The Sharpest Tool™

Rhonda Dowdy and Amanda Lawson Part 2 | How to Train Leaders and Build a Legacy

Mother-daughter duo of Texas-based S & D Plumbing, CEO Rhonda Dowdy and Director of Business Development Amanda Dowdy Lawson share how they have invested in leadership training in order to grow and evolve as a business. They highlight the importance of staying innovative, humble, and curious.

Josh Smith (00:03):

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the sharpest tool where we take the sting out of marketing. I want to welcome back Rhonda Dowdy and Amanda, Amanda Lawson. Let me get your last name right this time. She just recently got married, so she's no longer a daddy. She is a Lawson. Rhonda is the CEO of S and D plumbing and owner of Kopra plumbing. She's been in the plumbing industry for 40 years is experienced on both the residential commercial side of the business. And it's truly an amazing guests. It's it's honestly been a pleasure if you haven't checked out episode one with Rhonda and Amanda, you definitely want to do so. Joining her today as Amanda Lawson, her daughter, who's a director of business development and recently moved to Texas for her important new role with the business. So welcome back to the sharpest tool, Rhonda and Amanda. It's good to have you.

Amanda Lawson (00:46):

Yeah, thanks for having us. We're excited to be here.

Rhonda Dowdy (00:47):

We are. Thank you so much.

Josh Smith (00:49):

Awesome. So in case our listeners missed the last episode with you, let's catch them up. Let's start with you, Rhonda, who are you? What's your role with the business and then we'll move over to you, Amanda.

Rhonda Dowdy (01:00):

Hi, I'm Rhonda. I'm a grandma and, uh, I, I didn't mention my grandkids. Last time I have got six grandkids and one on the way, I'm a mother of four and I am also CEO of S and D plumbing. We started the business 40 years ago as a mom and pop plumbing company. We now have two locations about 35 employees and it's climbing every single day and I'm just excited to be here to share my experiences

Josh Smith (01:28):

And Amanda, Hey guys,

Amanda Lawson (01:30):

My name's Amanda Lawson. I am the daughter of salmon, Rhonda Dowdy. I am a new addition to the business. I've stepped into the business development role recently about a month ago. And my husband and I moved back to Texas from California at the start of the pandemic. And here we are today.

Josh Smith (01:48):

Awesome. So today I want to focus on leadership. Obviously you don't get to a business of your size and reputation without strong leadership capabilities in the organization and specifically business leadership. I want to focus on to the, you hold owner positions in two longstanding companies, Rhonda, and even in a business development director of business development role, Amanda, there's a certain level of leadership that you possess within the organization as well. I'd like to learn a little bit more about what some of those responsibilities might potentially look like for you, Rhonda, what's your day to day and week to week look like, and what are you ultimately responsible for from a leadership level?

Rhonda Dowdy (02:25):

Okay, well, ultimately I'm responsible for profits at S and D plumbing, and I've turned over. We've evolved over the last several years to where most of the day to day is, is not in my hands. So I'm still kind of CFO as well though. I do have accounting that reports to me, but I, I have a general manager and he basically handles the day to day on the business. But as far as that goes, the leadership is so important and that's been one of our biggest struggles is number one, developing our own leadership so that we can lead forward, but also finding people with leadership potential and sowing into them through ourselves and through other leadership organizations to grow their leadership. And it's a continual journey because as long as you're wanting to grow your eye, as long as you're wanting to stay in business, uh, much less grow your business, you've got to have that leadership capability.

Rhonda Dowdy (03:20):

And I can tell you some of the things that we've implemented, we believe in training, we train at every level of our company all the way to me. I have a leadership coach. My general manager has a leadership coach, but we train our technicians. We train our CSRs and we've got the best of the best. It's amazing to see the teamwork, teamwork chuge for us. And I think that's just part of what we've led to culture. You know, that was kind of one of our first focuses was culture. And then it's just led from there, culture training, teamwork. That's what it's all about. I love it.

Josh Smith (03:56):

And what about you, Amanda? What are some of the qualities and aspects of leadership that you have and hold annual?

Amanda Lawson (04:02):

Um, I mean, that's a great question. So I think a lot of my leadership abilities really stem from what I was doing prior to this. I've been a professional volleyball player for like the last decade of my life and just learning what it means to be on a team, learning how to kind of run my own business because being in the pro beach volleyball world, it really is that you're not assigned a contract you're in charge of everything that's going on in your world and on the competition field and everything. So just, I think there are a lot of adversity I has, um, kind of forged more and more leadership qualities in me and then bringing that over into the business world. A lot of things overlap from that. And I know one thing, um, just coming in with a humble mindset, because it is a new world for me, same qualities, but totally different world, 180 from what I was doing prior to that.

Amanda Lawson (04:54):

So for me right now, it's a lot of observing and a lot of learning, you know, if I have input, I definitely give it and just making sure that whatever I'm doing, I'm developing myself because ultimately the goal is to have a team under me. So I want to be able to lead that team effectively and just like be that good example for the rest of the company. Cause I am in charge of branding. I am in charge of event planning. I am in charge of helping create that vision for our company and sharing it internally and externally. So I got to make sure whatever I'm doing, I'm setting a good example for the team around us. And then whoever sees me out in public is like, oh, that's Amanda with SND plumbing. And that's a positive interaction that is like, when they see me here of me, it's positive. So yeah, I just, I take a lot of ownership in that and try to do my best on that.

Rhonda Dowdy (05:43):

Two things to that. And one of it is Amanda has always been a professional, so she wasn't just out there playing volleyball. She was building her brand and she let everyone know what she stood for. And she's always stood for and a quality that she's had as she's always pursued excellence, she's done everything she could do to be in the best possible shape. She could be in for one thing, but she's always pursued excellence in everything she's done. And that's what we're about to excellence is so important. Sometimes, you know, you can get, that was good enough mentality, but Fresno plumbing. Good enough? Isn't good enough. I mean, we, we don't expect perfection, but we're always pushing for excellence. And sometimes that comes through leadership as well. And so she brings that over and she brings also her teamwork mentality, which to me in this day in time to have a successful business, teamwork is everything. And that's kind of one of our latest biggest lessons. Um, we've been about team for a number of years, but we've realized that it's just not about the daddy family company. It's about our team. It's about our team and the efforts they put forth, being able to elevate them to the next level. And also hopefully generationally being able to provide opportunities for their families as well as our own.

Josh Smith (07:03):

I love that, you know, one of the things that the S and D website says, it says, I'm quoting here from what we saw on the website, we we've managed to stay current and be proud of the legacy and that you strive to always find new ways to provide innovative customer service and repair to our customers while also providing opportunities for the growth of our team. Now, I know it can be tempting as, as an owner to get a little too comfortable, right? You get to a place and you're like, I'm good. We're making money. Everybody's, we're chilling. You know, we don't really need to innovate. And I've seen it too. When we I've talked with business owners and like, oh, I don't have a desire to grow. And that's, that's fine in and of itself, but you haven't seem to have this constant innovation bug, if you will tell me about how you're finding ways to stay ahead and innovative as leaders in the company. I know you mentioned Rhonda, that you have business coaches or like leadership coaches. What are some of the other things that you do to stay ahead an innovative,

Rhonda Dowdy (07:59):

Well, we bring young people into the business. That's one thing, you know, I think a really key thing is being part of best practice groups. That's how we really got started growing more exponentially and beginning to realize, Hey, we need processes. Um, Hey, there's training for customer service representatives. We don't have to train them. We can hire a dev about being part of best practices groups, because you don't have to reinvent the wheel. You do not have to reinvent the wheel, but it also comes from the inside your work ethic, your goals, your dreams, what you want for yourself. So we mentioned before, you know, we had two sons come into the business. One is in the commercial business. One was in the residential business and the one in the residential business decided to move on to something that he enjoys doing more, which is amazing.

Rhonda Dowdy (08:45):

And he's being very successful at it. So basically at that point, we had to say, Hey, well, what is it that we want now? Because we've been working all these years to pass it onto our next generation in our family, right? And now this isn't going to happen. So what do we want? And really, we went back to our core. The name of the company is S and D and we renamed it back in the early eighties when we had two little boys and their names were Sam and Dan. And so from the very beginning, the vision has been to establish something that will provide for generations. And so we shifted our focus because at that point, Amanda, hadn't made the choice to come in. And as far as we knew, she was never going to come in. And so we had to take a look back and say, Hey, who are we?

Rhonda Dowdy (09:35):

Where do we want to go? Do we still believe in this and resoundingly? Yes, we do still believe in that. And that is still what we want. And we went out, hired our first GM that wasn't a family member. He was actually a technician and all, but my service manager has previously all my leadership except my service manager previously been technicians. And so it's through that. We really have that vision of saying, Hey, come in, hone your trade. Learn. If you want to go into management, we'll have management opportunities. If you want to be part of our, a managed repair location and act as an owner, you have that opportunity as well. So providing those opportunities are so important. And I think that's how we strive to keep a team that's vested in what we're doing and wants to move forward with us.

Josh Smith (10:25):

I'm kind of curious of your thoughts on this Rhonda being in the trades, in, in leadership for as long as you have and raising leaders in the company, there's a saying out there that is basically whether or not leadership is taught or if it's caught, right. What's your kind of thought on that? Is that something that's nurtured or do the certain leaders that you find that you employ, they naturally have this leadership instinct? Well,

Rhonda Dowdy (10:51):

I can speak mainly to family on that because the leaders that I employ in my business have been with me a couple of years. So I don't really have their history on that, but sometimes I think a part of it is definitely in their character. Um, I believe that the potential, especially as they're in the character and I believe people lead before they have leadership titles. And, um, I think as far as our family, we are a family of leaders. So maybe, I don't know if it's hereditary or maybe it was just by example because we lead, but all of our children are also strong leaders and I don't know how much we've sewn into that, but I do know this, that there's always potential for improvement and it doesn't matter who you are and if you want to leave a legacy, um, you've got to constantly be learning and improving. And that's where I'm at at 60 years old, I'm 60. And I'm learning more now than probably I did, you know, my forties because I realized the importance of it and always cultivating and innovating and learning what I don't know, you know, and leading better. So yeah, that's been my journey. Okay.

Amanda Lawson (12:00):

And I piggyback that, do it. I definitely like, I agree that leadership qualities sometimes stem from character, but I also think that there's something to be said to really embracing, being a lifelong learner. And though you may not be naturally born quote, unquote, this leader, you can develop those skills and become a leader in whatever you are doing, if you have that will, that mindset and that tenacity to actually like put yourself forward and do that and take chances. I think it can very much be learned.

Josh Smith (12:32):

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. You know, it's, it's, it's just kind of interesting when you think about this idea of continual learning. And in some cases I always think about this. I'm like, man, if, if my ten-year-old self knew what I know now, I'm like, well, how much further along would I be? And everybody's at different stages of that game you're experiencing now probably Rhonda and it's, it's just, there's so much to learn and you're learning it every day in the workplace as leaders, but then also from what you latch onto from different trainings that you do, I'm just kind of curious, practically speaking, what are some of the leadership groups that you have been involved with trainings that you've done of those what's made the most impact? And when you look for a leadership mentor, do you typically go outside your organization to find somebody to have kind of an objective point of view? Or do you typically thinking of maybe some of your mid-level managers, is it important for them to find somebody in the organization? What are your thoughts on that?

Rhonda Dowdy (13:27):

That's great. That's a great question. So we use every tool out there. It all started when we really wanted to start honing in on our leadership and developing is, uh, we got involved in listening to, um, John Maxwell and following John Maxwell. And actually my son actually went for training and became a John Maxwell coach. It's evolved a little more right now. We're really heavy into entree leadership, but we use so many tools. I love the podcasts out there, Andy Stanley, uh, Craig Rochelle, and I pass them on. And when we get a good book, we use books, even for the process that we use in our business. I can give a huge shout out to EOS, which is entrepreneurial operating system attraction. We hold all our meetings based on that. That is our operating system. It's huge to have that because it, it really promotes communication, but we learned together basically is what I guess I'm saying the nice thing about entree leadership is they have coaches leadership coaches that can work with you basically on the, the higher level, like as a CEO and as someone who's working on my legacy, they have that provision there.

Rhonda Dowdy (14:37):

And, um, so that's been amazing, but we learn from each other within the company as well. And I love to discuss podcasts books. I can't remember the exact name of it, but, um, Lynn Shoney is one of my favorite authors and he has a book on how to be a team player. I can't remember the exact name of it, but, uh, the ideal team player, um, that's a huge one, but yeah, we just share the information that we learn. And if someone is out there and they, they hear a great podcast that they think applies to our business, oh, and we implement we're huge implementers. So if we learn something, we don't just learn it and lay it to the side. But the key thing is, and then this is what I wanted. Everyone out there to know, life is a series of decisions and you make one decision at a time and depending on where you are in your business, because I remember where we were 20 years ago and where we are today, it's, there's just a huge difference.

Rhonda Dowdy (15:31):

And I remember when we first got started in the best practices group and we'd go and we'd learn all this stuff and it would just blow our minds. Oh my gosh, we're gotta do this. We're going to do this. We're going to do this. And we had to say, listen, what's the most important thing that we can take away from this conference. Let's go back, let's implement it. Okay. And then we, you build on that and you build on that. You can't do it all at one time. And my, the GM, um, that I have now has been in the position almost a year. And sometimes he, I think he feels like we're on fast forward all the time, all the time, because we're always implementing and changing. But, but that is part of who we are. But you also have to take it a step at a time and build and build upon what you're doing. Amanda, what are your thoughts?

Amanda Lawson (16:14):

She's full of socks. Oh man. Well, I, that is definitely something that I've seen just to speak on everything that she just said. We're like constant learners and everybody, it could be who's in SME plumbing or who's in copyright. Cause there's group texts with them too. And we're constantly sharing information, whether it's a podcast, a book, it does not matter. We're sharing it, which I think is really cool. Like we're all there to better each other and to kind of rise together. That's a mentality that we have. So I think it's really cool to hear, like we seek out that avenue also through entree leadership. There's that avenue, but realizing for everybody out there, I mean, you can start with podcasts and books and there's so much information out there that's either free or very cheap that you can get started with and really like, get those wheels turning and see what doors open with that. And just, yeah. Just not being afraid of learning it and pushing yourself to get better.

Rhonda Dowdy (17:11):

Yeah. And Amanda made a very good point there because I want to give this, this shout out right here. Cause you said, how do you continue to innovate and get better? And I said, bring the young people in. Well, my son who operates Kopra has led me. I mean, he has led me he's. I mean, how am I going to find a podcast? Right? I mean, I'm not in the podcast world. He began to send me the podcasts. He began to say, Hey, I'm really interested in this entree leadership stuff. Why don't you listen to some of it? Why don't we go to this summit? Why don't we? And he has led me to find these things. So, Hey, it doesn't matter what age you are, whatever. Just bring in ha be sure you, some young folks in your company that are interested in that want to learn and they'll teach you things and lead you places that, you know, you never would've gone without them.

Josh Smith (17:57):

I love that. Now, you know, since your John Maxwell fans, I'm a big John Maxwell fan too. And you know, I just, for those who haven't read John Maxwell, he's one of the foremost leadership professionals and just experts in the world. And you know, his first thing is that, you know, first thing you have to understand about leadership is it's not position it's influence. And so the thing that is really cool about leadership is it works. It's backwards compatible, so to speak. So it's not just people you have under your charge, but your people, when they're led properly influence you just as much as you influence them. And I was thinking about, I had a quote that I saw on Instagram and I had to pull it up just because I think it's kind of appropriate here. When we think about like, man, just look at hindsight's 2020 and look how, how much better we could have been. You know, if we knew all these things then, and the quote that it came across this morning was this, it says, don't worry about next week or next month or next year, just do the next right thing and keep doing the next right thing. That's true. It's these baby steps. It's these, you know, turn after turn after turn, it just becomes more natural and ingrained in that, into how you're operating. So,

Rhonda Dowdy (19:00):

And just remember this to life is a series of decisions. Right? Okay. So make a decision, make a decision. If it ends up being the wrong decision, make another, you know, remember we're on a journey and yes, I look back and say, man, if we had just been doing this stuff 20 years ago, where would we be today? But I can't, you know, we haven't even touched on, what's gone. What went on in our personal lives. There's a lot of things that went on. We've had tragedies, you know, that we've overcome that you never really overcome, but we've managed through them. So, you know, life is life. So just remember this always in business, there's going to be challenges and in life there's going to be challenges. I want to give a big shout out to the five levels of leadership for John Maxwell as well. That's a key component to our leadership training, but just remember it's a journey. You don't have to be perfect. Just keep bettering yourself every single day and things will get better. You know, things will get better.

Josh Smith (19:56):

Yeah. I know we could talk about this for hours. This is such an awesome topic. As we round things out here, I want to kind of just have each of you just give, like, if you have one piece of advice from a leadership perspective, in terms of how business owners can lead their businesses better, what should their focus be? And we'll start with you, Rhonda, and we'll go to Amanda.

Rhonda Dowdy (20:18):

Well, I think your focus should be being able to let go of some things and trusting. That was a big step for me. I'm not sure if it's a John or who it is that says, we think of trust as being earned. Um, but no trust is given until they earn your mistrust. So being able to delegate, being able to hire people to do the day-to-day tasks that you can put your, your mind and your thoughts on the bigger things concerning business, taking it one day at a time, one step at a time. But uh, always be learning, always be growing. No,

Amanda Lawson (20:53):

Yeah, that's that's good. I like that. The one thing that just like keeps turning in my head and I cannot let go of is I, at one point I was told like, you will never miss your bus and don't be afraid to take those chances and something also, before I go into that, that my dad has always taught me is you always want to be looking for opportunity because if you're not, that opportunity is going to pass you by. And so that kind of goes into, you're never going to miss your bus. If you are seeking the opportunity and you're ready to take those chances when they do come. So really, and that goes back to just being present and showing up every single day with your best self, ready to learn and just being humble and open-minded and doors will open and they'll take you to great places. No.

Rhonda Dowdy (21:33):

And remember why one last thing is being a leader is also being a servant. So servant leadership is so important. Never are you elevated because you're a leader. You should be the biggest servant of all in your leadership and that's what your people need to see. So leaders are not afraid to get in. The trenches. Leaders are not elevated above you. Uh, we are your team and servant hood is what it's about servant leadership.

Josh Smith (21:58):

And just to close that out too, because this is just appropriate. I had the, again, another quote, this is actually an Oprah Winfrey. It came up yesterday and I found it to be very appropriate. It says this, I believe luck. I think a lot of, we have a lot of business owners who think, oh man, I'm just not that lucky. I'm not this. And that, that this goes into, as a leader, you always are constantly developing yourself, says, I believe luck is preparation, meeting opportunity. If you hadn't been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn't have been lucky. Right.

Rhonda Dowdy (22:30):

That's exactly right. Yep. That's what Sam preaches.

Amanda Lawson (22:36):

Um, and it's so true. It is so true. And sometimes those opportunities are the scariest and I've learned. I mean, those are the opportunities you want to take. That's poison you for great growth. And I just think that's an awesome quote. I love it.

Josh Smith (22:51):

I love it. Awesome. Well ladies, thank you so much for your time. It's honestly truly been a pleasure to have you on these two episodes of the sharpest tool. So I really appreciate it.

Rhonda Dowdy (23:01):


Josh Smith (23:03):

You bet. And for everybody listening, wherever you might be listening at, it definitely hit the like button. So you can continue to support the sharpest tool here, hit the subscribe button so you can continue to get more of the awesome content here. And if you're an iTunes, Stitcher, any podcast platform that you might be at, definitely go leave reviews. It helps the algorithm so they can continue to feed the podcast to those business owners that need it so they can help transform the trades in such a positive way and hit all of their long-term business objectives from everybody here at the sharpest tool. Until next time we'll talk to you then. Thanks.

Related Videos You May Be Interested In