The Sharpest Tool™

Chad Peterman Part 1 | Sustainable Growth: Attracting the Right People to Your Company

Chad Peterman is the president at Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing. He shares how to build leaders by setting the foundation for culture and providing a roadmap for people who want to advance or take on a leadership role.

Josh Smith (00:03):

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the sharpest tool where we take the sting out of marketing with everything that we bring to the table. My name is Josh Smith. I am your host and the vice president of marketing here at scorpion for the home services division today, have the pleasure of speaking with the visionary really behind Peterman heating, cooling, and plumbing. Chad Peterman, it was established. This business was established in 1986 by Chad's father and has been serving the Indianapolis area and central Indiana community ever since. So, Chad, I want to take a minute to welcome you to the program.

Chad Peterman (00:34):

Yeah. Thanks for having me excited to be here. Yeah,

Josh Smith (00:36):

No, give us a little bit of context. So some people are not familiar with the business side. You guys have grown pretty substantially, obviously over that time. Tell us a bit about how it got started.

Chad Peterman (00:45):

Yeah, so dad started as a, I think you'd get many, uh, companies in this industry start, uh, under the back of our garage and came home in the summer of 86, told my mom that he had quit his job and was starting his own company. Meanwhile, my mom was at the time, six months pregnant with me. So for those of you that are married, can imagine how that went over that one summer day when my dad came home, but they're still happily married to this day. I'm actually just celebrating an anniversary a couple of months ago. So exciting there. I think it points to the support that my mom had for my dad at that time. And the confidence that she had in him started out strictly just heating and kind of grew the company, you know, just kind of organically. I don't know that talking to him today.

Chad Peterman (01:29):

I don't know that growing really, actually I know for a fact growing really big and having a bunch of people work was not his vision of what he wanted. Uh, he started out very simplistic, which I think still serves us today, but, uh, it was, I have this amount of bills to pay at the end of the week, so I need to generate more money than that. And so that's kind of how we got started. My brother and I joined the business. I joined, full-time always been around it my whole life. Obviously the, you know, I'm sure many people can point to the, you know, sweep on the shop floor and going in the office and, and doing all that stuff in the, uh, during the week and during the summer. And then 2011 joined full time. Um, my brother who's, uh, who's three years younger than I am joined.

Chad Peterman (02:13):

Full-time in 2013. Over that time, we've done as you pointed to have grown quite substantially really over the last five years is when we've seen our big growth jump over that same period. And we've added plumbing that, uh, drains and excavation, we've expanded to two more locations, one in Lafayette, Indiana, and one in Columbus, Indiana. So today we sit at about 180 employees and, uh, as you said, serve Indianapolis and the surrounding areas, as well as Lafayette, uh, in Columbus full service. The only thing we don't do is electrical, which is something that we've talked about potentially adding here in the, uh, in the next couple of years.

Josh Smith (02:55):

Yeah. That's incredible, incredible story, incredible growth. I could resonate as a parent myself. It was thought of like having some jumping into something in the unknown is like unthinkable. So my wife would probably knock me over the head a little bit, so I definitely can read

Chad Peterman (03:09):

Them even some of that at the untold story untold version.

Josh Smith (03:12):

Yeah, for sure. Now you, you, weren't always kind of as mechanically inclined in the trades, how did you finally decide to move in with the family business?

Chad Peterman (03:21):

Yeah, a great question, you know. Yeah. I think he hit the nail on the head. Not, not, not mechanically. I didn't really gravitate towards that. Uh, it was always, you know, I found kind of my niche and in kind of school and, and both my brother and I played sports from the time we could walk till we're lucky enough to play through college. And that's always been a big part. My brother more so is very, he can build just about anything, you know, he drives a big truck. Uh, you know, all of the stereotypical things you would think about he does and is very good at them. And, uh, so yeah, I kind of started down the path after college of kind of wanting to, you know, blaze my own trail if you will. And I did that. I moved away. So I think that was kind of the young showing my independence and all of that stuff moved away, took a job in Charlotte.

Chad Peterman (04:09):

North Carolina lived down there for a couple of years. I was kind of an account rep regionally for a manufacturing facility and, um, that, uh, manufactured pieces. And so traveling a lot, doing all of that. And, uh, I think I reached somewhat of a crossroads of growing in that role, but not really knowing if that role was, was for me. And, uh, I think you start to, as you grow up, you kind of realize the, you know, the gifts that you may have been given and, uh, kind of the situations that may be present. And I think that the family business was one of those still when I joined very hesitant and just kind of dove in and just kind of did what I could, it wasn't until, you know, a big help for us was in 15, we joined Nexstar and Nexstar was a huge help, uh, for both my brother and myself being still relatively new for years for myself. And really two years for him that kind of gave us the roadmap and surrounded us with a lot of really, really great companies and people who wanted to help so long as we were willing to take their help and implement those things. So I'm always learning something new. I, you know, I had a call with a business coach this morning, just trying to figure out something new and, and how it could work for our company. So

Josh Smith (05:21):

Great. You've kind of got this official on official. I don't know how official it is, this title of visionary kind of for the company. What, what, what exactly does that entail when it comes to Peter man?

Chad Peterman (05:32):

Yeah, I mean, I guess it depends. He asked, so if you ask my dad and my brother who are both purebred, get the job done, no questions asked. They would tell you that it is me coming up with all the wild ideas and then them having to put all the pieces together to figure out how to do it. So if you ask them, that's what they would say. Uh, if you ask me, um, I really enjoy and have always had a talent, uh, it seems as we've gone on for being able to see what things are going to need to look like to take shape. And oftentimes when I throw out my first version of that, it catches people kind of off guard. Like I never really thought about that, but for whatever reason I can put things together that should be and how they're going to look and different things like that into the future. And so I've kind of taken on that role naturally. And that's what I really enjoy doing is, is really, I wouldn't say that I've ever had an original idea. Um, but I'm not afraid to, you know, take someone's idea that they've put in play and rather than say, well, let's think of 10 reasons why it can't be done, say, well, they're doing it. We just got to really dive in and figure out how they're doing it or put our own spin on it to make it successful.

Josh Smith (06:43):

I call that piggyback in. Yeah, exactly. And there's no shame in that. It's a skill to be had for sure. You know, speaking of that kind of idea and concept you've, you've built the pyramid top tech academy trade school. Tell me a little bit.

Chad Peterman (06:58):

Yeah, so we are coming up quick. We're about a week and a half out from launch. We'll have a, we'll start October 5th. We will have 15 students in the program to start, uh, which I'm really excited about. Uh, I know they're getting excited. The really the two people that helped me out tremendously with this was, uh, it was Kent Gursky at, Anthony's out in Kansas city and Jonathan Bancroft out at Morris Jenkins in Charlotte. Uh, so both just outstanding companies. Um, and they had this concept and I talked to them both about it, and it was one of those things where we're like, God, are we ready to do this? It's kind of an investment. You got have trainers and this, that, and the other. And I think what we figured out is I was listening to something this morning where they were talking, you know, the, the comment is, you know, there aren't enough good people out there.

Chad Peterman (07:48):

And then you kind of go through the, well, maybe it's not that there's not enough good people. Maybe it's more so that they don't want to work for my company. And so we kind of went and took that perspective and understood that we got to make this a place that people want to come. And I think after kind of getting through those two phases, what we figured out is there may not be good people and we may have a great place to work. So can we build those people because there's a lot of great people out there. They just may have never been introduced to the trades. They may not even know that it's a viable career option for them. So how do we create a place where we can attract those people to a great company and provide them the opportunity that they need in order to be successful?

Chad Peterman (08:32):

And that's really our jumping off point. And I can tell you through the interview process we had, so we launched, we launched the first couple of ads, probably beginning of September, and we had over 600 applications for the school. So, you know, coming through all of those, I bet they did probably 30 to 40 in-person interviews to get down to a class of 15. I am the last step of the interview process. So I get to sit down with each one and kind of give them the stamp of approval. And the quality of people that we have coming in is one of the most exciting things I've seen in awhile. And that doesn't take away from any of the guys we have. It's just really cool to see people who come from all different walks and none of them, none of which have a, any sort of plumbing or heating background. And they're going to enter into the trades. And to me, you know, rather than taking from each other and trying to find a plumber who works over at this company and one that, and this guy has been at eight different companies will, you know, the end result is, is that guy may just not be a fit anywhere. So how do we introduce people that aren't in the industry into our industry to raise it up as a whole?

Josh Smith (09:45):

Yeah. That's such an interesting problem to solve. It's some, one of the things that I hear from business owners pretty frequently, I'm just going to ask you straight. What was the, what was the big secret sauce of whatever ad campaign that you ran that you think was most impactful to get you 600 applicants for something like that?

Chad Peterman (10:02):

I would say nothing, uh, which is the wild part. So this first round, and we've already had discussions about it, about how we can we'll, we'll have some, obviously some more promotion with, with a lot of content. We're have a ton of video content, our videographer he's planning on doing like a, uh, like basically like a documentary on this first class. So really diving in to understand why they joined, how they experiences, what they're getting out of it. And literally we just put out an ad on, indeed, I put it out on my LinkedIn and we put it out on Facebook and that was it. So it's kind of crazy to think about, well, we got a really high caliber of student this time. If we have the time to promote it via, you know, radio TV, more online, more social proof from the actual school. And they can see the lab and the students and hear testimonials and different things like that. Then what kind of talent can we pull in from other industries? That's like, that's the push that I needed to, to make this leap. We've got one lady who is going to start in the school as a plumber. And she had worked at her previous job for 18 years and is going to make a transition into the trades, which I just think so cool.

Josh Smith (11:16):

That's really cool. You know, what, a lot of the copy on your website too, it, it draws attention to what you would call like the lost art or the honor of the trades. And I think that's a really awesome perspective and spend, uh, to put on things. Um, tell me a little bit about that. What, what prompted that?

Chad Peterman (11:32):

So I think that comes from just a natural, uh, want to, you know, as a son coming into a trade with no technical background. Um, and really my brother was not while he's mechanically inclined, he doesn't have any formal training. He was never a service tech. He was never, you know, he helped on some installs or something like that, but it didn't come up through the ranks. And I think it's really in us both to kind of validate our dad to a certain extent of he started in this industry and everybody hears the stereotypes and different, uh, things said about plumbers and heating technicians and all of this stuff that, you know, what I think that there is so much honor to be had and someone who can fix something. And, you know, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, this country doesn't run without air conditioning and heating for that matter and then plumbing and for people to understand that, and for the people who are already in the industry to take pride in what they do, you don't have to be, you know, you don't have to be the doormat, you are someone who's extremely honorable and, and, and do really, really fantastic things for people on a daily basis.

Chad Peterman (12:42):


Josh Smith (12:42):

You know, I have a thought that's kind of, I want to parse out a little bit, it seems to marry really well together with your philosophy on how you treat your people at the same time. I'm thinking specifically of not just like dignity comes to mind, not just like the dignity of the trades, but the dignity of the people that are working with you. We all know that there's been stereotypes that have manifest themselves about the trades over the years. And it seems like a, uh, a move in a good direction to potentially correct that. W what are your thoughts about how you married that together with how your philosophy of how you treat your people?

Chad Peterman (13:15):

Yeah. I mean, to me, that is the one thing that it has allowed us to grow is to understand that the quality and the integrity with which you treat your people ultimately results in your growth. And I always explain it to people. It's, you know, if I can take whoever in whatever position and they can be better next year than they were this year, we're going to grow. And then when you multiply that by 180 people, you start to grow exponentially, which is really what you're looking for. And, uh, you know, I tell the story in my book about how kind of the book got its name, can't stop the growth. And it's all about a conversation that, you know, my brother and my dad had one day after work. And it was always dad, which I understand coming from a father's perspective, I'll probably be the same exact way when my daughter grows up, but it's the, the kind of that protector and Hey, don't grow too fast and don't get ahead of yourself and try to, you know, do too much too quickly. And, you know, my comment was after we had kind of seen this growth kind of transpire, is that really, if you provide the platform, you won't be able to stop it. You can't because you have a group of people who are intent on getting better. And to me, that all stems from the place that you create, that's ultimately allowing them to be successful.

Josh Smith (14:37):

I love that. And I also, you're doing leadership classes with technicians on marketing and branding. What's been your approach to that. And what, what makes you go down that route of like leadership classes with the team?

Chad Peterman (14:49):

Yeah. So we're all about building leaders. And so we have a couple of different variations it's really spawned from, I started two years ago in November that I started, you know what I said, I'm reading a love reading, probably see in the background a bookshelf, but reading has no value unless you share what you're learning. And, uh, you know, you can read all the books in the world, but if you refuse to tell anybody or share with anybody or teach anybody what you're learning, you're really just kind of keeping it to yourself. And that's not really beneficial to what you're trying to do. And so I said, you know what, I'm going to share this. I'm just going to start. We started when we first started, we did on Saturday morning. And so two Saturdays a month, I would invite people in and I'd talk for an hour and a half, two hours.

Chad Peterman (15:36):

And I would just talk on whatever I was reading and whatever that looked like. And, um, started like that. Like I said, it's kind of went through some iterations. I'm actually talking this Friday morning. So we do it at 6:00 AM on Friday, one day a month. Um, and then we do some other activities, but what that's I think really spawned into, and I've seen, I had a conversation actually this morning is that you put it out there and not everybody's going to use it. If this is an idea that you want to take from me by all means do it. But I would say the one thing to do is not to get frustrated when not everybody does it, but the important thing is putting it out there because putting it out there and start to create that culture of these people are really serious about this stuff.

Chad Peterman (16:15):

And if I want to keep moving up or keep moving into a different position, like I better latch onto this because this is what they believe in. And so for me, it serves two purposes. It sets the foundation for the culture. And then it also provides a roadmap for people who do want to advance, who do want to take on a leadership role of, you know, where do I start? Well, this would be a really good spot. And so to the point now where I have people from all different departments and they're always stopping by, Hey, you got a good book to recommend, Hey, you got, you know, what should I do? Or, you know, whatever. And that's like music to my ears because we're all getting better. If that person is taking it upon themselves to better themselves.

Josh Smith (16:55):

Yeah. Wow. Chad, that's so much good information there. You know, I, I know we're going to branch this out into two episodes. So for those of you who are listening, definitely stay tuned for next week's episode. We're going to dive deeper into the training and the top tech areas of the Peterman name. I think that'll be a really, really powerful place for us to jump into. So thank you so much for your time, Chad sharing all this information with us, and we'll definitely get on that second episode for next week and really appreciate your time, man. Yeah, absolutely.

Chad Peterman (17:24):

Thanks for having me.

Josh Smith (17:25):

All right. And for everybody listening definitely hit the like button wherever you might be listening at and subscribe. So you can continue to get more of this awesome content. And from all of us here at the sharpest tool, we'll catch you next week. We chat Peterman, stay tuned. Thanks. [inaudible].

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