Fix your hiring by looking for soldiers instead of just people who look in a uniform With Jeff Morrill

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Jeff Morrill co-founded Planet Subaru and businesses in retail, telecommunications, real estate, and insurance. In 2021, TCK Publishing will release his book Profit Wise: How to Make More Money in Business by Doing the Right Thing. He is donating all author royalties to charity. Using the secrets shared in the book, his companies generate over $100,000,000 in annual revenue and win many awards for customer care, environmental stewardship, and team satisfaction. Jeff’s achievements in building ethical and flourishing companies have been featured in USA Today, Automotive News, and Entrepreneur Magazine.


Show Notes

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Josh: What is up everybody, Josh Tapp here again and welcome back, we are here with Jeff Morrill and I am so stoked to have Jeff here for many reasons, number one, because Jeff co-founded planet Subaru, and like four different other companies in the real estate niche is telecommunications, Insurance is pretty much done at all right so this, this guy has a lot of success across all of his companies but secondly, because all of these companies have become very successful, he’s generated over $100 million a year in revenue so these companies, so the guy obviously knows what he’s talking about when it comes to really launching and scaling a company quickly so Jeff, first off, say hello to everybody, and then we’ll move forward. 

Jeff: Hello, thanks for having me on. I’m looking forward to this. 

Josh: Yeah, it’s going to be a blast so Jeff, my first question, and you know, we talked about this in the pre interview but my very first question for you, in particular, because of your past experience, is if you had to start over again and build another business to add to your portfolio at this point, right, you had to add another business to your portfolio, what type of business would you build and how would you build that so that you can have a profitable, livable income within 90 days, 

Jeff: I think it’s really important that business owners enter into a business where they have skills, and they have a desire to actually do the work so in other words, I don’t think you have to love baking to be a baker, or to own a pastry shop, and certainly owning a pastry shop and buyers and so it involves a lot more skills than than actually doing the baking but, but I think it’s important that you really enjoy it and that’s how I ended up in the car business because I love cars but if I had to start over, the other thing I love doing recreationally is cutting wood. So we have a big wooded property here, and I can’t explain it there’s just something about the Zen of it, I love cutting trees, it’s a little bit dangerous, it’s actually a lot bit dangerous, although I leave the most dangerous stuff to the professionals and I think if I needed to earn a living immediately, then I could I have the equipment ready to go so I wouldn’t need a big investment, I have the skills and I think I would just start knocking on doors or distributing paper flyers in this rural area where I live, you know, stick taping them to mailboxes and I think I could start generating revenue as soon as tomorrow, because it’s a business where the competition has a hard time being really organized and responding in a conscientious way to customer requests, I mean, it’s just one of those industries that you’re lucky to get a call back, the person you call never picks up the phone so I like that the competition isn’t particularly strong, not in terms of their, their wood cutting skills, or their ability to actually do the work safely, but rather their ability just to serve customers at a high level and that’s a skill set I have. So I think that’s that’s my answer. 

Josh: See, and I have to highlight that because that was such a beautiful answer for many reasons, number one, I mean, this is a guy who’s built companies in multiple different industries, he has a lot of skills, but he was saying, I do this as a hobby, I already enjoy it, It’s something I know I have the tools everything’s already done for him all he had to do is go hand out flyers and make money tomorrow right and and in business, so many people I mean, we we naturally overcomplicate it, because we’re thinking it has to we have to have the websites and everything, set up the logos, we’ve got to get inventory and do all these things, develop the product but instead of just focusing like what you’re talking about is just focusing primarily on focus on what you have generate the cash so there’s a unique question I want to ask you, in particular with this, Jeff, just because of the way you’ve built your businesses won’t be the second business you had built, once you have that cash in place, you’ve generated skills, you understand how to grow a business, what would be the second one you build?

Jeff: Well, let me give you an answer, maybe you’re not expecting I think, I would scale the crap out of that one first and what I mean by that is the the beauty of a business that you kind of get some momentum and cash flow going early on is that, that it wouldn’t be too long, I think before I could hire somebody, and then I could probably hire another person after that and then eventually you get to a crew, that’s big enough and talented enough and this wouldn’t happen in 90 days, I mean, this this could take, you know, person starting out, even though it’s not a real heavy lift, it could take a few years to get to that point where you had a crew that had supervision that you didn’t have to be actually on the job but once you get to that point, then your day is free to first of all to recover from all the effort you put in originally and working those long hours, but, but also you can start building the second crew and then the third and that’s how you grow and it’s one point, I don’t recommend that people just grow and grow and grow in my, in the case of my brother and I, we, we eventually decided that we had enough businesses, we were happy we we had accomplished what we set out to do and, and the cash flow was such that it was more than we we needed so so the decision became do we want to keep killing ourselves and exposing us to additional risk to, to continue building and the answer for us was no, I know. I know a lot of people who who the answer they just can’t ever stop, you know, they’re gonna keep on going but that was our answer but to get get back to your your actual specific question, I think I’d want to go into site contracting and site contracting, is in what I talked about, that’s like people with the big Earthmovers that will dig foundations for homes or, you know, move moving dirt around and the reason I like that one is huge capital costs to get into that one so at that point, I would have already had a successful business providing the cash flow, I’d have the collateral to, to offer as a loan to the banks, and I’d be able to borrow to buy all that expensive equipment and again, the competition is not particularly strong in this area, not in terms of the skill sets, because they’re there, they can move dirt around but the same thing is that these aren’t businesses, in my experience that have a lot of experience with with taking really good care of customers, it’s just not their focus. 

Josh: Right, because that because there’s a lack of competition, they don’t feel like they have to focus on that, because they’re so well, if I’m the only option, and you know, I come from a rural area as well and we’re up here in Idaho and we have that same problem with a lot of, you know, initially it was the construction companies, there were two or three big one now, there’s a lot of other little players, but they dominate the markets with poor customer service, because that’s the only option, right? Well, I have to go with them, or I have to hire somebody to clear out of Utah in our case, and bring them up here to work, so I love that that would be kind of your next one and and you’re establishing yourself in a place where the barriers to entry are really, really, really high, very few people could actually enter that industry and succeed but you could because you have the capital, and you have the experience already so I love that. 

Jeff: I think it’s really important that I mean, I guess for your audience, many of whom already own businesses, this is probably less important for their first business, but thinking in terms of their second if they’re to the point where they plateaued and they think that they’ve kind of accomplished what they could in that particular line of work and they might see an opportunity and in a different vertical, it’s really important to to take measure of what you have available to you in terms of skills and connections and that kind of thing and, and it might be that like for me, now I have a superpower and it doesn’t sound particularly, this is not something that is gonna get me featured in a Marvel comic, but I can borrow enormous amounts of money now, like, that was never the case early in my career because banks wanted you banks don’t want to lend money to people actually really needed, they want to lend money to people who have so many resources and assets to collateralize the debt that they can reduce their risk of the person not paying them back, so so I have a big advantage now over over many people who don’t have the access to that capital, you can blow yourself up borrowing too much but it’s also a way to turbocharge the growth of a business if you do it well. 

Josh: Yeah, and I think people get really scared with that, especially in our industry, you know, most people listening here are info-preneurs right they’re selling a digital product. So their margins are high, their overheads very low, they get scared by bringing on debt, because they’re like, well, what if I stopped getting customers? What if I stopped getting clients that are am I going to be able to cover this debt? So I know that that’s been a big fear for a lot of the people that we’ve worked with but

Jeff: yeah, and don’t get me wrong. I’m not recommending taking on a lot of debt I, I didn’t sleep for like 10 years, because when we opened, you know, we had to borrow several $100,000 to buy in the bankruptcy room dealership, which was our first business and then immediately after we had to borrow millions of dollars to, to buy all the cars and we knew you know that at any time a recession could come along or something and disrupt the cyclical business they were in and just wipe us out if we couldn’t, we couldn’t service the debt so I don’t I really don’t recommend that there, there are occasions where that just makes sense. And it made sense for us and we did it but but generally, I think you can get in a lot of trouble, you know, debts. It’s like gasoline, you know, you power a car and get your 500 miles from here, but it can blow you out too.

Josh: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. Well, and I want to ask a few more questions, Jeff, along those lines, because, because of the nature of what you’ve built, you know, and and I do have to reference one thing that didn’t reference in the very beginning is that Jeff has recently launched a book and so you’re coming up podcasts and things have become a big part of your promotion as well but for you and this is a other things I was really exciting to me is you’re not writing the book to make money. Like you said, Yeah, you’ve you’ve got enough businesses, you’re comfortable where you’re at. That’s as far as you want to go. I love that about you, because most people are that, you know, I’ve got to be a billionaire, trillionaire, I’m not going to be happy, right but you’ve you found where you’re at. Now you’re focusing more on kind of legacy style businesses I mean, your entire focus seems to have shifted to Hey, how can I give back, you’ve written a book to help people to win in business, but you’re just giving the proceeds to charity, which I love, I don’t know if you wanted me to mention that but I am, I just had to point it out, you’re a good guy, so I want to ask you this, when it comes to your legacy, and that shift that you’ve been doing, shifting over to giving back 2hat motivated that for you and then when did you know that like, this was the time that you needed to actually shift?

Jeff: I think the the real inflection point for me, December 13, of 2018, I was in a very violent mountain bike accident where my my right leg was completely broken off, it was holding on only with skin and bone and I was lucky to escape that incident with my life, and I’m still trying to recover from that accident but that night in the hospital, I I realized that that could have been my last day and and it was immediately after that, that I I said, wow, you know, there have been a lot of investments that people made in me my whole life, I think about the teachers, who for when lots of income, that they could have enjoyed doing another profession, but but they decided to teach because it was something it was important to them to help develop the next generation and I think about even people in my own family that made a lot of sacrifices to, to create an environment where we could we could get the education we needed to succeed, and on and on and on and I realized at that moment that I had not it had been the last day I had not done justice, to repaying even, even a fraction of the investment that had been made in me by all these wonderful people so that was the the trigger to say, Well, what what Where can I start giving back and so my wife and I, you know, made a commitment to, to substantially increase the amount of financial donations that we would make to causes that are important to us and I also wanted to share the ideas I had about how to run ethical businesses, because I really, I think I learned the hard way, some principles and some tactics of how you can run a business in such a way that, that not only do you earn a good living, which you need to, I mean, it’s profitable companies that that are able to make the biggest contributions not only that, but to improve their corner of the world so I’ll give you an example. One of the things I’m really proud of in the book that we’ve succeeded at, and our businesses and I think, to the extent that people are going to be hiring others, they can think about the same things, in the car business, women have traditionally been excluded from the opportunities to be to have access to the good income and the career path in the car business and so we realized that we were missing out on really half the population, if half the talent pool if we were only hiring men. So we made a commitment to try to invite more women into the business and to create a situation where people who weren’t previously in it, like in the case of technicians, who didn’t already have the technical skills to work on cars, that we created a program, we would train them ourselves so the result is that we have access to a lot of talented people, when talented people are hard to find and and the other thing is that we’ve created economic opportunities for people and enrich the communities and the families they come from, because these are good jobs with good benefits with with income potential and growth over the years that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Josh: See. I love that and and I want to kind of highlight this with a story to a lot of times people they shift more legacy when it’s a near death experience or, you know, maybe they go to a third world country for the first time in their life, right they you have these kind of shock moments that make you realize, wow, I have a lot I need to give back, I thought it was cool that you decided to say, okay, we’re going to get back financially, but instead of just being the philanthropist, right, who just gives the money away, you’re saying let’s let me also teach what I know and in your case, right working with with women bringing women into the workplace as well, I’m sure that was one of the big factors that helped you grow your company. I mean, we’ve seen that in all industries when you’re working with with both men and women, they bring both really good things to the table for everybody, especially in a in a company situation. So I want to ask you this because I love you I have to read it off here because I thought it was awesome. So you we asked Steve or excuse me, Jeff, mostly I just talked to a guy named Steve, Just talked to Jeff about there, we asked Jeff this is a masterclass what would you call it? And he said, fix your hiring by looking for soldiers instead of just looking for people or for people who look good in a uniform, that I love that statement, because it kind of it’s a it’s a shock statement, right? So I want I want you to kind of break that apart for us, what do you mean, when you like finding soldiers instead of people who just look good in the uniform?

Jeff: I think most hiring processes select for interviewing skills, rather than all the more important things that really drive a person’s success in a company so I think, because many companies don’t have an organized hiring process. Generally, it’s one interview, the interview consists of a conversation about hobbies, pets, maybe resume related things, oh, you went to that college, I went to that college too and so you end up picking, picking people for your company based on their ability to interview well, rather than their ability to really, really do the job so that’s the distinction there, like, we don’t really care how well you interview, there is some overlap between interview skills and the job that you’ll need to perform for us but some jobs, there’s very little overlap, the first woman we hired as a technician, in 2016, she was a terrible interview, and that I was involved in that interview and we just couldn’t I mean, it was just, we were dragging things out of her but, but we have a script that’s designed to surface qualities that that we think are going to be successful on our team and those scripts are available on my website,, if you want to take a look and see what I’m talking about there, we know in advance what we’re looking for in a person and if they’re really nervous, or awkward, or, well, who cares if they can turn wrenches really well, after we we impart the training the skills they need to succeed, who cares whether they’re getting the interview and I think that’s that summarizes it pretty well. 

Josh: Yeah, and I love that because, I mean, we’ve all done it, we’ve all interviewed, interviewed for the job, and you show up just so nervous, but you know, I have all of the skills that they need, I know I can fit into their, their, maybe their tribe, their community they’ve built within their own company but maybe I’m a bad interview, right? Maybe I’m having a hard time interviewing, I know, for us, when we’ve interviewed people, there’s been many people who come in and because they’re such a good interview, we don’t want to hire them because if somebody’s that good, there’s something wrong about them, we feel that way a lot of times, like maybe they’re really good at manipulating or they’re a narcissist or something and when people come into the interview, all cocky and stuff for us, that’s been a huge red flag, because of the way we run our company, I mean, and I’d like to go see your questions over there and how you ask I think that’d be really helpful and I want to ask some more questions about the hiring process in general and and finding these right people, because in 2020, that was one of our big goals was to build our team to start scaling our team and it was a great year for that reason and I think now at 2021 said, we started to see the ramifications of hiring, right, just the consequences of hiring, whether good or bad, right and so I kind of want to ask you what what have been some of the the key indicators that you found in the people that you’re hiring, to know that they’re going to be able to actually fill it fill the fill the ballot, right be the type of person who can actually fulfill on the job that you’re providing for them.

Jeff: One of the characteristics we’ve discovered is central to someone’s success on our team and I would generalize, I think, to most, most business situations, that quality is conscientiousness and, and what I mean by conscientiousness is that it’s a person who is organized, who cares about getting the details right who wants to make sure that he or she doesn’t let a co-worker or a customer down someone who who will put aside his or own, his or her own needs to to get the job done or stay late, if necessary and so we’ve we have a dedicated script, an interview template, I’ll call it to, to ask questions that that discover that quality and people because if, if you’re the kind of salesperson, for instance, who doesn’t really care enough to keep track of the promises you’ve made that day to provide a piece of information to a customer needs before, before the customer can proceed with a purchase or whatever I mean, that that’s going to make it very difficult for you to succeed in an environment where customers expect to be called back, you know, it’s just just the way it is. So I think that’s, that’s probably a good, good place to stop.

Josh:  I love that. Well, I do have two final questions for you here, Jeff and thank you so much for those answers because I think if people will, will look at the way that you’re doing your hiring, you obviously don’t well across multiple different companies, I mean, you’ve got the scripts and everything that you’ve used, the questions are used, I would tell everybody go check those out but, Jeff, I want to ask you, if people want to get in communication with you learn more about what you’re doing, where can they find you, 

Jeff: so, and my last name is m o r r i l l and I’d love to hear from readers and listeners, and I respond to every email so if anyone has any questions or comments, I’m just interested in the feedback that people give me.

Josh: I love that very few people will give you access to them so make sure you go check that out, go check out but, it’s m o r r I l l, so make sure you go check that out everybody and then my final question for you today, Jeff. You know, we’ve covered a lot of different topics here so if you could say the one piece of guidance that you would give everybody as your final parting piece of guidance today, what would that be?

Jeff: There’s a Chinese proverb that the hard part of riding a tiger is getting off and I translate that in the context of what it’s like to decide when the right time in your career is to pull back and buy pulling back that might mean selling the business because you’re just ready to do that, or pulling back might be to to appoint an operational successor that you’ve prepared over the years to, to go ahead and do all the hard day to day stuff so that you can start focusing on broader pursuits and I think the earlier you start thinking about those things, the better off you are because you in my case, I found myself burned out surprisingly quickly, I was in my mid 40s and I just been pushing so long, so hard that I didn’t realize how much I was draining the tank and I was fortunate though that I knew that there that day would come eventually and so I i’d invested a lot of energy in grooming one of our one of our key managers to prepare him for all the responsibilities that would be included in his in his job once he was doing mine and so when it came time for me the quarterback to walk off the field and hang up the cleats because I couldn’t, couldn’t take the sacks anymore, he was ready to go and I can now stand on the sidelines and be the coach.

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