The Sharpest Tool™

Setting Standards, Focusing Values, and Building a Reliable Team

Cheryl McRae
Josh Smith
Eric Dutton was drafted at an early age into the plumbing world by his stepfather. While he tried his best to avoid being pulled into the trade industry, from the start it was obvious that he had a natural aptitude for the practice. Soon enough, he surpassed his stepfather, and established the Dutton Plumbing brand.

Josh Smith (00:03):

Hello, and welcome back to the sharpest tool. My name is Josh, your host, and this is the place where we take the sting out of marketing with everything that we're bringing to the table. And I am fired up. I'm always fired up. When we got to one of our clients in the booth. I have Eric Dutton here from Dutton plumbing. People come from all over the country to witness Dutton plumbing, how they operate, what the culture's like. So it's really special to have Eric in here in the booth. So Eric welcome. Hi Josh. Hey, I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to come talk about business with,

Eric Dutton (00:36):

Ah, it's a pleasure. It's nice being here. I'm really enjoying my time at scorpion. I also have a good time here.

Josh Smith (00:40):

Awesome. Oh, well, I want to kind of dive into a few different topics here. When it comes to your business, the growth that you guys have seen. I know you've been growing pretty substantially beyond the past decade, and there are a lot of challenges that business owners are facing in today's landscape that they have been facing. A lot of our people are up against something right now that someone has experienced as yourself, I think has probably faced in the past. And so I'm really looking forward to diving into this idea of growth and how to overcome some of the obstacles that come along with that. So why don't you give us a little bit of background? How did you wind up in the trades?

Eric Dutton (01:12):

I had a stepfather who was a plumber, so I was drafted at a real early age to do labor help and kind of help him do the things he did. He did plumbing and I found a, I had a natural aptitude for it and quickly became better than him. I never wanted to be a plumber. I really didn't. I did everything in my power to get away from that. It didn't seem cool. Didn't seem glamorous. So I always did it and that I did a few different ventures off on my own that were more fun motorcycles, things like that, and tried that as a business and ultimately kept coming back to plumbing because I could afford to buy cool stuff. When I did plumbing and ultimately got married, had a baby on the way, and I had to get serious. So I started going to the next level and started doing bigger projects, got into new construction at that time, and then evolved from that and ultimately into home service plumbing. And that spoke to me that really gave me purpose, helping people in their homes, solving problems and the opportunity to make good money. I really liked it.

Josh Smith (02:15):

That's awesome. What stuck out to you about a business ownership aspect? Is that something you always had in you? Did you try like lemonade stands when you were younger or was there somebody who spoke into your life that said, you know what, you'd actually be really good at running a business operation? What did that experience look like? I go,

Eric Dutton (02:32):

I would say probably I would have been a terrible employee. I've really never had a job, which I at one point was kind of embarrassed about now. I guess it's kind of cool. The first time I ever got a W2 was when I incorporated my company. And again, working for family when I was younger, never really got a paycheck. It was $20 bill here. So I never really had that job. And I think I regretted it at the time, but I appreciate it. Now. It allowed me to be a free thinker and grow on my own. I wasn't caught up in that box on that treadmill, chasing that hourly bill or that hourly paycheck and just getting caught up in that. So it allowed me to be a free thinker and forge my own path.

Josh Smith (03:13):

You mentioned the home services industry really spoke to you when it came to like home service, plumbing. What about it? What was the most rewarding part that drew

Eric Dutton (03:21):

Again, dealing with people, uh, the relationships you go into people's homes get to know who they are, their kids, their pets. It's more than just screwing pipes together. It's more than just fixing things. You're dealing with people as well as I'm very proud to be a plumber. I feel plumbers are the most genuine best people on the planet. We do more for society than any other trade or anything where we save people. We create civilizations. And to be able to prove that on a retail level, in people's homes, with uniforms, providing top-level service and offering them amazing them and what we do, we're not just that, but crack plumber that everybody has the image. And when I can see that happening, it makes me proud because it's elevating the group of people who I just love and plumbers, it takes us to another level. And I want to be part of that.

Josh Smith (04:11):

You seem to have this indescribable or this unconditional care factor. When you speak about the clients that you get the opportunity to work with, where does that come from? Has that always been ingrained in you since you started your business? Or did that come at a later realization as you were growing your business?

Eric Dutton (04:29):

It's probably in me. I think it said most of us. I'm very conscientious. I was very dependable. If I make a commitment, I follow through with it and being able to see that start to finish. And that's what I kind of like a little add. So if I can be part of a transaction that the call is initiated in the morning, the work done, and then the relationship ended the afternoon with payment. It's like the add is perfect. It happens quick. So I can get instant satisfaction for the entire experience. And then you watch that build on the next and build on the next, then the repeat business, coming back and getting to know the people and having that trust, that loyalty, when those people call you and they trust you, they only want you. And for a while, that was me. Now they call it and they want my people. They don't even know me. They don't know who I am. They might hear me in some marketing pieces, but they want Randy. They want Ryan. They want Kevin. They want somebody that works for me. And that makes me happy.

Josh Smith (05:26):

That's incredible. Let's talk about that. A bit. The Dutton plumbing brand, I think is pretty self-explanatory from your last name, Eric Dutton, where the Dutton name kind of came from that brand that you've built. I used to revolve around Eric Dutton now is being translated into these people that work for you. How did you go about making sure that these people embodied everything that you embodied when you would go into a house?

Eric Dutton (05:50):

I mean, we train, we try to hire the right people. We want the personality. We want people that care. We train, we have a slogan, the plumber you send to your mom's house. And we use that as our barometer. We use that for making decisions on hiring people on our marketing, on how to deal with customers, how to handle customer service issues. It just gives us the compass of where we're heading and how we treat everyone around us. And in that is kind of what gives us that focus

Josh Smith (06:18):

And the plumber you send to your mom's house. That's the slogan that you have. Where did you come up with that? That's,

Eric Dutton (06:24):

You know, that was kind of an organic birth to that had an employee who was new to the industry, knew nothing about him. Plumbing. An office worker went to a local, a PHCC, a trade show here in LA and was all excited to go down there and see these plumbers, different plumbers. And when he got there, he was terrified. I mean, these scraggly dirty mean looking guys smelly and loud coming through. And he was shocked. He'd only seen Dutton plumbers to that point. And when he came back and he was sharing that experience with other coworkers in the office, they were asking, well, why are our guys so much different? And he coined the phrase, well, we have the plumbers you send to your mom's house. And, uh, so I trademarked it.

Josh Smith (07:05):

Let's talk a bit about the tech challenge that I think is plaguing. A lot of home service businesses today, just finding texts and finding good texts, that embody what you embody, no doubt in terms of growing your business. That's something you have to do by nature. You have to bring people in that embody, everything you do that are gonna treat your customers the way that you would treat them. Did you develop any sort of process to hiring those types of people? Or did you go more off a gut feeling? What that looked like? Did you take all the exams that everybody has people take now to find a good fit? Or what's that look like for Dutton plumbing?

Eric Dutton (07:39):

Well, we've done it all. And we find the guy, you know, is going to be perfect. It doesn't show up day two, or you have that guy who you're going, oh my God, you almost want to explain him to people before you let them meet him. It turns out to be a superstar because it's the personality. And I find that you don't need somebody that looks like a model. You don't need somebody that fits some mold. You need somebody who's unique. And we love that because we're unique. So when people get to know them, they know the individual, they know who they are. They know about their kids. And we're lucky that way. And we do a lot of growing our own. So I encourage people, hire people. They don't have to know what they're doing. It doesn't take a long time. You can train them, hire the right person, teach them how to turn the wrenches. And that's the best way to build a solid team. And of course, we're always looking for those unicorns that we call them that come in and you just have to be ready for it. Always be hiring, always be recruiting, say yes to everybody who wants a job. And that's how you build a strong team.

Josh Smith (08:35):

I love that. How does the culture inside of Dutton plumbing differ from some of the other plumbing companies that you've been to and had the opportunity to experience

Eric Dutton (08:45):

What I noticed. There's a real sense of ownership. People feel their voices heard they're important. They have part of the business, their souls are into it. They really care. And that's, I think one of our core values is family culture. And that kind of spreads to the company and for better or worse, sometimes that is hard to overcome because you have to put up with some behavior because their family, sometimes it's beneficial because there's that loyalty in that team. And I find that that's pretty much the culture there and like any culture, it goes up and down. I do enjoy the highs. It makes me excited come to work early, stay late. I can't wait for Monday to come to work. And then there's times where we'll have some changes in the company, like any company we evolve and it makes people uncomfortable and people tighten up and it gets a little uncomfortable, like any other family or any other group. And it's kind of exciting. And it's just an organism. It seems to have a life of its own.

Josh Smith (09:39):

What are some of those things that you do at Dutton plumbing to stay ahead of the competition in this constantly changing landscape of the home services industry?

Eric Dutton (09:49):

You know, I feel among companies that are best practice type companies, we're doing the same thing. I think we all want to take it to the next level. And then there's the other companies that we all have around us. They're not really competition. You know, the saying in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Um, and I'm no criticism of my fellow plumbers. I love them all because what they do for society, I don't care what level of company or you work out of your house. You wear dirty, ripped jeans and smoke cigarettes and your customer's house. That's your choice. That's the level of service you bring, but you're a plumber you're really helping improve the world. So that being said, I just take it to another level. I'm a perfectionist, a little compulsive, and I like clean exact professional service and I give it at the highest level.

Josh Smith (10:36):

Awesome. What would you say is one of the biggest challenges that you've had to face kind of to date since you started debt and plumbing all those years ago, with yourself as the plumber going into the houses, what would you say is one of the biggest challenges that you had to overcome?

Eric Dutton (10:50):

I could go down a list. I could, you know, we all have the lawsuits. We've all had the employee that quits middle of the night. We all have had all of the monsters, we all face, but I think the number one thing I had problems with, and I know it plagues other business owners is the inability to let go, let go, be able to trust people, empower people, delegate and let them operate freely. Stop micromanaging. Unless you like being one, two or three truck company, that's great. Kill yourself six days a week and 12 hours a day and make sure everybody runs it by you first. And that's an awesome lifestyle. I lived it for a little while, but then you just hired the right people, give them the room. They need to grow and to thrive and you'll find talent and you'll be satisfied. You know, when you're not in that day to day, it allows you to then step into another seat and more creative and you take care of the bigger things, allowing you growth. And then you're looking for that gas pedal step on and move forward and you can make moves. You're not worrying about the little day-to-day stuff and you have awesome people out there doing it. And I'm honest about this. I do it at a higher level than I've ever done in my life. And that makes me proud.

Josh Smith (12:01):

Awesome. How did you come about that resolution and that conclusion that you needed to start letting go? Is that some personal development that you did or did you listen to another plumber? Like people are listening to you right now and that kind of spoke to you?

Eric Dutton (12:14):

I would say all of the above. I mean, like I said, I used to listen to the Tony Robbins when it was on cassette day. Okay. I've always been into that into self-development and you know, I'm driving to service calls, listening to something and talking to people and yeah. Being influenced by people by Frank Blau and Maurice Mayo, just different people in the industry. Who've made their mark. I'm not that smart. I'm not that special, but I can listen to smart, special people and try to copy what they do. And I may screw it up. I don't know, but I do it. And I get over the fear because we're all afraid. Now I love my little envelope. I'm so comfy in here and I'm so happy here. Leave me alone. Step on the gas pedal, blast to the side of that envelope, try something different, get uncomfortable. That's where the magic is. And that's what I like to do. So I guess maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. I don't mind hitting a wall if I have to. I want to feel the speed getting to that wall and then I'll turn and go the other way. We'll figure it out.

Josh Smith (13:12):

You have any top recommendations for people to listen to some of your favorites? Or would you say,

Eric Dutton (13:19):

You know, there's so many and I'm not prepared, but you know, I I'll talk about Tony Robbins. You know, it's, it's all about looking inside you, okay. Fix yourself and everything around you fixes. It's not, don't look for outside forces to correct. It. It has to come from within. So anybody who wants my book list, I'll share it anytime they want. And of course it's audible because that guy to read the book. But yeah. And it's just anything, any thing that people are willing to share with you, listen to it. If you've got the time and you'll find if something you don't like, you don't go through it. Don't finish it, find something else, but there's tons of stuff out there. And a lot of the messages are the same. It's about empowering taking chances moving forward and just having confidence and focusing on your goals, not on your fears as you take your eye off of the fear and focus on the goal, you will be drawn to that goal. It's that simple.

Josh Smith (14:11):

Yeah. Bottom line is invest in yourself, right. Do something and learn something every single day. So you're that much better. Yep. Awesome. What business tools or tools do you have in your business arsenal that you found to really be most influential in terms of your growth that you've exposed?

Eric Dutton (14:27):

I mean, you can talk about softwares of service, Titan, of course. I mean, having these awesome tools to measure and best practice groups, Nexstar service nation Alliance, these different groups that give you these awesome tools and trainers to help you move forward. And there's tons of it out there. The problem, most plumbers, or most service companies, they love it. They buy it, they pay for it and then they don't use it. Right. All the training in the world doesn't do any good if you don't take advantage of it and implement it. So I think it's a matter of finding what works for you, but I've been involved with everything. I've tried everything. And when I kind of sometimes reflect back and look at the steps we've gone through and look at our current structure, it's like, wow, how complex it is. There's so much to it. And it's just happened over time.

Josh Smith (15:15):

If you could look back at all the decisions that you've made as a business owner, and you were like, you know what, I would have done this one differently. Would there be a thing? Or do you feel that the decisions you make have kind of made everything what it is today and you wouldn't change a thing? No,

Eric Dutton (15:30):

I would've started sooner and driven harder.

Josh Smith (15:33):

I like that. Yeah.

Eric Dutton (15:34):

That's it. I mean, let go of the fear. I wish I had focused on myself sooner and became more developed earlier because you know, I was a young man. We all have our fears. We all don't know what we're doing. I mean, a lot of us out there aren't highly educated. You know, we're trades people that put down the wrench and pick up a pen and think we are now a contractor and they stay in that bubble. I fought my way out of it and I probably could have done it smoother. I could have done it faster. All I know is I wish I had started sooner and driven harder so I could have made the mistakes younger and gotten through it faster.

Josh Smith (16:09):

Absolutely. That's awesome. Well, this has been, honestly, this has been really, really great, Eric. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today. I just want to kind of bring this all to a nice close. If you had one piece of advice that you were to give business owners who are listening right now, who are trying to grow their business, they look at that and maybe, and there that's the goal, man. That's my current goal right now that I'm shooting for us to grow my business at that size. What would you say that advice is?

Eric Dutton (16:36):

I just fricking do it, just do it. If you can't afford it, raise your price. You can. And that's all, don't be afraid to be who you want to be. It's just a matter of a decision. That's all it is. That's the only difference you decide to stay like this. If you want to be like that, decide it and do it.

Josh Smith (16:53):

Awesome. Well, I really appreciate the time Eric, appreciate you taking the time out of your day and coming out and chatting with us. All right, Josh. Thanks. Awesome. And for everybody listening, wherever you're listening at definitely hit that subscribe button. So you can get more of these podcast episodes. And from all of us here at the sharpest tool, we will catch you next time. Thanks. [inaudible].

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