SBM 633 | Built For The Trades

Are You Built For The HVAC, Plumbing Or Electrical Trades With Dan Dowdy

SBM 633 | Built For The Trades


Effective leadership is necessary for any organization in any industry. In this episode, Dan Dowdy, founder of Built for the Trades, chats with Tersh Blissett and Josh Crouch to share his four stages of leadership to help build a culture of growth in your business. Leadership is not about having followers; it’s about leading leaders. Tune in as they discuss the difference between leadership and management and how to infuse both to become an effective executive leader for your team.

Listen to the podcast here:

Are You Built For The HVAC, Plumbing Or Electrical Trades With Dan Dowdy

If you have not been on the show or you missed the last 30 episodes, you may not know Josh Crouch. Josh is a new addition. He helped me out tremendously. He is a lifesaver. He came on the show and helped us out. I’m super thankful for Josh to be on the show. I don’t tell Josh that enough. I’m super excited about this show.

Those who have read the show for a while know that Steven Christopher is a great friend of mine. He is a great dude in general. He introduced Dan Dowdy and me. I’m super excited to talk to Dan. We are going to talk about executive leadership. Dan is an executive leadership coach. We are going to talk a little bit about leadership versus management. We are going to dive a little bit into a system he has created that teaches or shows you how to become a great leader with a four-step process.

I’m super excited to have you, and welcome to the show, Dan.

Thank you, Tersh and Josh. I appreciate that. People are probably wondering what’s an executive leadership coach, and I will always joke around because I’m an executive leadership coach only because I have spent the last couple of years in the trades and made most of the mistakes I coach nowadays. I stand up here pretty humbly, and I appreciate that you all invited me to the show. What I coach on is called the Four Stages of Leadership. It’s a leadership development system that people can take from the show and start to apply it to their business moving forward to help develop the leaders around them.

You hear a lot about leaders and followers but you also hear this buzzword, leading leaders, and what does that looks like. You are going to learn about what that looks like because when you start leading leaders in your business, you find yourself wondering and trying to find something to do because they have it all going on. They are running their business, and it’s very successful. I’m sure there may have a few people wanting to read this show.

That’s our goal to have it so that we can step away and take the vacation. We all started our business to get rich, sitting on a beach somewhere. It would be nice to have that person being able to run the show while we are away. I’m super excited to talk about that. Josh, what do you think?

I love this topic. As most of you guys know, I’m at least the one that has read this show. I’m not a handy guy. I was more on the operations side of things. Helping develop a team and the next generation of leaders is something that is always an ongoing challenge. Talking to Dan pre-show, you are going to get some serious golden nuggets from some of that stuff that he goes through in his coaching program and some of the things that he looks for to help you develop the next set of leaders. We all know the challenges of not having enough people and qualified help. You have to have some system in place. Dan is hopefully going to drop some gold on you, so that way, you can start getting to that next step.

SBM 633 | Built For The Trades
Built For The Trades: When you start leading leaders in your business, you really find yourself trying to find something to do because they have it all going on, they’re running your business, and it’s very successful.


Dan, will you start us with what is Built for the Trades? If somebody wants to learn something about Built for the Trades and has to jump off the show early, I want to make sure they get the information, where to go, and all that stuff from you first.

Built for the Trades was built around providing customized business growth and leadership development programs for trades businesses. I always begin with the end in mind, and I do. Whenever we start working with a client, the first thing we do is get their vision for the next three years. We start to work our way backward through systems that help them grow businesses that can operate without him being in the day-to-day. The other thing we do is have a mastermind community built around experience and doing business together. It’s all home service business owners coming together, talking weekly, sharing secrets, wins, and losses in their business because we all know that we have both.

When I say built around experiences, what makes Built for the Trades different in the mastermind community is that we take our live events and build them around going out and having an experience. Our last one was in Utah. We had a big, nice house and a private chef for a few days, and we went out and rode side-by-side. We built relationships and had a good time up in the mountains of Utah. I’m sure I’ve got a few people interested and have some fun like that.

That is one of the things we are talking about before the show. We go to these events and are part of peer-to-peer groups, coaching and guidance organizations, and implementation programs. I’m not taking anything away from the events at all because they are great coaches. They have tons of experience and knowledge. Sometimes, we team for that interaction with the other business owners. You don’t have that relationship with other people. Unless it’s someone who is a noncompeting trade, you can have that relationship.

A lot of times, the people who are experiencing the same things that you are experiencing are your competitors, so you had that conversation with them. You get to a family reunion, Mike A talks about this and has mentioned this before. I love this analogy that as you go to a family reunion, people will ask you and have conversations. You can’t divulge what you are going through in life as a business owner or a manager because they don’t understand it until they have experienced something similar to that.

It’s awesome to have the mastermind group where you go, spend time hanging out, networking, and talking to each other like, “Can you believe this happened to me?” Someone else is like, “That happened to me years ago. This is what I did.” It’s like, “I would never have thought of that.” It’s crazy how much those collab sessions happen. There was a group of 10 or 12 of us that all met up across the country at one of our friend’s plumbing and HVAC companies in St. Louis. We all flew in and got to the hotel at 5:00 or 6:00 in the afternoon.

We are all going to meet up at Todd’s location the next morning, hang out there for the better part of the day, and then go eat that night. At 3:00 in the morning, we are still sitting in the hotel lobby. All of us are hanging out and chatting. Even though we meet every Friday virtually, being there in person together was a game-changer. I learned so much information based on all these other companies that have experienced stuff like that. Nothing was scripted at all. It was like, “What about this situation?” I love that you are taking the ball and running with that because that’s something that our industry needs dearly.

The difference between leadership and management is very simple. Leadership is influence. Management is accountability. Click To Tweet

It’s called an unplugged retreat. The vision is that we all come together and leave our phones turned off. Imagine bringing together business owners and telling them to turn their phones off. It takes a day or so. Sometimes, they are tweaking a little bit, trying to wonder where their phones are at. It’s amazing because you come back from an event like that, and you feel refreshed and energized, ready to take on your business again. It’s a lot of fun. Life is all about having experience anyways.

Do you ever have an owner come back from that retreat and be like, “I turned my phone off for four days and turned it back on. It takes weeks to catch back up with all the emails?”

The only rule is no phones in the common area. They sneak back to their room sometimes and turn them on. It’s hard to keep them away completely. Our next retreat is coming up in January 2022. We are going to be in Winter Park, Colorado, doing some snowmobiling having a good time. If anybody wants to check that out and learn more about it, reach out to me, and I will share.

Will you go into a little detail? Let’s jump right in feet first. What’s the difference between leadership and management? Josh can share a little bit, and I can share from personal experience. You need a service manager, and we see it constantly. As a service technician, that’s our Holy Grail when we get hired like, “What’s your end goal?” It’s like, “I want to be a service manager or I want to be an install manager.”

In my opinion, they take two different paths. You need somebody who has skill-trade knowledge but to have someone who has that knowledge, business, and leadership background is going to be far more valuable than someone who is generating me a ton of money, then I’m going to lose the revenue coming out of the field. Walk us through that thought process that you have with that.

You said that they need knowledge in the trades or in that skillset. I want to debunk that because I have had experience with success and bring somebody up with operational experience, not necessarily trades experience and being successful in a service manager role. It just takes a little more time. In that case, you do have to have a lead technician who can help answer a lot of the questions that come in. The difference between leadership and management is very simple. Leadership is influence.

John Maxwell is one of my mentors. I’m a John Maxwell certified coach. One of his quotes is, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.” It’s so true because the difference between leadership and management is that management is accountability. A couple of years ago, everybody was using management. Now, everybody is using the word leadership. When people are moved into that role, they are either on one end of the spectrum or the other. One end is they are naturally great leaders because they are people, pleasers, by nature.

SBM 633 | Built For The Trades
Built For The Trades: You have to know when you’re wearing your relationship-building hat and when you’re wearing your accountability hat.


They want to get along with people build relationships but those people have a hard time holding people accountable. On the other end of the spectrum, we have people who are hard asses. They hold people accountable. They say what they want to say. They are very blunt. Those people have hard time building relationships because that’s a slow process, and they are on the right now train. It’s interesting when you think about those two different personalities, and the people who are usually on the right now train have that sense of urgency and are ready to go but they find themselves with a lot of followers, people who are asking them a thousand questions, “What do I do next?”

It’s annoying because you are like, “Why does my phone ring 100 times a day? Why do I have to keep answering all these silly questions?” On the other end of the spectrum, you have people who are pretty easygoing and sometimes lack of sense of urgency. You are wondering, as the visionary in the company like, “Why is that person not going along a little quicker?” You have picked that personality. Once you know who is leading your company or the next leader in line and know their personalities, you can start to coach them towards adjusting that a little bit.

If you are thinking about a DISC personality assessment, it’s either that high D or that low D. The high D is the ones that are very urgent in their phase. The low D are the other ones that are very easygoing, people-pleasing type personalities, either they need to adjust up towards the middle or down towards the middle to be a great leader. You have to know when you are wearing your relationship-building hat and when you are wearing your management hat, which is that accountability that you need.

In 2014, 2015-ish, when I started my other HVAC company, I was getting 100 to 130 phone calls a day. You hit the nail on the head. I’m getting tons of phone calls. I have people that are calling me for help. I heard Dave Ramsey or Donald Miller’s podcast. They talked about limiting the expectations of people and making them think before calling you. I put my twist on it. From that day forward, every time they called me, they had to call me with three solutions to every problem that they had.

They would call me, and I would say, “What are your three solutions to the problem or the issue that you have?” They were like, “I don’t know. I haven’t even got on the roof yet.” I hang up. They call me back, “We’ve got disconnected.” “We did. Call me back with your three solutions.” It was like a faucet. Two days later, I went down to four calls a day. I was sitting at the desk, and I was like, “What do I do with my life?” That was a huge a-ha moment for me that I had to work away from being that type of person.

A term I use a lot in my coaching is, “Are you playing off offense or defense?” When you are facing a problem, coming with solutions and a positive mindset is playing offense. Coming with the problems, and I’m the victim, you are playing defense. As humans, look at the world we are living in now. Everybody is a victim. To be a great leader and to be thinking, you have to turn that mindset and keep that positive mindset but be playing offense every day. Things are going to be thrown at you. You are going to have difficulties that you run across but it’s how you approach it with that mindset and how you lead that’s going to make a difference.

We will go into it a little bit more detail about it but we will pin that. Can you tell us the four stages of leadership? What made you come up with this process and system in general? Can you tell us what it is and stuff?

As far as what made me come up with this process, it’s a lot of reading leadership books, and trial and error in my home service business. It started probably more than four stages but I’m a guy who likes simple things. I try to make it as simple as possible. The four stages are 1) Position, 2) Relationship, 3) Production, 4) Reproduction. The way I teach it, it’s a cycle that keeps going round and round. If I meet somebody for the first time, they know me as Dan, the executive leadership coach, and it’s very positional.

The four stages of leadership: position, relationship, production, reproduction. Click To Tweet

They don’t know anything about my history. There is no credibility built. I haven’t shown them that I’m a producer and what I do as a leadership coach. None of that has taken place. If I go straight from the introduction to trying to teach, train or coach somebody on something, it’s not going to be as effective because I have lacked building that relationship with that person. I coached through that. What I tell my clients is the four stages can be done in one conversation. It’s done in one conversation a lot of times but it’s also done in a lifetime relationship with people.

If I meet somebody for the first time and I go to onboarding that person, I go from stage 1 introduction all the way to stage 4, and I start training that person in a new position. I can never leave stage 2 behind. At some point in the next few days, I need to make sure that I build a relationship with that person. If I take that person and put them out in the field or office and I have lacked building any relationship with them, they are going to see me as a very positional business owner or manager. They are going to be doing things just because I tell them to do things.

Once you have 100 employees and people are walking around, you are like, “I have never seen that guy before. He’s got my uniform on. Is he supposed to be here?”

When you have 100 employees, you have to reproduce this knowledge in every one of your managers or leaders in your business. As the owner and visionary of your company, you have to be intentional about walking around. You are not going to be able to build deeper relationships but you can build casual relationships by being present with people. The answer to your question is that your direct managers need to be in charge of running the fourth stage of the leadership because that’s the person that’s going to be leading them through their journey in your business. It’s a scale model.

Most businesses don’t have 100 people yet. If they are, they should probably be teaching us something. With your business, let’s say they have anywhere from 1 to 10 field employees because that’s where most home service businesses are. What types of things should they be looking for in their current employees in general, even in the office, and what should they be looking for in future interviews they are having for people that could fill these roles at some point?

I keep it very foundational and basic. A positive mindset is huge. If you have somebody who is consistently the negative Nancy in the group, always bringing people down, that’s not going to be the person you want to put in a leadership role. The way you’ve got to picture it as a person leading that department or the person leading your company, every level below that is a trickle-down of that person. I’m looking for people who are naturally taking the initiative, promoting teamwork, organized, on time, and prepared.

I’m looking for somebody who is taking ownership of their outcomes, somebody who is bringing solutions to the table. That would blow you away if you had that person working for you. You are not looking for the top salesperson all the time. Though you want to find somebody who is a producer, it doesn’t mean they have to be your top salesperson.

Producing is not just about sales. That is a piece of it. Producing is about who you are as a person. If you find somebody who is growing outside of what they do day-to-day like hop in a truck in one of your technicians and listening to a leadership podcast, I would be like, “This guy has got something going on because he’s wanting more.”

SBM 633 | Built For The Trades
Built For The Trades: You’re going to have difficulties that you run across but it’s how you approach it with that mindset that’s going to make a difference in how you lead.


How do you avoid the opposite side of the spectrum, the person who is overly optimistic about everything? You are like, “Reality check here. We are not going to do $10 million in the first year. You just started this position.” Is there a point where you see that that is bad as well? We had several people that Josh and I know together, and one of the go-to things is they would rather reel in a stallion than kick a mule. That’s the mindset that you approach with that.

You said that you are trying to avoid the people who are going to be negative or suck the air out of the room. Some people might call themselves a realist if they act that way like, “I’m not being negative, I’m being real.” At the same time, if you constantly are feeling that every time you have a conversation, then it’s like, “I do not want to be around this person anymore.”

Remember, leadership is influence. If you decide to put that person in a leadership role, they are going to influence everybody else in that direction. The answer is sitting down one-on-one with that person and educating them on the influential factor, and seeing if they even care about that. Some people don’t care, and they will be like, “That’s just me. I don’t care what you think.” That’s not going to be the next leader in line for your business unless you want to have that negativity floating through your culture.

Even when you are thinking about your culture and what that looks like, it’s good to have a good set of core values established for your business, and you hold people accountable to it because those core values as you, the business owner, plus accountability is going to equal your culture. A lot of times, they may or may not have core values on their wall for their business but the accountability piece lacks. I guarantee you, nobody’s core value is negativity.

Going back to that analogy of the racehorse and the plow horse, the racehorses are typically your top-selling people. They like the autonomy and freedom of doing their own thing. They like to make their schedule and only worry about themselves and the customer they are standing in front of. That person right there, you have to educate that being a leader is not a glamorous thing.

You might have a title of service manager but the reality is you are dealing with all the technicians, plus the apprentices coming up. You are dealing with all the angry customers, getting less pay, working long hours, and doing all these things. The person that gets educated towards what that looks like maybe, “I don’t want any of that.”

The other end of the spectrum is they may be a person whose bodies are giving out on them. In the trades, that’s pretty common. They may see that they want to own their business or be the general manager one day. They want to work in the office more than in the field. There are pros and cons both ways you look at it but going into it with the right expectations is important. It’s not about you. It’s about everybody else around you once you start leading other people.

You have ten questions that you go through when it comes to developing that next leader. Do you want to go into it a short dive, and then people can reach out to you a little more in detail if they want to go in deeper with this?

Core Values + Accountability = Culture Click To Tweet

Whenever you are sitting around looking at all the team members you have in your business and you are wondering, “Do I have a service manager or office manager? Somebody who’s showing potential to be the next leader in line?” A couple of questions I ask myself is, “Do I have anybody in my business who is influencing my culture in a positive light?” You don’t want that person who is always optimistic no matter what and are never fazed by it but you do want somebody who is showing up and being optimistic more times than they are not. The other part is, “Is there anybody in the business who is growing themselves outside of coming in the day-to-day operations and what they are currently doing?” Those are a couple of things I look for.

If you have people punching in and out, it’s something to do with your leadership and culture. I call those as, just enough employees. We see that a lot in the government where people are there, grumpy, punching in and out. Nobody wants to have that in their business. We want people who are engaged, who know where the company is going, what the vision looks like, and how they play a role in that vision. That’s what I help companies establish. It’s the little things like seeing people who are taking the initiative and organizing naturally.

I’m not going to want anybody who is super egotistical but having a little ego is good. We want somebody who is confident and humble at the same time. If you have somebody who says, “I take complete ownership of this mistake. I’m going to make it right.” Mind blown. Who does that? Everybody is like, “It’s not my fault. The customer did this. My helper left the tool on the job,” and all these different excuses that we hear from followers out there. I’m not picking on anybody because that was me at one point. I grew up as a service technician and followed that up into running my own business.

I have been in all the different roles, and I understand the growth it takes to get to where you want to go in that leadership role. Going back to the fourth stage of the leadership position, stage one, the one thing I will say to all business owners and managers out there is you have to give clarity in writing of what’s expected of that person that you are leading. One of the biggest mistakes is we are so vague.

If you do in a brand new position, how do you know what you expect from someone?

You will sit them down and write a position agreement.

That’s the thing that I experienced myself. I have heard people ask this constantly, “I don’t have that job role built out. I do it personally or so-and-so does it. They are overloaded and dropping the ball, so I feel like I should hire for this position, maybe a coordinator where our install manager was doing it, but now, they are overloaded. I don’t know how to tell this person what they are supposed to be doing because I don’t know.” What advice would you give to somebody that asks that particular question?

There are a couple of things we could do here. The first thing is they could log what they are doing while they are doing that task so we can get a better understanding of what that looks like. The second thing is never to skip the position agreement. We are creating leaders that lead leaders. You can’t lead your own life if you don’t know what’s expected of you. If you want to continuously lead followers, go ahead and ignore what I said. Skip writing any position agreement and put them in that role and say, “Go out and be the best leader you can be. Go out and manage this team like a rock star.”

SBM 633 | Built For The Trades
Built For The Trades: Going into it with the right expectations is important. It’s not about you. It’s about everybody else around you once you start leading other people.


They go out there, and next thing you know is they are talking to me a few months later and they are like, “I don’t know why that guy can’t be a better service manager. I gave him a pay raise and his pickup truck and told him to go out there and help these technicians earn their KPIs.” They never set a good foundation. Position agreements do that well. Once you write it and you sit down with that first and go through it, you are going to have to go through it a few more times, especially in the first 90 days. You need to revisit that. You’ve got to take all the feelings out of holding people accountable.

Leadership is feelings but management is accountability. That’s why you have systems in your business like position agreements and core values. You want to lean back on something besides my feelings. You want to say, “Here’s what you signed and agreed upon when you came to work at this company. Here’s what I’m going to hold you accountable to.”

You said that never skip the position agreement. Are you saying for “management” positions or every position in the business?

Every position in the business.

Do you believe in the philosophy of leading from the bottom up that no matter where you are in the company, you can be a leader?

A hundred percent. Leadership is influence. We all have it. We all finished a training session with our technicians. The next thing you know, they are out by the truck smoking a cigarette, and you’ve got one ringleader who is influencing everybody saying, “That was BS. You should not listen to that. You should be out there doing it like this.” That’s why your core values plus accountability equals your culture. If you allow that to go on, that person is undermining everything you are trying to accomplish in your business. It’s all about influence, who you have in that culture, and what you are allowing. The long answer to that is yes. You can lead in any position because leadership is not a position title at all.

If people want to get more information about you, Built for the Trades or any of that stuff, where should they go?

You can lead in any position because leadership is not a title at all. Click To Tweet is my website. They can follow me on Facebook, @BuiltForTheTrades or Instagram, @BuiltForTheTrades. They can also find me on LinkedIn, @DanDowdy. I love to share more. All this stuff comes from my past experiences but I have also used it and continue to use it in the trades. It makes a huge difference.

Where do we sign up for this trip in January 2022?

Hop on the Built for the Trades website and check out our mastermind community. We do mastermind groups for business owners and managers. If you are interested in learning more, reach out to me at I will allow anybody to come on and check out the mastermind group one time. No charge. Come on and see what it’s all about.

If somebody has never been in a coaching space before or in a mastermind group, I always recommend coming into the mastermind community first because you are going to find peers that you can relate to because it’s other people like you who own or manage home service businesses. It’s a great place to be. It’s a whole mindset of like, “You are the sum of the five people you hang around.” Who are you going to hang around with? If you have 10 or 15 people in a group that you are hanging around every week, imagine what that looks like.

Especially if you have successful people or people who are motivated. It is very true. You are the five people that you hang around. If you are around Debbie Downer’s all the time, no matter how much of a pick-me-up person you are, you’re going to become that person. The challenge I have for this is that I tend to surround myself with all these uber-successful people. I’m like, “What do I have to offer for these groups because they are way up here.” I feel guilty from time to time for that.

That’s normal for everybody. The reality is everybody has something to teach us. It’s a matter of our willingness to listen. As far as that point of view, you’ve got to be willing to share because no matter where you are at in life, there is an experience that you have had that I guarantee that another person hasn’t had or you have a different perspective based on your past experiences. It’s always good. Don’t shy away from checking it out because of where you are at in your business or career because it’s good to dive in and get out of your comfort zone.

I appreciate it. Thank you so much for coming to the show. Josh, do you have any closing remarks or questions before we wrap things up?

We see it in these other Facebook groups where people are trying to develop a leader or figure out who they should do this with, or maybe they should promote this person or what does this looks like. You see these things on and listen to these on podcasts but take that first step. Jump into Dan’s mastermind group and see what it’s about. The first step is always the hardest. If you take that first step and jump into that, you are going to be opened up to a whole new world of things that you didn’t even realize was possible.

SBM 633 | Built For The Trades
Built For The Trades: You have to take all the feelings out of holding people accountable. Leadership is influence, it has feelings, but management is accountability. That’s why you have systems in your business, like position agreements.


You can start down the journey of getting your business in line, growing your business, and getting to the point where you are not the guy or gal for everything. I highly encourage you to check out Dan’s mastermind group. If you are trying to figure out who the next leader in your business is, reach out to him and see what you can learn about those questions so you can ask yourself those questions about the people in your business.

Thank you for having me on the show. You will see these Four Stages of Leadership as you dive more into them. It’s a great sell system too because it’s all about communication, leading, and building those relationships, both with the team around you and your clients. Thank you all again for having me on the show.

Thank you so much.

Thanks for coming on, Dan. Thank you, Stephen, too for making the introduction. We wouldn’t have this conversation without that fellow. If anybody has any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us. I hope you have a wonderful and safe week. This is a show focused on service business owners, managers, and technicians who are considering becoming business owners as well. Our target is to help answer the unasked questions. I hope that we did that in this show. Until we talk to you next time.

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About Dan Dowdy

SBM 633 | Built For The TradesSecond generation Master Plumber, certified John Maxwell Coach, Trainer and Speaker, with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur in the home service space. I have now dedicated my life to giving back what I have learned to the Trades, believing that success in life and business starts within, working on yourself first before focusing on the things around you. My unique approach starts with the end in mind. Customizing the coaching and mastermind experience to your vision first, then shifting into leadership development.

Meet the Hosts:

Tersh Blissett

Tersh Blissett is a serial entrepreneur who has created and scaled multiple profitable home service businesses in his small-town market. He’s dedicated to giving back to the industry that has provided so much for him and his family. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Joshua Crouch

Joshua Crouch has been in the home services industry, specifically HVAC, for 8+ years as an Operations Manager, Branch Manager, Territory Sales Manager, and Director of Marketing. He’s also the Founder of Relentless Digital, where the focus is dominating your local market online. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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