As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Lohoff. He grew up working as an entrepreneur with his father, in the trades. He began working for other plumbing companies, as a helper, technician, sales, and management. He started Master Rooter and is currently at 16 trucks and growing.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started Master Rooter after years of running other companies and working for someone else. It reached a point to where I knew that I was capable of doing more AND was striving for further success. While I had some control, I did not have ultimate control so I decided to put a plan in place and execute on that plan.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
It wasn’t one moment really, it was a lot of moments. I had grown tired of hearing “no” or “we can’t do that” or “we can’t afford to do that.” On top of that, I grew tired of seeing “my guys,” employees, not being taken care of. I really had this idea in my head that in a service business, the employees really “make” the company. If I started a company with that in mind and always treated my employees as if they are my customer, we would become successful.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
My wife had business cards made for me that had “CEO” as a title on them. I would pass my cards to everyone trying to earn their business. One day, I received a call for a large commercial job and from there, I went out myself, quoted and sold the job. A few days later I was out there with my guys doing the work as well. The customer said something to me about being the “CEO” and that I also did everything else. I just remember thinking to myself, “isn’t that how a team works?” I threw those cards away and to this day we don’t put job titles on business cards.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
For me it was always very clear and simple. I was really doing it for my employees. I want them to have a great place to work, a fair wage, consistent work, and be proud of their trade and skill. I also wanted to offer great service, at a fair price to my customers. I think that taking care of my employees first, they will embody that to my customers. People over profits, is how I try to operate.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
We live it, from the top down. Our company values can’t be a “catch phrase.” It boils down to how we live our lives and how we treat each other, regardless of the position on the team. We always strive to do the right thing and on that rare occasion when I find out that a member of my team did not do that, it falls on me to make the right choice for the customer and hold that employee accountable.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Do the right thing. It’s really that simple and really covers just about all situations.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
First, let me say that I consider myself very fortunate, and I am fully aware that many people face greater struggles then we ever have. For me, it was really just about being in 10 places at once and while working on 5 different jobs. I also think that is good, because that means that you’re growing. Every time I start to get stretched too thin, I step back and dissect why, and then look at the positives. Somehow, somewhere in that it means we are growing, and that is the ultimate goal. Giving up never crossed my mind for a minute.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
We are doing great! We continue to add about 1 service vehicle every two months. Employees are excited to work here and that is contagious to customers, and growth.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Have a reason to start your business. I want to make more money is not a reason. I personally saw other companies struggle in certain areas where I knew I would not make the same mistake, so I decided to step up and do it myself.
- Have a plan and execute that plan. I keep a legal pad on my bed side table. I could pull out older ones and show you exactly what my business plan was well before it happened.
- People are key. Your people will be your success or failure. You set the tone for how and what you expect and hire your people accordingly.
- Don’t compromise. I refuse to compromise my business, my ethics or how I want things done for anyone. My expectations for myself and my team far exceed those of any customer, and I won’t compromise that for anything or anyone.
- Have fun. I decided to start my own business for a reason. I have to work in order to support my family (most of us do) so when things get rough or I feel overwhelmed, I just have to remember I could be working for someone else, but this is more fun.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are so many it would take up pages.
My employees, we would never have this conversation without them.
My wife, who handles everything on the home front so that I can focus like a maniac on almost nothing but work. She literally gives me a family schedule just to make sure I don’t miss anything big.
A really great friend of mine who helped me out with office space in his commercial building. I didn’t pay rent for months because he believed in me and knew I would pay him back. He owns several businesses, so he has been a great sounding board. He does not always tell me what I want to hear, but he always gives the best advise he can. Everyone needs someone like that on their side.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I am deeply disturbed by the student loan debt crisis I see in our country. I am obviously a big supporter of the trades. I wish that parents, and kids alike would view the trades in a more positive light. I see no honor in being $80k in debt to be a part time barista with a bachelor’s degree in underwater basket weaving because “little Johnny needs a college education.” He may be a very happy and productive member of society as an Electrician, HVAC tech, or Plumber making $80–100K a year without the burden of debt.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook: Master Rooter AZ