“There's value to be had in every conversation and every relationship.”
— Chris Hunter
Both men started their careers as young HVAC techs at different times. They formed a mentor-mentee relationship and now work together at the consulting and coaching firm Go Time Success Group. The name of their book says it all: “ It's Go-Time: Ben Stark and Chris Hunter Share Insights & Strategies to Help Your Home-Service Company Succeed.”
On the “Toolbox for the Trades” podcast, Stark (the visionary) and Hunter (the implementer) talk about separating your personal identity from your business, developing core values, and innovations in recruiting.
Here are Ben Stark and Chris Hunter’s top tips for creating success in the home-service industry:
Key TakeawaysYour business is an entity, not your identity. You can learn from everybody and everything.Nothing’s more critical than a company’s vision, mission and values.Implementing your company’s big vision is a journey.Ignite passion in your employees and recruits.Help employees build metaphorical “toolboxes.”Leverage ServiceTitan technology.Expand, but don’t rush into new markets and verticals. Know that opportunity is everywhere—especially during valleys.Plan to exit with grace.
Your business is an entity, not your identity.
Hunter says that early on in his career, his progress and success were stymied by mistakenly tying his personal identity to his business. “I thought, this is my baby, I’m growing this thing,” he says. “I was so emotionally attached to it, but it’s not you, it’s your job. You’re the steward of it, to grow it, and use it to help you accomplish your personal goals. It is its own thing, and you can release it to the next generation of leaders. That was a big emotional wall for me to get over.”
You can learn from everybody and everything.
Stark initially acted as a mentor to Hunter, but Stark says he learns just as much in the relationship—and in every relationship, he has in the industry. “With any great relationship, it’s win-win on both sides, right?” Stark says. “No matter if it’s a contractor who is just starting out or one who’s the biggest and most successful. There’s value to be had in every relationship. My goal is to find something new to put in my pocket every day.”
Nothing’s more critical than a company’s vision, mission, and values.
Stark says any business is a consolidation of a lot of best practices that hinge on core values. “My core feeling is that you should know where you’re going before you start heading out,” he says. “We’re always trying to have our vision shared with others. People need to buy into the big picture of the program. Sure, the grass is always greener…but not if you’re showing each individual in the company how they fit into the big vision.”
Implementing your company’s big vision is a journey.
Hunter agrees with Stark that success starts with planning based around vision, mission, and values, and says that sets the table for implementation. “It’s like going on a journey,” Hunter says. “You can take action if you have clarity and a strong foundation. With a good vision, you can develop systems, perfect our craft, develop leaders, and maybe duplicate all that in similar areas.”
Ignite passion in your employees and recruits.
“The way you ignite passion in people is you find out what’s really important to them,” Hunter says. “And then you connect the dots between their personal goals and your company’s goals.” He says that’s where the magic happens: “If somebody wants to take their kids to Disneyland, I can show them how if we perform and hit these numbers, there’s the money to get them to Disneyland.”
Help employees build metaphorical “toolboxes.”
Stark and Hunter say there are four metaphorical toolboxes of fundamentals you should provide for employees, including the actual/physical tools, knowledge, communication, and mindset. “It’s important for us to teach about each one, with the mindset being the most important toolbox,” Stark says. “The mindset is that on the job you turn off all the bad things in your life. You turn on the professional light switch. That’s how you grow as an individual and how you grow your wealth.”
Leverage ServiceTitan technology.
Stark says he’s used about a half dozen different software systems over the years and now believes that having ServiceTitan’s advanced tools available is crucial. “We don’t yet use all the software that’s available to us, but it’s an important mechanism for us to have available,” he says. “To summarize what Michael Gerber says in ‘The E-Myth’, whenever you have an intelligent system in place, every time you add a person you can expand your reach almost indefinitely.”
Expand, but don’t rush into new markets and verticals.
Stark and Hunter have learned the lesson of trying to expand before the company is ready to do it. “It’s absolutely the wrong thing to expand before you are pretty dominant and you’ve captured a good market share,” Hunter says. It’s going to be more headaches. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to divert your focus. If the reasoning for doing it is there, then absolutely do it. Just make sure the tools are there.”
Know that opportunity is everywhere—especially during valleys.
Stark believes there’s never a bad time to look for new service-industry opportunities. “Even in peaks and valleys, opportunity never ends,” he says. “Whatever the economic factors are, put your foot on the accelerator and don’t pull back. Every time we’ve seen a pullback of significance, I’ve pushed a little harder, done a little more marketing, took a little more risk. I’m no scientist. I’m just a hardworking guy.”
Plan to exit with grace.
Hunter says a lot of industry companies are getting offers to buy right now. He counsels to sell if you’re ready, not just because the price seems right. “What’s your strategy and what’s your goal?” he asks. “A few years into my journey, I was offered a million dollars for a company. I thought, ‘Done. Here we go.’ But then I thought about what this would mean for the rest of my life, and the lifestyle I wanted. It’s not all about that top number. But, if you’re ready, the window is wide open.”