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Socrates, Plato, and Leadership with Jack Hope

Your value lies in who you are as an individual, not what you do on a day-to-day basis.

In this episode, Jack Hope, President of Hope Plumbing, joins us to discuss why as a leader you have to recognize your unique strengths and the perspective you bring to the table, be it understanding customers, strategic problem-solving, or team development. Along the way, Jack also shares the pivotal moments that led to his growth as a leader.

Listen in for more of Jack’s unique leadership insights and a deeper understanding of the power of having a formula for how you want to lead.

After You Listen:

Key Takeaways:

  • Recognize your value and unique perspective
  • Ask pointed questions and use the Socratic method to guide and inspire your team
  • Build a supportive team, surround yourself with trustworthy partners and seek outside mentorship

Things to listen for:

  • [02:06] Lightning round with Jack
  • [03:50] Encouraging self-reflection and open conversations with questions
  • [12:00] Growing up in a family business and becoming a young leader
  • [16:10] The support side of leadership
  • [19:03] Working on the business instead of in it
  • [22:44] Jack’s advice for his younger self
  • [24:29] Craig’s takeaways

Jack’s Transcript:

[00:00:00] Craig P. Anderson: I was the first one of my team to sit down at the table at the president’s club event. And suddenly I heard behind me, is someone sitting next to you? And I looked up and it was a number two person at JPMorgan Chase. Shocked, I said, seat is yours.

[00:00:19] Craig P. Anderson: Welcome to Executive Evolution. I’m Craig Anderson. After spending 25 plus years in corporate America, I learned a lot of leadership lessons the hard way I created this podcast, so you don’t have to. Many times when you come up as an accidental leader in an organization, myself in banking with an English degree.

[00:00:41] Craig P. Anderson: You deal with a lot of imposter syndrome. You wonder why you’re in the role and when you’re going to be found out. And that was something I struggled throughout my career in financial services until I realized the value that I brought to the table was the experience I had with our client base. And in that particular event at that president’s club dinner, the person sat down next to me because he really wanted to start to understand the client and customer side of the business.

And he spent 45 minutes. Asking me question after question. And as I looked back on that, I realized this is the value I bring. It’s not because I can underwrite credit. It’s not because I understand financial services. It’s because I understood the customer. In today’s episode of the podcast, we meet with Jack Hope, the president of Hope Plumbing to learn the story of his executive evolution and the importance of realizing that someone puts you into the place of leadership.

And you can build confidence So let’s jump right into today’s episode.

[00:01:45] Craig P: Jack, welcome to the Executive Evolution Podcast. I’m glad you’re here.

[00:01:49] Jack Hope: Hi, Craig. Thanks for having me. fun to be here. This however many, 10 years later or something like that.

[00:01:54] Craig P: It is. I’ve known Jack A. Long time. We’ve worked together, and I’m excited to have his story on the pod. So Jack, we always open up with our lightning round, so are you ready to dive in?

[00:02:05] Jack Hope: Ready?

[00:02:06] Craig P: All right. So What is the best leadership book you have ever read?

[00:02:12] Jack Hope: So I thought about this and I think I have, to give you two books.

One, this is the one you’re gonna roll your eyes at me for maybe. But I think it was the Trial and Death of Socrates where I learned for the first time, and I now teach in my class. I. All the time, just basic Socratic method learning, right?

So asking people questions, pointed questions from a variety of different angles to sort of help them get to things that they probably already know, right? So asking somewhat leading questions to help people get to these, decisions of their own accord. My second book, is probably Good to Great by Jim Collins, the, and whatever it’s worth.

I don’t read much of that stuff, Craig. It’s just not where my reading habits go but I think the concept of having people in the right seat on the right bus was something that really made a lot of sense to me.

Over time, we’ve taken people that were great, but probably in the wrong roles and moved them around until we found a, uh, spot for them that made a lot of sense.

[00:03:24] Craig P: I love that and good to great’s. Probably my most quoted book, everyone thinks maybe I only I’ve ever read one leadership book. ’cause that’s the one I quote all the time. As you think about the thread through those two books though, are there some common themes because that whole piece about asking questions, I.

Comes up a lot when I talk to the leaders as they’ve grown. How is that question tie? Does it tie into any of those lessons that you picked up in the other book?

[00:03:50] Jack Hope: Yeah, I mean, in part to figure out what people would be good at. I think a big part of that is figuring out what they like. what would you like to do? where do you think you would be good? How would you excel? what would you do differently? Right. Just a constant source of questions.

And I think that when you. have conversations that are question based, people aren’t as likely to be defensive, which is, really helpful for conversations like that. giving them a chance to talk and speak and, probably a chance for a lot of folks to clarify their own thoughts and positions on what they like or don’t like.

Sometimes we find that, People say things they may or may not believe just for the sake of, responding or continuing the argument or something to say. And I’m, I’m not faulting anybody for that. I think it’s frustrating when you’re not in somebody’s good graces and they’re talking to you about that. So if you can do that in a way that’s disarming, I think that’s really helpful.

[00:04:47] Craig P: Great. Yeah, and I think that’s such a truth, is just asking questions. With the presumption that everyone’s trying to do the best, Nobody’s showing up every day to try and bomb your business. They’re just trying to do their best and struggling.

[00:04:59] Jack Hope: yes, for sure. I mean, I think most people are just there to, do their best, get through their days. they’re not out to like get you or something like that. So, as long as you can be basically human, I think think it goes much better.

[00:05:11] Craig P: Perfect. All right, so question number two, is your leadership crush?

[00:05:18] Jack Hope: Well, if I don’t get to say Socrates, then I will probably say my current leadership crush is our current, C-E-O-C-O-O or general manager. His name’s Kevin Kibaki. this will come as no surprise that he has a really strong background in education. He started a couple of charter schools here in Indianapolis. he was, I think principal at Cathedral or assistant principal. He is been a teacher for a long time. He’s a coach and he is very, very good at. Getting people aligned around a goal or, explaining things in a way that is productive rather than argumentative. I think he’s been really good for us, Craig, in the sense that Brad and I have spent so much more time with those ideas that we’re more comfortable with them and Kevin has done a great job of implementing that. And I think that’s because Kevin works really hard at being a leader, is something, if I’m being perfectlyhonest, I don’t spend. A tremendous amount of time of thinking about how to become a better leader. May, maybe I should. but I think Kevin does spend a lot of time thinking about how to be a better leader and strategies for doing so. And really shows in his day-to-Day stuff at work his day-to-Day stuff in life. he’s a very disciplined sort of. Well thought out person. he’s my leadership crush at the moment.

[00:06:52] Craig P: I love that and, you know, I do have the benefit of having known you for a long time since you first started your business. And one of the things I work with a lot of leaders on is they start out and it’s just them, or it was just you and Brad and you’re kind of getting things done and then a couple of people around and you’re still telling people what to do, but then you get to a certain size. That doesn’t work. So how did you have to make that mental shift to say, wow, I can’t do it all. And if I keep trying to do it all, it’s gonna bomb the business.

[00:07:20] Jack Hope: I mean, in some sense I think that decision. was almost made for us, or maybe as those decisions have happened over time, we just got to a place where that was, the next step. Let me give you an example. I think when I really figured out the first time, um,Brad and I were in the field doing calls together.

He’d pick me up in the morning in our work truck and we’d go like, Crazy until people wouldn’t let us come to their house anymore because it was too late, was kind of how we knew when it was time to stop working. like, I can remember being in a crawlspace with Brad and we were, I don’t know, working on a toilet flange or something, and our cell phone, which is how we were answering the phone and scheduling calls at that point, I ended up just sitting in this crawl space the whole time. Answering the phone and writing down names and numbers and plumbing problems and trying to build our schedule while Brad’s doing the plumbing work. so that’s when I figured out like, okay, if we’re gonna keep growing, like this is unsustainable. There’s,I’m not even being helpful at this point with the plumbing work that we’re doing.

And that’s when, somewhere around that time is when I moved into the office full-time. And we hired another person to go out and do plumbing work on our behalf.

[00:08:39] Craig P: Yeah, and, when that happened, what did that do to your growth trajectory?

[00:08:43] Jack Hope: Yeah, I mean, it nearly doubled revenue like immediately we had more work than we could possibly do. It’s just that now we were able to get to twice as much as we could before

[00:08:53] Craig P: Yeah. was any part of it an ego thing to say, well, I’m so good at all this stuff.

[00:08:59] Jack Hope: I mean, honestly for me, no, definitely not with the plumbing part, because I don’t have a strong plumbing background, But one, the part of that that I struggled with was the customer service component.

Are we going to be as polite as I think we should be? Are we gonna be wiping our shoes off? Are we gonna be cleaning up? Are we gonna be saying stuff doesn’t make sense or you just shouldn’t say, or any of those kinds of things. so I struggled with the customer service part of it. Um, luckily at the beginning we were able to get some people in place that we’d known for a long time that we were pretty comfortable with. But that particular struggle is one that’s carried over. I mean, we still hire people, particularly, if we’re gonna train somebody, we hire quite a bit more on somebody’s personality than we do any of the experience that they have.

We we can teach you how to be a plumber. It’s really hard to teach being polite and pleasant and well-spoken those things.

[00:09:58] Craig P: I love it. All right. Well, last question. In the lightning rounds such as my lightning rounds usually are in 10 words or less, how would you define leadership?

[00:10:07] Jack Hope: something like what I sort of alluded to at the beginning is that if you can get everyone to recognize that you do a good job, everything else will come together. if you just remember that if you do a nice job, whether you’re answering the phones for a business or doing the installation work or selling a product, at the end of the day, if you provide value, if you do a nice job, people will appreciate that and theoretically call you back.

[00:10:38] Craig P: Yeah, and networks for leadership and customer service and everything else. Cool. So, you alluded Jack to the fact that you’ve kind of a non-traditional background for someone who has a business in the trades. and that you haven’t purposely been a student of leadership, but what was your first real leadership role?

[00:10:56] Jack Hope: the first time I actually had a leadership role? was working at Sullivan’s Hardware as a junior in high school. I, had worked at Sullivan’s for a couple years at that point. And, one way or another I became an assistant manager, basically just that all the other managers would leave at five or six o’clock the people whose this was their career, they would get out of there at five or six. And then from six till nine when Sullivan’s closed, I was sort of the guy.

So that was, customer service problems to closing the register at the end of the night. And, just in general being the like. Go-to guy on site. I mean, I recognize I could have called in for backup if I needed to or whatever, that was the first time that I remember sort of thinking I’m in charge of this at the moment.

[00:11:49] Craig P: Yeah. and what was that like for you? ’cause part of that is leading the team and taking on customer service issues. How did you kind of see that then at a pretty young age of leadership? I.

[00:12:00] Jack Hope: Two things. One, my grandfather owned a small business and I grew up in it. So being around the person who was the leader or the owner or whatever that was, was something I was basically familiar with. And it’s also what I was interested in. So like I would, any chance I got be speaking to Pat Sullivan about Whatever he would talk to me about when I was 15 or 16. I was just interested in all of it. where it was, a really new experience for me at Sullivan’s Hardware was then being in charge of people who were older than me. So there would still be guys in there, whether it was their part-time job or their full-time job who had that one to nine shift and they weren’t a manager.

And now all of a sudden there’s like a 17-year-old kid who’s sort of assigning tasks at the end of the night or checking in on you or whatever that was. and I remember that being a very weird. peculiar type experience to, wrap my head around being in charge, being the leader for someone that was twice my age or something to that effect, particularly when I was 17. It was maybe felt a little bit different at 25 or six

[00:13:21] Craig P: Yeah, but that’s something a lot of times I talk to leaders and they’re young and they get that first leadership role, and they do have people that are way older than them or more experienced than them. So how did you manage that? I mean, how did you get yourself, okay, and how did you do doing it?

[00:13:37] Jack Hope: the only way I know how to answer this in any real way is just to say that I probably didn’t think about it a whole lot. I think it felt natural to me to be in that position.I didn’t really take much time to step back and sort of say, am I deserving of this? How do I qualify? Or what are these things? I, I knew in my own mind, I was confident in myself. And then I had this fact that someone else had put me in this role. So I think between those two things, I just didn’t spend much time on it. I just kind of jumped in, I guess.

[00:14:17] Craig P: And sometimes I hear people say, well, I was put in that role, so they must trust me, so I don’t want to ask for help. Because they obviously think I can do it. But you said you talked to Pat Sullivan a lot to try and get in, so were you able to ask for help when you needed it?

[00:14:31] Jack Hope: Yeah, for sure. let’s be honest, when we’re talking about what exactly I’m doing in terms of being a manager at 17, it’s not like big nuanced decisions, right? It’s like I. Hey, did you take the trash out? You know what I mean? like, these aren’t, big decisions that we’re making, but I mean, to your point about talking to Pat, that hasn’t gone away. I still talk to Pat frequently about what’s working and what’s not working and just business in general and what to do about an upset customer. And, pat has probably helped me understand, If not being a leader, but certainly running a business more than anybody else singularly in my life.

I worked there for five or six years and all through most of college. And then man, as we were growing up, he was super helpful from letting us advertise in there to about us on the radio. And he called me one day. I might have been in a crawlspace. And I answered the phone, I said, hello? And he said, man, if I’m gonna tell people to call you, you’ve at least gotta say this is Jack or Hope Plumbing or something. You can’t just say hello. And I was like, that’s, probably fair, pat. So that’s when we started answering the phone. Hope Plumbing. yeah, I don’t, I don’t know in terms of a leadership role, how I was thinking about that at 17 or 18.

[00:15:54] Craig P: probably just didn’t even know.

[00:15:55] Jack Hope: Yeah.

[00:15:56] Craig P: So now let’s fast forward to today. Very different business than what you had when you started Hope Plumbing, big business. What is leadership like for you today? What are some of the things that you’ve pulled forward from this collective wisdom that you’ve accrued?

[00:16:10] Jack Hope: I think a lot of it is just having some fundamental belief that the people that are in there are competent and ready to do their jobs, and then working really hard to give them the tools and the confidence they need. To make decisions day to day. much of my role at this point is support. and Kevin, as I mentioned, has been instrumental, I think, in getting that support to the managers and allowing Brad and I to be, better at, cheerleading than cheerleading and trying to coach. And I think that. That role suits both Brad and I better than, coaching. I mean, Kevin’s got a lot more experience. I mean, I think we did okay with it for a long time, but I think in the last year or two, our business has just outgrown it’s bigger than a business can be for someone to lead it without thinking about how you’re going to be leading it.

[00:17:09] Craig P: And the other thing that I kind of heard you talk about in there, that’s still part of today. Is kind of setting that big vision. Right. You said early on as you were hiring people, this is how I want you to talk to customers. so you set up the kind of how of the business and where the business was going. how did that manifest for you as you were growing that? Was that very intentional to set those things up? And how did you decide which were important and not important?

[00:17:35] Jack Hope: I think Brad and I have always been pretty intentional. I, I want to speak about that just a second. ’cause it’s something Brad and I were just talking about recently. we’ve been intentional, but not too specific. I think sometimes people  They do a great job of putting together a plan, but then they’re too rigid about trying to go after that specific plan. I think one of the things I’ve learned in life or at work is that there are a whole lot of. Right ways to do something. there’s definitely some wrong ones, But there are a lot of different ways to accomplish a given goal. I think it’s been. This constantly evolving learning process as we get bigger, what areas do we need to focus on? I think we knew customer service was a big part of who we wanted to be really early. So certainly that stuck with us. and I think Brad and I always had a goal, or certainly I did. And then I think Brad has adopted this goal over time. that we wanted to work ourselves into a position where we did not have day-to-day tasks inside the business. And it wasn’t to be lazy or something like that. It was so that we. Do all the other things we wanted with our lives I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase, but to be able to work on the business instead of in it. and I know this is something people say regularly, but putting it in practice is something else.

Like it is a very different thing to be able to go into the office and think about How we’re gonna shape processes or to just watch what’s going on or to just be a cheerleader some days. . There’s a big difference between what I just described and going in there and having, well, these are the nine things I need to get done before I can sort of relax and see what’s happening around here. It’s just for me, you’re, you’re kind of in one position or the other. it’s really hard to do both.

[00:19:41] Craig P: Yeah, and I’m sure a lot of people who might be listening to this are kind of at that early stage where, all right, now I’m up to eight or 10 people, and I’m having to start to think like that, but I’m not quite where I can afford to think like that.

[00:19:55] Jack Hope: Yeah, I I would tell you gottablock some time out. Like you gotta be really intentional about that time. For me, I the best times to do that are when we’re at our busiest, So if I can just sort of go in and watch what’s happening like on a Monday morning or really anytime for us, between seven and like 11:00 AM is the bulk of our, conversation, transactions, however you want to think about That, that is probably when I get the best information about what’s working and what’s not working, because you see repeated stumbling blocks and so on. But for the folks that are just now getting to a place where they recognize they need to work on it instead of in it, set aside time, specifically on your calendar where you have. Nothing else to do except think about how to make the business better rather than just your job.

[00:20:46] Craig P: Yeah. And was easier to do that where you had a partner to kind of bounce ideas off of? Or did you all just kind of find yourselves working independently towards the larger vision?

[00:20:56] Jack Hope: No, I mean, having a partner, Brad And I have talked about this so much. really can’t imagine in some ways being I. where we are without having one another. I mean, everything from more grandiose things like bouncing ideas off of one another when you’re trying to problem solve to like, well, I’m in a funk this week and Brad’s not so he’s gonna get me out of it, or vice versa, or I’m exhausted today.

And he’s not. So  there’s something about having A team. So maybe to that end, if you are in this, spot where you need help working on the business, find somebody, even if they’re not in your business, to just chat with, set up weekly meetings, a little personal board of directors, however you want to think about that.  having somebody else to Chat with these things about is I think really important. I recognize people can do it without, other people sometimes, but man, that sounds really hard.

[00:21:54] Craig P: Yeah, it really is. and just having someone else, especially if you can find someone else who has an agenda, whose only agenda is to help you figure things out,

[00:22:02] Jack Hope: Sure.

[00:22:03] Craig P: which I think is always hard because everyone comes to you with the best of intentions, but usually an agenda too,

[00:22:08] Jack Hope: this will be shocking where we’ve been pretty frustrated with one another. But at the end of the day, I think we both recognize that we both are trying to do what’s best for Hope plumbing, and as long as we can continue to believe that. you recognize people are just trying to do their best, which is kind of where you started

[00:22:26] Craig P: Yeah, absolutely. so Jack, if you jump into a time machine, you can pick any time machine you want, DeLorean, time, cubes, whatever you like. Go back to that young Jack. What’s the one piece of advice that would’ve made him more effective, made the road easier.

[00:22:44] Jack Hope: on, probably be more intentional about what type of leader you want to be  I don’t think you have to decide in a stringent manner how you’re going to be, but have some formula for how you’re going to. Manage, talk to people.

Think about it. I think common sense will get you a long, long way, right? If you’ve got 5, 6, 10 employees, common sense, will probably, get you where you need to go. But as you get to a place where you’re managing multiple people that are managing teams of people,  it’s probably really important to have a plan for how you’re going to. Lead that group of people.

[00:23:28] Craig P: Love it and we’ll leave it at that. Jack, if people want to connect with you, follow you, learn more about Hope Plumbing, what are the best ways for them to do that?

[00:23:37] Jack Hope: Yeah, so Hope is probably the

easiest place to find contact information, get our background story, see specials, see what we’re up to. and then on Instagram and Facebook, we’re at Hope Plumbing, so you can find us there. Colleen who runs our content creation and is in heavily involved in our marketing department, I think does really amazing stuff, given that she’s telling stories in the plumbing space or something. So, uh,check it out. think, I think Colleen does a really good job of telling our, our story and sort of what life is like day to day at Hope Plumbing.

[00:24:16] Craig P: Perfect. Well, we will drop links for all those in the show notes. Jack, thanks again for sharing the story ofyour executive evolution.

[00:24:22] Jack Hope: Yeah, man. Thanks for your time. Enjoy your day. Let’s chat soon.

[00:24:29] Craig P. Anderson: Thanks, Jack, for such a great episode today to share the story of your executive evolution. Jack had a lot of great examples of how he’s grown as a leader over time, and as always, I like to give you my key takeaways in the areas of confidence, competence, and calm. In the area of confidence, I liked how Jack talked about in that early leadership role, whenever he felt uncertain, he realized that someone put him in this role, and that was a source of confidence for him.

In his leadership journey in the area of competence, he talked about having a formula for how you want to lead leadership. Isn’t something you just make up every day. You have to have a formula and an intent and build your day day decisions as a leader around that and then the area of calm where Jack talked about letting go of control and being strong enough to know that there is a time when you need to bring in help and you can no longer do it all on your own.

So, thanks again, Jack. As always, remember, you can go from being an accidental leader to the greatest of all time leader. It just takes confidence, competence, and calm. We’ll see you next time.