“If I’m upset, let me look at what’s wrong with me — and turn that into a growth opportunity.”
— Brad Casebier
Husband-and-wife team Brad and Sarah Casebier are co-owners of rapidly growing Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning in Austin, Texas. Brad has written a book about what they both know best: The Survival Guide to Working with Your Spouse.
On “Toolbox for the Trades,” the pair talk about growing and learning together, how to evolve roles, and going the private equity route with your business.
Here are Brad and Sarah Casebier’s top tips for managing a trade business as a husband-and-wife team:
Key TakeawaysThe importance of growing and learning together.Take your partner’s perspective into mind.How to carefully evolve roles. When the roles evolve, define them for the whole team. Set specific times to hold a “base-camp” meeting. Look inward first for fixes in your work and life. Knowing when to turn to private equity. The benefit of having a board of directors. Recommended research and reading
The importance of growing and learning together.
Both Brad and Sarah Casebier stress the importance of growing and learning together instead of individually.
“I would advise everyone to go to all the classes together, do all the coaching together and be immersed in it together,” Brad says. “And then you debrief. But man, if you do it alone, you’ll get all fired up about a new thing, come home, and excitedly share it with your partner. Then, instant resistance. You’re scaring them. They weren’t there, they don’t have the context. It’s super intimidating.”
Take your partner’s perspective into mind.
Getting coached together is a natural way to get closer to your partner’s immediate perspective, Sarah says.
“Because ultimately, we both share a passion for learning and growing and being the best that we can within the business,” she says.
“At times, we were pretty competitive, honestly, and entrenched in our positions—really committed to being right about something,” he says. It wasn’t always smooth. We duked it out.
“You have to step back and be humble, and see things from another angle. That will alleviate the friction.”
How to carefully evolve roles.
Today, Brad is CEO of Radiant and the company is owned by a private equity firm. He has duties on a national level and has a board to report to. Sarah is in more of a consulting role. Previously, Sarah was in charge of all things service and financials, while Brad was the plumber and the general manager.
“There was a time,” Brad says,” when the company needed better organization. Sarah was the one who implemented ServiceTitan. She was passionate about it, and I wasn’t. She had a strong desire to be the GM. So, that was the right play. I focused on sales and marketing and we hired a CFO.
“A few years later, it made sense for me to be the GM, again. We grew so much by letting go at the right times, and that turned into radical growth.”
When the roles evolve, define them for the whole team.
When roles change and evolve, it’s critical to make clear to the employees who does what among ownership, Sarah says.
“We had some blurred lines and it created some confusion within the company,” she says. “There was a typical parent-child relationship thing. Staff would hit up one of us, and if we said, ‘no,’ they’d go to the other.”
The Casebiers saw this playing out and quickly realized they had to define the org chart, assign responsibilities and get everybody to stay in their lane.
Set specific times to hold a “base-camp” meeting.
Brad and Sarah love to discuss business at work and at home. But they realized that bringing up a major issue at 7 o’clock at night isn’t an ideal situation.
“We love business,” Brad says. “It’s our hobby and we talk about it all the time. We don’t have a work-life balance, but we don’t really care.
“But…sometimes a difficult issue pops in your head at night that could be disruptive to your partner’s life. So, you park it in base camp. You bring it up in a designated meeting that has all the right people in it. That’s the way to do it.”
Look inward first for fixes in your work and life.
Brad finds inspiration to overcome pain and drama by looking inward.
“The book ‘Loving What Is’ rocked my world,” he says. “You realize you create your own trauma. In a relationship, you can benefit by not blaming things on your spouse or your kids or whoever. Look at what you bring to the situation.
“I’m a player. I’m a participant. I can’t really fix anybody but myself. If I’m upset, let me look at what’s wrong with me—and turn that into a growth opportunity.”
Knowing when to turn to private equity.
The Casebiers sold part of their company to a private equity firm in November 2020. It was both exciting and hard, they say.
“It’s been a psychological blender,” Brad says. “Of course, it was great to take some chips off the table. You’ve got this money, in theory, in your business, but it’s fun to put it in a bank account but keep playing the game—with more opportunities to make more, too.
“At the same time, we have the backing of a phenomenal group. They’re great at identifying companies we’re looking to acquire and helping find partners for the next step.”
The benefit of having a board of directors.
Having a board of directors brings a high level of accountability, Sarah says.
“Our board is not necessarily tradespeople,” she says. “It’s business owners from all walks of life and all types of businesses.
“You get powerful perspectives. Now you’re hearing what is working at a veterinary clinic and that might be a solution for the plumbing trade that you hadn’t considered.
“And, if you’ve selected the right board, they will call you out on things. There’s real power to that.”