“You've got to have endurance because it's not a sprint.”
— Brad Pesek
After seven years as a high school math teacher, Brad Pesek made the transition to the trades. He’s risen to CFO of McWilliams & Sons, which has multiple locations in Texas and did $12 million in annual sales in 2020.
In an episode of "Toolbox for the Trades," Pesek talks about similarities in educational arcs between high schoolers and adults, growth strategies, and an unusual incentive plan that spurs mentorship.
Here are Brad Pesek’s top tips for managing home and commercial services companies:
Key TakeawaysMix growth strategies for different markets.Teaching in the trades is timeless.Employees like structure. Actively network for new hires. Reward employees for employment referrals. Get people in the right role. Reward top employees with performance pay. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Recommended research and reading
Mix growth strategies for different markets.
It’s one thing to say that your company is planning for 25% growth across the board, Pesek says. Sometimes, though, it makes more sense to divvy up growth projections across different markets you serve.
“In the past couple of years, that’s how we changed up our strategy,” he says. “We looked at one market that’s very saturated and realized it wasn’t realistic to grow as much there as in other locations.”
Teaching in the trades is timeless.
As a former high school teacher, Pesek, after a few years in the trades, came to realize there are not many differences between best practices in educating kids and doing adult learning in the workplace.
“Everybody learns at a different pace and different level,” he says. “Whether you’re in high school or are an adult, it takes some people longer to learn a concept than others.”
Employees like structure.
Most people working in a company want to know what their day is going to be like, Pesek says. Unforeseen events can shake things up, and that’s understandable.
“But as much as possible, it’s good to create routine and structure,” he says. “For weekly meetings, it’s helpful to meet on the same day, at the same time in the same place. All meetings should be similar—so you could walk into a service tech meeting or an office meeting with the CEO and they should have the same flow.”
Actively network for new hires.
Word of mouth is crucial when it comes to filling job openings, Pesek believes.
“We always tell our employees to be talking to the waitress when they have good service at Chili's, or wherever you take your car and get excellent service,” he says. “Even though we may not have a position now, we're always hiring. We teach our employees to always be recruiting for team members.”
Reward employees for employment referrals.
McWilliams & Sons pays employees up to $1,000 for referrals who get hired. On top of that, Pesek says team members get an annual $2,000 bonus for every anniversary of their referral’s hire date.
“It definitely creates connections and mentorships,” he says. “Employees want to make sure they keep getting that bonus, so they check in with that person and make sure they’re doing all right. We’ve seen a lot of success with this.”
Get people in the right role.
The hiring process at McWilliams & Sons is a layered process that helps ensure people get placed into the right role for them in the company, Pesek says.
“Interviews are always going to be with two different teams,” he says. “If they do well with the first team, they are passed on to a second round. Four people will have had a ‘touch’ on them before we consider hiring them.”
An example of the benefit of multiple touches: When the company recently interviewed someone for a dispatch position, an operations manager realized the candidate would be a perfect fit for an open accounting job.
Reward top employees with performance pay.
There are multiple benefits to performance pay, Pesek says. McWilliams & Sons had that practice in place for years on the install side, and just set it up on the service side.
“I wish we’d done it years ago,” he says. “It’s one of those things that self-corrects and self-manages bad behaviors. It rewards top performers, and it weeds out guys who aren’t performing.”
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Pesek is a runner, and calls to mind the process of working yourself up to run 2 miles, then a 10K race, and then a half marathon.
“It’s the same for business,” he says. “With each step, you have to push yourself further than you thought you could. This year, we’re looking to go up to $15 million in sales and bring on 15 new temp team members. How will we do it? Well, we’ll look back on the growth we’ve had in the past and realize we can push through to the next level.”
Recommended research and reading
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss See You at the Top by Zig Ziglar Start With Why by Simon Sinek The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell The E-Myth by Michael Gerber The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith