Mar 21, 2023
[00:00:00] Curious what business owners are doing to double revenue, have more cash flow, work less hours, and provide a better lifestyle for their family. Dive into the world of business growth that leads to guaranteed wealth. Every Tuesday with your hosts, Dr. Laura Shwaluk and Jerry Kezhaya grow and get answers to your business and investment questions that provide clarity, move you forward, and inspire you to reach your goal.
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The hard truth. Don't hire friends or family. Welcome today's interview with Alex Cantaboni. He is the owner of Safe Pro Pest Control. So our question today for Mr. Alex is, what was your business like before you joined Business Builders?
[00:01:00] I'm happy to be here, Jerry. Thank you for inviting me on your podcast. Before I joined Business Builders, I was working 60 to 70 hours a week, if not more. Tend to forget the rest. Don't get much sleep either. And I remember, just the struggles I had with anxiety and depression and feeling like I could never get out of, being in the trenches and having to do the work instead of working on the business.
I was working in the business.
Yeah. Having a company when you first start, so as everybody dreams, right? As you're a trades person or a service person, you know that you're really good at what you do, your craft, you're good at your trade. And we always think that it's gonna be easy own owning a business.
And the hard truth is right. It's never as easy as what we expect it to be, right? The hard truth is you want other people to [00:02:00] come join you. You want other people to help you with your business. And you go back into some of the hard. Parts of being in a business. And did it make you, were you like moody at all or were you fu
I have to laugh cuz I know the answers right. very, very short fused. I'm already Italian. So short fused and then they cut that in half.
Cut that in half. Yeah, I think so. I think I I remember your wife saying she wasn't sure who was coming home. Dr. Jeer, Mr. Hyde, right? If you had a bad day, what would happen?
Definitely as soon as I, closed the door to the car or the truck, whatever I was driving at the time, I definitely already started thinking about all my problems and brought 'em home and, Was short tempered or short with her, or vomited all my problems onto her. So it definitely wasn't a fun time in my life.
Yeah. But I'll bet I remember those days specifically [00:03:00] myself and it's, it's really interesting, right? You're in the trenches, you're doing everything that you can to keep the business afloat, keep your employees busy and. You, you just, at some point you run out of energy, you run out of drive.
You still got the drive to keep it going, but you're looking for other, for answers. You're close. Yeah. Right there. There's one thing, there's one thing that's maybe missing or maybe two little things. A tweak here and a tweak there could make all the difference in your life.
Aaron, how many trucks did you start with when you first started your business? Or I guess you had owned your business for how many years when you started coaching with
us? I think four or five years was before that. So anybody who starts business, it was just one truck with me. And then within eight months I hired someone.
But then, that's a good question. I think five years in I was probably. Maybe six trucks if that. [00:04:00] Now we're at 19. Awesome. That's pretty amazing growth being around you guys for what, six, seven years? Yeah, it's pretty good. Yeah. Nice multiplier. Yeah. You had a look at other business owners, going back to there's gotta be something better.
I think you just start getting brighter and smarter and you start thinking well. Bill Gates isn't digging trenches and he's making money, not, he's not the one actually building my computer, right? So there's gotta be a way out there that's better. And I just remember it like it was yesterday. Jerry always has that happy, jolly smile on his face, and it was at the chamber, and he just walk by me and say, Hey, let me know when you're ready to not work in the business, but on the business.
And how long did it take you to say, okay, Jerry I'm ready to do that? How, from the time he had that conversation with you? A
year, a few months, if not a year. Between [00:05:00] already assuming you had to spend money, and then time finding the time to even want to meet with someone was very difficult.
Back then, every single minute counted. Cuz you had to be out there, you had to answer the calls, you had to be out there doing the services. So when you're like, Hey, let me try to build time with this person that I don't have time. He's just adding more time to my day. How do you add more to 70 hour weeks?
. it starts getting in your head of when do you stop? When do you
stop? Yeah. Yeah. And I made you the promise. I said, give me one year. I'll change your life. Yep. One year. Give me one year. And so here we are, almost seven years later, and Has your life changed ? Oh yeah.
Any regrets? ? No
Yes. Sorry. One regret should have started earlier.
But maybe I wouldn't have appreciated it as much. That's fair. No, that's possible. I guess when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Yeah. , the truth [00:06:00] is you wanted to grow your income, you wanted to grow the business. You just weren't sure how to do it and that falls into the, that's the realm that a lot of people run into. Today we're preparing for, truly we're preparing for what happens if scenario, right? What if the economy does bad? What if the economy does great? Either way, it could be a serious issue for a company that's not prepared for it.
Running out of cash flow while you're in hyper-growth mode can be just as bad on a company is running out of cash because you're struggling to pay the bills. So both of 'em are an issue. So I have a question. So what was the hardest thing you've done in your business to
date other than starting a business?
That's always the first step. The hardest part was I had hired my, what I thought was my best friend at the time. And through growth of the company, you [00:07:00] start figuring out who you should surround yourself with and finding out that he was pretty much cancer to the company, to my employees. I literally had an employee say, I'm walking out tomorrow if this person's not gone.
So one of the hardest thing was, even if you know in the deep down in your guts, it's the right thing to do, it's still really hard to fire your best friend knowing that you'll never see him again and most likely never get to, do life with them again. So you're splitting up, right? Both things.
You're firing someone which is never fun, and you're getting rid of your
best. It's a pretty traumatic experience. Yes. On every level. You lose your right arm at what you think is your right arm at work, and then you lose your best friend and now you got no one to hang out with.
You got no one to commiserate with. You got no one. Let's go tip a a shell of something. Man, I imagine it was a very tough thing. I remember helping you through it. It was
tough as a result of that, that Alex though, what happened in your. [00:08:00] When you fired your best friend, what were the immediate results and then what were some of the long-term results of that?
Because I know that Jerry and I really coached you for a while on that until you said, okay I'm gonna do it. So what were the results well
before the results? I think the main thing too is. You figure out quickly that you have to keep it professional, right? We went in with dismissing the person with what's best for the business, has nothing to do with person, them or us, so that made it easier than going in with emotions and people wanting to fight each other, et cetera.
So wouldn't very well later on was figuring out how do you replace this person? To do what they were doing, but also how do you prevent it in the future from happening. But doing that forced me to understand I needed a sales team and a technician and a management team. So that's what we worked really heavy for a couple months to build [00:09:00] that up.
And then honestly we like to try to promote within, so one of my technicians. We interviewed two of 'em to see if one of 'em was a better fit for management. So you learn from the previous management what not to hire and basically we've, I don't know, five, 10 x are business from there.
There's still headaches and struggles and I think they is forever, but they've gotten a lot fewer and far between just hiring the right people, we've done very well. Team network has, got closer together. Cause you know, we like to call it cancer, cuz it's just spreads and it's sneaky.
But after eliminating that negativity, it's really, done us very well. So we went from, I don't know, six or seven trucks to now 19 trucks. There's total with me and my wife, 37 employee. . Awesome. That's awesome. Good
job. That's great. [00:10:00] Yeah.
Yeah. So Jerry and I have often said that the team that you start your company with is not the team that you're going to that's gonna help get you to from 500,000 to a million.
And it's not the same team that's gonna get you from a million to 5 million. The team is going to grow. And some people, if their thinking is not as big as. They're gonna leave the, if they're not a fit for your culture. And I know Alex, you're really good at making sure that your company culture is really flourishing and If there's somebody in the team that doesn't help to build the team or their core value isn't team, if they like to be the lone wolf, then they're not gonna fit.
And and especially if they're not thinking as big as you are or they can't see your vision. Then it's time to replace them. So what is it, Jerry, that you always say? Always be, always
be hiring. Yeah, always be hiring. [00:11:00] Always be hiring. Always be hiring. Hiring. Yeah. Even when you don't need anybody. The truth of it, of that statement of always be hiring is, let's be honest.
If you find somebody, if let's say for example, that you are hiring every week, you interview every single week of your. That's gonna be 52 experiences of interviews as opposed to the average business owner really only does interviews when, oh my God, leaving. We've gotta hire somebody quickly.
they may do one interview every year or every two years if you've got 52 in interviews every single year. Or if you're smart enough about it and you can schedule. Two interviews a day or more, then you could have a hundred interviews every single year. And I'll promise you, you get really good at interviewing people and you get really good with your intuition telling you who's gonna be a better fit for your company and who isn't going to be a better fit [00:12:00] for your company.
And you can weed out a lot of folks. But imagine now you have a hundred interviews going on every single year, if you find that right person. , wouldn't you create a space for them in your company? Yeah. If you've interviewed a hundred people and you find that one needle in a haystack, man, you bet your tail.
I'm gonna find a place for them. In my companies, and I know Alex does that too.
Yeah. Now also I'll tag along with that. You never know what could happen in people's life stages. See their wife gets promoted, husband gets promoted, they need to move out of the country or state or, and there's no availability somewhere else.
So always having that job pool open helps out with that. Or, we've had some people get injured and they can no longer do the job that we wanted them
In our case, we lost. We had, there was a traffic accident and we lost a key employee in our company. And it was devastating, [00:13:00] right?
It was absolutely devastating. The good news is because we had everything systematized, it wasn't a catastrophic, it wasn't a fatal. Issue for us. But again that's part of what we share with folks is how to prevent catastrophic issues from being catastrophic to your business and to your life.
Yep. , and going back to even the digging, the trenches and all the headaches, like I, I sometimes reflect on, I was younger, much younger at the time, too, , I didn't have a kid at the time Yeah, I couldn't, I don't, couldn't even imagine dealing with all that stress with a kid at 41 and .
Fun, fun part.
And you went from working six days a week and sometimes seven days a week, to how many days a week do you work on average?
Right now I'm only, if you consider six hours a day at full day, But Monday through Thursday, I get at the office around six and I try to start wrapping things up around one or two.
And then I haven't worked a [00:14:00] Friday. I'll take a phone call here or there, but I haven't worked a Friday in a couple years. So my goal next year is hopefully to do the same for Thursdays and just try to condense my schedule and just do the more important stuff that I need to get.
So just to be clear, you don't work Friday, Saturdays or Sundays. You work Monday through Thursday, six hours a day. Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. And what do you attribute that to? What's the biggest thing that allows you to work so few hours and still have an enormously successful company?
Main thing is building up a team, the correct team that's there to support you. I have a really good management. Team as well that is there to take a lot of the burdens. And of course, they'll always be hiring later on. You get to enjoy things and hire people and consistently training and making them available so that you have a fully staffed, if not overstaffed a little bit to when bumps in the [00:15:00] road happen you get to.
Either put that person in that position or, you know what's cool about being building culture? A lot of the guys step up when a lot of stuff happens. They might be putting 80, 90% of their efforts in, but when somebody falls through or somebody gets sick, you'd be surprised. Some of 'em will put 120% output out there just to get those one or two days covered.
know, that's really amazing. Sometimes when you have a really strong. Number one, I call him a number one, right? You, your guy in charge after you, if you have a strong number two or even a mediocre number two, and something happens to number one, it's amazing how number two jumps out of his characteristic way of being and excels.
And you think, where's that been hiding all these years? Because it's like, when did they get supercharged? Yeah. Because they, they just, sometimes they [00:16:00] stifle themselves because they don't think that there's going to be an area for them to be able to grow into. Yeah. Or a different position.
So they sit back, okay, I'm happy doing what I. and then when something opens up, they're like they're like energized. It's great for me to watch. Yeah. I love seeing that.
So the nice thing also about always be hiring is that you can hi, continue to hire better and better people.
What we have found is that each time we fire someone, or each time someone leaves, we find somebody who's even better than they were. I've seen. So many times and Alex ha, have you seen that as well? Is that also true for you?
Yeah, for sure. Especially when you're always interviewing and you're learning how to interview and you're, because anybody can say whatever they want in interview, right?
I was the best. Here is the best there.
Greatest here. I never take a day off of work. Yeah. I never get sick. My kids are always cool. My wife take, oh, if I have my [00:17:00] kids have to go to the doctor, my wife will take them.
? Yep. And then you're always the first one. This is the first time I swear you do that, you, I think you get to pick and choose and understand, like I said, going back to culture finding the culture and understanding what people love to do. And putting 'em on those right positions, and they just seems to flow a little bit better, find better teammates, et cetera.
But yeah, there's a lot of rock stars out there, and if you're not constantly looking for them, you're just not gonna find them. You just have blinders on and you just get complacent with what you have. But there's always someone out there that can do better, just in general, just in life, even in leadership, even in growth of company.
I'm not the biggest company in the world, right? There's a lot bigger pest control companies. There's always someone better out there.
Cool. Yeah. Yeah. It's really about comparing yourself to yourself, doing the best that you possibly can do, and yet learn from.
So how long did it take you to [00:18:00] actually start seeing results, getting the results you were hoping for with your business and with your life?
If I recollect,
I think immediately and you're you're getting older. Yeah. So we have to, we gotta worry about your memory a little bit.
Right. Depends on what level of results you're talking about, right? Because there's, there was a lot of things also in the beginning that were emotional results for me, right?
Depression, anxiety, creating the team. It wasn't just all. Money. It was about creating structure. I think. I remember one of my highest anxiety was like, oh, you asked for me to sit here in the room for five hours. I'm like what the heck am I supposed to do with that? But that structure created meetings every Wednesday blocking off an hour.
So a lot of the things that the, some of the basic business stuff happened immediately, you. Creating business structures, SOPs, right? Good soul. I'm also really good at implementing things right away. [00:19:00] Luckily, I had a basic enough team. What I mean is people that I would tell 'em what to do and they did it right.
So that was nice. But I think our employee handbook was maybe six or seven pages long. Now it's 30. Just things like that. Saving money, advertising a lot of things that we could implement and deploy within the first meeting we had in inside of this. From spiritual to physical to business.
Because a lot of times you need to be able to take care of yourself to focus on that, and later on as you have more time and freedom from not having to actually do the services, you replaced that with other things you taught us. So it was of like a big snowball. The snowball is small and then it just kept rolling and just came together and just became a big monster in a good way.
And now I don't know, I'm gonna go out on a limb. When you say that probably one of the biggest [00:20:00] benefits to your life is this little guy, what's his name?
Luca. Oh yeah. His son. . It's great to be financially free and be able to do what I can for him as well as for myself and my wife that I never had, with my parents, they were always, paycheck to paycheck.
So it's really nice to have freedom to be able to let him even just do basic stuff, go to sports cause we can afford a pair of shoes, et cetera. But I also, something we didn't talk about is one the hard truths too, was I woke up every morning, when can I sell this damn thing, , that was my thought behind it.
I need to get to this number. When can I sell it? Forget everything else. Who cares about the team? Who cares about whatever? And then later on as you grow it and you do it right and you set those things in place, like now it's how much more value can I bring to the team to make as much [00:21:00] money as possible for them?
Now I care about them now I have no thoughts about selling whatsoever. So that also helps, cuz now they're taking on most of the burdens. But split between 37 people so their burdens don't feel heavy either because it's split between 37 people and coming together as a team and being able to handle those things.
Yeah. And at the end of the job, at the end of the day, it's still a job, correct? We gotta remember that they still ha no matter how good or how bad your company is, all of the employees still need to work. They still need a job. They still and unfortunately work is a four letter word, right?
So it can't always be butterflies and unicorns right there. Someone actually has to. Doing the widget stuff right, and if it's done properly from the management side of it, fr from the owner's side of it then we can turn it into, at least it's a pleasant widget [00:22:00] making or widget servicing process, and it's not as burdensome as.
Oh my God. I gotta go back to that hell hole again this morning. It's the bane of my existence. I hate going to work. Life is too short to hate where you work. Life is too short to, to hate the company that you've created. How do we turn it into a, the gem that it needs to be so that not only.
Benefit you as the employer, but it also gives your employees a great reason to get out of bed in the morning. Like in our company, we own an automotive service company and so we instilled the culture in our business is. We don't do oil changes in tire rotations or break jobs. What we do is we save lives, right?
Imagine if you're an automotive technician and your mission is not here, you're gonna go fix this car today. No, you're gonna save this family's lives. You're [00:23:00] gonna keep
You're going to keep them safe, keep them alive. This vehicle will never have an accident that's caused by a lack of maintenance or because we didn't service it properly.
That's a whole different charge for, a mission, right? Yeah. I It's a mission. Yeah. I'm gonna keep people safe today and I don't know in our place, it, it makes all the difference in the world. Yeah. And I know it makes a difference in your company culture as well.
Yeah. So it's beautiful. We do that through daily meetings and weekly meetings and monthly meetings and you have meetings, how often?
Our main meeting is once a week. Yeah. In the mornings we do a quick five minute powwow just to get people ready and inspired or, Hey, let's not do this real quick, but
So who does that on Friday when you're not there?
Excellent. So he could probably do that more often.
Yeah, we subdivide it a lot of times. He'll, he might even do the, Hey, let's not do this [00:24:00] again, and I'll come in and say, this is why we do things. And purpose. Yeah. More on the, I'm more on the motivational leader side. He's more of the.
Policy holder, I'll just enhance that. So we kinda good cop, bad cop sometimes. And it's, sometimes it's reverse. You're
mainly the cheerleader. Yeah. Keep everybody charged up. Yeah, absolutely. Bravo.
Bravo. And that's part of being the visionary for the, for your business. Is, that's part of what the leader does, is it helps keep people so that everybody's going in the same direction.
You have grown as to be an amazing leader in the six years that we've known you.
Thank you. Yeah and I just, I truly care about my team now, and I wanna see them succeed. I've been doing this for 22 years in the pest control industry. Started it cuz I was like, man, there's gotta be a better way.
Right? There's gotta be a balance between good pay, someone that cares about you, right? And still have also [00:25:00] freedom, they work their butts off. But comparative to our industry standards, we're still working them 20 to 30% less, and making good money and being able to support their family without ever having to go to college.
So that's what I'm really proud of, is being able to provide that for. Provo. Yeah, that's perfect. That's
awesome. So what's next? What are the next steps for your
business? So the next steps for Safe Pro is to get a bigger facility with more parking. That's always been a issue of ours since we provide trucks for us.
I've always thought that health is very important in our lives, and it's one of those things where it'd be nice to have a gym in some place if we have the room. I think the other dream for Safe Pro is of course adding two or three more technicians next year and just having more opportunity, right?
I think we're at a level where some guys have been with us for a long time, [00:26:00] want more than just being a technician. So we're gonna emphasize opportunity within the company growth next year, as in because of Safe Pro, just. I own other businesses. I'd like to see those grow a little bit as well.
It's nice to have Spro as our, overcoming kind of budget that can support other things cuz of time freedom. I get to create more ideas and give myself more headaches. But we're going into more real estate type investments. But that's fun.
That's one of the things that, sorry for interrupting, but that's one of the things that Jerry and I teach is how do you get your business to the point where you don't have to be there every day so that you can take the profits from your business and grow even more wealth and perhaps have passive income so that you can create generational wealth so that you can be financially free.
As Alex mentioned, So it sounds like [00:27:00] that is what you're doing. You're in real estate and. So my question is, are you thinking about maybe having more locations or perhaps starting a division of safe pro pest control in another city or another state?
It's always been in the back of our mind. I think figuring out the, to have a leader that can create the culture and that other place, right?
I don't want to do this interactive culture building. I think you have to be in front of people daily. So that is something hopefully by creating these other leaders, Below us, as in not considering management might show them what it takes to be a leader and then later on be able to transplant that person to become a leader in a different area.
Cuz at some point I'm seeing the trend, where most people that come work for us live up north, but we have clients south. And the logistics of it just isn't gonna make sense in the future if we don't [00:28:00] apply different direction, different leaderships vote, but we need someone that can go in there and build a culture.
It's not just about waking up and going to work.
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Yep. In each of
to sell, right? ?
not anytime soon. I'm loving his business right now.
And part of it, and I know it's a weakness sometimes to think this way, but maybe it's not right now. One, I'm still considerably young.
Like comparatively, Comparatively speaking, you're young. Thank you. Yeah. When was your first business issue? I was seven years old. .
No. One of the things is I think what we've created is, Very rare in our industry and to sell would be a failure to some of the employees that love the culture there.
Cause it's culture is not very replicable, right? You can start a [00:29:00] business, do any business you want. There's numbers, structures, SOPs. But having that culture is very hard to replicate, especially if somebody comes in and they don't have those same standards, so that's some, one of my fears about if I ever wanna sell is trying to understand the two differences in separating myself, but right now I have, I've had no thoughts. Making good money and all my people make good money, and I work three and a half days a.
Life's good. Good. If I were soul, I'd have to find something else. Fill my time. If not, I think I'll just waste it by. Sitting on the couch watching tv. ,
I've believed everything you've said until just now that one there is over the no
That's not, that's not you. You would find a way to go hunting somewhere every day. Yeah, that's true
too. Or different countries or whatever it might be. In each of these episodes, we ask all of our listeners and our watchers. If there [00:30:00] was something that you heard that you said, oh, I could probably do that in my business.
Write it down, and by when will you implement it. So if there's something that you heard was like, oh yeah, that was really good, or there was something but I don't remember what it was, then listen to the episode again. Write it down and implement it. Where you grow is by implementing Jerry. Wouldn't you agree that's the best way to grow, is implementing.
And Alex, you are awesome at that. I remember the time that we were talking about cost of good sold, and Jerry was ticked off at you because you were on your cell phone. And Jerry said, Alex, put down your cell phone. And Alex is no, I'm talking to my bookkeeper right now. I'm having her change.
These categories into a custom good soul. So I know exactly what I'm doing and I think Jerry was like, oh, look at .
Yeah. I How do you argue with that? We, you tell people to implement and he does it on the spot. That's why he is gone from where he started to where he's [00:31:00] at today and the future is nowhere but up for the, for him and his company and his family.
I'm proud of him. Very proud of you. Yeah. I like it. Call,
I like to call it. taking action, yeah. Taking immediate, I know it means the same, but some people might have to hear it that way. Yeah. Cause I think that's the biggest flaw is you can know and have the entire knowledge, but if you're don't apply it like today's meeting was, what should we save for in case?
The storm does hit, so I already text Katie and asked her what our payroll is every month, so I know what to
say, right? And good for you. Here's the thing. A lot of people think about something so much that they believe that they did it. Thinking about it is not the same as doing.
Not at all. You must actually take action and the sooner that you take action, the sooner you'll get results. It's a [00:32:00] pretty simple formula and a process. Yep. Cool.
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