The Sharpest Tool™

Skylar Lewis Part 1 | A Million Dollar Business Owner’s Guide to Hiring Amazing Talent

Skylar Lewis is the CEO of Superior Restoration and Rise Up Kings. Scaling a business from start-up to $10 million himself, Skylar shares how to hire the right people for growth, culture, and stability.

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 here I have with me in today's episode, the opportunity to speak with CEO speaker, coach, author, Skyler Lewis, Skyler's the CEO of superior restoration and rise up Kings. I was just telling him before this show that I've seen rise up. King's like Instagram advertising me like crazy. So we're going to get to rise up Kings, uh, soon, but scree restorations, water, fire, and mold cleanup company focused on residential and commercial in the restoration space rise up Kings is a world-class experimental event and a mastermind group focused on men, rising up to the potential within their faith, family, fitness and finances. So I'm really excited to bring Skyler on the sharpest tool. Skylar man. Welcome.

Skylar Lewis (00:53):

Glad to be here. Thanks for having me on. Yeah,

Josh Smith (00:56):

I know you've always had a, a driven nature, obviously starting with, um, starting businesses, setting goals from a pretty young age. If you don't mind for those who aren't familiar with, who you are, where you've come from, can you give a little summary of your experience leading up to superior restoration?

Skylar Lewis (01:11):

Yeah, sounds good. So I've, uh, I kind of had that entrepreneur bug, I guess you could say ever since I was a kid, I grew up in a little town called Hemet, a pretty small town, not a ton of money there and just always wanted to be successful. Just always was driven to be successful. It was funny. And in high school, I actually, uh, I worked at smart and final and I was like, I was about 16 or 1516. And what I did was I ended up getting candy wholesale from smart and final. And then I started selling it at school, like, like little Twinkies, little Debbie's cupcakes, brownies, all that stuff. I brought a duffel bag and I bring a duffel bag in and then I realized people loved it. So I eventually started getting other people in the school to sell it. So I had about five, six other people that were selling the candy at school until I got shut down by the, uh, by the man, you know, the principal.

Skylar Lewis (02:00):

So, so that was kind of my first business and just had multiple businesses throughout high school, you know, and got my real estate license. When I was 18, it was very focused and driven. All my friends were out partying. I was just figuring out how I can create success and just become wealthy. And so that was kind of my main, my main focus. Um, and so yeah, eventually jumped into a market marketing, created a marketing company in sales company and sold loans when I was about 22, 23 and, uh, sold that company now for a ton, but sold that company and then started superior, uh, restoration. Uh, my dad worked for a company called service master and he'd started his own little carpet cleaning business when he, when he left there. And so I basically said, Hey, can I copy what you're doing in Hemet? I had moved by then in Temecula. And he's like, yeah, sure. I'll show you what we're doing and you can just copy it. And so I ended up starting my own little carpet cleaning business. I just bought a van and, uh, and kind of just went to town, started passing out flyers door to door every day and, and eventually just scaled it up. Me and my wife that's incorrect.

Josh Smith (03:02):

So superior restoration began about 10 years ago. What did it look like in the beginning? I said the carpet cleaning you started there, how did it evolve?

Skylar Lewis (03:11):

Yeah, so it started out as carpet cleaning because that's really, you know, what are you just showed me how to do? And it really evolved into a w what we did that we did carpet cleaning for about a year and a half. And we w we started to do tile cleaning. I kind of followed the money. Right. So in the beginning it was carpet cleaning. Cause that was a low barrier to entry. Then we jumped into tile cleaning. Then we jumped into air duct cleaning and I followed wherever the higher. So the highest profit margins. Sure. Yeah. And so after about a year, year and a half, we started doing more tile and air duct cleaning until we got to a place where we had to shut it down. But that's, that's a different part of the story.

Josh Smith (03:54):

Okay. And you eventually branched into restoration. Why restoration?

Skylar Lewis (03:58):

Yeah, so I, I had found there was just great margins, great margins of restoration. Uh, we had, we had, we had randomly done a job, like a water damage job as a carpet cleaner. And so that's, that's actually how a lot of people get in the restorations in the carpet cleaning business. And they ended up doing a restoration job and realized, oh, wow, there, there can be some great profit margins in it. And so we just did one and then we started doing more and more and just fell in love with that side of the business.

Josh Smith (04:23):

Yeah. So you obviously been a part of growth as a, the businesses continue to grow and anybody who follows, you know, that you're big on systems and processes. Yeah. It's part of having a systems and process in place is having a team that can actually implement them. Do you remember what it was like to hire that first employee on to tell me a little bit about that?

Skylar Lewis (04:41):

Yeah. Yeah. Our first guy, we hired totally remember that. So me and my wife, we were out passing out flyers. We were doing the cleaning ourselves. We eventually did some house cleaning too, just cause we were trying to just get it off the ground. Yeah. I remember we were in, in one of the houses and I was doing the carpet and she was doing some of the house cleaning and she's not a domesticated woman or wasn't at all. And so she was doing the house cleaning and like, she, she ended up cleaning a toilet and she just came to me. She's like, this is, this is, I'm never doing this again. And she's like, I don't know how I got stuck in this role. Right. Cleaning toilets, but this is not what I'm looking to do. And so at that point we said, okay, we need to hire, I didn't hire somebody ASAP. That was probably within the first couple of months. So we hired a, yeah. We hired the, our first guy and then basically just started training them to do exactly what we did. That was a big hire for us. It wasn't a hard thing to do because we knew that's the only way to we'd be able to leverage ourselves and be able to get out of the business someday is by having a team of people that are doing the work. But it's again, hiring employees. Isn't always easy. There's a lot to it, but it's necessary.

Josh Smith (05:45):

Yeah. What did you look for, like in that in the early days, I know your hiring ability evolved over time, right? Yeah. And so how did that look in the early days when you hired that first employee versus kind of how evolved into what you look for now?

Skylar Lewis (05:59):

Yeah. I love that question actually. That's a great question. So initially, uh, it was just finding somebody that could do the work. That's all we cared about. No cultural fit attitude didn't matter. Nothing else, no drug task. I mean, whatever. Just a guy that could do the work was all we were looking for.

Josh Smith (06:16):

Yeah. Oh, wow. And what's it look like today? How has that, how has that changed?

Skylar Lewis (06:20):

Yeah, no, we've evolved our hiring process big time. So we have a full hiring process. So if we have a three-step interview process, and so we have a first phone call with the person and we have a first in-person interview, a second, in-person sometimes a third and usually the third or fourth, we do a dinner with them and their spouse to really connect with them and get to know who they really are. And then through those interviews, we're looking for, you know, a couple different things. One is, do they have the skill? Do they have the skill to be able to do the job? The second thing is, do they match our core values? Right. So we're clear on what our core values are. And so as we're interviewing, we're checking, right? One of our core values is mindfulness. So would this person be mindful? Like, would they work well with our other team members? So we're making sure that they have those, those core values. And the third thing would be like reliability. Like, are they going to be consistent? Are they going to be a high performer and reliable in their role? So skill sure. Or values. Right. Which has attitude in there. And then are they a high performer? Like, can I tell they're going to be a high performer?

Josh Smith (07:24):

Yeah. I want to, I want to parse out one of those things that you said just to dive into it and give it a little more practical application to it. Because I know when you're in an interview process, you have 30 minutes an hour, maybe, maybe a little longer to assess a lot in that timeframe to see if they're going to be a good fit or you potentially bring them back. Something like mindfulness. Right. Let's just take that. For example, what do you do in the interview process to help you assess that? Or is it more of like a leadership gut feeling that you get overall?

Skylar Lewis (07:53):

Great question. And we'll part of initially it was the gut feeling, right? Initially when we, when we identified our core values, like that's like your company's DNA core values as your company's DNA. And that's like, what makes it unique? And so we have five core values and I used to hire based off of those based on just asking some questions and they would usually always be different questions and I'd get a feel for, you know, if this guy was collaborative, if this guy was efficient, which are part of a core values, if he was mindful and I'd get a feel. And that worked right when I was doing all the interviews, but right now we have 40 employees. And so I needed to transition that off my plate and be able to teach my team how to interview. And so how you do when you're systemizing anything, the whole goal was to get it out of your head and make it a duplicatable process, like simplify the process, make it duplicatable.

Skylar Lewis (08:45):

So what we did is I started actually writing down specific questions that got me the answer that would tell me if that guy was mindful. So these specific like story like, Hey, if you were in this situation, that how would you respond? Sure. And that would give the answer. And then if the same thing with collaboratives, right? If you were in a situation where you had an opportunity to work with an employee or do it yourself, but you know, you'd be able to do yourself better, what would you do? Oh, I do it myself. You know? So we, those specific questions lead to, we don't ask them, Hey, are you collaborative? Cause that's the worst thing you could ever ask. You've got to get, ask questions that gets them to tell a story or tell a story that paints a picture where they respond based on whatever their gut feeling is. Yeah.

Josh Smith (09:28):

I also know you prefer to give employees ownership over what they do. However, it's led to some growing pains over the years. So first, like what's your philosophy when it comes to employee ownership or making your company more employee driven? Yeah.

Skylar Lewis (09:42):

Great. I love it. So I've always, I'm big into personal development and personal growth. So I've always loved building people up like me personally, right. Working on my own leadership skills. Cause I have a lot of weaknesses and a lot of areas for improvement. I can be selfish. I can, uh, avoid conflict. I have all these things that I kind of struggle with. And so I'm always trying to work on myself. And so I've kind of implement that. Implement, did that in our company, we really pushed personal growth and personal development. And so we read books with our team and we'll, we'll invite them to seminars and do things to help them grow. And so we've always kind of had that initial culture, um, of personal growth. And so one of our core values happens to be own. It, it goes both ways. Right. So it's own it right.

Skylar Lewis (10:23):

In a situation. Do you take ownership of it? Like if you do something wrong responsibility, but then also ownership. We want people to have an ownership mentality when we hire them. Yeah. Right. And so with the ownership mentality, we've, we've we hire people that have that ownership mentality, because my goal has always been to have a, a company that could run on its own without my involvement. That's always a, for some reason that's always been, my goal is I want a company that can run. It can be systemized. It can run on its own. And so to do that, right, we have to systemize what we also have to have the right people that have an ownership mentality so I can give them tasks and they'll take full ownership over it. Like it's their company. It'll never be like, it's their company, but I want to get it as close as possible where they feel like they have ownership. And there's a couple of different things you can do to make people to increase people's ownership.

Josh Smith (11:14):

Yeah. Yeah. You know, what's coming to mind is a life Babin and Jocko Willink and their extreme ownership book. And they have a subsequent book, the dichotomy of leadership and the dichotomy of leadership is it's kind of fitting into what you're talking about, right. This dichotomy of having personal development really care for high care for the person, but also needing to achieve the mission objectives, whatever they are for the business. And so I know for a lot of leaders, it's a challenge to balance the two it's a, it's a big balancing act and all throughout your leadership, you're kind of going back and forth, trying to find that happy medium, um, and things can go wrong. Um, from your perspective, has anything gone wrong? What law wrong may be in the beginning when you were trying to implement this idea of employee ownership?

Skylar Lewis (11:58):

Yeah. Yeah. So it's challenging. So sometimes we can make mistakes as owners to do things too quickly without having the processes in place. Right. So that was always, my goal was to get a business that would run on its own. So I thought I was there about a year and a half into my business. I had this lady, I won't mention her name, but she was our office manager. And so she was in charge of all the collections for our company. And she was in charge of a lot actually. And so me and my wife were like, great. She's helping to run a ton of stuff. Let's go on vacation. So we went on a vacation, we went on a cruise and while we were there, I asked my wife, I said, Hey, do you fully, I just, I just had this feeling. I said, Hey, do you fully trust this person?

Skylar Lewis (12:32):

That's in charge? And she's like, not completely. I said, okay, well, I don't think it's wise to have somebody that we don't completely trust in charge of such an important part of our business. And so she's like, I agree. So I said, okay, let's let her go when we get back. So we let her go. When we got back and our office assistant, she moved into that role. And about two weeks later, she said, Hey, uh, I've been going through the books and calling clients. And as I was calling his clients, the clients were saying they had already paid these bills. And so I was like, okay, that's weird. She's like, yeah, but they haven't been paid. So it hasn't the money hasn't hit our account. So we started diving in and realized that this lady had set up her own PayPal account with our company name on it.

Skylar Lewis (13:15):

And she was calling all of our clients for like the last six, eight months, maybe even the whole time that she was in charge of collections and, and calling and collecting money through her personal PayPal account. And because we had taken our hands off the wheel, on our eyes off of it, and we thought we had systemized it, it was really too soon and we really didn't have the checks and balances in place. And so that was a major mistake. We ended up having this embezzlement issue that cost us a massive amount of money. Wow. And really a lot of drama. And, and we, we gained like a lack of trust for employees. It caused a lot of damage that we've had to work through on, Hey, how do we do this the right way next time? And I think a couple of lessons from that has never had anybody work for you that you don't completely trust. And then that's a, and then B always have checks and balances in place when you have anybody in a collection or collecting money or involved with your money to make sure there's multiple ways that you're tracking and having checks and balances.

Josh Smith (14:11):

Yeah. Are there any kind of identifiable causes that in retrospect, you're looking back at it and you're like, man, that was a red flag there that was a red flag there. Or did it all just kind of culminate with that gut feeling that you had on

Skylar Lewis (14:23):

It's a gut feeling? I think, I think we have the gut feeling when we know when we trust somebody and when we don't, you can just tell when you're looking at somebody like, ah, there's just something about that person. I don't fully trust. There's something there. You have to dig deep into that instead of just ignoring it, because it will cost you a lot of money down the road where that person takes Cheryl, you know, your, your key account and bezels money causes a poisonous culture and your company. However, it looks, if you have people that you don't fully trust. And that's one of my, with hiring and firing is I believe if you know, somebody's not the right fit for your company, this is a, this is whether you're a small company, right? With a couple of vans or, you know, we have 30 vehicles, whether you're small or large, do not have somebody working for your company that is not the right fit for two reasons.

Skylar Lewis (15:10):

One is you're preventing them. And this is my mindset I adapted is if I have somebody that I know is not the right fit, but they're filling a role. It's really selfish of me to keep them on board because they have a, uh, an opportunity. They could actually go find a position where they Excel at. And so by me, keeping them on board, I'm actually preventing them from maybe reaching their dream career or their dream company. So like I'm nervous. Right? Cause I don't want to hurt their feelings about firing them. But in reality, I'm eventually going to fire them, just do it now. So they can go move on and go start building their other career or their next right. Working at their next company. So it's more of a selfish place to say, no, I don't want to fire them because I feel bad about it. It's like, no, you're actually hurting that person by not letting them go. You're hurting your company. And you're hurting that person because the A-player is right behind that person. Right. That person that's taken up that seat, the A-player is literally waiting for you to move from that person. That's not the right fit.

Josh Smith (16:08):

Yeah. You know, I think the tough parts are those people who are in those happy mediums, right. The ones where it's like, ah, I just throw, okay, they're just not the excelling the way that I want them to Excel, you know, or somebody who's not even living up to the potential that you see in them as a leader. I know those can be really challenging ones because they're the right thing to do probably is to do exactly what you're saying. But it's one thing if it's like, it's a bad performer, you're clearly not hitting metrics. And it's a repeat thing, get them off the bus. But the ones that are like those, the murky water where it's, it's warm, it's not hot. It's not cold. You know, it's, those can be a bit challenging moving players.

Skylar Lewis (16:45):

Yeah. Is it B players that are doing an average job, but the goal really the goal, the only way anybody can get out of their business or can have a business that runs on its own is through getting a team, a players that you can trust that are just operating at a high level. As long as you have a lot of B players, good luck. Cause you're always going to be fixing things that they're messing up on or, you know, you're going to be motivating those people and having to motivate them. It's like, no, go, go, go, go find some bad-ass a players that just will go dominate and just kill it in business. Like those a players are waiting right behind the B player.

Josh Smith (17:17):

Totally. So fast forwarding to the present day, you have a pretty extensive training process. What's a, what's included in your, in your training of new employees to get them to that a player status. Yeah.

Skylar Lewis (17:28):

And I'm going to go back on one other point on the ownership side of things. So to build an ownership culture, right? You have to have hire employees that have an ownership mentality, but the next piece of that is starting to share your numbers and to be more open. So we've implemented the open book management system, which is a part of our training. So we bring a new employee on. We let them know, Hey, by the way we share all of our numbers, you see our net profit, you see every single thing about our company, literally all of our lines, we assign them a line item that they're responsible for. And then we have them report on that on a weekly basis, we have to train them on what that line item is. Maybe it's office supplies and maybe it's materials, or maybe it's, uh, equipment repairs or vehicle repairs or registrations or whatever that looks like.

Skylar Lewis (18:14):

And so we've built a pretty incredible thorough. Our compass, our company runs on its own. So I go into the office one day, a week on Tuesdays and I meet with our management team and our whole company literally runs on its own. I do, I do no tactical things. I don't make calls. I don't handle client issues. I don't do any of that stuff. Our team handles all that because they have such a ownership mentality. We've developed the systems and the training, but then we've also created an environment where they can see the numbers and they can see the impact of their decisions on the bottom line of the company. Most owners hide as much as they can, which was me for many years. I, the last thing I ever wanted to do was to share my numbers with an employee. But if you have the right culture and you're pouring into the team and you're showing up as the right leader, sharing those numbers could get more of their buy-in.

Skylar Lewis (19:01):

If you attach, Hey, this, this, if we do this result, it'll create this income. And then also maybe even bonus, and then based off that income. So we, we bonus our employees based off the profitability of the company. So that one piece has allowed us to kind of step away and have the company run on its own. So want me to go into training or did you have any no training? That's good. Okay, perfect. Perfect. On the, on the training side. Yeah. So on the training side, I was really horrible at training previously. So I would bring a new guy in and I would show him what to do or tell him what to do and then leave him on his own. Right? I'd go bring a guy in to go teach them how to do some carpet cleaning. And then I would show him a couple of times, I'd leave him on his own.

Skylar Lewis (19:42):

So most people are really bad at training. Even employees, owners, everybody really it's a skill that has to be developed. And so there's a process that we go through when we, when we train our employees, the first thing we do is we tell them how to do it. We tell them, Hey, this is how you do it. Then we show them how to do it. Then we let them do it and we watch them. And then we let them do it on their own while we're not watching, but we check in a week or two weeks or three weeks after that. So we first teach them, we show them, we let them do it. And then we let them do it on their own. There's a process to properly training people, people skip a couple of those steps. They'll teach them and they'll leave or they'll show them how to do it.

Skylar Lewis (20:23):

And then they'll leave. But those steps are critical. You have to tell them how show them, let them do it while you're watching and then let them do it on their own. And then follow up. Like part of training is you have to have some system or a reminder on your phone, like, Hey, follow up with Johnny to verify how he's cleaning the carpets or always installing the HVHC, you know, ducting, like check in to see how he's doing, because likely he's probably doing it wrong even after you trained them. So training is a long-term thing. And if we just try to throw somebody, you know, teach them a little bit, throw them out in the field, we're going to have issues. And so we've gotten good with our team at training them effectively in the beginning. And then we follow up with them. We do like a 90 day onboarding process where we break out the whole 90 days, you're going to be with this guy. You're going to be doing this, this and this and this. This is what we're going to follow up. Like we have the whole, the whole kind of process broken down so we can make sure by 90 days that guy knows our systems, our core values, our processes. Like he knows how our company operates.

Josh Smith (21:21):

That's great. Well, you know what? Skyler, we've covered a lot. But for our business owners who are listening out there, what's one practical piece of advice that you have for them that you want them to leave with. If, out of all the things we talked about today, what's one thing you want them to walk away with.

Skylar Lewis (21:35):

I would say the one thing that people could do that would make them more effective is to start to delegate and to start to give off some of the tasks that they're doing. Right? A lot of times as owners, we think we have to handle everything ourselves and we're better. Hey, start trusting your employees, start giving off more so you can work on the business instead of in the business. And so it could be a couple small things. It could be a couple of key things, but free up your time. So you have more time to go work on scaling and growing the business as opposed to doing some of the work yourself or handling some of the things yourself.

Josh Smith (22:08):

Love that scholar. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. Taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us today. Yeah, for sure. Awesome. And for everybody who's sitting out there listening, watching this on YouTube, wherever you might be listening at, definitely hit the like button and give that subscribe button a little tap. So you can continue to get more of this awesome content from the sharpest tool and stay tuned because we're going to have Skylar on for another episode where we're going to talk about his other venture, the RiseUP Kings really excited about that. That's coming definitely drop a review on iTunes or wherever you might be listening at. It helps the algorithms get the podcast in front of even more business owners who can benefit from the material. Hope everybody is doing well. And until next time, we'll talk to you soon. Thanks.

Speaker 3 (22:50):


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