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There is a lot of noise out there these days. Making your business stand out from the crowd is no longer a benefit, it’s a necessity. Our guest Wade Wheeler is going to share with us the elements needed to be unique in your market.

Show highlights include:

  • The “Pig in the Dog Show” secret for standing out in an overcrowded market (1:14) 
  • How to make a niche develop itself around you (instead of drowning in broadness like most of the building world) (3:23) 
  • Why finding better hobbies makes your entire company happier and more productive (5:38) 
  • How an ancient Japanese term effortlessly solves your most pressing problems (without overloading your stress) (7:21) 
  • Richard Branson’s secret for creating billion dollar businesses by not focusing on products or customers (and how to use this in your construction company) (9:23)
  • You can’t scale a chaotic culture (15:34)
  • The weird way to grow your business faster by declining more jobs (even if you don’t have another project lined up) (17:27) 
  • The simple, two-second hack that instantly engages your clients, subcontractors, and team members (20:52) 

If you’d like to connect with Wade to learn more you can find him at https://www.wadecic.com/

To get the most out of this podcast, head over to https://buildernuggets.com  and join our active community of like-minded builders and remodelers.

Read Full Transcript

It was a pig, literally in a dog show.

Welcome to another episode of Builder Nuggets, the show where builders and remodelers discover how to build thriving businesses while working less. I'm Duane Johns and together with Dave Young, we share the elements of success that have helped hundreds of contractors like you build better lives.

(00:31): There's a lot of noise out there. These days, making your business stand out from the crowd is no longer a benefit. It's a necessity today's guest is going to share with us. The elements needed to be unique in your market.

(00:32): As a builder and consultant. He has the benefit of seeing things from both sides. Growing up in the high-end custom home building world, he knows what it takes to stand out with experience in everything from small remodels to $10 million plus custom homes. He talks a good game because he's done it. And all those still actively designing and building in the Denver, Colorado area. His true passion is helping others in the industry. And that's why we have him on the show today. It's my pleasure to welcome way Wheeler to the building nuggets community. Welcome wait,

(01:01): Gentlemen. Thank you. Appreciate it. I'm excited to be here. This is going to be a good topic today. When you and I spoke a few weeks ago, you brought up the pig and a dog show, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about that. What's the story behind,

(01:14): You know, the pig and the dog show it's. One of those words was it was a picture I just ran across on the internet one day and it just, it was a, it was a pig literally in a dog show. And what the picture told me in essence is that you just gotta be, you don't try to be everything to everybody all over the place, just be yourself. And you're gonna end up standing out beyond, you know, what everybody else does trying to fit in. A lot of this revolves around the culture of companies. You know, when, when people call me to help consult with their business, usually they have ABC things of what they think is going wrong with the company. There's a lot of, you know, my finances are out of order. My marketing stinks. I can't retain employees are our profit margins are not there.

(02:08): Nobody listens to me. I can't get my point across. So, you know, I'll put it that way. Taking a step back. What I found is those are all things that are fairly easy to evaluate and to fix within a company. And well, let's say your books are out of order and your profit margins are low. A few analytics, a few data cycles through, you can figure out what the heck's going on with the company very quickly through the years, as I've been working with people and in my own companies, as you, as you mentioned, you know, I still, I still build a little bit here and there as well. It's the culture of the company. There's a lot of different terms for it. The identity vibe, mojo, the energy, the feel, you know, there's a lot of ways to describe what I'm going to talk about today, but because of an industry standard, I'm just going to use the word culture or talking about the culture of the field.

(03:03): And more often than not, when I'm talking to people in their company, what I'm finding is that there's a lot of things that are out of sync within, within the company itself. A lot of this stems guys from people trying to be something that they're not the building world, whether you're a builder, an interior designer and architect, a retailer, it's a big old pie. There's a lot of market out there. People try to be too broad in what they're doing. You know, they're trying to be everything to everybody. The most successful companies that I've dealt with in the most successful groups I've dealt with is they pick a niche. They focus on that niche. They develop the feel of their company and then the niche develops itself. If that makes sense,

(03:59): I think it makes total sense. I mean, even you even see it sometimes in the broad based whether it's coaching or consulting, I think there's a lot of folks out there nowadays. I'm not going to name any names, but there's certainly some so-called social media influencers that it doesn't matter what the topic they're an expert. And we all know

(04:19): That, you know, fine. As you said, find your niche. People will know you for that. And I think it builds a level of trust and respect for everybody around you. So is that one of the first challenges is helping somebody understand what their niche is or how do you find the niche

(04:34): Finds itself by people discovering what they truly want within a business. But when I go in, you know, I usually obviously deal with either upper management in a larger corporation or the owners themselves. Right? And I usually step in and say, what do you want out of this company? And they usually say, well, I want to make money, right? There's something for there. I want a better lifestyle. And usually the lifestyles where I jumped in, I said, well, paint a picture, a picture, paint a picture to me of what your ideal day looks like, what your ideal feel of your company is your ideal market that you're dealing with out there. And I go so far as you know, within my consulting is I work with the actual, the individuals themselves we'll do health and lifestyle coaching. My wife, Tammy will jump into that. She's a lifestyle medical practitioner and we'll even bring diet.

(05:35): And what do they do on their days off? One of the funniest questions, I get a laugh out of business owners and upper management is I'll say, what do you like to do? You know, they'll say, what do you mean? And they'll say, what do you like to do outside of work? Like, do you like to go fishing? You like to go surfing. Do you like to do needle point? I mean, what is it that makes happy? A lot of the time within that we will develop that sideline. At the same time we develop the business. Whoever is leading everybody else in the company is going to follow that leader every single day. If they come in and they're in a bad mood, they're stressed about profit margins. They're stressed about things and never, it's amazing. Everybody else in the company tends to follow along adversely on the other side of the coin, if there's a huge problem. And there's a lot of challenges ahead of them. But the leader of that company is his full point forward. We're going to win no matter what I have seen amazing turnarounds and amazing things come out of companies.

(06:43): And I think it's interesting as entrepreneurs, the difference between just simply being an entrepreneur, being a leader, because entrepreneurs can sometimes tend to not necessarily just be a leader out of the gate. You know what I mean? We have ideas. We're all over the map. We can come, we can leave on Friday, come back Monday morning. And I have a whole new list of wonderful things. We want everybody to do change gears. So I think it is your point of the leader. That's what everyone wants. They want to be able to follow that leader that is confident in what they're doing and, and clear in what their vision is and where you're leading the company.

(07:18): In some way, those promotions like myself, an example. I have things that make me happy that have nothing to do with business, family, anything like that. I love to ride bicycles up here in Colorado. We're always in the mountains. We're mountain biking. I also like to work on old leaky land rovers, right? I can't tell you the amount of problems that I've solved with oil dripping on my head, underneath the land Rover. If I'm in my element and I'm in my place, there's an old Japanese term called motion and motion basically means no mind. And somebody taught me a very long time ago. If you take yourself out of it, your inner psyche comes up with solutions very quickly. And if you're stressed and you, you have little things that are getting in your way, you can't figure it out, right? So that's one of the reasons why we, we develop personal things, make sure that they're in order, the people are in order.

(08:16): And that comes down to employees, okay? Employees and subcontractors, the culture of the building world and why I stay in the building world is because it's awesome. The people that we have within the building industry, whatever your sector of the building industry is, it's a bunch of can-do people. I mean, if you're on a job site and somebody falls off a ladder, or let's say for framing a wall and a wall falls down, you will see every trade. Every person come running in to help that guy. This is an amazing group of people. And that's why I stay the building industry. When you take it away from the overall building culture and, and you go into your company culture. These are things that I promote as well is a company leader. You shouldn't be concerned about yourself. Money will fall off. If you have a company that is doing well, firing on all cylinders, the money comes automatically take care of your people beyond anything else.

(09:23): I think Richard Branson, the guy who started Virgin, obviously smart guy knows what he's doing. One of his initial philosophies when he started business is don't worry about the customers. Don't worry about the product, worry about your employees. Create a great environment where everybody wants to come to work. Every day. Everybody wants to try hard. Everybody wants to do a good job. And they like where they work. I mean, I spend more time with my employees and my subcontractors and my clients than I do my wife. I like my wife much more than I like all those people. Right? But at the same time, these are the people that we deal with on a daily basis. And that's your extended family. It becomes an extended family. There's nothing more expensive than hiring a new employee. There's no bigger headache than hiring a new employee, right?

(10:18): Even if they're trying already, even if they know what they're doing, they still have to integrate into the company. They still have to learn the systems. They have to learn about a particular job. You can take the best project manager in the world. You throw them into a new job. It's still going to take them 30 days to figure out really what the heck's going on on that job. These are fundamental philosophies of how to have a sustainable long term company is the people involved. Business owners don't necessarily run jobs anymore. We're not out there necessarily swinging the hammer. We run people. We run situations. We run clients, they run the nails in the walls. They run the screws in the, in the drywall. They put the plumbing together and, you know, make it happen.

(11:07): Front lines. Those people in the field can be the, you know, the front lines front facing of your company. Exactly. Right. Yeah. Wade, you spoke earlier about, you know, when I asked about the finding the niche, you said that niche will, will reveal itself, maybe share with us some of the experiences you've had working with different builders where they discovered this because there's probably part of our audience out there who feel like, well, I have a nation. Think I have one. Do I really have one, walk us through the discovery process of somebody how this becomes revealed to them?

(11:41): Yeah. We'll tell them, we'll take an example of a builder. I worked with a while back. He was trying to go after every market of everything. Every remodel high-end low end was trying to get himself into commercial, try, you know, trying to, trying to, he was doing everything. He was making sausage, he was making sausage. Exactly. Just mixing everything together and trying to do it and was, was coming unhinged because of it, right. By taking a step back and saying, well, what do you actually like to do? Well, I don't know. You know, I'm worried about not making money. I'm worried about what if the market goes down? What if it's not there? What if you know, what, if it doesn't happen, he was trying to do, you know, some more luxury sort of remodels. And he thought that's the direction he wanted to go from talking with them.

(12:34): The things that stressed him out more than anything was non repetitiveness in his building world. Don't go into custom construction. If you want things to be the same, right. It's, it's always different. And it's always a problem. And it only needs to be something that's figured out by going through this and having him really analyze his business and who he was promoting. What, what he actually figured out he liked to do was tenant improvements and commercial buildings. We weren't even on there at the beginning. But what he loved is that he didn't necessarily have to deal with the homeowner. There was always a clean set of plans. You know, that it, beginning to end, there was no emotion involved in the build, you know, usually steel studs and some drywall, you know, and then you can run everything up above the ceilings and he didn't have to do anything. He started crushing it. I mean, just all of a sudden realize that he could have the same crews do the same things. All the times. We developed relationships with you know, commercial buildings throughout the area. He had a steady flow of business because there's turnover. You don't have to go market to anybody else. They already know you. That that's a good example of somebody that really went in opposite direction of what he thought he wanted to do. And it worked out very well. Dave,

(14:06): It's almost like a highest and best use for the company. We've actually a previous episode. If you want to go back, if you hadn't heard, we have one called highest and best use. It's an exercise that we do a lot with the builders, remodelers that we work with, but trying to go on a personal level, trying to find your highest and best use. I mean, everybody's gonna function their best and be their happiest if they're operating at their highest and best use. And it sounds like if you can get a company to that point, the niche, you know, really focused on that thing that your company is good at and known for people are going to be happier. That's just, it's going to make the culture around much better. It's really gonna come about during your vision creation sessions. When you're sitting down and asking yourself these questions, when you're interviewing your team, what they're good at, and you're identifying their skills because you can't scale.

(14:53): While we've talked about this a lot from our, one of our very first episodes is you can't scale chaos, but those are maybe some of the things you've talked about earlier in the episode where, you know, the builder is all over the map with systems and structure and everything, but you can't scale a chaotic culture either. You need to have that unified culture where, and that's what the vision statement does. And part of that vision development is identifying your niche through the strength of the people and likely the vision is going to come in most cases from the leader. And that's going to be a magnet that attracts the type, the other people that want to go on that mission with you. So I feel like your niche, if you don't know what it is right now, you need to find it because you can't build your magnet until you have that vision in that niche identified.

(15:38): And I feel like the starting point would be sit down with your team and talk about it and evaluate, Hey, what were, what are we really good at? This is what I super good at. This is the leader talking, get the feedback of a team and say, can we do this? And then go and get some help to start working on that. But it really feels like, Hey, yes, it will emerge. But I feel like you have to ask the right questions. You have to look at the right things in order for it to emerge. And it took you coming into that other builders business. He didn't know what questions to ask himself. It took, you are coming into it. You coming in with you're dripping land Rover oil. Like, you know, you could see outside looking in, right? And, and what you were talking about, I forget the name of that. The Japanese term that you used for that motion is when you're able to step outside and see it for yourself. If you don't get there, but you need somebody else to come in and take a look at it and help you with it, which is exactly where his,

(16:35): A quick reminder, that the best way to get the most out of this podcast is to engage with the builder nuggets community, visit our website@buildernuggets.com and follow along on Facebook and Instagram. And that's a lot of the times,

(16:50): You know, within companies, me coming in I'm pushing away blocks, not teaching them something new to do a very, very long time ago. My uncle who I learned the trade from, he told me he has, he had a lot of quotes that stuck with me, but one of them in particular was it's important. The jobs you say no to is the jobs you say yes to. And people come into the industry with a particular, I think I want to do this. Well, a friend of a friend they met at their kid's soccer game, or what have you comes up and says, Hey, I've got a little remodel. Can you come over and help me with it? It's amazing how off track people get from their original vision by daily activities and opportunities that are thrown to them? You know, I always prided myself on jobs. I said no to, it was just something that I realized that if I say no to this, even though I may not have another job on the books or coming up, something will present itself. And it's amazing when you say no to something, how something you actually really want to do pops in and it's pushing away, okay, why are we doing this? When actually everybody wants to do that. And it's just pushing away the blocks and opening it up and creating the one thing

(18:10): We'll work on a lot too, is when you find that niche. And a lot of times you'd think it's just around a project. We also challenge folks to think that that niche is also the client you're working for. Absolutely. You could be dialed into your niche project, but if it's for the wrong person, the wrong client, if that's not a good fit, that's going to be a disruption to your call.

(18:31): There's nothing worse than a bad client. You know, when we pick jobs, we always pick a client first job, second. There's nothing worse than somebody who's not being rational from a client perspective. And a lot of that has to do with fearfulness because they don't understand what's going on in a project. Right. They walk in, oh my gosh, what is this? They have no idea that it's probably an easy fix or what have you. I'd like to say, all my clients are perfect and glorious and beautiful. All the ones that are exactly right. We do. Right, right now in particular, I do actually have some very good clients. But that that's very well said, Dwayne. That's, that's an important thing. I mean, this is somebody I always tell clients, Hey, guess what we're getting married for a while is builders. We're always working ourselves out of a job. So I tell them at some point we're going to get divorced, right? So we have to either decide whether we're going to have a nice divorce and we park part ways and I can still come over for a, you know, family dinner or we're, we're not going to horrible ways. Right? So cultural thing goes so

(19:37): Much deeper, as you said, it's not just, it's not just a turn to be thrown out there. I mean, the culture is it's the core values of the company. And in some cases that is already there. And I think today's point what a lot of folks or companies probably haven't done. They haven't taken it, taken the time to expose that. Let everybody say it out loud, you know, get, get your team in the room. You start talking about what are your core values? You don't have to sit there and make them up. There's a good chance. They're already there. You just have to understand what they are. You know, why, why are you making some of the decisions you are? Does this person a good fit for our company? Well, why is that? Or why isn't that? You know, those are your core values. And you've got to apply that to everything. You know, the people you hire, the jobs you take on the clients, you're going to work for. That's part of the culture. And when everybody believes that and understands that all of your decisions become much easier

(20:25): And people trust your decisions, you're making much more, you know, w at one point I want to make within this company, culture is I'm not talking about this homogenous, gray. Everybody needs to be like you as the leader. I always tell people, rock what you're doing, be what you are and be it to the absolute, highest degree you can. And smile, because a smile, a look in the eyes will get you engaged with any client, any customer, any subcontractor, what have you. And I'll use two different, two examples of two people. We had a guy working for us in the past and his nickname was Otis the Viking. Okay. Otis came in, he was working as a framer for us. Otis looked like something straight out of the Viking series. I mean, he had the tattoos and the hair and all and, and earrings and the whole thing.

(21:27): And he came up to me one day said, Hey, you know, do I, we're dealing with some pretty high end stuff here. You know, some high end houses, do I need to shave my hair and do all this stuff? I said, absolutely not. You need to take the horns off my helmet. I wish I had that actually would have been great. But, you know, I said, you need to be whatever makes you feel like you're being you and you're living to the absolute highest point that you can be. You know, he was scared to talk to clients because, you know, I, I tend to deal with some very high end, a type CEOs, right? Just with the houses we build, you know, w we get those. And a lot of, a lot of these people are our suits and ties and, and that sort of thing.

(22:14): He was scared to talk to these people. And all of a sudden, after I said that he, and one of our clients he was working with became like buddies. And they were totally opposite in personalities. But Otis was now not afraid to go talk to them. And it was just a totally different person. So within a company, everybody can, they, they need to be what they are to the best of their ability, everything that they can be. So we're not talking, you know, the old pink Floyd, another brick in the wall where everybody's just walking in gray suits and a gray environment into, into the building. That's again, not what our industry's about. Our industry's about people being what they want to be. And

(23:04): It's a great point to, you know, you can have all the structure and systems and processes in place that there are, and those all have their place, but people have to have that freedom and a good culture does that to make things their own, do it their way. Exactly. We're dealing with, we're dealing with humans. It's humans that are working together to build these things every single time. And they have to have a human experience. Otherwise they're not going to want to come back to it. You take anybody and try and pitch them, pigeonhole them into a robotic job. There's very few people that, again, it's self fulfillment from, from that sort of thing for them, it's just work. And they're getting out of there. There's not a visionary. There is a purpose. There's just a paycheck. When it's like that. If you want to create, that's bigger than the paycheck, you got to have that vision.

(23:48): The other, the other thing that struck me as we're going through this is you need to be able to find a way to allow others into your culture. When we were talking earlier about the clients, the clients need to share your core values, the, your trades shouldn't be able to demonstrate a lot of your core values to otherwise. Those relationships are not going to work in a, in a few episodes back, James Pagano talked about, it's a relationship, not a transaction. So many times we get sucked into treating our small interactions as a transaction. And you forget about the relationship part. But if you want to amplify your culture, you need to remember the relationship. Otherwise it'll just be fleeting and you won't be able to accomplish anything for long. You might get your job done, but you won't have a raving fan at the end.

(24:35): And something else we say a lot on the show is no project ever gave a testimonial, no project ever called you crying at 6:00 AM in the morning or 11 o'clock at night, no project walks through the grocery store and told somebody how awesome the experience was. So you got to remember always, you know, as cool as the project can look sitting there. And you know, I'm not naive about it, that the project, your work can stand for itself as well. But the project isn't give you a review. So that experience, you know, the project itself could be just wasted if you don't have the the experience and the culture and the humanity to go with it.

(25:16): Exactly. Right? I mean, so some of the core values that are across the board, and especially with clients, whether it be commercial or especially residential, I mean, we're building homes for people, gentlemen, this is where they're going to raise their families. This is their safe place from the world outside. This is where they come to be happy, especially in the residential world and the core values that, that have to be there all the time is trust in doing the right thing. Always, you know, every, everybody may makes mistakes, right? I've, I've made 10 mistakes today and I fixed nine of them. And the other one I'm going to fix tomorrow, right? The other term is it's never a mistake if you're willing to fix it. I mean, we're, we're dealing with complex procedures. A lot of people involved, a lot of people over on top of each other, you've gotta be willing to do the right thing, always in building the, you, you can't shortcut.

(26:17): I mean, a lot of it is, you know, CYA in, in the building world. We're always worried about covering our backside, making sure. Well, if you, if you do the right thing in the first place, you don't necessarily need to worry about that. I mean, stuff happens, but always do the best job you can. Some of the best things that I've ever had happen to me in the building world is when I've eaten a tremendous amount of money, it's like, look, it's not right. The customer may not see it, but it's not right. Calling a customer up and saying, look, there's a big screw up. It's not your problem. It's ours. We're fixing it. It may delay your project a week. Never had anybody get mad at me ever, ever.

(27:00): One of, one of my all time, favorite trades, it was a great guy, good friend passed away several years ago, but he was a really good millwork guy, had a little bit of an ARG pirate kind of banter to him. But, you know, he used to say, we build it nice because we build it twice. You know, sometimes you just, sometimes you have to, you know, you stand back, you look at something you're not comfortable with it. And that falls back to that culture. And those core values. If that's something that you can accept yourself or your team around you, well, it's, it's gotta be corrected. And as you said, that's, that's making the right decision.

(27:35): It usually people stop making the right decision when it hits them in the pocketbook. You know, I've, I'd like to say every subcontractor I love throughout the years. And we've got some great guys, you know, that I've worked with, but it's the guys that look at me and go, not my fault, not my problem. And just are unwilling to figure out a solution to it. Fine. You know, if the door is transient transaction transaction, it comes

(28:05): Down to a pay me now pay me later kind of thing. It's it's going to catch it. Oh yeah. Undoubtedly. A lot larger price tag. Yeah,

(28:15): Absolutely. So I mean, some of those, those are things once again, you know, within our industry, I mean hiring employees or hiring subcontractors, I always look for the lust in their eyes. Like, how excited are they? Are they really into this? Or is it just a paycheck? Is it just a transaction? But if I just want a paycheck, there's a lot of other jobs that are easier, but there's a lot of other jobs that that will cause you a little less stress, but there's not many jobs that are as fulfilling. I mean, there is, there's very few things nowadays that you get to stand back and go straight. Look at that. Look at what I just made. That is beautiful. That is amazing. Look at how it turned out. And personally, I will always take somebody. That's got the lust in their eyes and is willing to put sweat on their brow, over experience or titles, or tell me all the amazing things they've done in the past any day, any single day, you know, as, as a business owner or management, helping people learn, you know what we do, you want to get better at it?

(29:31): Do you know, we have, we have a guy Tom who refers to himself as the world's best plumber. I love the guy, everything he does. And I mean, he's plumbing, it's that exciting. And he is always ecstatic and wants to show me, he wants to show me the way his pipes, you know, his KyTech is going through the walls. And I just, I love the stoke. You know, you just, you just got to love the stoke of it, and you want to promote that and, and you want to help them and, and grab a homeowner, bring them over and go look at what Tom did. And Tom's kind of in the side room, you know, and let them hear that you're promoting them and make them feel what he's doing is amazing because in, you know, two weeks, everything Tom did is all covered up. What you just

(30:21): Did. What you just did in a roundabout way is you just shared with us one of your core values, your core value is passion. It's one of the things that you value the most in your team and your traits. You say, you call it looking for the fire in your eyes, but Hey, if I'm going through an exercise or a coaching exercise with a business, and they're telling me that what you just told me, I'm writing down passion. That's one of our things. And it's conversations like this with business coaches or other builders, or with routine that are going to help you identify Dan, we want really passionate people committed to the train. Passion is important. If you don't have passion, you're not, you're not on that. You're not on the team. So great example right there at one does to happen and, you know, identifying it through casual conversation and the more people that you can talk to then understand you and can see what you get excited about, or then what you're passionate about and how you want it, how you want to go about doing it. These words start to emerge, and you can start to create your, your core values that then you then build your vision around or that aligns with your vision. And then you say, how well, how, you know, what do we really want to focus that on? And it becomes the niche. So it's a funnel for those thoughts. This has been a great conversation and there's even more to discuss, but we're going to stop here for today. Be sure to catch the next episode

(31:41): Of the builder nuggets, the podcast for part two of this interview with Wayne Wheeler, remember new shows drop every Tuesday.

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