The Ed Eppley Experience
The Ed Eppley Experience

Episode 6 · 2 years ago

Running Through the Window of Opportunity - A Tale of 2nd Generation Success

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Most 2nd generation business owners struggle to maintain the success of the founder. In this episode Ed speaks with Matt Hullander, CEO of Hullco Home Remodelers. Matt bought the business from his dad in 2007 and has grown and scaled it to become the largest home remodeling company in east Tennessee. Learn how he improved results by narrowing the focus of the business.

Welcome to the ED epley experience. Twenty minutes that simplifies the complex job of managing and meeting people and Inspires you to take action on what you probably already know to build and sustain a smart and healthy business. Here's your host Ed Effley to introduce this week's guest and business leader. Welcome to the ED epley experience, the podcast designed to simplify the complex job of managing and leading people. The goal of this podcast and everyone that we have is to share with you at least one proven, practical business concept. It will help you run a more sustainable, profitable and purpose DRIFTN company. Today's guest. He's become a friend, and I mean a sincere friend, in a relatively short period of time. I guess you're kind of a client, but but you're more of a friend than you are a client. In his name is Matt Hollander. Matt's the CEO of Hulco. They're the essentially the largest home remodeler in the eastern part of Tennessee some comments or words I wrote down about Matt. He's one. He's rare. There's not many people like him in a positive way. Great Husband, Father, Successful Second Generation Entrepreneur and I want to talk a little bit about that, because most successful entrepreneurs are first generation. He's second generation. What I love about Matt audiences he always leaves others, no matter the circumstances, better for having been around him. He is constantly, relentlessly looking to get better at whatever he does and I tell you what, I don't know how he gets as much done in his days as he does, but there's it's always fun to follow him around be with him, because there is very little time wasted when you're around Matt. So, Matt, welcome to the at Eppley experience and thank you so much for having men value your friendship as well, and I'm glad to be with you today. Well, thanks. I'm excited to get a chance to have the audience learn a little bit more about you. I've thought a little bit about your industry and you know when we say home remodeling, that that's a big broad topic and it's a highly fragmented industry if you think about I don't know who the largest national players you might even share with us, but how have you guys enjoyed such success in an area that where there are so many Gypsies, so many fly by night individuals in the organizations that do this work and not only been successful but thrived literally in a pretty competitive market place. Well, it is very fragmented. There are franchises, there are just individuals that might have a helper or somebody that. I mean there's a lot of firemen do this on the side. And then you get into the next phase we're at where you have, you know, fullblown company that does marketing and production and as a sales team, the big players. To answer your question, there are a few in the country that do what I do in the three to five hundred million dollar range, but they have multiple locations. You know, I know one company that has thirty locations. And then I think that for what we're doing, we're into markets and cover Chadnoga and Knoxville all the way up into the tri cities, and then we have north Georgia, a little bit of western North Carolina, basically a two to three hour radius from us. Okay, to answer your question, have we been successful? I took the business over from father and just really tried to start learning from others. I got involved in a couple of peer groups that vendors had put together and then I got into some more formal peer settings and I figured out I we can be original at some things, but we don't have to be. We just try to learn from others copy what they're doing. They like to help me, I like to help them, and so, you know, when I first started it was the peer groups, reading and then, you know,...

...subscribing to industry newsletters and and just sharing info with others. You know, I one of the things I've watched in the time that we've known each other and heard maybe more about because it happened before you and I met. You've on from being, I think, broader in what you've done for your clients in home remodeling and kind of started to narrow that down to not doing quite as many things. Am I write on that? You're correct. We have introduced new products and we've taken some away, but over the last several years we've realized we're more successful if we say no to as many new opportunities and focus on what we're good at. Number Jang, how hard has that been for you and Bobby, your general manager, to be able to limit the offering? How I'm sure that was. I'm sure there have been debates about that, especially with the sales organization. Oh, definitely in the sales team they a always want something new and shiny to sell, but if it doesn't fit our business model, we've just became very discipline really the last couple of years about reducing the number of offerings we have. Would really only have five or six core offerings that we do, mostly related to the exterior of the home and it's what we know we can produce profitably and we have a system for it and we can just grow the volume from layer versus trying to bring on something new. That typically causes problems or you have different trays that get involved or you have the job takes too long. So we're very big proponents of staying focused. Now you serve on some boards for other businesses. Do you find that they have trouble focusing and being disciplined and not doing, you know, trying to do too many things for too many kinds of customers, or or do you feel like they've got that same discipline? I think the ones I'm involved in are fairly discipline because they are more they have a single product there selling. We're in our industry. It's easy to take on new stuff. I mean for home remodeling. You could start coding garage floors and selling gut or protection. You could do inter your blinds. There's so many things you could throw in there. I've got some piers that sell water purification systems. But we've decided just to to single our focus on the things we've done the last thirty, two, forty years and it's served us well all right. You know, your father started the business and as I said in my introduction about you, that you're a successful second generation entrepreneur. I'm curious, and I know when you love Your Dad and your dad was running a successful business when you bought it from him, do you feel like you're more of an entrepreneur than your dad was? I wouldn't say I'm more of an entrepreneur. I think we go about it a different way. It's laugh sometimes. That was a struggle growing up and you know I'm out want to go one way and him go another, and ultimately we got to the destination at the same time. And I think that's true with a lot of father and sons. But I mean I grew up in the business. My Dad was a hard worker. He always provided for us but he wore a lot of hats. When he founded our company in one thousand nine hundred and seventy seven, he was also driving a school bus and he had a business that laid carpet in the evenings and in the middle of the night at places like Bowling Alley's that had to be open in the daytime. He he did a little bit of all of it and then, as a whole code grew, he sold his bus route, he sold his half of the carpet business and we started manufacturing storm windows around one thousand nineteen eighty, and that evolved into manufacturing replacement windows and then that led into all the other products we sell today. I started working at our window factory when I was a teenager and I rolled window screens for a dollar apiece and then he had me go get my own installation crew and I installed for a while and then I sold for a long...

...time and then I started managing. So maybe back in the early two thousands he and I remember were riding back from visiting of ender in Atlanta and we started talking about one day me taking on a bigger roll. And he had an interest in politics and at the time was a county commissioner and he loves given back to the community. And so in two thousand and five I found a box of business cards on my desk that said President. So I started. That is a great story. And then into thousand and seven I purchased the business from him and today he's still in politics. He's our county trustee and times seventy four. Last week I got love you. That's wonderful, but that's like, did you know he was going to do that, that box of business cards? No, I did not. That anyway, I love the subtle the of that. That's a great story. All right. Well, you and I met at the course for presidents at Aileron and I remember he's setting there in the middle of the room, back table, and your head nodded a lot. I'm just going to say it that way. You seemed a lot of what we were talking about seemed to resonate. I'm curious about what was it about the course for president, what you heard that made you at least give me the impression that you liked what you were here? Well, flee jer you go. The facilitator had a lot to do with it. So that's why I asked. You mean, and the rest of them. was that all you need to get forget the right now. You got now. Go ahead. I've I've attended similar events to Lauran and honestly, a lot of the content is not brand new, but it's definitely a lot of great reminders and it puts it into a system where you can not only follow up, but follow up on it, and it was great. We met claim and till when we were there and we learned, you know, not only how to lead more professionally as owners, but they also have a similar course for managers and I actually have three of my managers going up next month for that course. So it was great. Do you think that, since you've been to a number of programs, is the the issue not so much the content, but how do you take that and be able to actually use it? It's so as it having a system where a mechanism by which the concepts and ideas are easily applied. Is that more the issue for most business owners? Do you think? Well, from just my experience, a lot of it is taking all the information and actually executing it. My employees, hear me say, get or done a lot and when you come back from these events you're just bombarded with all this great information and you take twenty pages of notes and typically for a lot of people that goes in a desk roor and doesn't get looked at right sometimes, ever. So I always try to pick, you know, my top three, normally on the plane ride home from the event, and then make sure to execute on that. But in my opinion that's why I lot of things don't get done after you learn new content or even get reminded of content you new. You know things you should be doing. So in my opinion it's executing on it. Jore list mean to the ED epley experience. Email at now with your questions for today's guest to podcast at the eply GROUPCOM. In his book, let's be clear, six disciplines of focused management pros, author Ed Epley breaks down key practices of professional management, how to implement them and why it matters. Purchase your copy on Amazoncom today. Develop your competitive edge for the future while...

...building a sustainable and thriving business. So in your case, when you try to execute, what gets in the way? You got a new idea or concept. So what's the number one thing that, but probably despite your good intentions, would cause you to struggle with the execution is it? Is it something that you fight, that's you know, it's self imposed by you, or is it the business makes it difficult to actually do it? I think a lot of times it's getting everybody alone. You know, maybe if I'll go to an industry of the inner luck when I came to you L on, bobby was with me, if we go back and try to explain it to other employees. You know, a lot of times when I go at a town, I think I get back and let her lock. Oh Hey man, that spend another meeting. So it's getting there by in and everybody moving in the same direction, which is why I think it's great that I learn has the course for managers, now that Bobby and I've done the course for presidents will well be in better alignment. And then it's the accountability for a lot of people. You know, Aileron has follow up phone calls with an advisor and you know, after Aile on Bobby and I rewrote our vision, mission and values and we had somebody welcome that journey with us and that helps a lot because the accountability. Otherwise everybody gets busy and it doesn't get done. I I don't want to make this call solely about aither on, because obviously you were running successful business before you ever ever were there. I noticed in immediately as I got to understand Your Business, that you've always had a desire to pay forward. Do you you've always wanted to give back to the community or two organizations that that you know do good work in the community? Some people talk about a double bottom line where there's a financial result but there's a change in the communities in which you operate, where they're somehow left better for your business is presence. Did that come from Your Dad and your mom? Is that something that that was modeled for you? Where did you where did you you develop that belief that that was the right thing to do? Oh my day was definitely a good role model and a lot to help people a lot. But then I just I think I was born with it too. And you know, I think we do it for two reasons, or I do it for two reasons personally. The first reason I've just always found personal happiness from helping others. I think it's human nature to feel that way. But you know, they say what goes around comes around, and I really believe that and then I'm a Christian and you know the Bible tells us, I think it's in loop. To whom much is given, much as required. And another verse says did not forget to do good for others, and that, you know, goes back to what goes around comes around. For me now for Yep, for my company. We not only do it for all those reasons, but it's good for culture. Our mission statement, which we rewrote after attending a RN, is to make it better for our customers, our co workers in our community and our employees enjoy being part of something. You know, it definitely helps our culture. It also shows the community that whole colts to help others and give back, and you know they like doing business with companies like that. So first we like to help people and that's the real reason we do it. But if we get extra business because of it, will take it. So those are the two main reasons. And then seven years ago my wife and I started our own foundation, the whole co Heritage Foundation, and we have functions throughout the year. We to a golf tournament, we have a wine dinner, we have a concert and we helped raise money that way. So we're raising the money we're not just pulling it out of our pocket. We do a lot of that...

...inside the business as well, but this was something separate that allowed us to raise money that we just turn around and give back to the local community and we give it to other local nonprofits where we know where the money is going. They are not top heavy. Yeah, I I was going to say you've for your size business and and I'm not going to reveal numbers to the audience, but you're not. You're not a hundred million dollars yet. So let's just make it clear. That's not how big your company is. It's it's not that size. There's an amazing amount of thought and I would even say discipline you've brought to the way you try to do your charitable giving, your your paying forward, if you will, to the community and those who've been good to you. You know that you've tended to try to model that. So what have you learned about that? You know, in the seven plus years you've been doing this? My guess is you're not doing it exactly the same way today as you did it when you start it. I guess the well, the one thing I learned is once you start giving back, you get a lot of phone calls, a lot of hands are out, so it's sometimes difficult to say. You know, and I'm, you know, the top personality that I want to say yes to everybody. So it's difficult. But we set a budget. So within the company we have a budget that will be for community events or, you know, we sponsor a lot of events. But then our foundation we just split it up equally amongst every year five different local nonprofits. Some of them stay on, some rotate off. The ones were more passionate about we continue to give to. But you know, it's not an exact science either. So we just do as much as we can. But at some point, you know, you got to put the brakes on and it's easier to explain to someone. Hey, you know, I appreciate what you're doing, but we set a yearly budget for this and you've caught me middle of the year. So get with me at the end of the year and we'll look at something next year. But we try not to just let folks spring things on us that as the year goes along and you know, overspend on on our community outreach. So is it pretty much up to you and Jenny about how that gets done, or is your foundation have a board that that makes those decisions about where the money goes? How do you decide, you know, who gets what? It's a combination of three. My wife and I definitely have some input and then our foundation does have a board and some of my employees are on the board and then we just recently had look, when we had our two thousand and twenty kickoff for the company, we had all employee meeting and I stress to them I wanted their input on what was important to them. So we let the employees are board and then my wife and I make the decisions on where we split it up and how. And you know, a lot of it for us is we have a young daughter and most of the charities we help or revolved around children. One were real active with the Jason Foundation. They raise awareness for teenage suicide and having a teenager and realizing how rampant that is now and aside from car accidents, it's the number one cause of death for teenagers. So we helped them a lot and they're based in Tennessee, I think they're in all they're in forty eight states now, but they're based locally. So we we help them a lot. We help the hunter worly foundation. They help families that lose a child with breathing counseling and funeral expenses, and I could go on, but most of them are related to children. All right. Well, yeah, I think one thing I've noticed about all the owners of Businesses Who Support Cherries of one sort of another, there's there's a theme, you know, based upon what's near and dear to them, that they tend to move in that direction, and for good reason. I want to come back to your relationship with your dad in the transition of the business. You know, I've never talked much about it, but I always got the impression it was pretty smooth, it was pretty simple, and so...

I'm curious about what you've learned from that transition when you becoming the owner versus your dad, and and what advice you'd might have for others who are family owned busines. This isn't and have yet to necessarily go down this road. Well, I think it depends on the time and generation and age of you know, the the father and the son or the parent and the child. But for my dad nine, we wouldn't be where we're at without him. I mean he worked Super Hard, definitely an entrepreneur and he got us where we're at. But he never had exposure to an Aileron or peer groups or even read, you know, at that time, industry magazines, and I just got deep into all of that as much as I could to learn from others and I think, you know, that's why we grew quite a bit after I purchase the business from him. It was fairly smooth. I mean there were some bumps in the road. We actually met with we're an s corporation now. We were a sea at the time and we met with several people, to CPA's and attorneys to figure out the best way to limit the tax liability there on how to do it. So I think vice I would give folks out there is just a plan ahead. Unless you're really lucky, it typically doesn't happen in a few months. I think it needs to be planned sometimes for years. Yep, the mistake I see, as you know, when it happens too quickly, you know, was the value there was the where the taxes thought through? You know, are you a sea and need to be an s corps or vice versa? There's a guy in I'm not plugging here and I don't I don't know what's right. Share what you want to share. That's what there's a guy in Pittsburgh. His name seems Michael, I think it's Malloy. His companies called legacy HP and I don't know how I got on his email list, but I get newsletters from him and he's really an expert in preparing for he doesn't do the transaction, he just helps companies prepare for whatever their goal is. Is it to sell to private equity? Is it, Yep, to sell to your children? Is it the gift to your children? Is it to sell to the employees? You know esops and he's really been helpful. I don't I've never met the man, but I read his newsletters and it's real helpful and you know, I'll be honest, at some point I would imagine they'll be another transaction that happens with my company. So I always want to stay on top of it and plan for it. Well, I appreciate you're sharing that and I just always you hear so many of these transactions that end up with animosity between family members or it ends up being much more frustrating and challenging than anybody wanted, and so anytime you can find ways to minimize that or even avoided at certainly I think is in everybody's best interest. And I can see where siblings are involved, that's a big problem, not being aligned. You and I have some friends down Cincinnati where three brothers are involved in a business and had they not had the consulting help to make sure they knew who was in charge, they still you know, and I mine was most likely more smoothly because I have one sister and she lives on the West Coast and I'm not the only one in the business, so that made it easier. Yeah, yeah, I hyeah. Everyone's unique and some are probably simpler to get done than others. I I want to go back to the structure you have. You know, one of the things that I'm a big believer in, and I know that you heard from your time at ater on was boards of advisors and you serve on some boards, but I don't believe you have one, do you, Matt? Well, I'm not sure if you're asking this question for your listeners or for me. You might think you think I have an ulterior motive. That's it. Go ahead. You know there's no good excuse I can give you. We've really been in growth mode. We opened in a new market recently and we've been hiring. We're changing our organizational chart as we speak, and but I am at the point where I should start. I have talked to and identify the members that would be on the board. I just need to execute it and I do plan to take the course that I are...

...on, for you know how to start and operate a board this year. All right. Well, I didn't ask for that reason, but I'm glad to hear that you're considered it. Is there one principle or idea? I always like to make sure that that anybody who takes the time to listen to our podcast can go away if they haven't already one good idea that would help them run a more successful, sustainable business. So if there's, if there's one thing that that you would say you've learned, it's kind of like, if you don't do this, this is the most important thing. And I know it's hard to say that, but if you could say one thing that you think is disproportionally important to running that successful business, what is it from your point of view? Matt, you know there's many ways to answer that. The first thing that comes to mind is one of our core values, which is change and adapt. Things happen so quickly now and you know, have the management on board with change, have your employees on board with change? I think you have to really stress that you have to change to win. You must adapt to, you know, the economy or the business environment you're in. Technology will force you to change. It is in our industry and I imagine in most industries. I would do it often and always tweak things to, you know, make them better. They'll keep you substainable and it'll help you scale. I mean I'm always preaching that. In our industries there's something somebody's doing better every day. So you know, there's a reason there's no circuit city or echo drugs right now. So here right that's the one thing I would say is be open to change in an adapt and do it often. Thank you, Matt. I really appreciate it. He's Matt Hollander, the CEO of Hulko, good friend and a leader in all respects and somebody who's doing the right way. So I'm glad he's got a chance to share with you all today. If you want more information, about professional management, organizational health and ways to operate a more sustainable profitable business. You can come to my website, the uply Groupcom. Also you can get my book, let's be clear. There we have a free assessment that's just been updated, built around the six disciplines of professional management. If you want to take that, you'll have a better sense of where your strengths and weaknesses lie. And there's other information where we do drill downs on different topics in our blogs and post there that you're more than welcome to download. With that I'm going to say thank you for listening, Matt, thanks for being our guest and we look forward to hopefully having you on again real soon. Not Pleasure it. Thank you. Thanks everyone. Thank you for listening to the ED epply experience. For more information on building a more sustainable, smarter and Healthier Business, visit www the eply groupcom for resources, tips and ED's latest blocks. That's the EPPLY EPP l Ey groupcom. Plus, take a free assessment at the eply Groupcom assessment to find out how you measure up as a highly skilled and accomplished manager and where to focus on improving your skills.

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