The Sharpest Tool™

Building a Successful Family-Owned Home Services Business

Cheryl McRae
Josh Smith
Brendan Hughson is the Director of Business Development at Scorpion. In his role, he works with business owners and marketing directors daily about their goals and where they want to take their business. With 10 years of experience running a plumbing company with his father, he's an expert in what it takes to run a successful business in the home services industry.

Josh Smith (00:03):

Hello, when welcome to the scorpion podcast. This is Josh, and this is the place where we take the sting out of marketing. That's never going to get off. I got to hit Brendan Houston and the booth here. I use a vice-president of business development here at scorpion, and I thought it'd be really great to bring him on board, to talk a little bit about something that I know he's really passionate about and that's growing a family business. Well, Brendan, welcome.

Brendon Hughson (00:27):

Thank you. Thank you for having me. I

Josh Smith (00:29):

Appreciate it. Yeah, no, we're, we're excited to learn from you. I know our listeners really excited to learn from you. What exactly is that you do as a vice president of business development here at scorpion?

Brendon Hughson (00:38):

So my daily routine is talking with business owners, marketing directors of several different types of businesses, really involving their goals, their direction, where they want to take the business. And I primarily deal with plumbing, HVAC, roofing, restoration, pretty much any service type business that

Josh Smith (00:55):

Oh, service. And did you, did you, have you always been involved in that? What's your background in that a little bit?

Brendon Hughson (01:00):

I was actually brought on the scorpion, uh, due to my background actually ran a plumbing company that specialized in commercial and residential service with my father for about 10 years before coming to spoken

Josh Smith (01:10):

Very applicable. And I think what we're talking about today and something that you're pretty passionate about and that's growing family businesses. Right. I think we see that a lot in the trades. You speak with business owners all the day. Well, what are some of the challenges that you've had from kind of experience that you've heard from business owners on the phone? What are some of the challenges that businesses really faced when working with family?

Brendon Hughson (01:30):

Oh, being on all the same page, I can, uh, definitely be a fork in the road. I guess you could say as a understanding where like, for example, where my father wants his business go or as to where I want it to go, uh, in trying to get on the same page with both of our goals. And he has a direction where he wants to focus on commercial, but I want to focus on residential. And that can definitely cause some, I guess you could say head budding. Yeah. During the Workday being on the same page, it's going to be extremely helpful on that note. I know

Josh Smith (01:57):

I have a family owned businesses. They tend to bring in like business coaches to help them work through the family issues. Kind of like a business therapist a little bit. Is that a, is that a reality? Are there ways to circumvent that and what, what's the trick to getting on the same page? I think,

Brendon Hughson (02:12):

I think it's really just sitting down, like, I've sat down with my father and gone, what is the direction you want to take the business in? Because here's my thought process. Here's what I want to do, but this is, you know, what you're good at is not what I'm good at really sitting down and seeing where your strengths and weaknesses are. And, and I guess creating a plan around that and a business coach can really be the mediator on that. No. Yeah. You know, almost like a therapist for yeah.

Josh Smith (02:34):

Bringing those questions to surface and that you're not asking are the ones you're thinking. Right. Yeah. But you don't

Brendon Hughson (02:40):

Want to say exactly.

Josh Smith (02:41):

So where does passion fit into that? I know a lot of business owners, they get into something because they're really passionate about it. They're passionate about some aspect of the business. Um, where does that fit into the mix? When it comes to running a family owned business, um,

Brendon Hughson (02:54):

You know, everybody's going to have their separate passion when it comes to their mindset. You know, as for my father's mindset, it was to help customers that were getting really. Yeah. I know. Don't want to say it, but getting screwed in the long run from companies you worked with in the past and his mindset was to grow an honest, trustworthy company that people can rely on it, but not be overcharged for a particular service or, uh, my passion was to grow that, okay, let's display that and let's reach more people and get more trucks on the road. But at the same time, that could be scary. Yeah.

Josh Smith (03:24):

I, is it a challenge for a lot of these business owners to, um, see where the family members fit in terms of the business operations or where to best place people. And they're trying to do it based on actual strength as opposed to, you know, they're standing in the family or something like that. Do they face that a lot?

Brendon Hughson (03:42):

Yeah. A lot of people I talk with, you know, the sun wants to blow up the company for example, but the dad wants to stay consistent and I've seen companies where they split up and families split up again. It really comes down to sitting at a table and hashing it out and understanding, okay, what dad, what's your goal or brother, what's your goal with the business and where do we see best fit for each one of us to run a particular aspect of the business? Yeah. Truly understanding that and being on the same page, it's going to be very valuable for them.

Josh Smith (04:08):

So if you have a family who's thinking about getting involved in a family owned business and they want to start something up from scratch what they need to be prepared for when operating it.

Brendon Hughson (04:19):

A lot of arguments, probably. Yeah. A lot of hashing out, a lot of planning. I think the more you can, I guess, say over plan, it's going to be a beneficial, beneficial factor for you guys, you know, writing your goals down and looking at that every single day and adding to it or checking things off and being basically clear with everybody on the board and communication's going to be key. I know it's family and you assume communications can be on keeping you on point, but not always. Yeah. You know, and just speaking your mind and not being afraid to

Josh Smith (04:51):

Yeah. What considerations in organizational structure do they have to think with and keep in mind when they're building out the organizational where people are going,

Brendon Hughson (04:59):

As far as keeping that mind and really planning that out again, I think it refers back to everybody's strengths. Sure. You know, like I said earlier, I'm stronger on running, implementing plans as to where my father's great at training building his technician's network and what trucks he has on their own and what jobs he has going on in the day. So it really, I think it has to play with your key strengths and where you should be placed, but at the same time, what you're really good at and when you actually have a passion for, cause I don't have a passion for getting underneath the sink all day and replacing carpet. That's just me. But my dad loves it. I don't know how his back puts up with it. Yeah.

Josh Smith (05:32):

Definitely. Talk about this idea of apprenticeship for me. You mentioned father, son, your dad and you, what are some of the best ways to develop the family through mentorship and apprenticing?

Brendon Hughson (05:41):

Well, it's when I was five years old, I started going out on job walks with my father, digging trenches, cleaning up things with broom, knocking down walls. Cause I love doing demo as a kid talking that stuff over and breaking

Josh Smith (05:52):

Things five years old started early.

Brendon Hughson (05:54):

Yeah, exactly. You know, by the time I was 12, 13 years old, I was doing full revives for water heaters, commercial jobs. And really, I think you get them when they're young, see if they have a passion for it. Sure. And if they want to learn great, if they want to go elsewhere, awesome. It's her family. Uh, but I think the best way to do it, to start them young, grow them up through the process of building the company or if it's not family and you're hiring outside, get a tech that's young and eager that wants to learn. So you can coach them, teach them your ways. So he doesn't have bad habits from working with somebody else, for example. Uh, and as far as getting more exposure to potential techs in the future, it's, it's, it's difficult. This is something that the industry is facing on a day-to-day basis is we're getting less and less people that are interested in trades.

Josh Smith (06:38):

Talk to talk a little bit about that. I know I've heard that going around the home services circles, just this how difficult it is to get a tech and somebody who is committed and loyal to, even to a company what's been your experience with that and talking with business owners and how are they dealing with it?

Brendon Hughson (06:55):

Oh, there's, I mean, the frustrations are daily that I hear about this, this subject and it's, it's actually getting more and more difficult depending on the area that you're in and where your business is located. You know, for example, Los Angeles, there's a plumber on every other corner, an HVAC guy or roofer in trying to build your business to where you get visibility within your market, where those guys start seeing your trucks on the road more often may pique some interest, but as far as appealing to potential technicians in the future, I think it's really just involving the trades more in school. When I was in school, we had wood metal automotive. Now we don't have that. And it's in my opinion, looked down upon to become a tradesman. When in reality I dropped out of college to keep doing the trades. Yeah. And that got me to where I'm at today, which I would never take back.

Josh Smith (07:43):

And what types of things do you think business owners can do to reengage the desire for the trades?

Brendon Hughson (07:50):

I think we need to start as a nation showcasing that it's something that is needed, that you can make a good, great living at it. It's not going away.

Josh Smith (07:58):

It's never going to go

Brendon Hughson (07:59):

Away. People need to take a hot shower and people need a flushing, toilet. People need cold air during the summertime. So I think it's displaying the fact that it's not a bad thing to get your hands dirty.

Josh Smith (08:09):

I think that's, that's exactly what I would, I would think a business owners need to think with when it comes to that it's out of you make it more appealing to the younger generation. I think it seems to me a lot of, a lot of people just kind of look down on that, uh, that type of work. It's the games that everybody wants to be in the technological space or the computer sciences or the, they want to be the next tech giant when, uh, these are things that are it's, it's a real career path. Are there things that you've seen business owners do or that you think business owners can do? Um, and if so, what, uh, to really keep techs on. I know that's another problem too, is keeping texts on board with everything that they're doing as an organization. What types of things can business owners do to maintain their,

Brendon Hughson (08:50):

The technicians? You know, I, I talked to a lot of companies on a day-to-day and a lot of them are not up to date with technology, you know, to appeal to younger technician that knows how to use an iPhone or an iPad, or pretty much lived his whole entire life in front of a computer. I think you need to display the fact that you're a tech first also customer driven type company to appeal more to those younger generation of potential technicians, as far as, you know, getting them engaged with that and, or retaining them a good work-life balance is obviously key and being a tradesman. And I've seen it growing up, you know, my father working seven days a week, more than 80 hours a week, uh, you gotta find some time to disconnect and you've got to offer good benefits and you've got to offer good time off or spiffs or incentives to keep these guys excited during the Workday or the end of the month, whatever.

Josh Smith (09:40):

Yeah. So it comes down to the culture of the company on the inside, right. Are there things that you mentioned spiffs and like commission things, little party type deals, like is that typically the type of thing that keeps these guys going and energized and you know, sticking around, is there additional direction that, uh, maybe the techs need? So what other types of things have you seen really effective

Brendon Hughson (10:02):

For these guys? As far as being effective? Actually, we have a client that does this on a monthly basis. She holds a competition between all of our technicians. Oh wow. It's to gain more reviews, which we've always, you know, we all discuss on a daily basis. How can I increase my review as well? What she does is she does a little game, monthly, whoever gets their name, mentioned the most in a review, either being a Yelp, Google, or Facebook or wherever it may be. Uh, it gets entered into a raffle to win a free dinner with a family a day off Amazon gift cards, those types of incentives and little spiffs, I think gives that person something to look forward to at the end of the month. And it makes it competitive. So they want to keep doing it.

Josh Smith (10:42):

And it benefits the company. Exactly. I think that's the key right there. It's actually

Brendon Hughson (10:46):

Going to make it beneficial both ways.

Josh Smith (10:48):

Absolutely. I don't know if your dad has considered this yet, but let's talk a little bit about succession planning. I know a lot of plumbers who are getting into the digital space or home service techs that are getting into the digital space as a business from a marketing standpoint, they're typically business owners who have been dealing with traditional marketing for a long time, and haven't really bought into the digital thing. And they might be getting to a place where they're ready to retire, hand off the business. What should an owner consider when it comes to success?

Brendon Hughson (11:15):

I'm planning really looking down at your, I mean, I guess your organization, our organization as a whole and going okay, who has the abilities who displays, you know, the will and the want to run a company, who's going to take it over after me. Who's going to keep the name alive. I mean, we work with companies have been around since 47 and they're still in business to this day and family owned and it's again, frame back to making sure everyone's on the same page, putting people where they're best at their abilities to make the business grow, but they need a plan for it, no matter what, depending if they want to sell the business after they retire, if they don't, if they want to keep it in the family, okay, who's the next best person to keep running? This is it. My wife is my daughter, my son. Or is it maybe one of my lead technicians? Yeah, my general manager. And then of course, you know, having a clear path for every single person below you and understand where they want to go business, you know, I've seen a lot of general managers, buyout companies are family owned and keep the name. So

Josh Smith (12:10):

Totally just keeping that at the forefront, your mind, even for how soon do you think you need to start that process of thinking that direction? Okay.

Brendon Hughson (12:16):

I think it's from the moment you decide to open your doors. Yeah. Who's next. Who's next in line because you never know what's going to happen. Long-term

Josh Smith (12:23):

The goals. Exactly what would be, and just in closing here, what would be the one thing, if you were to boil all that down? The one thing that somebody who is currently in a family owned business should change their focus to if they're not already or somebody who was opening a family business should make sure is at the forefront of their focus when it comes to running their business,

Brendon Hughson (12:42):

All boys on the communication. I think that is the biggest thing, because I've talked to so many business owners where the dad says one thing, the wife says the next thing. Yeah. The brother has a different mindset. So you really got to sit down and hash that out and understand really what is the end, all goal here was all of our mindsets put together. And what, what do we want from it either if you're new halfway through your business life or at the end of it, whatever it may be. Just have to have stellar communication. That's gonna allow you guys to thrive.

Josh Smith (13:10):

Absolutely. Well, Brendan, this has been awesome. Um, just really appreciate taking the time. I know this is really valuable for our business owners, so thank you. Thank you, Joshua. So for everybody else, listening, definitely hit the subscribe button wherever you're listening at. My name is Josh. We'll catch you next time. Thanks.

Related Videos You May Be Interested In