With great success comes trying times. So long as you have a good attitude, you can make your dream come to life. This is what Chad Peterman has been taught since he was a boy. And this is the mentality he chose to stay in, from his years as a high school football star to leading his company to astronomical growth. In this episode, Chad, President and CEO of Peterman Brothers, discusses the key principles and attitudes behind his achievements. He attributes his work ethic and determination to his father, who instilled the value of hard work from an early age. But success isn’t just about hard work—it’s also about the support and encouragement of loved ones. Chad reveals the profound impact his grandmother, Becky, has had on his attitude and outlook on life. He emphasizes the importance of having people who are proud of you and back you, giving you the drive to make them proud and excel. Chad also discusses his attitude towards growth, personally and professionally. He shares his book, “Can’t Stop the Growth”, which dives deeper into his philosophy of empowering employees and driving collective progress. Chad shares how he and his company focuses not on growing bigger, but on growing better, and how it became the key to their rapid expansion. Growth never stops—let’s embrace the power of attitude together. Tune in now and hear Chad Peterman’s story.
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Lead Yourself, Lead Others: How Attitude Leads To Entrepreneurial Triumph And Leadership Excellence With Chad Peterman
I’m excited to bring in a young entrepreneur from a fast-growing business. He’s also an author. He and his brother are high school football stars. I’ve known their family from a skip in generations, but from the South side of Indianapolis, the one and only Chad Peterman. Welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me. I’m excited.
Chad is the Owner of Peterman Brothers, heating, cooling, and plumbing, and has had some astronomical growth. If you’re an entrepreneur, this is going to be a show that you’re going to want to read. First of all, let’s talk about what is your definition of attitude and who is your first attitude coach when you think about it.
When I think about attitude, it goes back to what you were alluding to. I don’t know if I was a star by any means, but it goes back to athletics throughout my whole life. With any great coach, and I’ve had many of them over the years, you’re going to get knocked down. You’re going to have successes and some trying times. As I think about my definition of attitude, anything is possible as long as you have a good attitude and you can dream it to come to life. Whenever we’re tackling tough things here at work, even in my personal life, teaching the kids or whatever it is, it’s that there are no failures. There are only opportunities. If you can continue to move forward and learn from everything that you encounter, you’re always going to be moving forward.
I’m sure you were a CYO St. Jude guy. This is a national show, so people are going to be like, “What are these guys talking about?” We’re giving it to them. When you think about your attitude coaches or the person that had the most influence on your attitude that has helped you become who you are now, who would you say that would be?
One of the prime examples of this was I was lucky enough to play at Wabash College. My position coach there is Jamie Lamond, who was there in my freshman and sophomore year. He is still a guy I can still communicate with. Going in as a freshman, you’re somewhat timid and unsure of yourself and not sure what in the heck you’re doing here. You got uprooted. You’re not living at home anymore. I’ll never forget it. I still have the index card on that he wrote this message to me, and it was all about attitude.
On that card, he put, “You need to start practicing like you’re a starter on this team.” Up until that point, I had no business even thinking about that until he told me. From that point forward, with that attitude adjustment that he gave me, that was one of the things that I feel is pivotal in playing football and then now leading our company is, “The time is now to start acting like who you want to be in the future.” I take that and try to inspire our team to do that as well.
Let’s roll it back a little bit. This company was started by your father in 1986. When did you guys take it over?
He started in ‘86 out of the back of our garage. I joined in 2011. My brother joined in 2013. He’s a few years younger than I am. Around ‘15 is when we took over the day-to-day operations of the company. Dad has since retired but was with us from 2015 on up through about 2020. That’s when we got our start, started learning the business, and found great people to help us push it forward.
I’ve been in the real estate business for many years, and I knew the Peterman Brothers before you took it over. There are a lot of people that are reading this. We’ve had several people that we’ve interviewed who have taken a family business and exploded it. That’s what I see when I look at you to what you and your brother have done. Can you talk about what it was like to take it over from pops? My guess is he wasn’t doing what you’ve done, not that there’s anything wrong or right. It’s the way it is. It’s the nature of business. How did that transition go? What gave you the guts to say, “We’re going to full-court press this thing and blow it up,” and have the type of meteoric rise that maybe you have or haven’t? Let’s talk a little bit about that attitude and how that happened.
This is a good spot to mention my dad’s attitude and how that helped shape what this place had become. From very early on, even when I didn’t know much of anything about the business, he was always one to let us make mistakes, make decisions, and do things that he probably thought were crazy at the time. To me, a transition with a family business can always be difficult because oftentimes, the vision of what the founder had is maybe different than what my brother and I wanted to take it. He was always very supportive of that. He put in his $0.2 for sure, which he earned that. It is him allowing us to push forward, even doing things that he didn’t know about or weren’t right or wrong. It was what his vision of the company was versus what ours is.
He’s very proud and excited to see where we continue to go. It’s a whole different place than when I started. When I started in 2011, I was employee number 21. Now, we have almost 700 people across the company. It’s different, but a good difference. To your point and the purpose of the show, it all goes back to the attitude my dad had and that attitude that he instilled in us that anything as possible, keep moving forward and learn from everything.
Was he a Southsider by birth? The Peterman has been running around there. When you think about the founder of this company, what was his attitude in business and life?
He is a Southsider and grew up in Beech Grove. My mom did as well, and then my dad’s brothers and sisters, obviously. He tells us this. When he first started out, he knew what his bills were for the week. He knew what he had to bring in for that week in order to keep the company running. It’s interesting to me to reflect back on that, even though I wasn’t there. That’s the key to business. It’s very simple. It’s taking care of customers and making sure that you’ve got everything aligned and doing good work.
For me, looking back on watching my dad interact with us on a personal level and then business, it was always hard work. It is going to always win out. Something that he instilled in us is that you can have big dreams, but you got to make sure that your effort and desire to work are aligned with that. It’s one thing to say it, but then you got to back it up with that hard work that he taught us from a young age.
How many siblings do you get?
It’s just me and my brother.
Neither one of you was a kicker? Do you get a cousin that was a kicker?
I don’t think so. I held in college if that counts.
One thing we always talk about with our guests is many people say, “My attitude coach certainly came from my mother and father.” We talked about your grandpa. I believe that many times grandparents were some of the biggest influences on our attitude. Were you able to know all four of your grandparents? If you were, great. If not, that’s okay. Did 1 or 2 of them stand out in the relationship? What did you learn from that generation prior to your parents, if anything, on attitude?
I’m very fortunate that my grandparents had my parents early in life, and then my parents had me early in life. All of my grandparents are still living. I get to see them quite frequently. If I think about my dad’s parents, my grandma is in the mid-80s. What I will tell you is she will outwork anybody and everybody. She runs around and is not afraid of hard work, that is for sure. She almost works to the point where I know she’s almost worked my grandpa into the ground a couple of times. She’s always asking for younger help. Her help’s getting older.
My grandpa can pretty much fix anything and do anything. He was never hiring anybody out to do that. They’re both very hard workers and someone who I’m close to. One of the most supportive people that I know is my mom’s mom, Grandma Becky. She is one of the most caring and compassionate people and has always been there. If there’s an article written or this show, she’ll want me to send it on over. She’s always been in my corner.
From an attitude perspective, knowing that you have people that are proud and backing you, to me, is one of the biggest sources of being able to continually have that positive outlook on life, is knowing that, “I’ve got to go out here and do this.” Not that if I did something wrong, my grandparents wouldn’t be there for me, but you want to make them proud. You want to do those things that they want to be there and be supportive of.
What careers did they have? What was their work deal?
My grandfather owned an electrical company, Peterman Electric. He’s since retired. My grandma was a stay-at-home mom. My dad will always talk about she used to clean the entire house every single day and may still do it now. My grandma on my mom’s side worked in a bunch of different stuff. I can’t even remember what the bank was. It had a different name at the time, but she worked at a bank for a long time and has done a little of various other things as well.
You were employee number 21 and now you have 700 on the payroll. Did you ever think in all your wildest dreams that you’d have 700 people that are drawn a paycheck from your company? Is that daunting to you anymore? How do you wrap your head around that and what’s your attitude about growth?
My attitude about growth is you can never stop growing. That goes personally and as a company. We look at it with more people, we don’t grow bigger but we grow better. Back in 2020, we started our own trade school. We’ll train over 150 technicians that were not in the trade prior. We look at it, especially from an attitude perspective, as we have to keep growing in order to provide opportunities for our people that are getting better each day. If everybody’s getting better, the company has no other option but to grow. That’s been instrumental in our success in placing our people as our number one customer. We want to take care of them and make sure that they have all the resources and career opportunities so they can be at their best at all times.You can never stop growing. Click To Tweet
That’s awesome that you do that. Tell us a little bit about whose idea was, “Let’s start a trade school and build our own employees.” That’s brilliant. Did you get that advice from another HVAC guy in a different state?
There are a couple of peers that had done this prior. One of the bigger influences was Jonathan Bancroft, who runs Morris-Jenkins down in Charlotte, North Carolina. He’s been a mentor of mine. I met him first back in 2018. He had a school. I always looked at that, even from the first time I visited. What we found was we were growing faster than we could find technicians. We were going to have to put our money where our mouth was when it came to training and developing our own people. In June 2020, I went to my then-assistant, Danny, who now runs our school, and said, “I think we need to create a school.”
She looked at me, probably cross-eyed, and said some choice words under her breath, like, “What are you thinking?” She was able to put it together. We now offer training in HVAC service, plumbing service, electrical service, and HVAC installation. I’m proud of that. The most fulfilling thing that I get to do is to sit in on graduations and listen to these people who, prior to it, worked at this job or that job, but now they have a set of skills that, in my estimation, will always be needed, here into the future.
Is there an attack on the heating and air business? Is it clean? Is it 90% efficient good or sooner we’re going to have some environmentally friendly way to heat and cool our houses, furnaces, and central air conditioning are getting pulled out, which would be great for you? What’s the future of that?
As I look into the future, it’s very similar to what we’re seeing with cars. They’re converting from combustion engines to electric vehicles. They’re making the same push in the home as well. It’s already started. Some of the higher-ups in a lot of these manufacturing places think that by 2030 or 2035, in that area, they may not even be manufacturing a gas furnace. It will all be moving to the electrical side of things, which will be very interesting.
It will provide some challenges. A lot like we’re seeing with vehicles like, “We’d love to have everybody drive an electric vehicle, but there are charging stations and different things like that.” That’s where the industry is going, but on the HVAC side has cleaner energy. They’re rolling out a bunch of new refrigerant mandates here and trying to make stuff more efficient and moving down that path.
How do you have fun with your 700-person company? Is fun a part of your mission statement? What do you guys do that makes you happy and proud besides the trade school?
From a fun perspective, I was sitting in with a new hire class and said, “We’re going to over-index and fun,” because I don’t want to come to a place that sucks to work. It better be fun. We work hard, but we try to play hard as well. We have a huge event at the beginning of every year. Our party is to kick-off in 2023. We had close to 900 people there. It was a big to-do, and then we do a lot of things within the community. We have a Peterman Cares Program, where we ask our people to identify people out there in the community and our customers as well that need a little bit of help where they’ve come up upon hardship or something like that.
We’ll donate a system, water heater, or electrical panel every single month. Every year, it’s fun. We have our March Madness Charity Showdown. We have a bracket and our people on social media vote on who our four charity partners are going to be for the year. We donate a portion of each repair done during that calendar year to those four charities, which is a lot of fun. We had them all at our kick-off party, where we presented the big checks and all that fun stuff and allowed them to talk a little bit about their charity. A lot of our staff is out there doing difficult work, whether it be in a crawl space, an attic, or wherever it may be. The work that you’re doing is helping a bigger cause and is having an impact on a whole lot more people than just those customers that we’re doing work for.
You mentioned that you’re a big believer in personal development. Do you have certain people you like to follow? Are there certain coaches, books, or podcasts that you like to listen to where you go, “That’s talking my language?”
I’m a huge Maxwell fan, as I believe most are. Patrick Lencioni is another one that we follow here. We utilize his book, The Ideal Team Player. He talks in that book about the three virtues, hungry, humble, and smart. That’s how we recruit our top tech students because they have no experience. We’re looking for characters and people that align with how we view the world.
The other thing that we do in that realm is, back in ‘18, we officially launched our podcast, which is interviews and different things like that. It’s a collection of our Future Leaders program that we have here at Peterman, where I talk on a topic every other Friday on a leadership principle or something that I’m learning to share. A critical piece is as leaders, it’s great to learn, read a book, and listen to a podcast, but the real impact comes when we share what we’ve learned with others and continue that path forward.
That podcast is called Can’t Stop The Growth.
We have a lot of fun interviews on there and different teaching modules that we hear at Peterman Brothers are learning about and trying to get better at.
I wrote the book back in 2019. I’m working on another book. I’m still working on the title, but it’s centered around employee empowerment and, in order to grow a company, we must empower the people on our team to, hopefully, all push the organization forward together.
Tell us some of the pillars that the book’s built on and some of the ideas or themes that you’re trying to bring to people.
Back in 2019, my dad was nearing retirement. I felt it fitting to capture all that we had learned since I had started. A lot of the pillars in the book are centered around leadership and, “Here are some of the common things we have thought this to be true in the trades. Here’s how we think about them.” It’s a little bit different. It’s about how to grow a better company that will ultimately grow bigger and make sure those things are aligned. The whole premise of the book is how to strengthen the culture within your company so that it carries forward with the message and the why behind why you’re in business.
We have a lot of entrepreneurs that are reading this interview. Let’s take the two topics that you hit. What are your three lessons for leadership? When you think about leadership, give us 1, 2, 3 for the entrepreneur that’s out there that’s going, “I started a roofing business. This is how much my bills are. This is how much I need to make this week,” like your dear old dad. What’s the leadership lesson for tho those starting out entrepreneurs?
One of our core values here at Peterman Brothers and a personal core value is to lead ourselves. Oftentimes. We get caught up in that, “I’m the boss. I’m the one in charge,” but it starts with ourselves. How we lead ourselves is ultimately going to cascade down through the organization. If I’m late, not responsive, and out of tune with what’s going on, others are going to take that. That’s going to potentially cause some issues with the company as you’re trying to grow it. Leading ourselves is one thing that we live by here, always improving and moving forward.
The second leadership lesson that I’ve learned over the years sounds simple, which is to find smart people. It is the saying, “You always want to be the dumbest one in the room, and then you’ll know you did it right.” That takes time. Don’t get me wrong. When you’re just starting up, you got to be scrappy and wear a lot of hats. As you grow, finding the experts in that specific discipline or what have you is critical and moving it forward. A lot of those people, even for us nowadays, come from outside the industry. They have a fresh perspective. They’re not caught up in the, “This is how we’ve always done it,” type of mentality. We have benefited from a ton of smart people that are part of our team now.
The last is in line with, “Once you’re leading yourself and found those smart people, you have to empower them and you have to get out of their way.” That transition from wearing all the hats and making all the decisions. It’s a tough one to empower your people to do what they’re best at. As we have grown, I have found myself in less tactical meetings and different stuff like that because I want our people to figure out those solutions. I want them to come up with ideas and move them forward because no one moves an idea forward better than an idea that they came up with. They’re invested in it as opposed to me telling everybody what to do.
Frankly, I can’t tell 700 people what to do every single day. That’s impossible. If I went into it with a closed mindset and not have been open to letting people make decisions and sometimes make mistakes, but, “We’ll all be fine and learn from it,” I don’t think we would be where we are. One thing I try to push down to our leadership team and leaders at all levels is that when you become a leader, you give up all control. It’s a weird dynamic because you give up control because you can’t do the work, but you have to take ownership of those that you lead. Understanding that dynamic is tough, but it’s the ultimate way to grow in my mind.
Let’s talk about culture real quick. What are your pillars for creating and sustaining the right culture for your company?
As leaders and entrepreneurs, we have to understand that we are the cultural champion of the organization. As I tell every incoming new hire class, “It’s my job to make this the best place that you’ve ever worked.” That’s our mission. To me, that sets the barometer for where all our decisions are rooted in. They’re rooted in, “Is this decision for the betterment of our team? If it is, then once we figure out all the logistics behind it, we can move forward.” This was one I had to learn because I am naturally an introvert.
I could sit in my office or sit by myself and all of that, but it is understanding from a cultural perspective what the organization needs from you, and the organization doesn’t need me sitting in my office all day long. The organization needs me out, talking to people, making sure they’re having a great day, pumping them up, asking them about their weekend and how their kids’ baseball game went. That’s what the organization needs. Hopefully, when they see me doing that, they realize that, “This is a company that cares about me.” It is intense to make this the best place to work. Not just saying it and then not backing it up.
What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing now in your business?
The biggest challenge for us is learning how to operate when you’re a different company. We have grown extremely fast, which is great, but the organization changed quickly. In 2022, we hired 300 people. We went from a company of 300 to 600. The company has to operate differently. You can’t make decisions like you did. Things get slower. The one thing I always wanted to prevent was like, “I don’t want this to be a slow process,” but it does become slower because more people are involved. You got to get a number of different viewpoints, and things like that. Our biggest challenge now is to essentially adapt as we are growing quickly.
Fortunately, we have a lot of people who are willing to change and adapt, but we’ve got to even sometimes do it faster than what the organization is growing so that we can be ready for that change. It is seeing into the future and understanding, “We acquired some locations outside of central Indiana. We’ve got a location in South Bend, 1 in Colorado, 2 in Ohio, and 1 in Tennessee.” It’s understanding what our organization needs to look like when we’ve got all of those people on our team and how that looks different than what it looks like now.
To me, the biggest challenges are learning to adapt. Running a 300-person company is entirely different than 600 or 700. You’ve got to grow and be willing to change. It’s not, “I don’t understand why they can’t figure this out.” Maybe it’s different now. We’ve all got to lean in, figure out where people are, and how we can continue to grow better each and every day.We all have to lean in and figure out where people are, and how we can continue to grow better every day. Click To Tweet
Mergers and acquisition is a reality of your company. Do you do those M&As by yourself? Do you have a broker that does them, or if they come to you and you figure out how to make it happen?
We have a number of resources out there. The HVAC, plumbing, and electrical space is extremely fragmented. There are a lot of people, especially my dad’s age that are that Baby Boomer generation that are looking for that next chapter of their life. We send out a ton of letters. We do tours once a month where we invite other contractors in to see our operation and what we’re doing and let them know what partnering with us would look like.
We’re always out there networking and trying to show people, “If you’re stuck or want to move on to the next chapter, being with our group would be a great place for your employees and customers to land so that we can continue on that tradition that you’ve worked hard to build and create more opportunity for your people.”
That’s brilliant. Good for you. Congratulations. That’s smart. I do a lot of M&A work in the business that I’m in. I’m always curious about what other people are doing to grow. I’m looking forward to this answer. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I hope I’m still here leading this organization. Our goal is to continue to get better and grow. With our philosophy, we can better the entire industry. That’s what I want to keep doing. I enjoy what I do. I have no mechanical background. I can’t work on your furnace, water heater, or electrical panel. I’d probably be the last one in the company they may ask to do something like that, but the reason why I fell in love with this business and this industry is it’s a people business. It’s about taking care of people, whether it be your external customers or, most importantly, your internal customers. To me, the next ten years are going to be filled with a lot of learning, growing, development, and training, which I’m excited about.
As I look at other industries, where the real growth opportunities come is helping your industry become educated and giving value to the industry. You talked about the consumer. It’s a commodity. Is it a commodity or not? It is. It’s a furnace and air conditioner. Now, “We had X, Y, Z, come in and they’re $1,300 less.” I’d love to know for the salespeople out there and people that are in the commodities business, you guys aren’t the cheapest. I’m not the cheapest, and that’s the way it is.
How do you go about the pricing or the com commoditization of what you do? I know there are a lot of different things, but more importantly, do you read your reviews? How do you feel when you feel like a customer feels like you guys totally rake them over the coals, which happens all the time in HVAC with many different companies?
Reviews are a huge part of what we do. We’re monitoring those on a daily basis. I could pull up a report now and tell you how many reviews versus how many calls the technician has run. For me, when we have an upset customer, the review is a great opportunity to 1) Get better and 2) As my dad taught us, is always stand behind our work. When we think about our salespeople or technicians that are out there in the field, our main goal is to make sure that they are first at a company that they know cares about them because then they’re going to, in turn, care about that customer. It starts with our culture, training, and development, and then we want to hopefully transfer that value that we’re hopefully providing to our people and customers.
It is teaching our team that we’ve got to show the value. A lot of times, the value is not in the furnace. The furnace is the furnace. You can go buy one from anybody, but it is the time, effort, and care we put into installing that properly and standing behind our work if something should go wrong. We have an entire department here that we call our Customer Assurance Department. That is there to be the customer advocate and to say, “We didn’t do right by this customer. We need to give them some money back. We need to get a technician out there and fix it.”
To me, that’s the most important thing we can do. Our reputation is critical. If I had to ask my dad what’s most important, it’s reputation. It’s making sure that we provide good service. To your point, we’re not going to be the cheapest, but we hope to provide value far more than the cheapest guy out there. We want to provide premium products and services to our customers that feel like that’s what they want.
We’re going to close the interview here with a couple of questions. We call it Knowledge Through The Decades. I’d like to take our guests back through their life. You’re a young man, so this won’t take long. I always like to ask people, “What was the attitude lesson of being ten years old?” That would put you in about fourth grade. Was there something that happened to you, your coach, teacher, or parent where you go, “I remember in fourth grade, here’s the attitude lesson I learned?” What was that?
If I had to think back to fourth grade, that’s about the time both me and my brother played all kinds of sports and everything like that. Athletics has been a huge part of that. That’s about the time you start to get a little bit more serious about sports. If I had to think of a lesson, it was probably from my parents. When a game didn’t go right, we lost or came up short, it was always, “You got to get back out there and practice. You’re not going to get any better sitting here crying about it. You need to get back out there in the driveway or get out there in the yard and get better.” That’s one of the big things that my parents, who are both hard workers themselves, instilled in me at that age. It’s not just going to tee-ball practice and playing in the game on Saturday. You got to put in more work outside of that in order to get better.
You gave us Coach Jamie Lamond when you were twenty at Wabash. Wabash is an incredible institution with a very rich history of a lot of dear friends of mine. If you could show up and have the attitude that you’re a starter, that’s one thing, but is there anything else from when you were twenty that could be an attitude lesson that maybe Wabash taught you to carry through to what you’re doing now?
From an attitude perspective, and as you asked me that question back on our company philosophy and then the philosophy at Wabash, at Wabash, there’s only one rule, and that’s the gentleman’s rule. For me, at twenty, that was like, “We can do whatever we want? This is awesome.” As I reflect back, what that did for me is mold our core philosophy now of taking care of others, treating them as you would want to be treated, and acting as a gentleman. As I think about our philosophy and what we do nowadays was probably ingrained in me. The gentleman’s rule is the only rule at Wabash. Do your work. Be proud of it. Stand behind what you do, and treat others how you would want to be treated.
It’s very simple advice. We should all know this. You can’t ever improve on the basics. You are in your 30s. You’re older than I thought you were. Let’s talk about when you were 30. What’s your attitude lesson at 30? Do you remember? Did you have a party when you turned 30? Where were you? What was going on? What was the lesson there?
My daughter turns five in August 2023. Right about that time, we’ll include getting married. I would’ve had her a couple of years later. For me, it was getting married to my wife. I got married at 29, and then I turned 30 right after. For me, there’s more to life than work. To me, my kids and my family are why we do what we do. Why I come to work and work hard so is to take care of them and, hopefully, at least for my children, to set that example like my parents did for me and pass down those lessons that even I learned from my grandparents and still learn from them on how to act and make an impact with the one life that we have.
I am a customer of yours. You guys have worked on our stuff. It’s cool for me to see what you’ve done with this and you guys have gotten even bigger than I had realized. That’s exciting. I love seeing Central Indiana companies explode. Everybody’s like, “He’s got it made. He’s got 600 employees.” I know you struggle.
You got different problems when you have 600, and someday you may have 6,000, which would be awesome. For those young entrepreneurs and business owners out there that are reading and we have a lot of them and then anything on a personal note, we to have you get on the pulpit and give your message of hope to them. What’s the best Chad Peterman pre-game speech you can give these guys so they can go out and build their business?
The key to building a business or at least in most businesses, you’re going to have to have people. The key to any business is first understanding not how much money you’re going to make or how much you’re going to do. It is how you’re going to make an impact on those that you serve and make sure that your people come first on your team. When you align those with people before the revenue, the money you’re putting in your pocket, and everything like that, the equation takes care of itself.The key to any business is first understanding not how much money you will make or not how much you will do. It’s how you're going to make an impact on those that you serve. Click To Tweet
Where I see people get in trouble is when they place the revenue in front of their people. What ultimately happens is you can only push the company at that. You can only push it as far as you personally can push it, but when you align the equation as people before revenue, you can do some amazing things and have an amazing impact on a ton of people.
Quick question as a logistics thing. Many people in small businesses are like, “Great, hire great people, but I got no money. I can barely pay myself.” What was your solution? Did you say, “Screw it, go to the bank, get the debt, invest, and bet on yourself?” or did you create ways to bring on smart people that you maybe couldn’t afford that were creative? I’m curious how you cleared that hurdle.
My dad always taught us to keep a ton of money in the business to make investments like that. In the beginning, everybody is doing everything. There are many days that my brother and I’ll talk, and it’s like, “We used to do that,” or I even had a conversation and he’s like, “I used to do that.” I remember we were talking about a permit or something. I was like, “I used to pull them over here. It was this or whatever.” In the beginning, it is wearing a lot of hats. It’s being scrappy and trying to push it forward. There’s a point, and I always tell people, at least in our industry, it’s between that like $3 million and $10 million hurdles. A lot of people get stuck behind it because they don’t want to trust anybody to do it.
It’s so not much about, “I need to go hire an executive from somewhere.” It’s more so, “How do I find people and build them up that I trust them and that they can go make decisions on their own?” There are tons of good people out there. Sometimes where they get held back is the owner or entrepreneur not trusting them to do their job.
I lucked into this because I didn’t know how to do the work. I had to trust people to do it, whereas a lot of people, like my dad, he was a technician, so he knew how to do the work. Giving up that trust is a little bit more difficult. That would be the one thing. Especially if you’re skilled in that area, you can’t do it all, and understanding what your role will look like when the company gets bigger, and then finding those people under you who are capable, care about the company, and want to see it move forward.
The finances, did you have to borrow to hire those people or did you say, “We stockpiled cash, and when it was ready for us to make a hire, we would take our own money?”
We never borrowed a dollar until we started acquiring companies.
That is completely Southside.
My dad would get mad at paying a $100 fee on the line of credit every year. He’s like, “I’m not using it.” I was like, “We don’t have to.” That’s the Southside mentality right there, “I don’t want to owe anybody anything.”
I have a dear friend, O’Brien of Toyota. They’re like, “Our Northside is 90% of the people getting loans. Southside, 60% of the borrowers are like, ‘No. Here’s the money. We’re good. No financing.’”
You got it. That was born on the Southside.
It was a real pleasure to talk to you. I think we did some good and helped some entrepreneurs bridge the gap between where they are, where they want to go, who they are, and who they need to become. You did that in spades. I can’t thank you enough for being on the show.
Thanks for having me.