Tom Mitchell: CEO of Disaster Response Inc. & Service First Inc.
About This Episode
Tom and John discuss what it was like to grow up in Virginia in the 70s and 80s as well as some great insight from a long time business owner. Tom even explains his brief period as an apple salesman!
[00:00:14] He was really hard worker, is still a hard worker. And he’s going to share a lot of the stories from the road with us today.
[00:00:22] And we’re also going to talk a little bit about what it was like growing up in Vienna, Virginia, in the 70s and 80s.
[00:00:30] All right, Tom, so I’m sitting here with Tom Mitchell and let’s talk about Vienna, Virginia, growing up in Vienna in the nineteen eighties, it’s well, 70s for you.
[00:00:43] 80S for me, I think. I think so. I grew up I grew up in Springfield, so we lived in Springfield, Virginia, from 1969 to 79. So I moved to your neighborhood where you grew up in 1979, which is when I met you. So but you were. You were. So let’s talk about that. Tell us, what was it like?
[00:01:01] Yeah, it was a great it was a great time to grow up. It was great. And I think in retrospect, you know, our country had just come out of a very volatile kind of similar to today’s times, actually, but very volatile period in time in our country. And the 70s, I think, was like a decade of healing. On some level, people were pretty kind to each other. And, you know, looking back, it was it was a great time to grow up. I mean, I said, you know, I remember when you can see how how far we go back. I remember I was thinking about this the other day where when I remember when your mom started getting a real estate and she and she had that, I think it was a formula with the little twenty nine plates.
[00:01:46] Yes, that’s right.
[00:01:48] I was going back and I remember, you know, when I was 14, I bought a moped and somehow I ended up putting 5000 miles on that thing. That’s amazing. But you had that Cressman lawnmower.
[00:01:59] Yes. That was your work. You you rode that thing everywhere. I rode the lawnmower all over town. Oh, boy, I sure did. Well, I actually drove that thing from where we lived. This is a riding lawnmower, just a regular riding the traditional like I actually. Yeah, yeah. I drove it one day.
[00:02:18] I drove it from our house in in the trails are serenade in our neighborhood all the way up to Vienna to put to put gas in it.
[00:02:27] And I drove it back. Oh did you make it. I did. I did. I think I was on empty when I got back. I had half a tank and maybe it was.
[00:02:35] It was but yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking, but I love driving so yeah it was great.
[00:02:40] So yeah, I was really nice about it is you know, in retrospect, because I live in Great Falls now in our neighborhood. The kids don’t play outside. Right. You never see. I mean so they were normally it was a normal neighborhood but they were like kind of swarms of kids. Yeah. Age groups, you know. And so, you know, there’d be a group of seven, eight, nine, ten kids together and and depending on what the season was or who had what or instrument, we just start playing this sport or that sport. But but also it was you know, it was.
[00:03:16] You know, just the things we did to engage and really grow, I mean, I will say something, and this is what the kids are missing nowadays, is that learning how to.
[00:03:26] How to relate with people and your peers, but also other groups, because when when you have the packs of kids around the neighborhood, there’s always, you know, if you’re a fourth grader, there’s always a seventh, eighth ninth grader, some big kid that’s almost a manchild. You know, they were you’d learn how to deal with all these different people at all stages in a relatively protected environment. Yes, I think we all kind of everybody looked out for each other, even though there were times where someone was on the bottom of the pile, so to speak.
[00:03:51] Yeah. You know, but yeah, it was it was a great time.
[00:03:55] And then, you know, just in the course of being in school, knocking on doors. So, you know, I was yes, I was a Krispy Kreme donut delivery kid, newspaper kid. But but just knocking on doors and selling candy bars and. Yeah. And just kind of setting up lemonade stands without a license, you know, just. Yeah. So just those kind of things were just the best. I didn’t realize it at the time. And then, of course, you know, we were right next door to well the shower is run the paper out remission. And but when I was a kid, I used to play Abdel-Shafi Park. I play underneath the stage and, you know, they had they had police presence there year round. You know, we’ve been out in winter, but I was just a fun place to be. It was, you know, a great place to be. Every once while, some horse would get out and get loose in the neighborhood because there was a scattering of like farms.
[00:04:47] And there’s a lot of farms. There were you know, there were there were cows up on Lee Highway until really not that long ago, you know, I mean, 20 years ago, there were still dairy farms in the area that Janesville Road Shopping Center, you know.
[00:05:04] Right. Janesville Road. And that that McDonald’s is on the left and the giant. Yeah, yeah. That was like the last outpost. I remember that.
[00:05:10] It was just another it was in the next stop was Leesburg. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:05:14] You better have gas in the tank, but even from Vienna to Reston was just total farmland too. That’s right. Just you know, so times have really changed. And you know, we used to hang out at Tysons and. Yeah. Walk them all. Yeah.
[00:05:27] And and that’s back then Tyson’s only had one level because the lower level was where all the deliveries came in and all the trash went out. So yeah. And I know that because I worked at a restaurant there and took trash out and that was nasty down there. Yeah. Yeah. So no, it was a good time and we had that, we had that field where we would play football sometimes, which I go by there today and it’s, it’s like it’s it’s this tiny little piece of grass. But at the time we actually somehow played football on that field. Right on Boys Avenue. And I just don’t even know how we did it. Baseball, we played baseball. And I’m like, how the heck?
[00:06:10] And it seems so big it will stay. There is there is force creep. I mean, yeah, I could have been by there and not in five years or so, but but last time I was there, I was amazed myself at how small that field was. Right. But yeah, it was. And then the woods in general, you know, just the things we used to do with, you know, catching crayfish and, you know, well, not finally got it.
[00:06:30] I think I think I think the statute of limitations has run out on this one. So I can probably tell this story. But there was a so we’ll try Farm Park was on the other side of the Dulles Toll Road and there was a creek that ran from Wolf Trap Farm Park, Wolf Trap under the toll road into our neighborhood, which is right next to this field where we used to play football. And we could actually walk under the toll road in this creek because it was like three tunnels of creek and there was always one dry bed so we could walk right under the toll road into the farm park and get into the shows for free.
[00:07:08] Did you ever do that now?
[00:07:11] I can’t recall because you were busy working.
[00:07:15] Maybe later. Yeah. You were the responsible one of the of the whole neighborhood especially. Yeah, but we started out with like two or three or four of us would go through and we would go and we would see Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton and we really didn’t care about the show. It was just kind of fun to do it. But then there was like six of us and then there was eight of us. And then one day there was like 12 or 15 of us come walking out of the woods and this security guard comes over to us and he goes, I don’t know where you all came from. And you turn around and go right back into those woods and I don’t want to see you again.
[00:07:46] So you probably the days prior. Yeah. Yeah. So so. So it wasn’t long thereafter. They put up a fence over there and we couldn’t get in anymore. But that was a fun time. You know, it was, it was fun, you know, different times. Yeah. And we would you know, we would ride bikes and I mean we would ride from I mean it was probably about two or three miles to get up into Vienna, but we were, you know, twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old. You got your moped when you were how old you were. Four to fourteen.
[00:08:13] I mean, it was it was you know, just doing that at fourteen is so unusual for kids these days. Yeah. I would, I wouldn’t let kids do it.
[00:08:20] Yeah. Yeah. There’s no yeah there’s there’s no way.
[00:08:24] How many parents did you see the. Bus stop in 12 years, a public school? Yeah, never, you know, maybe, maybe the first day for two or three seasons, you know, there was, you know, one parent or two parents. But now it’s the social place, I guess. Yeah, exactly. But yeah. So it was it was a good place to grow up and.
[00:08:42] It was was a lot of fun, yeah, and I think and I think we all had something in common and we were all kind of trapped within our neighborhood and within our sphere and our and our groups at school because we didn’t have Facebook, we didn’t have the Internet, it didn’t exist.
[00:08:58] So we you know, if you wanted to see something beyond your neighborhood or beyond your area, you had to get in the car and go. And, you know, one of the things I really miss is the the, you know, driving to Leesburg, you were going to a different place.
[00:09:12] You were going to different stores. You were going to a different culture. You were going to a different way of life. You know, you would go down to, you know, old town Leesburg. And I think there’s still a little bit of that today. There’s still a little bit of the old culture in Leesburg. But, you know, now you go to Leesburg, you’ve got Target, McDonald’s, you have all the, you know, the same franchises that are all over the country. You can’t really go to small town America anymore because America now is just universal. I think everywhere you go, it’s it’s it’s very it’s very similar, you know. Do you find that as well?
[00:09:48] Yeah, yeah. I mean, I lived in Leesburg for three years or so, and when I first moved out there in the mid 2000s. You know, we did have a solid box box store presence, you know, the Wal-Mart targets and which was really nice because they were all close by and you could bounce from one to another restaurant wise, not so much.
[00:10:09] You had you had your half dozen choices for Chinese and half dozen for Italian. And that was about it. And now so that’s all been filled in and a lot of growth out there. And, you know, between that in Ashburn and it is like when you live in Leesburg, it’s just a little too far to go, certainly to go to D.C. But even Tysons is quite a drive. So you find yourself where when I lived in Old Town, you would go everywhere. You know, Tysons to D.C., you’re just there ten minutes. But yeah, but once you move to old town, baseball games are a big event. I mean, just going to D.C. for a baseball game. You mean once you move to Leesburg you have a field trip, you know, so it’s an all day event. So but yeah, it’s it’s changed quite a bit, you know, from the days when Tysons, too, was just, you know, the pits and. Yeah, a lot of mud and trees.
[00:10:57] You know, it’s funny.
[00:10:57] You know, there’s another we were doing another episode and we were talking to somebody about the about the about the pits and riding riding over there.
[00:11:05] There was nothing. Tysons to West Park was just a thought. They had they had some roads in over there. Maybe there was one building in that whole area and we would go right around over there when we got our driver’s licenses and, you know, have some fun with the cars because it was just it was just a road with nothing on it. It was almost look like a racetrack.
[00:11:27] Yeah, right. But yeah. So so let’s.
[00:11:32] Yeah, those are those those those were good times. And I think it’s unfortunate that the folks today will never experience, you know, that.
[00:11:41] And really if you think about it for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years, thousands of years since the beginning of humanity, that’s really the way life was. You know, you had your community, you had your your your neighbors and you you were known in the neighborhood and you knew everybody in the neighborhood. And that’s never going to exist again, ever, because now we have the Internet and and and mobile phones and everybody’s connected digitally. And we really don’t know what the impact of that is.
[00:12:10] And, you know, I’m going to spend a lot of time on this on this podcast talking with folks about the impact of of technology on our society. And we don’t even know what it is yet. But, Tom, I can tell you, I and the folks that work with me today, I talk about this all the time. I miss the corporate culture that we had in our company at Advanced Water Damage.
[00:12:34] I miss the corporate culture that we had and my marketing company where a group of folks came to work every day together and a company policy was you were not allowed to get personal phone calls at work.
[00:12:47] Do you remember that?
[00:12:48] You could not get a personal if you got a personal phone call at work, it better be that there was some sort of an emergency. There was something that happened at home that would disrupt your workday. And all of the mines came together, no matter how great or not great or whatever they were for a common cause to provide customer service to service trucks, to help people with water damage or to help people with their marketing programs, whatever, whatever it is I was I was doing. And we all had a common cause that we were fighting all day or working towards all day. That doesn’t exist anymore. Now, when folks come to work, they’re constantly bombarded by the news coming in over the Internet or texts on their phone or Facebook alerts or and and the human brain is not really focused at work for a lot of people. Maybe not everybody. Right. I’m sure those people go to work and really focus on their job. But your average administrative assistant, your your your average water damage technician or your average carpet cleaning guy, I mean, I see are people working on our yard? Landscapers are spending time on their mobile phones, reading their email, you know, and there’s so so that that neighborhood culture, I think, may be gone forever. That that culture, corporate culture that we had, I think has certainly gone forever. But I miss that, you know, and I think, you know, that’s kind of what growing up in Vienna was. We had our group of folks that were all part of our sphere and they were all part of our world.
[00:14:20] And now it’s just so much bigger than that and beyond.
[00:14:23] And I think folks have have have lost that connectivity to their really their close their neighborhood, maybe not their direct neighbors, but their extended neighbors.
[00:14:34] Yeah. I mean, no doubt there’s, you know, within the business environments. I mean, I think when when people are on their phones and texting and, you know, I think depending on the the employee, I mean, so I think there’s a lot of employees that give you max effort and.
[00:14:55] They are able to be distracted, and if they are distracted unfairly, fairly unreasonably, they may do things extra over and above. You know, you trade, you look past things, you know. Right. Your primary staff, people that take care of you, you know, they need medical, you know, any time off, two or three days here and there. You don’t I never. COUNTERMAN. Right. Right. I just go ahead. Take a day off and. Yeah. And you just kind of you trade. Right. You’re looking for. Well it’s different. It’s definitely different. Well, you’re looking for a win win relationship.
[00:15:23] And I do think that but for the you know, for a certain segment of the employee staff that’s doing this is not a win win relationship, unfortunately. And there is a there is you know, I think when you look at what we you know, I always say every relationship needs to be win win or it’s a broken relationship. And so any relationship that’s going to be long term, it has to be there has to be consideration for both parties, you know, and so there’s a you know, you know, for business, you might use the contract term as a moral contract. There’s a contract of employment. But, you know, I think I’m more kind of a bigger picture horizon kind of dry guy. I don’t really want to get too deep in the weeds at any given moment, you know, unless I’m involved in recipe design for the service and someone’s you know, well, you and I have that in common.
[00:16:20] I think we’re both we’re both big picture viewers. Yeah. Yeah. But yeah, that’s that’s the world is different.
[00:16:28] We’ll see how little state of flux. I mean. Yeah it’s you know, I mean the days of, you know, leaving a message on my answering machine and expecting to call back the following day versus now dude I’ve been trying to reach for twenty minutes.
[00:16:39] Where yet. Exactly. You know, it’s like where were you. I’ve been calling for an hour. Yes. Like that was worried. You’re right. Yeah. Yeah. OK. Yeah. Right, right. Yeah. Got it. Yeah.
[00:16:53] John Jorgenson here. And if you’re considering building a new home in Northern Virginia or Montgomery County, Maryland, reach out to us through our website. We build on your lot dotcom. That’s we build on your lot dotcom. We have pricing and floor plans online, lots of great process information and contact us through the website so we can get you started on the path to your very own Stanley Martin custom home.
[00:17:25] So, Tom, there was a period of time and I don’t know what you were thinking, but you went into the you went from carpet cleaning to produce. Is that right? Carpet cleaning to produce. So how in the world did that happen?
[00:17:40] Well, I was young and thought I had the Midas touch that I could do anything. And so I met this older man who was a he was a great storyteller, actually. And he kind of he had spent a lifetime. He was probably 70 years old, 65, 70. His name is Doug Clark. He was from Yakima Valley, Washington. And but I met him in a store. His daughter was in Alexandria. And and he just I don’t know where I met him, actually. But generally, I’m pretty inquisitive. And I kind of come from this place where I don’t really have any secrets. I pretty much I think so if I want to be honest about anything you ask me, then I kind of feel like I can ask questions and probably have questions. Sure. But I learned.
[00:18:29] I learned, you know, I could be with a, you know, a senator one day and to answer them right on a job site. And I’m very inquisitive about learning. And so that’s how I’ve learned over the years. But this this guy told me the produce business and it sounds so neat and cool. So I decided, OK, let’s do it.
[00:18:51] And so I bought 40000 pounds of apples from Yakima Valley. I was going to a small. So we I’ve got a warehouse on a short term lease in. Yeah.
[00:19:06] In Central Avenue there in P.G. County. So now did you buy the apples from this guy. You see the. No, he actually you know what, I’m through him. He needs to buy him from. Yeah. And so a truckload of apples, 40000 pounds. We had them shipped. It’s like one 18 wheeler. Yeah. That’s worth evaluating. Forty thousand. OK, and.
[00:19:32] We had them delivered to my warehouse in Capital Heights, coprolites, I remember that, of course, I didn’t have a refrigerator. Now I remember that, too. Luckily for me, we said March as a time, 90 days before it really is going to go there. But we started a couple of produce stands in D.C. and.
[00:19:52] We saw that we we so out of forty thousand pounds of apples, how many pounds did you sell? I bought more than one.
[00:20:00] Oh, I’d say, hey, maybe 60 percent were sold. Luckily to me, the guy next to me happened to have a farm in Leesburg. Yeah. And a pickup truck.
[00:20:10] So to take away the ones that it was some rotation, but we started selling oranges, our greens, kale. Yeah. And we actually had a couple stands right in the thick of it downtown like. Right. Bladensburg in New York. Yeah.
[00:20:24] Where we’d go to like I don’t know how it ended up, but I actually went down there with you one time. I’m kidding. I know. I can’t I can’t remember how that occurred, but I was with you and you were picking up some panels for this freezer you had bought and we took them to your warehouse. I think I was just hanging out with you for a couple of days, but I remember I was it was something.
[00:20:45] So, yeah, we we do surprising. I mean, I, I lost, you know, I certainly lost money. I could have lost more, but we did OK on the fruit stand, you’d be surprised. But, you know, it was it was a learning experience for me and kind of get into the thick of it down there in D.C. and, you know, dealing with the vending police, they were. Yeah, I love you, you know, but but yeah, I because I had so many apples, I started giving apples away. And this is one of my lessons where I call it the New York way of selling. But, you know, I just the apples were going bad, so I just started giving them away to people in traffic. Right. Right. So carloads there’d be you know, they’d be waiting for life.
[00:21:25] And here you go. Hey, four in the car here. Yeah. Hand out the apples within a day or two or three days, people start coming back and buying apples and telling one, four, three, two, four, five.
[00:21:39] We we have that. We’re doing five.
[00:21:40] But it was just amazing. It was a life lesson to where you if you put your best foot forward. Yeah. And, you know, I think people instinctively they’ve got they they want to reciprocate. Goodness. Right. Right.
[00:21:54] So you were given away apples because they were going bad and you just wanted to get rid of them. Yeah, they were. They were. But what you learned was it brought customers in by giving out free samples. Right.
[00:22:05] And they were not bad. They were they were premium. But yeah, they were in good shape. But I just had so much. You know what you knew they were going to go bad, right? Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so. Yeah, but it was a it was it was probably we did several loads worth of apples and we were doing we started mixing, we got to Jessopp and mixing regular fruit and he was kind of fun. We I was looking for locations all the time and we were trying to sell the grocery stores. We sold to a few grocery stores, but not enough to really move the the product.
[00:22:38] And at the end, the warehouse with probably, I don’t know, 15000 pounds of apples, they were going bad.
[00:22:48] It was into June, I think, and this is my third load or something like that. But it was time to exit stage right at that point. It’s pretty obvious to me that I wasn’t enjoying myself and I wasn’t making money. So yeah. And luckily I had total flexibility on lease and it was all flexible.
[00:23:04] So the Grateful Dead was in town and I live for like an hour. And because you know what’s amazing? I had all these apples and I started calling all these nonprofit groups, come and get it, come and get it. And none of these non-profits even had ways to get the apples. And and so I didn’t have a reefer truck, which was definitely was it came in handy. But we had no way at that point because I liquidated I sold the reefer truck and I was exiting. I had no way to get them the apples. But the the Grateful Dead was in town and the manager I had working with me. Put the word out, and when I came to my office that afternoon, there were boxes on the street everywhere, these people from the dead concerned, they cleaned out my entire warehouse in two hours.
[00:24:02] So I don’t know. I’m like, what do you think? They had the munchies.
[00:24:06] I was I was a little pissed because the guy didn’t the manager didn’t ask my permission right where we wanted to go. Right. But I was I was a little pissed about it. Yeah. You know, I mean, I did that’s probably a grand and apples and maybe I could have given it to someone myself or but yeah, they were cleared out in a matter of an hour or two.
[00:24:27] The Grateful Dead at the cab center must have been the cab center then.
[00:24:31] And but everybody in all the motels, they just write all natural apples, just eaten even, you know, they’re gone.
[00:24:38] So that was before the Internet. So that was amazing.
[00:24:42] Commuting is quite an accomplishment to empty out my warehouse in two hours. But yeah, it happened. It happened. And in retrospect, was good.
[00:24:49] He was like I he ended up talking to his parents who are in the provinces to the other guy. And he’s like, yeah, they told me what to do was not the right thing to do. I should check with you guys. Yeah, I probably should have. But in retrospect, it was it was good to get those apples out.
[00:25:03] Yeah, well, he was probably listening to you saying, I’ve got to get rid of these apples. I got to go because I know you well enough to know that you were probably walking around for days. Oh, you saying that? Yeah. Well, you know, it’s sad.
[00:25:14] It’s a sad sight when you’re talking about is a way to dry them out, you know. Yeah. And and you save in that way. But yeah, it was one of the one of the sadder sites not to dwell, but but when the dumpster went, when you put it, when you fill a dumpster with apples and something comes out that looks like honey.
[00:25:36] Yeah. Is that thick. The consistency is like, honey, I just say it’s like when it draws the bees in pretty good too. Yes. Like the apple honey come out of the basin. It goes like, oh yes it was, it was, it was a it was a kick in the pants to see it.
[00:25:49] Definitely it was that two years, you know, about a year like six months. So it was a life lesson. I would’ve been better off selling encyclopedias at the time. But stay away from perishables. Yes, that was the lesson was, you know, yes, it does take time to get traction. And and free samples really do work. Free samples do work. Put that put your best foot forward and you might be surprised that it’s reciprocated. Yeah.
[00:26:13] Good story.
[00:26:18] In case you missed it, here’s a clip from Episode seven, Jerry Berry with First Heritage Mortgage.
[00:26:26] The thing that that that keeps me doing it, John. Yeah. Tell me is is I really genuinely like that person that I get to meet on the phone and I’ve gone to trying to set up phone calls. That’s fun. Yeah, it’s fun getting to getting to getting to know somebody and learn about them and find out whether you have something in common or not. Exactly. I agree. That’s what does it for me. So we pretty well try to have two people that that will set up calls for me now to talk about scheduling so they’ll schedule calls. And I try to do the video call with everybody that I can just so they do see. And and again, if you care and I feel like I do care if you care about that person that’s getting across the desk from you, then they know that. And that doesn’t come across if you don’t get to meet them. So I think that’s a very that’s very important. But I really, really thoroughly I don’t I’m not just making that up, of course, Joy, that I enjoy that. And, you know, whether that person across from me does enjoy that or not. Right.
[00:27:32] So, Tom, you’ve started bootstrapped quite a few businesses in your day. So what advice do you have for the folks?
[00:27:38] So things are a little different now than they were when we were younger and we were doing this, starting a business from scratch. But what do you say to the folks out there who may be listening, who may be in college or maybe they have a job they’re not really thrilled about and they want to start their own business? What does it take? What kind of advice do you have for folks out there that want to be a business owner?
[00:28:00] OK. Well, I’ve always kind of thought within my self that it’s on some level. It’s about you wanting to be heard like. You want to impact a service or the community or the world, you want to you want to make a change, you want to innovate. And I would say that, you know, when you design a business. You start with that blank canvas now, if you’re starting a business, you’re working off your skill set that you have, that is the accumulation of tools, the skills, the experience that you have there unique to you. And you need to just figure out how are you going to leverage that skill set and you know, which direction over the the landscape you want to direct your company.
[00:28:53] I think, you know, maybe some of the kids these days with the technology, they know exactly what how they’re going to fit, you know, how their software tool is going to plug in and optimize a process, make a process easier, you know, but as it relates to services, you know, where I put someone that it’s as a human in a home, you know, the choreography that that has to happen for it to be a wonderful experience. You know, I hope this doesn’t get off of track.
[00:29:26] But, you know, I was up in Chicago at a meeting and I went out at the last minute to one of these pristine steakhouses by myself. And it was like, I think they close at 10:00. And I walked in at like nine, 35. And I’m like, oh, no, you know, everything’s going to be medium well, well done. And but when I walked in that door, I was met by someone that greeted me, the manager who handed me off to the the maitre d, who handed me off to I was handed off like six times.
[00:29:53] I met, I think, half the staff. But the choreography was beautiful and the food was all great too, was wonderful. But the choreography was just it was great. It was it was wonderful. I mean, I really appreciated that. And so when if I was designing a home service for me, you know, you look at every aspect of your client, what their needs are, and how can you improve the processes that are exist except none of the processes as perfecto. Everything can be tweaked and improved. But, you know, where are you going to add value? How are you going to disrupt and and when you can do that and you’ve got a story to tell and people and you have said, look, if you can if you have the carpet cleaning business, when you can educate a client about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and you’ve got them learning about carpet cleaning, you’ve got them and they respect you. So you become a de facto expert not by bragging or boasting, but by educating. So in the world of home service, that’s what we use in every vertical. If you’re effective, you know, you’ve got a diagnostic phase where you’re doing your investigation, whether it’s plumbing to you and your business, it doesn’t matter. Roofing, siding, windows, mold, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to do your diagnostic and then you’re going to take your client on an educational journey, a journey of discovery. You’re the science teacher. You’re the. And then if it’s a multilayered job where you’re integrating several trades with several people, you can tell them about that journey as well, maybe where some of the pitfalls may be or, you know, where some of the complications might be. But you take them on that journey and you’re educating them so they can have confidence enough to sign, to approve, to to feel comfortable with you. But also they understand. What they’re getting for their money are building that value proposition into the equation. So when you say commit to this amount of money, they’re saying, oh, now I get it right. Because because any service and that’s the thing I mentioned earlier about, you know, how technology is pushing service towards commoditization, where, look, you know, you’ve done escalope marketing.
[00:31:56] Right? I’m telling you that I’ve I’ve used some sources in New Delhi for SEO. Now, if you’re doing links and coding, you’re pretty good. But if you want them to write an article about you, not so good.
[00:32:11] OK, because I don’t want to be called reputed in article about me right now. Compose deputed.
[00:32:16] OK, I’m a rip, you know, so, you know, and when I can catch those idiots, when I can see those problems, I’m like, oh, and this is what I’m catching. So, you know, there’s there’s common speak between us. But my point is that that is outsourcing Delhi because they’re billing, I don’t know, 20 bucks an hour as opposed to 65 or 85 domestically or more. Right.
[00:32:34] So all industries, all services fight that. And and on the flip side, when a client treats a service as a commodity, it may not be it may not be a very good connection for you because they’re not going to they may not care about the value, all the fufu that you’re adding. That is time. And and when you know, we’re talking medical Molde, water damage, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, the key factor from any service company owner is time.
[00:33:04] And when you’re designing a medical McJob, you can’t get around the fact that it will take time, three weeks, four weeks, and that time has a cost associated with it. And having been in so many verticals, you know, you’re you’ve got to you’ve got to hit your numbers or else you go out of business and, you know, it’s expensive to be in business these days with taxes, insurance, things like that. So but getting back to starting the company, it’s. I know.
[00:33:28] So what does it like to to start a company? I mean, it’s it’s I mean, I know it’s sometimes not easy to articulate, you know, but how do you explain to the folks out there that are listening when you start a company with nothing? I mean, let’s go back to when we started advanced water damage restoration.
[00:33:45] I had a little teeny tiny office. I don’t know if you remember Unthaw Drive. It was like that room was like a six by eight. I was a little bigger than a closet. And I think I had my first computer that I’d ever had in my life. And I didn’t even know what to do with that thing.
[00:34:00] And and it was sitting there and I was making phone calls and we were going out making sales calls together. And there was no money. It was just work, work, work.
[00:34:13] Right. We invested a lot of time. But how do you how do you take that starting with nothing?
[00:34:20] Well, I’m at that. So right now I’ve got my two brands. I’m looking to build out one red carpet and winning hundred actually clean and what I’m interested in doing. And so historically, I’ve built 30 to 40 person companies. Right. So quickly, I’ll add to you’re very good at that. Thanks, but yeah. And and that is based off a recipe and a compelling story. Right.
[00:34:42] So if I’m if I’m going to compete in this marketplace and this is a very unique marketplace because we’re competing with the federal government. Yeah, we’ve got and now we’ve got big data. And so there’s a lot of money going around. And all these kids that I’m hiring, you know, mid 20s, they’ve got buddies that are already at the bar at four thirty or five o’clock, you know, living the social life, the good life. Yeah.
[00:35:01] And these in the blue collar industry is a little different. You know, we you know, homeowners don’t like client or service companies that lead the job cited for 40 or 435, half closed up. Right. So, you know, the work has to be done. It’s not a definite timeline. Right. So sometimes sometimes you work until six, seven, eight. And that can that can interfere with his social life now. But the way I do it is I, I fine-tuned the value that I’m going to add. So. How am I going to do something that’s in a way that no one’s done before, which in our case was the water damage company, and how am I going to take a young man, in most cases, a young man that was previously making twelve dollars an hour?
[00:35:51] And like we’ve done in several ways, you know, put them in Audie’s or BMW or, you know, where they can make 50 to 60 thousand dollars a year in that first year. Right. And and you have to take them on a journey. And I will say it can be it can be costly because training is key and that training is expensive. So I found myself a few years ago spending upwards of eight thousand dollars a year educating these kids. I mean, hey, that’s more than my dad spent on my college, you know? So and these people may be with you today. And maybe I mean, I’ve got countless people in business, which is fine. I mean, when you start a company, that’s. You know, at its infancy, you’re basically all in the same rowboat, right, and these people, in my opinion, they deserve to know the full story and where we’re going now. Unfortunately, at some point I need to turn that off. Yeah, it’s a little bit overwhelming to people to because I’m very comfortable in that vertical place. Yeah. A lot of people get queasy with that. But getting back to starting the business, it’s about how you can innovate your service. Yeah. I mean, I guess you could just be I mean, I don’t I want to minimize this. I mean, the carpet cleaner, I started carpet cleaning, but I didn’t I never wanted to be just a carpet cleaner or just a painter or just a contractor. I want to if you can’t do something unique and with a little pizzazz and, you know, innovate a little, why do it? In my opinion, I’d rather just, you know, so how are you going to change that? And then and then how are you going to be the best place to work within that vertical? You know, how are you going to lure the talent? And so, you know, those two things that it’s very much like a chicken egg. You’re right. So in the business I’m doing now, I’ve had preliminary. So Red Carpet is a co branded member group where people have existing business and we’re going to plug in a vertical that caters to water damage company, our customers.
[00:37:41] And we’re going to do is try to simplify and streamline the way that mitigation response process. We’ve got some technology partners that we’re going to integrate where, you know, the mapping our job sites with photos and what have you. And and this will be a value ad for the carpet cleaning partners we have or restoration companies. But I should be able to put that network together pretty well. And I’m just about at that point. But I but even though I’ve been kind of working on it for about a year and a month, I still haven’t done that first. I mean, locally, I’ve started to build some of it out here. We’ve done a few customers here locally, but haven’t really hit the switch on other locations.
[00:38:30] But anyway, so getting back to the beginning, I got so sidetracked, like what you’re hearing on the go at John show.
[00:38:43] Please share it with your friends. They can sign up at Go with John Dotcom.
[00:38:57] Yeah, advice for the for the youngsters, so so folks that are listening, that are maybe in their 20s and they don’t have a lot of resources.
[00:39:05] Right. They don’t have the ability to attract talent. They want to go out and they want to start a business.
[00:39:10] Let me let me just double step to simplify this whole thing, because, sure, I have a way if I have a special way of making these two complicated.
[00:39:20] No one always having you’re in you’re on the side on the peripheral, you always have the tortoise and the hare because it’s really easy to get focused on money. Yeah. And so you had that tortoise and the hare tickling you on the left side and you prefer the side of your brain because you need to keep that to focus because it’s really easy.
[00:39:40] So, you know, I’ve spent it’s very much about relationships, building relationships with people. Right. It’s about focusing on. You’re unique aspects as to the service or the product you’re selling and how it’s going to impact and change people’s lives or how you know you’re going to, you know, how are you to make a difference, basically. And that’s where it all comes down to. And I think. At least for me, when you dig down deep, where you’re where where you are. So I’m a.
[00:40:16] You’re going have a hard time editing this, but I say I use the blank canvas analogy a lot.
[00:40:23] Yeah, because I think ultimately business is art like, I don’t think. There is another there’s there’s nothing you can do. For the benefit of a stranger, that will impact them more. Then a successfully executed service experience. That’s great if you can do it, if you nail it. So when I was a kid, yeah, I wanted to I wanted to do movies. I want to be heard. Right. Yeah. And then it came around. So my position on movies right now is, hey, if I make enough money, I can build my own soapbox. But right now I don’t write. I don’t have that soapbox. So it’s OK. You know, you know, I’ve got a wife and two kids were happy, but we’re building out things, you know.
[00:41:07] But with regard to starting your business and on the flip side, I don’t if you don’t have that passion, unless you unless you’re properly, unless you’re well funded, you know, I would continue the learning stages and we continue to learn until you had that extra juice, like you got to like.
[00:41:28] Well, let’s talk about the juice, because I think I think the juice is all we had. Right. You know, I think I think when we started, we had a lot of energy, a lot of passion and a lot of caffeine.
[00:41:41] And we were driven and focused. Right. And I think that, you know, you’ve got to what you’ve got to wake up every day before the alarm clock because you’re so excited about what you’re doing that you can’t literally sleep. Right? I think that’s one of the that’s one of the components that I experienced. When I’m talking about when you’re bootstrapping, right. You’re starting with nothing. You don’t have a lot of money. And you’ve got to submerge yourself in educating yourself in an industry. And you’ve got to build a lot of relationships. And I think you hit the nail on the head earlier about the relationships and you get those relationships if you don’t have them, by picking up the phone and calling people or going out and meeting folks.
[00:42:26] And and, yeah, let me let me hit on the relationship thing went quickly because I don’t think it may be clear to what I mean.
[00:42:34] So so back in the 80s, I started advertising in Yellow Pages and it was effective. We grew and.
[00:42:46] Up into the 2000s where I was spending tens of thousands of dollars a month, you know, well over 30000 a month in yellow page advertising, 40000 a month, and we got a lot of calls and and then technology changed. The Internet came along. Right. So but in retrospect, what I tell young people that I meet, it’s forget the business for right now. Just put the business starting aside the whole, you know, starting a business thing. Form one professional personal relationship a month. Mm hmm. That’s what you do. That’s the key to success in business. That’s it, period. You keep it forever. You keep that relationship, that friendship to our friends. Forever. Forever. Yeah.
[00:43:35] So now so this is what magically happens. You develop one friendship a month. Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of Penny. You’ve done being and I’m not I don’t speak of it. I mean, people have rock stars for some some spin their wheels. But I think the concept of making friends and building on these relationships over the years, because what happens is 15, 20 years into a relationship, all these people are vice presidents. Right. And then as you get to my age, you know, 55 now, they start to become company presidents. Right. And now, I mean, I’ve had a lot of relationships where I’ve gone hundreds of thousands of dollars out on jobs just because I we knew each other. Those kind of relationships are invaluable. And I would. And so, regardless, even if you’re going to work in corporate America, that’s cool. But building friendships empowers you. It fulfills you. Right. And it’s the key to, in my opinion, financial success.
[00:44:31] That’s that’s brilliant. And I’ve never heard anybody say that before.
[00:44:34] That is and that’s and that’s very true, because no matter what field you are in, the relationships go with you. Yeah. Whether you’re a carpet cleaner, a water damage restoration technician, a produce salesman or.
[00:44:49] Yeah, I had to throw that in or a or a medical mold expert. All the relationships you build along the way are going to continue.
[00:44:58] I mean, you know, my clients have done we’ve done 100000 service calls in 30 years. Thirty three years, something like that, about 120 well over 100000 calls. Now, I was an integral in every experience. You know, quite frankly, once I get up to 35 people, I often become too distant, which maybe it’s one of my shortcomings because I become too distant from the client, because there’s a layer of management between me and them. But that being said, in my service experience, over 30 plus years, 33 years or so, we’ve we’ve knocked on 100000 doors in, you know, in every vertical, like I’ve previously said. And you meet a lot of interesting people. And so you’re you know, I mean, your strength, John, in my opinion, is, you know, you’ve got and I should have responded to you earlier in the video about when your company I mean, you you are just. As far as your ability to get up, sit at the desk and, you know, I have you, if you tell me, hey, get up on this roof in a snow snowstorm, I’ll do it.
[00:46:09] Or, you know, the worst place, worse environments. I’ll do it when it’s physical engagement, you know, getting to the job site and taking care of a, you know, managing a workplace disaster. I love that stuff. But when it comes to organizing, I travel the country a couple of years ago to get certified in like all these three certifications, there’s probably like a dozen people that have all these certifications. Right. I passed all the exams that all college prep work, but I never turned in my white papers. That’s how that’s how, you know, so on some of I’m broken because I had a two hour for our paper to turn in on all these certifications. And I’d be a very unique person with that. Right. Because that completes the certification, right? Well, I didn’t do it, you know, so but you have got a ridiculous talent for first of all, you were always optimistic.
[00:46:57] Never you never down the dumps, always like no matter how no matter what was going on around us, you were always positive and and you would sit at that desk and dial for dollars. And I’m telling you, you and you had some real I mean, so, you know, with regard to starting a company. Yeah. You need to be honest with yourself, too. I know what my strengths are and I know my weaknesses are, too. And so you definitely need to assemble a team or partners that complement your shortcomings. You should be a collection of rock stars. You very unique in a lot of different ways when it comes to selling communication. And you’re and you’re much more thoughtful in your communications, you know.
[00:47:39] Well, thanks for that time that. But yeah. So I mean, you definitely complimented me because I’m I’m I’m spinning my wheels, you know, I’m just constantly playing patches.
[00:47:48] Yeah. Yeah.
[00:47:49] Know, it’s just what was it was a good team. I mean and you know, and I think that goes back to, you know, what does it take to be successful. So I don’t think there’s any human out there that can be good in all areas. And I think, you know, to to to dovetail on what you just said, you know you know, my my my partnership over at Stanley Martin is this same thing. You know, Michael Snitzer is the brains behind the whole organization and he is just amazing at what he does. And I could never I tell him I go, I don’t even know what you’re doing. I don’t know how you’re doing it. I he he opens up spreadsheets that are so wide and so deep and so thick, I can’t even begin to see past the screen.
[00:48:29] And, you know, he probably wouldn’t be the right guy to be sitting on the phone, you know, talking with with customers all day. Right. So it’s a it’s a yeah, it’s a good match. So it’s fun, but yeah. So so to getting a business started and building relationships. And I want to go back to what you said a second ago about your 33 years and 100000 service calls and the folks that you met.
[00:48:49] But it’s also another a little tidbit for folks, is having the right people around you that can compliment your weaknesses. Right. And understanding what the important elements of a successful business are and having those people be part of the team that can make it work.
[00:49:04] Yeah, yeah. So, I mean, so I’ve run some so the largest job I ever ran was just under a thousand units. This was I think it was Hurricane Irma maybe down in Alexandria and that was just gas fitting. But I always say when I’m in the disaster business that my job is to conduct a symphony of operations and the sound of the music is on me. Yeah, that’s on me. But who is first trumpet or first violinist? That’s adjustable. And so when clients have a, you know, rock star fo Paisner, they want to integrate that into a rebuild process. OK, I’ll I’ll entertain that as long as they can keep up with the tempo, so to speak. Yeah. But ultimately, you know, employees are like people in the orchestra and we all need to be, you know, on the same sheet of music, so to speak, and. Yeah, I mean, there’s there’s certainly learning to do and there’s but it’s also about the fact that passion, that righteous passion is a it’s a great thing. Yeah, it is. Yeah. No, I agree.
[00:50:17] So talk about your 33 years and 100000 service calls and some of the folks that you’ve met along the way, some of the relationships that that you’ve made.
[00:50:31] So, you know, on the.
[00:50:35] Well, I’ve just you know, my clients, I’ve I’ve just had, you know, wonderful clients, as you can imagine. I mean, when they’re plumbing customers, HGC, carpet cleaning companies, I mean, the whole range of the gamut of personalities. I love interesting personalities. Yeah, I know you do. And in fact, you know, they say about, you know, how salesmen when you start, you know, you’re selling kind of like.
[00:51:00] Bland colors and things like that, but then once they get into it, they look for like the more complex patterns because it’s interesting to them, there’s more there’s more depth.
[00:51:09] And and I think when it comes to people.
[00:51:16] I do love I really yearn for that honest and open transaction because I’m committed to giving value and following through and always doing more than I said always, you know, so I always told my my. I promise. So you can overachieve. Always, always, always do something nice. So. And my business philosophy, we talk about apples, you know, whether it’s plumbing, heating, air conditioner, electric, treisman, whatever I said, look, always do, you know, find something to do that takes five, 10, 15 minutes and just do it. And then when you’re bragging about your work and you, if you don’t, you know, you’ve got to have some prime brag about your work, you know, show them what you did, show them different. So how you fixed it. And then when you’re doing that, show them something you did for free. Yeah. Goodwill. Yeah. And that it’s it’s a pretty huge factor, but it goes to a state of mind that good best practices that you’re going to put your best foot forward when you’re engaging residential clients. And anyways. But that echoes. Right. That that way of thinking, just like on the flip side, if you’re if you’re all about.
[00:52:25] You know, selling is important, but, you know.
[00:52:31] Good service, passionate service sells itself, really does, you know, and once they’re educated and you do have to ask, you can’t be enough for, you know, but if you love what you do, I mean, who would who doesn’t want to ask the guy with a smile on his face and loves what he does to do a little more work right now as opposed to looking looking down at your feet.
[00:52:48] Is there anything else you can I can do for you? Yeah. You know, I mean, not get you know, so but I think and that goes to successful business and happy living and all that, you know, just life in general. And, you know, like I said about your strengths, is that, you know, you’re a very optimistic person and you always tend to put your best foot forward.
[00:53:08] And and you do have you do have that break where you when when you go into a relationship, you do have that kind of pregame thinking so that you do take your, you know, clients or whoever you’re engaging on that journey where you’ve kind of predefined the route, you know, where you want to go. Like we we talked a little bit here. I mean, you didn’t know that we’d be going in this zigzag.
[00:53:30] Yeah, I’m holding on for dear life, right? Yeah.
[00:53:36] No, it’s all good, Tom. It’s been a fantastic conversation. You’ve got a lot of great insight. I’m really grateful that you came in today. I think that’s a great place to to end it.
[00:53:48] And for today and we will continue this conversation. I think we got a lot of things we can bring you back and talk about. And and we look forward to having you on a future episode. So, Tom, thanks for coming in.
[00:54:01] Well, thank you very much, John. It was it was great. Sit down and chat with you. Yeah, we should do this more probably off the mic.
[00:54:08] Yeah, well, you know, the funny thing is it’s just wrapping this up. This is the first time we’ve probably sat down in fifteen years for this.
[00:54:15] Yeah. Yeah. We’ve had without it. Without a Ohashi type stuff. Yeah. Exactly. Between commercials. Yeah. Exactly. So right. Yeah. So good to talk to you for fun. Thank you.
[00:54:29] Hey, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the Go with John show, please subscribe on the podcast platform of your choice and keep up with our latest episodes and what’s going on with the show at Go with John Dotcom that go with John Dotcom