type of softwares you use, what softwares you don't use, so it's going to have all these ripple effects because you've taken the stance that your company is going to have the culture that you have a shared upside which not every company has. We have the same perspective. I think we just try to be a little bit more deliberate about it. And, really where I was coming from when I brought this conversation up was as simple as a core values conversation. Cause I think core values is like, it feels a little up in the air, it feels a little cloudy.

But we can talk about whichever section of this you want to talk about. But I think that culture is ultimately who's the right fit for your business. And how are they the right fit for your business? And when you think about your very best team member and you want to replicate that team member 10 times 50 times 100 times Then like what is it that makes them the best and then how do you replicate them?

And how do you design a business that attracts that type of person and that's culture?

Jack Carr: Yeah, to take that even a step further, I think it comes down to also, what kind of drive of people do you want in your company? Do you want people that are externally driven by money, fame, power, or do you want internally driven people who are driven by? their internal goals on, Hey, I want promotion because it makes me feel better, or I want to do good, be hit these markers and hit these goals.

And so how do you look at it? Do you prefer to hire people who are monetarily driven or internally driven? What do you look for?

John Wilson: Both I don't know that hits culture yet though So I want to make sure we hit this because I think it's like I was having a conversation with someone the other day. it was about, uh, Nolan's Twitter post. So Nolan dropped this Twitter post, where it was like, hey I bought this company.

And this company used to take Christmas week off, and I'm not going to do that, and because I'm not going to do that, the new employees didn't, that was an unpopular decision, like it used to be just like a free paid week, I think and that's a company culture decision, but the ripple effects of that decision are kind of like really reaching when you think about it, like that means that company is not In a home service business.

I'm sure there's other businesses that this does not apply to. So like, home service. Demand and cash flow. So, From my perspective, that means that owner is not optimizing for growth. They're not optimizing for revenue. They're not optimizing for opportunity in front of people, which means that their guys probably aren't going to earn top wages.

Because it's really hard to pay people top wages when you're not driving revenue. Not rocket science uh, they're probably not going to have the best benefits, but they get time off for the owner and maybe the team. So what that culture tells me is this is going to be an underperforming culture led by the owner.

And I think that was probably the main thing I wanted to drive through culture, is it's like what behaviors, and I think this is probably the hardest thing for people to accept, is like core values or culture. Is basically whatever the owner either makes it or permits it to be. So, I work everyday inside the office.

And I sit inside the call center. That's a part of our culture. And people bring that up. Like That's something that is, not because I bring it up, but because other people bring it up. It's relevant to them that the CEO sits outside with the call takers. They see that as like a part of, like a, we're in the trenches together. Driving today's performance together, and that's a part of our culture to maximize every day, and I'm there pushing with them. And that, I suspect, is highly different than the person that took a week off after Christmas with their entire company. Does that make more sense?

Jack Carr: I think we were on the same line then. I know that there's other people, I won't say the same names, but that kind of on the Twitter sphere lean the other direction, but I'm definitely in the same boat with you in terms of, lead from the front mentality. I know I respect a lot of the guys who specifically used to run like we're ex military, like Rich and all those guys, you can tell that they believe in that same lead from the front mentality, whether it's in the field or in the call center or, actually going out on doing job walks with the guys because at the end of the day, right?

That's huge. You can't just sit behind a desk and hope that everyone's going to respect you and want you to well, I shouldn't say sit behind a desk. You shouldn't be disconnected from your team, is really it. Close the door, disconnect, and then expect them to follow you as a leader when you're not leading or just delegating out every single task.

John Wilson: Hey, this episode is sponsored by Service Scalers. So Service Scalers is actually a brand that I've used personally with our companies for a little bit over a year now. They've helped us manage our digital advertising. Frankly, they did a lot better than our last agency. Leads went through the roof and cost per click went way down.

Check out Service Scalers if you're a plumbing, HVAC, or electrical home service company. That's what they knock out of the park and they did a great job for me.

Jack Carr: I thought this conversation was going to take a different path. But this is one that I'm not prepared for. It's an interesting conversation on how to verbalize and give you know, kind of a, how to talk about doing it intentionally, because it's not something that I've ever done intentionally.

My history was working right out of college with lots of really skilled tradesman who had been quote unquote from old man Ron himself who used to work for me. I've been doing this longer than you've been alive, boy.

John Wilson: Ha

Jack Carr: It's one of those things where you start from that point and you have to understand that's how a lot of them think and how a lot of them feel even when you have to try and do change management and push initiatives and still drive revenue.

So , they have to know that you're in the trenches with them and that you're part of a team and that you're driving all in the same direction. I think that you hit the nail on the head when you're saying that doing that through compensation is important, doing that through presence and actually physically being there is important.

And then I think that, as silly as it sounds, as simple as it sounds, legitimately caring about your people and your team is a big step. We send out birthday cards on people's birthdays and all the little things that really do show the team that you care and that you're listening to them and that you understand that they're people.

I don't think that there's very many people in that last point that will disagree with that last point. That being said, I'm rambling here because I am stuck on not fully knowing how to verbalize

How to build culture

I thought this was going to be a conversation about Christmas parties and,

John Wilson: No I think Christmas parties maybe are a result of it. But I was really like, I really lost myself in this thought train of what sets our business apart from that business that took the week off after Christmas. And like in some ways, people would look at my decision and my sort of scorn at that owner's decision to do that and be like, Wow, that guy's a dick.

A lot of people on Twitter did say that, which I thought was hilarious. But what they don't see is that my average tech probably makes double or triple what that guy's average tech would. Or that our benefits are significantly better because we are a revenue and growth culture. That drives performance daily in everyday matters.

I think that I bought a business that did that once. Where they worked four tens, and then they took the week after Christmas off. It was a very laid back culture, which is good. There's good things about that. But then they also couldn't figure out how they couldn't get to the next level and it's like you can't get to the next level because you're not attempting to get to the next level Like you're actively cutting yourself off at the ankles.

You are removing revenue opportunities which, that's now a part of your culture. A part of your culture is ignoring revenue. It's these decisions that make it that way. Or, the owner that doesn't show up, or the CEO, you know, it doesn't have to necessarily be the owner, but the person who's running it, hiding in their office is a decision, and it's a demonstration to the rest of the leaders in your business that it's okay if they hide in their office.

That's okay, because this guy's doing it. I don't even know that it's like, you keep saying verbalize, but I think it's really like what if everyone is looking up to you inside an organization, what are they going to see? And what actions are they going to? Act back to you. What are they gonna mirror, like a toddler?

Cause that's exactly what's gonna happen. The behaviors that you bring every day are the behaviors that your team is gonna mirror. So if you come in and you scream at everybody, then other people on your team are gonna scream at everybody. If you come in with a smile and crack jokes, then everyone's gonna smile and crack jokes.

If you push on sales, people are gonna care about sales. But like, what are you putting out into your company? Because that's exactly what you're gonna get back.

Jack Carr: yeah, no, that's a fair way to verbalize it. I think it's almost like kids

John Wilson: It is. Yeah, it is like kids.

Jack Carr: You know, You can see some of those actions I think becomes less about culture and more about a leadership discussion at that point. Like I said, man, this caught me off guard. But you're right.

A lot of people would view that as, Hey, you don't appreciate your employees enough to give them the work life balance of having Christmas off or the week after Christmas off. And I'd say we're in the same boat there as we were working. We were joking about not giving Christmas Eve off.

Obviously we're not gonna do that, but the whole team was laughing about it because , it would be right up the alley of the culture of something you know, that I would ask. Obviously I didn't ask because that's I find that inappropriate, but at the same time. The team was mostly ready to do it. And it's that culture that you build is extremely important. And I think it permeates through items. Like you said, how you hire decisions on work life balance on, are you going to run an on call schedule? How are you going to run that on call schedule?

What are you prioritizing in your business?

And I think that it, we come down to, we prioritize revenue and growth first over everything. When I talk about my personal culture at the company we definitely care about our employees a lot. We don't have the ability to offer the same things, but what we are offering is the same idea of everybody being a part of this large, growth business that, we all have the same end goal in mind. And I take a look a lot of times from that culture, from people like the PayPal story of, you know, I couldn't imagine not paying employees for a month, but I think that realistically, there's a few employees that would actually stay and work through if we had to do that.

I look at that as being the quintessential idea is would your employees stay with you and work through a hardship if they knew they weren't going to get paid for a month? I don't know if we're going to even post this episode after I feel like I'm rambling through on this one, but maybe it's good just to, to hear it.

I don't know.

John Wilson: Yeah I think It's a culture, and we can call it leadership, I still think of it as culture, because I think that leadership is like, it's about you, and I don't think this is about you, and I certainly don't think it's about me, I think it's culture is top down, in that like, it starts with me, or it starts , with whoever's at the top, but it permeates the whole thing, and we're not sitting here trying to create leaders it's not overly complicated, I don't think, it's just, it's hard for most owners to accept and come to terms with the actions that they take will be mirrored back, and you are fully responsible for the results that you get.

So, If someone's like, yes, we're gonna take a week off and you start wondering why your team is not driven to drive more revenue. It's because you built that culture. You made that decision that had a ripple effect of people caring less about revenue. Or if you don't have incentive pay and they're just hourly that's a decision that you've made.

If you go on once a quarter drug benders to South America, I know that, that was a guy I knew that did that then you've created this culture that like, one, that's permissible and two, it's like, you know, pop off, I guess, like given to your vices.

Jack Carr: How do you turn that, right? That idea into the pillars and of the company then, like where do you form that into those pillars and how do you create that device?

John Wilson: Like what do you want out of your business? So I was reading a newsletter the other day and it was by the secret CFO. Have you read his newsletter?

Jack Carr: No.

John Wilson: It's good. And he's doing a series right now on cash flow. And it's like an eight week series. And the series was all about if you don't have a cashflow obsessed culture, you will never improve your cashflow. And I'm like okay, that makes sense, right? Everybody has to be bought into cashflow. And he started explaining what a cashflow culture meant. And a cashflow culture was like, the CEO cares about cashflow. And then he asks about cash flow. He pushes on cash flow. When somebody doesn't make decisions that drive towards cash flow, he asks why, and he holds people accountable to that, because they're not aligned on what he's trying to do.

And I think that was a really good example. That was paired up within a day or two of this other one, of just like, oh, okay, That makes sense, and that's how I think about it, and that's how we try to live it every day. Whereas if I want managers to care every day about the numbers, then I have to care about the numbers.

And I have to hold them accountable to that, and I have to set that example of what I expect to be mirrored back at me. And if I want my team members treated with respect, or if I want people to care about revenue, or if you want all these things You have to care.

You have to like, go in there and do beyond, potentially, what they expect. I think my point here was how you show up every day, and maybe this is on leadership now, but how you show up every day is going to get mirrored back at you. So think about what you want back from your team. Do you want accountable people that when, if I make a mistake, I'm going to apologize for it?

Because I expect when they make a mistake, that they're going to apologize for it. If I make a decision, then I'm gonna own it. Just like I would expect them to own it. What behaviors do you want mirrored back to you exactly as you gave them? cause that is, I think, what ultimately, as you hire more people, and as you interview more people, and as you grow teams and build managers, culture becomes out of control.

Like you lose the control of culture if you don't build it and if you don't instill that early enough I got in this like Twitter conversation about core values like six months ago with Chris Munn and Chris is great and he was saying like I don't understand the purpose of core values and it's okay if we don't ultimately agree but my feedback was core values is culture management at scale because eventually at 150 people I don't have the time to manage every minute thing but this gives everyone a guardrail.

Jack Carr: So that's where I was going to disagree is I think that a lot of times I've worked at fortune 500 companies a lot of times the way that they do the culture at scale is done Absolutely terrible, they put those guardrails up they put the bumpers on and that's it you're right, they do that and they walk away and what ends up creating is?

You know, An adversary, reaction towards that the whole pillar system in itself. And it's because at scale, sometimes when done terribly leaves a really sour taste in people's mouths. You feel like a cog in the wheel. You feel, unappreciated, ,

John Wilson: But I also think that is culture like that is like the how do you show up? How do you build teams and at some point maybe the business just gets so big that it's impossible, but I think that at some point If you can like I guess I would argue that maybe it doesn't, like Elon doesn't and like Tesla's big, SpaceX is big, and like he is personally driving the culture in the way that I'm thinking about, and like he is doing what he expects to be mirrored back, he's sleeping in his office, he's like inside product demos, he's a very active participant from the outside, obviously I have no idea, so I don't know that a company can get too big, maybe it can, but, I don't know.

I think that it's a decision that people make to not get as involved, as maybe they should or to let culture run away. But my point is, culture will run away from you if you don't build it as early on as you can and as hands on as you can. Because eventually, you will be four or five or six layers away from the vast majority of your company.

Jack Carr: I'm trying to go through the framework of why I was so distaste why I didn't like the culture of 500 company I'm referring to so drastically. And I think it was done as a reason that they felt they needed to do it. if like. gosh, I have to clean my rooms. You just throw everything into a bucket and just put in the closet and it comes out that way and it's, I don't know whose fault it is when an organization gets that big, but to scale it back, ultimately the leader, like with Elon Musk in the leadership role, I think the two are inevitably tied, right?

And the decisions you make as the leader will create that culture that permeates through your entire company.

I like that when I see that on the daily, how you come in and how your managers come in really is going to be what's given back to you from your employees.

And if they don't they'll end up leaving and being replaced with people who will, right?

John Wilson: I think the big message I wanted to impart, just as I'm thinking about culture in general and I don't think we've done culture perfectly by any means. I think culture is ever moving, ever changing, and the biggest thing that I'm trying to work on now, inside our business, is the culture In my managers, in my frontline managers, so that they can work directly with my field team and impart how I'm attempting to impart.

But culture is how you show up every day and it's mainly driven by you, the owner, you, the leader. And it's how you show up is going to get reflected back.

Alright, thanks for tuning in to Owned and Operated.

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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