Owned and Operated #118 - 'Jack'ed' Up Leadership: Powering Through Home Service Business Challenges

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In this episode of 'Owned and Operated', hosts John Wilson and Jack Carr look into the topic of developing leadership within home service businesses. Sharing insights from their experiences in residential plumbing, HVAC, and electric services, they discuss the importance of evolving as a leader to meet the needs of a growing business. They highlight the challenges of instilling core values and accountability throughout the organizational structure, from executives to lower-level managers.

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

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The Owned and Operated Weekly Insights Newsletter

John Wilson, CEO of Wilson Companies

Jack Carr, CEO of Rapid HVAC

Owned and Operated Episode #118 Transcript

John: 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.

John: Let's get into it.

John: Hey, so just give me your email.

Jack: Hey, so just give me your email.

John: Every Friday we drop a newsletter from Owned and Operated called Weekly Insights, and inside that newsletter we talk about our business, we talk about lessons learned, we talk about projects that we're working on. So go to OwnedandOperated. com, enter your email, and get some drops every Friday.

Jack: Welcome back to Owned and Operated. With your hosts, John Wilson and Jack Carr. Crowd goes crazy. Oh

John: my God. These guys.

Jack: What's going on, John?

John: Dude, I'm ready. I'm ready. I'm ready to chat it up. Ready to get my chat on today. We're talking today we're going to be talking in developing yourself as a leader, which as I have this conversation, I want you to know that I'm not looking at you as Jack.

John: I'm looking at you as Or like the way I'm like thinking about how I talk is like all the people on my team and like my past self, how I wish, like the things I wish I would have done years ago to develop myself to be prepared for the seat that I've been today.

Jack: Oh, that's cool. Yeah. I'm open to that.

Jack: I'm coming from a little different, little bit of a different spot, right? Because I'm still very young in this specific career path. I've owned the business for just under two years. We're still figuring that leadership style out. But this is interesting that you bring this up. And the way you bring this up, because we've actually had this conversation between the management team and why I'm moving to that who not how and more of a delegation style leader.

Jack: It's not because I actually like delegating. I'm someone who doesn't like delegating, but because I don't want to undercut other people's leadership abilities and growing them into leaders. So this is, this will be interesting. I'm interested in the framework you're bringing to the table today.

John: All right. Yeah. We had a, uh, the business, I think that, yeah. So where I want to start this is our business grew fast and we didn't have a lot of things dialed. In me, especially didn't have a lot of things dialed in like when I took over, I was, 25. Yeah, I was 25 and I was leading managers at 27, 28.

John: And like still really figuring it out and I'm still figuring it out. I don't think I've done by any means and each new stage of the business has required a new me. And I think we've talked about that. How I have to reinvent whoever I am or whatever I am for the current needs of business, usually dictated by size or strategy or are we going through acquisitions?

John: Is this organic? And one of the most challenging ones that I've had in my career so far is the one that I'm currently in, where we're moving from we now have a group of leaders, leading leaders, and that's been really challenging for me to help support them in the way that they need it. I'll give an example today.

John: Like we had we referenced it in our last. Episode, but, we had this, a failure of options recently where we weren't holding up our end of the bargain on what we were doing. And I don't know that we need to go into that part very long, but I the crux of the issue wasn't even that the core issue was.

John: We weren't holding ourselves or our peers accountable for what we expected to do, what we were expected to do. And that's like for me. Yeah. Like I wasn't driving the accountability that I expected. So the next layer wasn't driving the accountability they expected. So the next layer wasn't driving me.

John: They expected. And all that ends up doing is creating this sort of like chaos throughout the whole organization where everyone's trying to run around and like they're playing in other people's sandboxes. And it's because other people aren't performing their tasks. And that's a part of the who, not how is do you have people that are going to be accountable?

John: Service scalers is running a promo right now, where if you sign up for a year of service, you get a free website, which is awesome. We just did this in one of our businesses and it really helped a lot. It was a brand new look. Plus we got great SEO with it and PPC to help. So make sure you check out service scalers.

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Jack: Yeah. And do you, I mean that I think people You've glazed over a huge point there. And I'm curious as to the background of where some of this information comes from, or where you get these ideas from this trickle down effect of not having the accountability over your managers. And then the managers not having accountability over their subordinates.

Jack: I think that's a huge step is if you are not finding the key tasks to be. Watching or the key. We talk about dashboard and we talk about metrics all the time, but what are the metrics for, your managers and then how do they split that up for their, either their leaders or their leads or their texts to make sure that's filtering through.

Jack: And so we, we were actually having this conversation similar recently. And we, at least the culture in our business, we we've been trying to push and trying to really embrace the extreme ownership, Jocko Williams, I believe it is mentality of if I Our people aren't doing what they're supposed to what did we do wrong to not set them up for that success?

Jack: And I try to view that as all the way up the ladder to me being the ultimately responsible one for why, Johnny didn't put in his extra lead or as extra opportunity. Or offer is that where your stems from? Or where does yours stem from this kind of framework or mentality?

John: Basically the same thing. So like I was watching over the past few weeks, like we had this failure of options, which like, doesn't sound like a complicated problem, right? It's Hey we were, our average options had really sunk. Which was shocking for a few reasons, like it was shocking because one that's so fundamental to our business, not even that, but it's part of our core values is transparency.

John: Like we're going to sell through education, not fear. And the way you sell through education is by offering options. This is a core part of our identity. Is that we are going to educate our customers on how their home and offer options that will help, increase comfort or reduce pain. Us failing at that from top to bottom was like, oh, enlightening. Because as we looked at what caused that to happen, so we weren't giving 3 options in the field. The managers who were accountable for making sure that happened, let it slip. The managers that were accountable for those managers, making sure it happened, let it slip all the way up to the executive level that allowed that to slip 45 days.

John: Like from me down, we missed this for weeks, like a fundamental core part of our business, our values. And the way it manifested was like where is everyone else's time going? If we're not doing this thing and are we having these uncomfortable conversations? One of the things I'm like super blessed with, and I'm like so grateful for.

John: And I'm not saying this because they listen to the show, because I actually don't know if they do. But if you guys do listen to it, I mean it. Like I love the team that I get to work with my leaders, like there's so much fun and we get along. And I think that's one of our superpowers as a leadership team is that we do all get along and we can hang out and we can get stuff done.

John: The problem is because we really get along. Sometimes we are afraid to have those uncomfortable conversations where we say to each other as peers or we say to each other subordinates hey, you missed on this thing. And this is where I think you could have done better. And that feedback isn't received as well because sometimes we get along too well.

John: And that's what I started noticing throughout the whole place is that the culture is so camaraderie high fivey, so celebratory let's have a good time that we missed a portion of the accountability.

Jack: Would you say that you focus too much on the wins and not enough on where you're slipping or missing?

Jack: Is that what you mean? Or is it more so actual? Yeah, I would say so. And like the way that, so the downstream of it is we are failing our teams. So if I don't hold. Like my team leads accountable and they don't hold their technicians accountable. Then the field professionals are being held back in their careers.

John: If they don't offer options, they will sell less. If they sell less, their compensation will go down. They can't invest in their 401k. They can't buy the house. They can't get the car. They want to buy it. Like they can't live the life that we, that they want to live. And our promise to people is that we're going to provide a workplace of opportunity.

John: So from, and then if they're not hitting their numbers, Then the manager is not going to hit their numbers and then that manager is not going to hit their numbers and it's all the way up all because we're not nailing down this sort of leading

Jack: and so not to beat the dead horse here but as you grow to this problem exacerbates right so it's much more difficult for you as it's much more The top of the pyramid the ultra owner, executive, whatever, president to make sure that you're, I know that you're being able to manage kind of the key points of the texts or vicariously through the chain the organizational structure, the organizational chart.

Jack: So what is your plan moving forward to like, how do you view this growing as you grow? Is there a framework that you're looking at to really implement?

John: Yeah, I think. So the bigger the organization gets, the less direct interaction you get with most of the team.

John: And it takes sorry, I got distracted. Kristen delete.

John: I like totally blanked

Jack: because what are you going to do, what are you going to do as the business grows? So as you get to a hundred million this problem gets worse.

John: Yeah. Yeah. And it definitely needs to be put in place now. So like, like this problem is a reflection on me. Like I ineffectively led my team, like my team wants to do an incredible job and they're all incredible people.

John: So this is a reflection on like my failure which most of our problems are and extreme ownership. All

Jack: of them are.

John: Yeah. So this isn't a, this isn't a reflection on my own failure because as a business grows, like it's my job to instill our core values and micro values into our leadership team so that they can instill our core values into the rest of our team.

John: Now obviously it's my job to do that with the rest of the team too, but like managers are the conduits through which we deploy our core values and hold people accountable. So do you view that as educate, sorry to interrupt, but I think this is important. Do you view that as like key, a big key there is growing I guess the education of the managers to understand those core values better.

Jack: Like where was that miss specifically? Cause I feel like they, I've been to your place. They know what the key, the,

John: yeah, they, yeah they get it. They're mostly aligned. I think I was listening to I'm going to shout out Chad Peterman's podcast. Yeah, it was cool. And he's going to come on the show here soon, which would be like really good, but he had an episode on levels of leadership and It was really good.

John: It was a good episode. And the idea is that there's four levels of leadership. And I think that is probably the stem of some of the problem So like brand with brandon and I mutually we're at level four, right? There's an implicit level of trust because we've worked together for five years We've taken this business from 25 people to what it is today and we're going to continue to ride the bus like There's a full level of trust there.

Jack: I love that term.

John: And With level one, the only reason that you do what I say is because I'm your boss or my name's on the truck. My name's on the bill. So I think that is a part of it is yeah, some of it's totally education. But the problem with education is it still doesn't drive the why and it still doesn't drive the like adherence and still doesn't get the core value across because our core values are a reflection of what I believe personally of betterment, accountability, teamwork, transparency, and that is like me.

John: So I think yes, part of it's totally education. But like a book doesn't tell you all of it. And I think the thing that I have been missing is I'm not personally spending enough time developing my level of leadership with each of my team and team leads so that they understand more implicitly, like what I mean.

John: And they can more fully embody our values and then live them to the team. So that was my takeaway was okay. Yes, education is a part of it. But education is still just do this because I'm your boss. And not necessarily do this because you trust me because we have gone through hard things together before.

John: Does that make more sense? Like you said, I have your best interest in mind.

Jack: Yeah. That makes sense. It's just in my mind when I'm trying to wrap my head around is right. So this problem gets bigger. There's no way that it doesn't get bigger as you grow. So then the answer really is.

Jack: That you are now, you're training the next level below you. And then they're able to get that out because you're never going to be able to have that, that, that kind of relationship with the lower level managers. I would assume, at a hundred million, you have 50.

John: Yeah. Yeah. I think one, I think you should try to agreed, but two, I think that's a whole part of the problem, right?

John: So if I'm not doing, if I'm not doing what I need to do with my layer leaders that report directly to me. Then are they doing what are they doing with their leaders that report? It's if all we have is people that listen to each other, because they're the boss, then no one's getting what they need out of that relationship.

John: And what we're wanting is people that want to go on the journey that want to go to 100 million that are bought in. Yeah and that was the way that was the way we went through this earlier was like, hey, if. Yeah. Our next leaders are already inside our organization. I don't know where, but they're there somewhere.

John: We've got 140, whatever people like they're in there. Our next team leads, our next managers, our next trade leaders, they're already inside the organization. And if we don't hold each other's peers accountable, and if we don't hold each other's leaders and cohorts accountable, then they won't.

John: Personally grow to the point where they can step into that next position and our total pool of potential leaders will be even smaller. So we I see it as a, I see it as by me doing my part with the 1st layer and 2nd layer. More layers will fall into place because they will begin doing their part and then it'll become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Jack: Yeah, that makes sense from a theoretical standpoint. I try to view it right. I've worked for PepsiCo, Frito Lay, great company. Yeah, but as a lower level manager, like I could there was just no ability to have that relationship with.

John: Yeah.

Jack: The, you and I

John: talked about like a few months ago and I think like my example, I don't know if it's a good one, but my example at the time was like Elon Musk can drive culture

Jack: quickly.

Jack: True. And I think it was the culture episode too is where we got this and it's caused me to think really deeply about this kind of subject and leadership and how you want the culture surrounding your company to look. And so with this where did these ideas come from for you?

Jack: You can ruminate on things all day long, but. Being in like a singular point. It's hard. You have books, but how do you view, like, where are you gaining a lot of this? Not only institutional knowledge for like how to run a HVAC company, but also leadership, culture.

Jack: Where's all that coming from?

John: Yeah, we we've been, I think I've talked about this before, but early on in our business growth, we were part of this like peer network thing locally held by a supplier and that inspired a lot of what we did in our business, but it also inspired a lot of what we do here at own and operating because.

John: It wasn't until 5 or 6 years into my journey that I found more resources like we found certain path or we found next hour. We found more peers and we met people on Twitter. Most of those years were like alone figuring it out because the resources that are available now just weren't available.

Jack: Man, I could not imagine. I've talked about our explosive growth in the last two years. I could not, I legitimately could not imagine being in the pitch black trying to figure this out. Without Twitter. That

John: was the majority of my career was figuring it out. Like how, me at 26, trying to figure out how to buy multiple companies, trying to figure out like literally what is gross margin?

John: How do you hire and train a manager? Like I had no idea I read blogs or books or whatever. So, a lot of the most impactful stuff that's happened in my career has come from peers. So like we're a part of these peer groups and that's Part of what we have tried to do here at Owned and Operated, and that's why we one, we create content we want to be the resource that I didn't have eight years ago.

John: And we want to give a little bit of a roadmap, but we also want to link people up. We want to connect them. And that's part of the cool thing about the workshop or this Facebook group that we just launched, which really took off, which was awesome. Is that you can learn from the other people, so I've had peer groups for years you're in one of them and it's been hugely impactful for me and my business and they challenge me and they make me better.

John: And when I have questions about something like this, like I call up somebody and said, those peer groups, I'm like, Hey, here's the issue. What do you think, what did you do in your business when you had this issue? And that, that's been huge.

Jack: Yeah. It's also a great outlet too, for along this leadership role.

Jack: It's not only from a technical standpoint yes, if you go back and listen to Jack's first podcast, I was, it was out of a storage unit, like with three employees, it's just massive differences in eight months or whatever, however long they've been doing this. But the point being is there's also a kind of emotional side to this, too, is like this business is hard, like running a business is hard.

Jack: There's so many ups and downs. And like I said, being in the dark without any resources or anybody to talk to. I think I've called Rand just specifically once or twice and was like, Dude, I'm having a mental breakdown, not legitimately, but just the frustration that builds up in these kinds of moments where you can get overwhelmed and it's not my personality.

Jack: And so where do I turn? It's not something I'm going to burden my family with. And so I feel like these peer groups are not only great from a technical standpoint, but from an emotional standpoint too, to deal with stress, anxiety. How do you handle getting home? I think one of our questions in one of my peer groups, not the one you're in, was revolving around like, how do you separate when you get home, you see your wife, your kids, whoever.

Jack: And you have that anxiety ball in your stomach and like, how do I get rid of that? How do I sleep at night? What are you guys doing to burn this kind of issues? And I think that there's a emotional mental side to this as well. That's extremely important that you're allowed to be vulnerable with groups of like minded individuals who are running through the same issues you are.

John: Yeah, they're all going through it. Like I'm having a tough week. And yeah, like I'm bringing it home and

Jack: I'm not going to say who it was, but somebody posed a question in one of our groups that was, does the financial burden ever go away? And there was businesses much larger than me saying, no, like you don't ever lose that stress.

Jack: And in my mind, like my hope got crushed a little bit, but at the same time it felt good because cause we have. That burden daily of like how to make payroll, how to fiscally, you're a fiscally responsible for you, a hundred people and their families. So how do you like, does that ever go away?

Jack: And the answer no is rough in one sense, but in the other sense, it's I'm validated that I'm feeling this way and that I need to figure out how to come to grips with this because it's going to be. A situation that's

John: problem. Yep. Yeah. That's a forever problem.

Jack: Yeah. So I know that we're running that new Facebook group, which I'm really excited.

Jack: 120 people.

John: Yeah, no, it's a hundred and like

Jack: 6,060 people.

John: It was crazy.

Jack: And there's some, I've seen some names in there that are definitely recognizable. So there's some. It's cool. There's some big heavy hitters in there that are running large businesses. Shout out Kylon. I saw he was in there.

Jack: He posted already, so I'm sure he's fine us saying it. But like some big businesses, like these guys know what they're doing and hopefully that they stick around and help people out.

John: Yeah. This was this was good. I appreciate the discussion. Yeah. If you like what you heard, listener, and help me make my mom proud so that I'm popular on one section of the internet and give us a five star review wherever it is that you listen to the show.

Jack: We are trying actively to become like G list celebrities or. Even like J or K list celebrities. We're trying to move up the ranking from the lower level celebrities. We are, we were maybe a Y now we're M. Yeah. And definitely if you are interested in these kinds of groups, they're naturally formed through the breaking 5 million workshop.

Jack: Once again, they're all similar size companies to yourself, huge, valuable resource. There's a, like I said, a group chain going on of 18 individuals. That I get emails from daily which is awesome. I love it there. We're answering questions and we're able to keep in contact and see how they're doing.

Jack: So that's definitely a great resource as well. Yeah, 100%. Awesome. Awesome. For our next episode, 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.

John: You can find me on Twitter at Wilson companies. I'll see you next time.

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