The Sharpest Tool™

Leadership Sets Your Business Up for Success

Cheryl McRae
Josh Smith
Whether you're a plumber or a technician, you might not think about leadership as a crucial piece of your business. However, this is a key factor in the most successful home businesses. They are guided by someone who has purpose, vision, and a desire for their team members to be happy and inspired. A true leader's employees are proud to be a part of the business.

Josh Smith (00:03):

Hello, and welcome to the sharpest tool. I'm your host, Josh Smith, where we take the sting out of marketing. Here are with everything that we're bringing to the table. I'm really amped up about today's episode because I have Rustin Kratz the CEO of scorpion here to talk about something that I think a lot of business owners don't think about, especially a lot of business owners in the trade, a scorpion on the Inc 5,000 fastest growing companies for the past seven years in a row going on eight. I have no doubt a innovator of the year with Google premier, Google lesson B partnership. Um, just a really awesome organization that has grown, uh, immensely over the past couple of years. And I don't think you can grow that way without solid leadership. So it's such an honor to have rust and credit here in the booth Rustin welcome.

Rustin Kretz (00:46):

It's a pleasure to be here by the way your radio voice is on point. I love it. I like that. I'm fired up right now. I've got to get the energy going.

Josh Smith (00:54):

Yeah, that's it. So we're talking about something really important today. Um, you know, again, a lot of business owners, I don't think, really think about this too much. You know, they've grown up in the trades. They've, they've gotten the ownership of the business because it was handed down to them. They're great plumbers, great technicians, but they don't think about leadership a lot. And, uh, you know, Forbes, dubs leadership is one of the top 10 reasons why businesses fail today. One of the top reasons why people leave businesses is with, uh, with poor leadership. And so I think it's a really important topic to talk about. So Rustin, why don't you start by telling us a little bit about the first time you really experienced great leadership, uh, in your career?

Rustin Kretz (01:32):

Well, I think one thing to think about first is that the successful home service businesses do have great leadership. And I think that's something that they focus on and, you know, there's a handful of businesses that may not, and they have their business struggles, but you, you see the ones that continually become successful. They grow their techs are happy that people are happy. And those are generally surrounded by a great leader, someone with a great vision and a great purpose, something that creates an environment of a team, which I really appreciate it. If you think about, for me going way back in the day, uh, you know, a kid in college, working a job, and I was doing a, I was doing roofing and getting a chance to, to be a part of that business and work with the owner and see how inspiring he was, how much he cared about his people.

Rustin Kretz (02:13):

Uh, you got guys that would never leave you guys that were just proud to be part of his company. And you know, you still come in, you, you work in the summer heat. It may be a hundred, five degrees. You're on a roof is hot. It's horrible in some times, but you come back to the office and he's happy. He's smiling. He's making you have a great day. Uh, but also focused on, Hey, what impact do we have on people and their lives? And it more than just your, your career, your job for the day, the moment it's about what we're accomplishing together, that kind of leadership really inspires. I think anyone who works for

Josh Smith (02:41):

Definitely what, what would you say? I know one of the big, big problems. I agree. We do have great leaders. It was some of our businesses, a scorpion gets to work with and just the businesses that you deal with. We talk with our business owners a lot, and that seems to be a paramount. One of the biggest issues in the industry right now is losing techs to other companies and things of nature. What was something that, that leader at that roofing company did that really stuck out to you that really kept people on board and engaged.

Rustin Kretz (03:07):

That's a great point. Great question. The, I think you felt like you mattered, you felt like you contributed to what was going on and you weren't just basing it on a paycheck, right? You're basing it on being part of something, being a part of a family, being part of an atmosphere you wanted to go to work every day because you liked the people and everyone worked on creating that atmosphere every day. So can we make something on the board that was a game of the day? Or was it, you know, just someone saying good morning all the time, or the coffee was ready, anything that made us get up at 5:00 AM kind of a challenge, right? And especially knowing that no matter what, it's 110 outside and you know, you're gonna, it's gonna be a rough day, but that office atmosphere is a place that you come back and you, you can relax and you can talk to people and you like who you're around. So you gravitate to the, to the company that cares about you. Sure. It takes the time to understand who you are. I think that always will make a big difference in any business businesses

Josh Smith (03:57):

Who don't fully understand getting around the people behind it. Why, why does that, well, I know other business out there that don't get that concept. Why do you think that's missed?

Rustin Kretz (04:07):

And some businesses it's challenged to do. Yeah. Right. I mean, you have to focus on it. It's something that you have to say, look, oftentimes businesses are started by someone who is great at something, but they may not be great at working with people, inspiring people being together and coming up with a vision together. And so you may be the greatest plumber or the greatest roofer or the greatest HVAC guy. However, how do you inspire others? How do you inspire people to come work for you? And do you work with them? Well, and do they want to work with you? And that's a different challenge. And sometimes the biggest thing that I can say, you know, doing owning a business for a long time is you got to work on it every day. And you know, if you can make sure that the people who work for you are happy to work with you, they're going to stay, you know, they're happy and you can make sure that you're winning together. They're going to stay because there's a common purpose and a common vision together. And if you create an atmosphere that people are fired up about, Hey, they're going to, they're not looking

Josh Smith (04:58):

Elsewhere, who wouldn't want to work there. So

Rustin Kretz (05:01):

Kind of like the show, just the excitement.

Josh Smith (05:05):

That's exactly it. We want people to be on the show.

Rustin Kretz (05:08):

Thank God. There you go.

Josh Smith (05:10):

From your perspective to being the CEO of, of scorpion, a large organization, let's go really basic. What is leadership? How does that differ from management, from like a manager versus a leader? What's the dynamic between the two and what makes a leader? A leader?

Rustin Kretz (05:26):

I think leaders to me are the most, one of the most important people in the world. I mean, you, you sit there and you build a team, you create a vision, you say, Hey, this is where we all want to go, but then you take a moment and listen, Hey, well, where do you guys want to go? And does it align with where we think we should take it? And then how do you work together to build something even stronger together? Uh, and then keeping people on that path, right? Because oftentimes, you know, you may have 10 people running in the same direction, but one isn't and taking the time to understand why isn't that one person running the same way and then fixing it, you know, taking that time and energy and effort to a leader, someone, you know, who has influence and you can help people guide them.

Rustin Kretz (06:01):

I mean, I think one of the things that's gets me the most excited is knowing that I had an impact on someone's career or life, because I just took the time to say, Hey, I care about you. I care about your future. And let's walk through some of the problems or challenges you have and let me help you get out of that. And sure. People respect that. And they love that. I think, I mean, that's what I think leadership's all about, but wouldn't, you rather work for someone who's inspiring and kind of taking you to the next level all the time. I mean, that's what everyone wants.

Josh Smith (06:24):

Absolutely. No question. You've talked a bit about like the vision, you know, really looking at the long-term picture, what's the painting look like and it's funding. Some people struggle to see that. And that's what separates a leader from somebody who isn't a leader. Right. And so how important are we throw these terms out in business all the time, a mission statement, a vision statement, right? How do they differ? What what's the value and the importance of having those really concretely locked down? Yeah.

Rustin Kretz (06:51):

Very important. I mean, take a moment and think about any business. And if you use home service businesses, what are we trying to accomplish? What is our business look like in the future? So there's two different things first. What do we work on and what are we doing? And what's our objective from day to day, you know, why do we exist? Okay. Maybe there's your mission statement, but a vision is what do we want us to look like in two to three years? You know, and if you focus on the end goal, especially in home services experience of your customer period, how can you deliver a better result for them? How can you make people just be passionate about your business? And you do that by delivering above and beyond being there for them when you need them and that extra level of service, every single person that we work with, you think about someone who's great at service, and you say, oh, I want to work with that person more.

Rustin Kretz (07:35):

And so if a vision for a home service provider could be something like we want to deliver the best, uh, experience in the world for their plumbing needs, et cetera. And in three years from now, I expect to be the biggest plumber in the Santa Clarita valley here. Great. Well, that's something now that you can take back to the whole team and say, guys, this is what we're all about. And guess what, if anyone sits there and thinks that that's just the owner's responsibility wrong, the owner's got to get that out there and say, this is what I want to accomplish. And together as a team, they go after that. And then if you don't celebrate that, you're going to fail because they all got you there. So it's something that's really important to say, this is where we want to go. And this is what we're going to focus on. And this is what we'll be known for in the future.

Josh Smith (08:15):

Absolutely. How important is his buy-in to that? How important is it to get everybody on board? You mentioned the little lost sheep that you have to kind of herd back with the pack, right? How important is that? And when you do have people where you have a challenge there to get them on board, what are some strategies that you've experienced that are really effective in doing that?

Rustin Kretz (08:35):

It's to answer your first question. Yeah. Buy-in incredibly important. Probably the most important, because if you have a team, let's just say that you had a goal, a vision and the future of where you wanted to take. You wanted to take home services as an owner, where would you want to go? Well, if every single person isn't on board with that, well, you're gonna have a challenge getting there. So let's pretend that for a second, you save a, to our customers as the most important thing. I want them to give us five stars on this, but more importantly, I want any time they think about our brand, they say, these guys are awesome. That's what you should go for. If you have five people out of 10, that don't go for that, you're going to have a challenge. And so getting the buy in that, that is going to take us to where we want to go critical, right?

Rustin Kretz (09:14):

I mean, that is the most important thing to do. And then of course, making sure that everyone understands the why behind it. If you wanted to hire a plumber and your wife is at home, right. And you've got the kids at home and you want to hire a plumber, well, what are the things that you want? Well, you want them to be on time. You want them to be respectful. You want to take care of the house and be okay, and then really fix the problem. But, but that extra level of experience that, you know, your wife would have, yeah, you want it to be great. And it's not someone who's, you know, pushing her around and trying to upsell her. And then she comes back and says, Hey, Josh, I don't know, $2,000 for,

Josh Smith (09:46):

You know, and it's not even coil. Do you have to coil it yourself? So you deal with a lot of leaders in your organization. You've seen a lot of leaders in action. We deal with business leaders all the time. So we're surrounded by leadership. We've seen some great stuff, some not so great stuff. What do you think separates the great leaders from not so great ones? What are some of the challenges that leaders face today?

Rustin Kretz (10:09):

Yeah. Good question. I think the best leaders that you're around one, they're always working on becoming better and that may be through, you know, I know like you, for example, you're always listening to podcasts or reading books or trying to get better at certain things that you know, that you may have deficiencies in. Whereas like, you know, your radio voice and your epic podcast, you're really good at that. Yeah. I can do that in my sleep, but you know what I mean? There's something that a leader always looks at as how can I possibly improve? Because if they do their team benefits from this, someone who thinks that they can lead and not get better every day now, because your team will never follow that your team will fall apart and there'll be the weak team because their fault they're led by someone who isn't determined to be greater every single day. So I think that

Josh Smith (10:48):

It's huge. I want to tie this a little personally for you. What challenges do you as a leader currently face, um, and that you work to overcome?

Rustin Kretz (10:56):

Yeah. I mean, that's a great question. Sometimes reinforcing the vision. You think that you've said it five times or maybe 30 times. Sure. But you really need to say 31 times or 50 times, or back to your question earlier. So you got to make sure that there may be seven people that bought into that vision immediately, but the three outliers, why is it that they're not on board yet and make sure that we can find a path to get them on board? Because if you have 10 people all rowing in the same direction, powerful, right. But all of a sudden three people, not it's bad, it's bad for the team. And I think for me just to remember, look, I'm always focusing on how can I get better every day. I'm always focusing on what can I learn or read or improve every day. And I didn't do the greatest a week ago. I may be able to do better next week. And if you view that your team's going to love you for it because you're pushing the boundaries of what's possible. But absolutely that focus on getting better every day is I think the key and, uh, saying the story over and over again. So you remember, Hey, this is what we're all about.

Josh Smith (11:52):

What are some things that you personally do to make yourself better? I know you mentioned some reading and stuff.

Rustin Kretz (11:56):

What's that look like in the life of a busy executive, such as yourself? I think the biggest challenge that I have today is that you've got to try to find time. And so you pull aside time, time block, um, and just cut off. I mean, look everything's, especially when you have kids, so you got, you know, working 80 hours a week. Oh, well the kid needs to play golf and that's all, wow, you're amazing. That's awesome. But I still got to work on the other stuff and make sure that I'm pushing myself because if I just failed to do that, then I'm harming someone else by absolutely not pushing the boundaries. So it's all about managing your time and those things. And so to set aside a couple hours, which I do to go work on personal improvement and just keep pushing the boundaries there,

Josh Smith (12:34):

They talk a lot about levels of leadership, others. There's different levels just in, in a wide variety of conversations outside of this podcast. So I want to dive into that just just a little bit, because I think there's some really interesting principles about the levels and some of the limitations that we have as leaders. Um, one particular law that I really am interested to get your thoughts on is this idea of law of the lid kind of feeds right into this idea of continuing to invest in develop ourselves. Can you explain what that is and why it's important for leaders to understand where they lie?

Rustin Kretz (13:04):

Yeah, that's a great question. So for anyone who hasn't read the book 21 irrefutable laws of leadership, John Maxwell. Yes. If I was unwilling to help raise the team up and uh, help them get better by myself being able to do better. Uh I'm I'm blocking them from being what they're capable of or seeing their, their total full potential. And that's a challenge. And so I, I take that very seriously and I think every leader here takes that very seriously. I mean, their teams are going to be as good as the leader keeps pushing the boundaries of what's possible and keep saying, Hey, I can handle these things and I can improve these things. And then pushes the team along with it. A leader who's does the status quo doesn't fit in here at scorpion because that doesn't fit in with our vision or a culture, how we really want to push the envelope all the time. And so, but that's everyone's decision as a business to make. So if the home services business, if that's what's important to them well, great, then that's part of their culture and their vision and everything else. And if it isn't well, then it isn't. So, but those are decisions that an owner and really your, your core group of people have to decide what are we all about? And then what's important to us. And for us continuing to push the boundaries is very important. And the tech company, right?

Josh Smith (14:14):

Absolutely. And you see, you see your employee retention, right? It's phenomenal. It seems to follow hand in hand, you push the boundaries. You're giving people something to shoot for employee retention follows. So how do you do, how do you approach the mismatch or the imbalance of maybe an employee? Who's not a leader who wants to push themselves. Yeah. But they're mismatched by leadership who isn't pushing the boundaries. What happens in those cases?

Rustin Kretz (14:37):

First thing you said is pretty powerful. I mean, I think it is important to realize that the retention of an employee here at scorpion is going to be about how challenged they are, how bought in they are and how much they love what they do. Right. And so in some cases, you know, you, you know, think about the right seat on the, on the bus for people. If they're in the right seat in the bus and they're challenged and they're empowered and they have this vision of what the future looks like, they're generally gonna stay and be a great contributor to the business, if not, they won't. So you've got to do that work all the time. As for leaders, it's something that we constantly work on here. How do we make sure that everyone's following their visions and dreams and things that they want to accomplish? And it's something that if we feel that someone isn't, well, let's try to find the right seat for them so that they can, because someone in the right seat can contribute three, four or five times more than if they're in the wrong seat.

Josh Smith (15:28):

Yeah. And I think too, when they're not challenged and you have that law of the lid, right? You have somebody who's maybe on a scale of one to 10 and eight, right. As an employee and a leader, who's maybe a six probably go somewhere else where they're going to be pushed up the ladder a bit, you know, in terms of their capabilities and everything. Do you think that feeds into the retention of tax? I know in the home services industry, tech retention is a big deal. We see a lot of tax that all of a sudden businesses don't have enough techs to facilitate jobs. And then they got texts leaving to for, for a wide variety of reasons. Does that leadership aspect and that law of the lid play an aspect of that?

Rustin Kretz (16:04):

Uh, the leadership aspect definitely plays a, this is one of the challenges I think going back way back in the day to the roofing company, I was talking about one of the things that the owner did always was, he wanted to make sure that you were doing well. He was invested in you. There was a care factor that was more than here's your paycheck. Every Friday, you get your paycheck. I was there. Great. But it was more than that. He always want to make sure that you're doing well. And if there was anything that he could do personally, to improve your day, week, month life, he would take the time to do it. Even if it was just spending a couple an hour talking about random things, you know, that wasn't business related, but he took the time to do that, which of course had this buy-in factor that made me go, you know, I really like him and I will do this because of him more so than anything. And yes, money plays a factor, obviously. Sure. Benefits will play a factor. Other things will play a factor. But if a great leader, someone that you really are passionate about working around, working for who values your contribution, that has a lot of weight. Yeah,

Josh Smith (17:03):

It does that. You don't find that every day. And so it's so different people, you know, when it comes to, um, personnel issues and how those can have an impact in terms of the brand, the reputation of the business from a leadership perspective, what's your take on how you deal with those. Um, and how do you get somebody out of those issues? Because what comes to mind for me is there's two types of ways to deal. We have the managerial type way, which is like, you're chomping the off. That's kinda reaching for the cookie jar, you know? And it's like, get back in line, stay in your lane. Right. And then there's the leadership aspect of dealing with it where it's like, no, that's not, we need to redirect. And here's where I need you to go. And then all of a sudden, I'm going to give you this endorphin injection of inspiration, that all of a sudden you're amped up about what impact does that play in dealing with those issues? And how does that really impact the reputation of a business?

Rustin Kretz (17:53):

Yes. Well, first you got to think of go back and as a business, fundamentally, you have to say, what do we stand for? And you know, how do you set those, the clarity for the employees so that they know, what does success look like for me? What, what are my expectations? What do you expect me to do? Like, so for one of the things that I think most people in business fail at is that their employees may not understand what's important to you. And that goes back to setting a strong vision. So going back to that example of a home service business that is passionate about service, if that's what we stand for and this tech or this person's CSR or whoever it is, isn't delivering that, that's something you can coach to your, you're hard on the issue, but you're soft on the person, right?

Rustin Kretz (18:33):

You're saying this is an issue because we stand for X and Y and Z, and you're not doing that. Well, of course that then that tarnishes our reputation in the market. So hold on, let's, let's solve that when it's unclear and they can't actually to say that this is right or wrong. Well, they're going to behave however they want to. And I don't think anyone really is out there to behave poorly intentionally. I think that they're going to do, whatever's asked for, and if you set those clear expectations and goals, and this is what we're all about here, then you can coach to those, as opposed to saying this person can't and deliver the reputation we want either way. I think, yeah. Keeping all the people who work for your business to have that as if it was you, the owner, talking to a customer, that way that you interact with them, that way you shake their hand and say, hello and good morning. And thank them. What if everyone did that? But the way to do that is to write it down and say, this is what we do. This is exactly what we expect. And then let everyone know that this is exactly what you expect. It's so simple, but oftentimes it gets missed and it's not a law of the business. This is what we do.

Josh Smith (19:37):

Absolutely. What are some things that you think in your experience with leadership that leaders should avoid? They, that like, let's, let's call it before it happens. What should leaders avoid doing in order to make sure they have the biggest impact as well?

Rustin Kretz (19:50):

First thing to avoid is don't hide from having the difficult conversation, right? It's tough. Every, every leader struggles with this and I find, and I've had so many difficult conversations, which always results in a better outcome at the end of the day, but I don't hide from them because, and I think this is something even just working on myself and getting better every day, it's something that I had to work on 10 years ago to make sure that I could do that. And, uh, now I have no issue having a difficult conversation because at the end of the day, I know it improves their life and their happiness because I'm addressing right. You know, I'm dressing something that, gosh, only if someone would tell me that this was an issue. Yeah. You know, and that's the worst thing a leader can do is to not tell their employee or other people around them.

Rustin Kretz (20:37):

Hey, these are some things that I think we need to work on because of X, Y, and Z. So I say always have that conversation. And the second thing is don't stagnate. I know if you think that you got it made today and you want to just rest on your laurels and stay there wrong, the worst thing you can do, in fact, keep pushing. And in this world, I mean, people are going to continue to expect better service, better experience, and better, better, better. And that's great. That's a challenge that you need to lay out and say, we expect better, better, better every day. And that's why your vision going back to what you asked earlier, your vision's got to change. It's got to adapt to the current world. How do we make sure that we are saying the right thing today for our market? And those are the questions that, you know, home services providers should think about every single day.

Josh Smith (21:19):

And that is so important. You know, having those tough conversations, you know, it's almost like an inverse, I call it the inverse economy. Right? You have the, you have the, the way the typical mantra or stereotype of management goes and that's, well, we're just going to be, you're doing what I say. And that's what you're doing. It's, it's all business. And then personal may or may not come out for that. But it's this inverse economy that true leaders really embody and develop. And that's why there's so, there's so mind blowing, like you meet one and you're like, I'm in the presence of something that's so different. And it's because they focus a hundred percent on developing the inside core of a person before they actually is that I think John Maxwell coined it, you know, he asked for a heart before you ask for a hand, absolutely. A show valuable. Yes.

Rustin Kretz (22:00):

People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. So if you don't have their heart, forget about it. Yeah. But see, think about it. And I'm gonna flip it on you. I'll to interview you for a second and just ask you this, let's go kind of impact. Does that have for you when you're working with someone who, you know, empowers, you sets that vision for you and then says, Hey, Josh, this is where we want to go. Let's go make it happen.

Josh Smith (22:21):

The difference there, oh, it's a hundred percent difference you're buying, especially when somebody gives you the ownership. Right. I think ownership is key. Um, and when you have the ownership and the ability and freedom, you're, you're given the vision of where you need to go. And you're given some freedoms to be able to be creative with that. I know for me, that's one of the big things. It's like creativity. I like my brain runs a million miles a minute sometimes, and I'm sure you can relate. I know. Uh, so it's like pulling it back in and then reigning it in and then giving direction it's. But the, the ability to make mistakes is, is huge for me. Like I learned by experience. And so that's a hundred percent if I, if I'm given the vision and I'm empowered to live that vision. And it's something that is in a space that it frees me up to use all of my creative juices and frees me up to use all of the talents that I've developed over the years. And then finding a way to insert all of my talents into that, I think is I love that because I'm doing something I enjoy. That's when it takes a step from becoming work to becoming enjoyable. And I think that's so key. So,

Rustin Kretz (23:22):

Yeah. And I'll just say one more thing, Josh, to wrap it up. Sure, sure, sure. Take this one. Takeaway if anyone out there is listening about what they could do, go talk to your employees and talk about the vision that you have. Good. If they do that, you know, all of a sudden their business can change and it's just so important. So I think if there's a takeaway, take a moment and just talk to your employees about what you're trying to accomplish big picture, and

Josh Smith (23:45):

Then how they fit into it and then hear them out just to listen. And it's amazing what will happen from that. That's so key. I love takeaways being on tape. Sorry. I know we could talk for probably another hour about this stuff. I think it's, so it fires me up too and talking about it. So anyways, well, we're going to wrap this up Russ and this has been awesome. I think we've got some really, really good, valuable insight for our business. I'm gonna share. Um, so I really appreciate you taking the time out of your insanely busy schedule. So thank you so much. Awesome from all of us here at the sharpest tool. Once again, if you're enjoying this, uh, value that we're bringing to you on this podcast hit that subscribe button wherever you might be at, and you can get more of the sauce and content. And from all of us here, my name is Josh. We'll catch you next time.

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