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Behind the Review | Leading by learning and listening



Josh Campbell’s business is already a leader in residential heating and air in the Dallas, Texas, area. When customers call for assistance from Rescue Heating and Air, they know exactly what to expect—thanks to Josh’s collaborative leadership model that’s helped expand his family’s third-generation business into a small empire, now poised to do $14 million in business in 2022.

This year, Josh is adding another jewel to the Rescue Heating and Air crown: a plumbing company, run by a local plumber with a large social media following. But before he made any moves, he had to get his team on board. This, according to Josh, is leadership in action. 

“Dictatorship-style businesses are either a thing of the past or they’re dying,” he said. “You gotta be able to get people to buy in, and people buy in with their own ideas—not with yours.”

In this case, Josh started by presenting the idea to his leadership team, asking: “Do you think it would be smart? What are the advantages?” When the team had come up with a solution, he felt confident in moving ahead. 

This is just one of many leadership strategies that Josh suggests other small business owners can replicate: “If you go around a leadership team, and you get them to identify all the advantages [of an idea] and then they say, ‘Yeah, we should do this’—it was their idea then. You got their buy-in, and they understand why we’re doing it, and you did that with a collaborative approach.”

This approach has taken Rescue Heating and Air far. Now responsible for more than 40 employees, Josh has had to grow as a leader alongside the company. For Josh, this means knowing how to support his team—and when to step back.

“When I think of leadership, I think of a head coach, right?” he said. “A mentor or a guide. I think those are the best leaders,” he said. “I once heard an analogy of the garden stakes that you plant on a tree to help the tree grow up properly. That’s what leadership is in my mind.”

How do you know when an employee is ready to grow? Josh starts by being extremely intentional in hiring, from the management to the front desk receptionist. Since every employee is a crucial part of customer experience, he looks for people who he believes are interested in learning. This often means hiring for attitude instead of talent. 

“Somebody’s technical skills or how many years of experience they might have—none of that matters to me,” Josh said. “What matters to me: Are these good people? Are they coachable? Do they have a good work ethic? Are they motivated? And I can figure the rest of it out.”

Another source of knowledge for Josh has been leadership books, which he said help him continue to learn about himself and train others: “I don’t think there’s any person that’s more important to educate than the person at the top. You can’t give it to somebody else if you don’t have it.”

While Josh continually expects growth, he also knows when to motivate his team with positive feedback, even handing out gold stars to recognize their hard work. “I think gold stars are underrated,” he said. “They’re little stickers and when somebody does something excellent, I think it’s really good in such a core basic way to just recognize people.”

Feedback isn’t just for the team, however. Josh also relies on reviews to improve his business overall—whether they’re positive, negative, or simply lukewarm. Most business owners lament the 1-star review and laud the 5-star review. But those in between? That’s where the magic is, he said: “I actually try to dig in on those 4-star reviews, and I write, ‘Hey, what could we have done to earn that fifth star?’ That’s a bold thing to ask. Cause now you’re taking a 4-star review, which is a good review, and you’re about to find out the bad, and you just ask them to air out your laundry.”

“I encourage business owners to ask people how they could get the fifth star. If they’re getting a 4-star review, no matter how ugly it is, they’re going to help you build a better business.” 

What else can you expect from the episode? Hear more about:

  • How to build honesty and trust in your leadership team
  • Why it’s important to talk about the ugly things when building a better business
  • Josh’s leadership book recommendations

Listen to the episode below to hear from Josh, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.


Behind the Review transcript, episode 42
The importance of lifelong learning

EMILY: I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert. Normally, I pick one review on Yelp and talk to the entrepreneur and the reviewer about the story and business lessons behind their interaction. But this week I’m doing a deep dive episode with former guest Josh Campbell on the topic of leadership. Let’s give our conversation a listen 

EMILY: Last time we had Josh of Rescue Air on the show, we got to learn all about the infrastructure of your HVAC business and the scope of your team, but for those people who didn’t listen to our first episode, do you want to start by giving me an overview of Rescue Air, how big your team is and what the structure is? 

JOSH: Yeah, I was in an interview the other day and I defined Rescue Air in a fun way. So Rescue Air is a residential heating and air conditioning company here in Dallas, Texas. My uncle, and I own it as partners and it’s a family, small business. And I think we’re a little bit of country in the city. So we come from a community where people take care of one another. A small town fee. Your reputation is everything. And we run our business as such. So, that’s a little bit of Rescue Air. 

If you want to know numbers I mean, this year it looks like our 2022 goal’s going to be 14 million.  We’ve got 40 or 45 people on the team right now, probably growing to 60 by the end of 2022. Residential air conditioning only.

EMILY: Perfect.

JOSH: Oh, wait! But there’s more. We’re actually closing on a plumbing company here in the next couple of weeks. So we’ll be Rescue Air and Plumbing here. And the owner of this plumbing company is the most famous plumber in America. I mean, he’s got 40 million views combined on his YouTube videos. The guy’s plumbing genius. So he’s a perfect fit for us. I’m super excited, just a ball of positive energy coming in here to help us kick off plumbing. 

EMILY: Did you always want to do plumbing? I didn’t know that… 

JOSH: Ah, my dad’s a master plumber. I’m a master electrical; master mechanical, but yeah, I’m excited to be here.

EMILY: That’s cool. Okay. So today we’re going to talk all about leadership, how that impacts your team, how that falls on to the consumer experience as well – to start, can you just define for me what you think of leadership as? 

JOSH: Yeah. When I think of leadership, I kind of, I think of a head coach, right? A mentor or a guide. I think those are the best leaders. The people who are really, you know, you’re showing someone else how to be a leader and what is a leader? If you, if you viewed it as a guide, I once heard an analogy of  the garden stakes that you plan on a tree to help the tree grow up properly.

That’s what leadership is in my mind, you know? And you show somebody how to do that. And  then they can do the same for the next. 

EMILY: Yeah! And at your company, not everyone is reporting to you, right? There’s like leaders in between you and some of your team. Can you share with me what qualities you look for in a good leader, but also what you can teach them? The skills that you can guide them through to make them good leaders.

JOSH: Yeah, so I think that people who turn into the best leaders end up being the ones, one that are really coachable. So I look for people who are working on themselves, right? If anybody comes in and they say, I’m reading all this stuff. I get a lot of young people that are doing that. It’s kind of popular right now with these 20 somethings that they’re reading all kinds of stuff. And you can tell that they want to grow into something more. So I look for people that are working on themselves, somebody in it, and that usually tells me they’re coachable. And it’s the basics after that. 

They’ve got a good attitude. They’re all good work ethic, you know, so the basics. Cause they’re going to have to pass all those characteristics along.  So during an interview, what I do is I have this card that I put together and it’s called 10 things that require zero talent. When I’m thinking about somebody in a leadership role, I’m really looking for most of these. 

It goes – being on time, work ethic, effort, body, language, energy, attitude, passion, being coachable, doing extra and being prepared.  I’m kind of looking for at least a blend of those qualities. I’m looking for problem solvers too. That’s one of my favorite things. John Maxwell says really well.  I think it’s number seven of his 21 irrefutable laws of leadership. I’m probably wrong on which law, but it’s being the quickest way to gain leadership is by being a problem solver.

So you just walk into a problem, any problem, and you say, how can we solve this? A lot of people go in and they want to talk about the problem or they want to play blame game, whatever it might be. The person who walks into a problem and just finds the solution, puts a plan together to fix it, that’s your leader.

EMILY: That’s a great one. And I think we’ll give you a chance to do a rundown of books later, but even just the concept of seeking more knowledge. Understanding others. I think that’s huge. I know your business, so I happened to know that you’re not always dealing with the happiest people or things don’t always necessarily go as planned.

How do you think leaders set up a situation where their team and their staff can come to them? Because I think that is what sets you guys so far apart is there’s this culture of making things right. And customer service that has to be carried from the top down or these people who are in your client’s home, wouldn’t feel empowered to do that.

So can you just speak on that a little?

JOSH: You know, I got to give kudos to Yelp. Like, the idea that a one-star review can help me build a better business; that wouldn’t have happened unless there was a one-star review available. I think if you went back 20, 30 years ago before the internet, and before there was any sort of judging or gauging or, analytics on how people feel about you. Really the review system, you know? 

So now I remember calling up a one-star review and initially, you’re bubbling over. But then, this is early in this company, I started realizing that, whoa, this guy just helped me identify a problem. I need to send him a steak dinner gift certificate, not be angry with them.

And now that’s kind of evolved into a philosophy here where all of our leaders look at ‘that’s your best client.’ This guy who gives you that one star review is crazy as 99% of it is there’s 1% in there. Or else he wouldn’t be writing it. And if you find that 1%, you can take it and say, hey, we can do something with this. That’s the same thing as these kids that are reading books or that’s a great leadership quality, I think. 

EMILY: Yeah. And talk to me a little bit about how your team of leaders supports each other. I know you’ve spoken about these meetings that you have and how you bring people together to share their ideas. Can you just give some more color to that and how that really helps evolve the leadership?

JOSH: For sure. I think, one of the things we do in our leadership team, that’s neat is we’re really transparent. We’re open and honest about our marriages and our kids and our struggles. We get really, really candid with one another in a leadership meeting about ugly stuff that a lot of people don’t want to talk about.

When we circle back to books, I’ll tell you about one called Fierce Conversations. It’s a great book, Susan, something. It’s not on the shelf. I probably gave it to somebody. When somebody comes to my office, there’s a good chance you’re leaving with a book.

So this book; our leadership team talks about how you need to discuss the ugly things. That’s one of our big jobs as leaders. There’s a stinky dead cat in the corner and you can’t just leave it over there to rot. It’s an old Papa New Guinea term called a maquito.

And it’s, most of the problems in a given business are there, we all know about them and nobody wants to address them. And we make it – we’ve got to see it, say it, philosophy here. And it doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you do it openly, honestly, and you don’t attack anyone, right? It’s not personal. Bring it up! And we do a great job here at Rescue Air of discussing the ugly problems because if you do, you can do something about them.  

One other thing that our leadership team does at a very high level, is anytime we encounter a problem. We had one this morning, right? A little bit of a meltdown in our install department. Then I looked over at a young lady – our customer service manager. And she’s in the call center really, right? She didn’t have anything to do with this. I threw the ball. I’m like, what could you have done differently that would’ve made that not happen?

And then we go around the leadership team and everybody’s, and you start thinking hard. What could I have done differently? Cause that’s all you can control is your own actions. And if we all come up with solutions, the next thing you know,  you solve your own problems one. But, I think anytime there’s a problem – as a leader, we need to stop and say, what could I have done differently that made an impact?

Could I have been looking for that? Maybe I noticed that happening and there not exercise, see it, say it, just in passing. And it could be as simple as that.

EMILY: I liked what you mentioned about, ‘you can only control yourself and what you would do differently, but as a leader, you’re obviously motivating a team.’ Right? How do you motivate your team to care as much as the leadership team? How do you motivate them to be invested and treat the customer the same way you would?

JOSH: So I think dictatorship style businesses are either a thing of the past or they’re dying.  Another great book Start With Why – Simon Sinek, right?

If you look at any of these, you get everybody bought into the why that you’re doing something before you present anything. And if you can get them to come up with the solution. So you say, okay, we’re adding plumbing. What do you guys think? So I don’t walk in and say, Hey, guess what! I bought a plumbing company, you know? I’ll walk in and say, okay, do you guys think it might be smart and way before we even started looking at buying plumbing companies – do you think it might be smart? What are the advantages? 

And if you go around a leadership team, and you get them to identify all those advantages and then they’ll say, yeah, we should do this. Then you go shop for one. It was their idea then. Because they’re the ones who can; and maybe you had the idea that you want to do it anyway, but you got their buy-in and they understand why we’re doing it. And you did that with a collaborative approach. 

EMILY: Yeah. I think a lot of people, they don’t think that their team should have a say in that kind of stuff or they don’t think that an open dialogue is going to benefit them. Was that something that you learned from another leader? Was it something that you saw work for yourself and you just thought I’m going to do more of this?

JOSH: Yeah, there’s so many feelings out here, right? I don’t know where I picked up on it, but at some point in time, the idea that like, okay, that didn’t feel good, right? Is there another approach? And I think that’s a little bit of it and usually if there’s an ah, that didn’t feel good or you see somebody handle somebody else in a way. That didn’t feel good and you say, okay, what’s another way you could have done that, right? And I grew up in a family business. I’m a third generation business owner. And my granddad and my dad there, weren’t leadership books. My granddad started his company, there might’ve been like five leadership books that have even been published at that point in time.

So, you know, I lived a little bit of that too. Now I think the idea, I don’t need to pause on that one for a second. That’s a really good question. Where did that kind of come from?

EMILY: I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but you told me in a previous interview, you always hire people smarter than you. And you’re not worried about being the expert because you’re the owner.  So maybe that plays into it. Like you don’t hire people thinking that they’re all gonna work for you and be under you. You hire people who you think are going to help you grow. 

JOSH: Yeah, I have this is weird. I don’t know if it’s even suitable for your uses. I looked through payroll and I was like, man, there’s a lot of people who make more money than me. We pay our people really well, but I mean, they’re wildly talented. The people who are getting paid better than me are more talented than I am.  It’s an interesting thing. My general manager’s like Josh, you’ve held your salary frozen for a year and a half now. And I’m like, yeah, I make enough. I’m good. And he’s like, yeah, but you’re due for it. We can afford to. I’m like, yeah, I’m good. I don’t need to take a pay raise. I don’t know that I’m worth anymore.  You gotta practice what you preach, right?  I can’t go giving myself a pay raise when I didn’t do any; when I didn’t produce at a higher level.

JOSH:  There’s something I was thinking about that we were discussing the other day. If you meet any one team member from Rescue Air, you know what we’re about, right? So, I think hiring needs to be wildly intentional and you don’t let somebody on the bus unless they’re the right one to get on the bus. And somebody’s technical skills or how many years of experience they might have. None of that matters to me. What matters to me are these good people? Are they coachable. Do they have a good work ethic?  Are they motivated? And I can figure the rest of it out. And my customers see that when somebody walks into their house, they know what they’re getting each and every time it’s almost like a franchise model. You go there because you know what you’re getting, right? And you order the same thing off the menu. When a Rescue Air team member, it doesn’t matter if they answer the phone or if they come to your front door, you know what you’re getting. And, I think that’s just something super critical about the hiring process, including my leadership team.

EMILY: And I think that plays back into an open dialogue, right? Like the people answering the phone, the people showing up at the house, if they felt they couldn’t do their job, they would also feel like they could speak up, it seems.  I think it’s just a culture of like every mistake or consumer experience that’s less than a hundred, it’s something that you look at as a learning opportunity. 

JOSH: This is a fun one. So somebody will get a four-star review and in the mind of a business owner, you immediately think, okay, we screwed up a little bit.  You know, so this is the funniest thing, right. On a one star review, you immediately dive in and start trying to fix that. Right. And in a four-star review, you’re like, let’s leave that sleeping dog lie. Where’s that one star that when he didn’t get, and that’s what it feels like inside. It’s like, there’s a lump in your throat. You’re like, oh, thank you so much. And just leave it maybe. 

But I actually try to dig in on those four star reviews and I write like, ‘hey, what could we have done to earn that fifth star?’ That’s a bold thing to ask. Cause now you’re taking a four star review, which is a good review, and you’re about to find out the bad and you just ask them to air out your laundry.

It’s not really a smart move, but I think it kind of is. I encourage business owners to ask people how they could get the fifth star. If they’re getting a four star review, no matter how ugly it is, they’re going to help you build a better business. 

EMILY: I love that. Okay, let’s talk about book recommendations. But before we get into a handful of your favorites I think a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners are going to say, when the hell am I supposed to read or how do I make time for that stuff? I barely have enough time to keep my business operating. What would you say? 

JOSH: So I think the first thing you’ve got to do as a business owner, if you’re serious about making change is nothing changes unless something changes, right? I love that figure of speech. Growth is change.

We’ve got departmental boards that are narrowed down to four things I expect from each department, right? And our leadership team has their own.  Number one on it is to develop your own leadership. I don’t think there’s any person that’s more important to educate than the person at the top. And you can’t give it to somebody else if you don’t have it. So if you say I don’t have time to do that, you’re just saying that it’s not important to me. So you need to shift that. I don’t have time to do that, and it’s not important to me, to it is important to me, and that’s why I have time to do that.

Whatever else you’re doing with your time that you think is more important than working on yourself, is not. You need to work on yourself. 

EMILY: Yeah, you and I hit on that in our first episode, but that is so crucial. Like putting off yourself is really only hurting you and everyone else. That doesn’t help your team either.

JOSH: Once you start growing. Once you start getting into books a bunch, a ton, and you read them and then you take that wisdom and you slam it into your business. And it’s like, whoa, that worked!

EMILY: Yea, I love that. Ok I know one of your favorite books is the one minute manager, right?

JOSH: Yea, I do like that book. It’s a good one.

EMILY: Ok, so that’s on the list, what else do we have? 

JOSH: Anything John Maxwell. I love this guy. He talks to me like my granddad. So that third generation business owner. And my granddad is one of the earliest leaders I had and when I hear John Maxwell speak to me, it’s like my grandad’s talking to me. And he talks to things about core values. That leadership core values. I think it really goes to that a lot of faith too, in there. So that’s a great book.  

Other great books. I mentioned Start With Why. You gotta be able to get people to buy in and people buy in with their own ideas, not with yours. So getting people bought in, is a good one. Let me look around here for a second. Okay. The five dysfunctions of a team. If you have a leadership team, Or really overcoming the five dysfunctions of this. It’s a profound book about really the five things that create dysfunctional teams. And if you identify them and I think you should do it in a leadership setting, if you have a leadership team, you should all read it as a team.  And then thank me later. That’s one really does work.  One more I like – Excellence Wins. It’s a book from the founder of the Ritz Carlton – Horst Schultz.

And he talks about just running a top level, excellent business. And how they got to where they are. They shouldn’t have been able to have the success they’re having. I think it’s a fantastic book. That’s one anybody in your company can relate to that one too. If you read that one, you can take excerpts and you can give it to anybody from, in my business, maybe a parts run, or maybe just someone working in call center. Or your general manager. So it works for everyone. Fierce Conversations. Susan, I can’t remember the lady writes it, but the businesses that had these challenges that are over there and they think they’re talking about what their real problems are and they aren’t really. And if you sniff around enough, everybody knows what these problems are. And if you just have the strength to discuss some and address them, you can make some real progress, and it’s a fantastic book. That’s one for anybody in the business to read. 

Heck a husband and wife can take a value out of that one.

EMILY: Awesome. Is there anything that I didn’t give you a chance to share?

JOSH: You know what, I pass out lots of gold stars around here. I think gold stars are underrated. They’re little stickers and when somebody does something excellent, I think it’s really good in such a core basic way to just recognize people. Somebody gets to wear a gold star around. There’s a sense of pride, but everybody else gets to see that they’re doing something right. And they were recognized by leaders. Pass out more gold stars. 

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