Overcoming Personal Tragedy To Achieve Business Triumph With Jeff Hill

John Corcoran 12:13

Now some other time, I’ll tell you the story because as funny as right around the same time, 2003, I was a business feature for the governor of California at the time, Arnold Schwarzenegger wins in California as the governor, and I lose my job. And then Jerry Brown, who later became governor again a second time and ran for president, you probably know, Jerry Brown, came out, he was mayor of Oakland at the time, he came up to Sacramento, and to his credit, interviewed a bunch of us who just lost our job in the recall, because he’s trying to like headhunt, like good people, right. And I did a panel interview where I was with colleagues, and Jerry Brown, one of the weirdest experiences. 

And the weird thing about it is when you’re doing an interview with colleagues, you know, how you kind of elaborate, you know, well, if the person next to you is elaborating, you’re like, Well, wait a second, I did that. And what you’re claiming credit for it was really Yeah, but this interview is for you. So I will, I will tell the full version of that. But I want to hear so you end up going from your go from the call center world, you think you’re interviewing for a call center director, and you end up chunking putting down this chunk of money that you just gotten from your, you know, severance package. And what was it like in the early days? You know, was it hard to figure out? Did they have the franchise system that the corporate headquarters really figured out? So you had good support? And you were able to figure? 

Jeff Hill 13:31

Yeah, well, you know, I, you know, I’ve only been part of a couple franchise models. So it’s hard to compare, you know, I was never part of a McDonald’s or anything. But you know, as far as you know, I had run my own business before and we skipped over that. But when I was still in Spokane, right after college, I was bored with trying to find real jobs, and there was nothing there. And so I started a lost luggage company hauling lost luggage for the airlines out of Spokane International Airport. So that’s a whole nother story. But what I learned is, you know, that’s kind of the, I think working for myself was the way I wanted to go.

And so I, you know, I wasn’t afraid to learn, learn as I went and stuff like that, and, you know, but they did a pretty good job. They had the, you know, the man or the training manuals, were still being written and stuff like that. So some of the stuff was early, but they generally listened to their franchise partners. They did have folks that were early adopters that had a real track record of success, so they were super inspiring. And so we would a lot of times copy what they were doing, and really, you know, we formed several groups within other franchise partners that were experiencing similar growth, growth or challenges or government regulations, or whatever we’re dealing with. 

And so, you know, so I always felt relatively supported. And then, you know, the way they do it, I mean, like a lot of franchises is it’s your business, you know, I mean, you’re the one that has to go out and hustle, you’re the one that It dawns the blue wig and goes in waves off ridges to get people to honk. I mean, that’s you. Yeah. And so, in that way, it’s not very different from someone who’s just starting to completely for themselves.

John Corcoran 15:14

You know, so and now let’s see, there were some rough patches, I was reading beforehand, you had some incidents of theft early on, it was maybe a little bit too much of a casual culture, and you actually ended up having to do a sting. And you found out that your friend and longtime assistant had been embezzling from you?

Jeff Hill 15:34

Yeah. Yeah. You know, it still gets me a little fired up.

John Corcoran 15:37

Here we are. 20 years later, yeah. Well, like it’s just happened recently.

Jeff Hill 15:41

You know, it’s just like, when somebody steals your mail, you know, you just feel personally violated. And for me, it was never about the money, it was that she was on my inner circle, you know, and it was, and then, you know, so she was here, as she was an admin, that she was my admin, when I was a director at T-Mobile, you know, and I left and I was starting my own business, and she had had twins, which, coincidentally, I have twins now. But, and so, you know, she was looking for a part time gig and I, you know, probably couldn’t even offer more than our time. So it was, it felt like a good fit. And, you know, we went through some, some growth, and, you know, and I’m hiring a lot of, you know, 18 to 24 year old kids, and, and there was theft, you know, there was stuff happening. 

And but, you know, the sad part was, we would always look to the drivers and the navigators in these kids is the reason that we are having gaps or losses or, and, and it turns out all along, even that year, that I basically had to sell, you know, 55% of the business and I liquidated my 401k to meet payroll that year, she had systematically embezzled about $22,000, from me, so it’s just like, that was just a punch in the gut. And that was a little bit of a, okay, let’s circle the wagons. If we’re, if we’re gonna hold on to this, we essentially need to start over, I need to find out who my real friends are.

John Corcoran 17:07

Now, you know, my mind goes like, now we have better technology, we can accept more digital payments, we could even set up little cameras everywhere if we want to, or sensors or something like that. What did you do back then in order to prevent it from happening after you experienced that?

Jeff Hill 17:24

Well, you know, the thing you have to remember is, you don’t have scale, when you’re just in a startup, right? You everything as you’re doing it kind of back of the napkin, you know, now I have multiple locations, we have safes we have, you know, hand off protocols, and we have cameras, all that stuff, of course, but you know, I didn’t even have an office, right? I mean, I was running it out of my home office. And guys were meeting, you know, where we parked the truck strategically out in the community, you know? 

And so it’s like, where do you put the envelope that has the receipts, and maybe a couple people paid cash? Well, sometimes that cash didn’t make it back. And so it was ugly, and clunky. And, you know, and it was obviously, you know, I took ownership of it, for sure. But it was, you know, it was just part of the growing pains of starting, you know, going from being a small to a medium sized business. 

John Corcoran 18:20

And so I’m still angry about that. And one of the law firms I worked at, before I became an entrepreneur, there was an embezzlement after I left, and you know, I was furious. 

Jeff Hill 18:29

Well, it’s, you know, I mean, if you’ve done it for yourself, and you know, how much blood sweat and tears you put in your business, and then when you hear that somebody was nonchalantly doing that. It’s just, it’s frustrating, but I’ll tell you the good news about that story. And this, you know, this is something, you know, I was trying to look at the positive, that’s when I knew I had the right guy as my GM, because I had just brought in Jay, and he had been working alongside me and he took it upon himself to do essentially do a sting operation and then follow these dollars and, you know, put put some money in there that people didn’t know is there and all this stuff. 

And he tracked it down, and he’s the one that figured out exactly how she’d been doing it and how much she did and, and all that and so we were able to, you know, get her out of the organization and clean things up. And, and really, that became the foundation for my relationship with Jay which is, you know, it’s just based on just 100% Honesty, and you know, me as the, as a founding partner, who’s, you know, like I said, relatively absent team most of the time. My job is just to trust Him, remove obstacles, and you know, and, you know, allow him to go out there and get it done. And so we’ve created a pretty unique culture and, and he lines them up and you know, he’s not he’s not afraid of the work if I didn’t get it from him. He’s gonna execute so it’s been a great partnership.

John Corcoran 19:52

Now, another thing you found early on is that some of your younger employees are having a hard time relating to the mindset of your customer. yours. And you know, the customers are thinking I want to pay someone to remove this junk from me. I don’t want to do it myself. The young employees were kind of thinking like, I wouldn’t, I would never pay the money for this. Do it myself. Right. And so you had an interesting reaction to that. You ended up taking three of your young leaders out to a fine Steakhouse. So they could see what high end service was like, and kind of appreciate it. So tell us a story.

Jeff Hill 20:23

Yeah, that’s, it was a really fun exercise. And you know, and I understood, you know, I was young, too. And I, you, man, if I had to move, you know, I wouldn’t call the moving company, I’d call my buddies. And I mean, that’s what you do when you’re younger, right? When you’re in your 20s. And, and, but what I was trying to show them was that it’s all perspective. And when you’re delivering customer service, there’s value in that, and if you do it, right, people are never going to question the price. And so, you know, I’d taken on, these are a couple of my, my, my budding leaders, the folks that I was kind of promoting up into the leadership roles and, and, and, you know, I taken them out and taking them to a place in Bellevue is just, it’s not even there anymore. 

It’s been torn down and all kinds of die in the bar and, you know, we got some wings, and we were throwing some darts. And I just said, Hey, instead of having, you know, we had our appetizer, why don’t we go have dinner? Up the street? And, and, you know, of course, they were game, you know, the boss says he’s buying and we’re just gonna go out the street to have dinner and so, so I took him to the top floor of Daniels in Bellevue, and I pre arranged the table and took them to a really nice dinner overlooking Bellevue and Seattle skyline and, and we had awesome service and, and drank a bottle of wine. And, and, and then, you know, the bill came around, and, and I discreetly kind of asked them what they thought the bill would be. 

And, and, you know, it was interesting, because most of them hadn’t eaten at a place like that. But they were all relatively close, you know. But, um, but I showed them the bill. And I said, you know, this is interesting, I said, this is coincidentally the same as our average job size. I said, so what if we tried to deliver the same experience the same feeling that we got at this fine dining Steakhouse, to every one of our customers? Do you think they’d ever balk at the price? And they, you know, and it just gave them a little bit of a different perspective. And so we, you know, we go into it. And, you know, the, I’ve always said in this business, it’s the little things, you know, the business in the service business, everybody does a relatively similar job, but it’s the folks that do the little things well, and consistently, that, that, you know, that really shine. And so that’s certainly in our mantra in your world. 

John Corcoran 22:42

Well, what were those little things like sweeping up after a job or something? 

Jeff Hill 22:47

Yeah, clean, shiny trucks, friendly, uniform drivers on time service, do the call ahead, sweep up after, you know, hey, I noticed this was sitting here. Do you want me to put that away for you? You know, the barbecue is over here? Should we put it in the garage, you know, little things? It might take one or two minutes extra? But those customers are like, Oh, wow, I didn’t know how I was gonna get that in there. Thank you, you know, because, you know, we come in, and I love it. 

My business partner used to say this, he’s like, we, we, when we go to a job, we leave with two things, junk and money. He’s like, and we need to, and we need to make sure that that, you know, these people feel like they got value out of what we provided, because there are times where we will roll in. And I mean, our guys are efficient. We have the right tools. We have the right size trucks we go in and I mean, I could empty your garage and be out of there in 30 minutes.

John Corcoran 23:37

And I might, you know, it might be my blades, my garage is a mess.

Jeff Hill 23:41

But then, you know, I’m there. 30 minutes, and we, you know, we let’s say we charge you 750 bucks for a full truckload you’re like, Whoa, that was a lot of money. Well, it’s like, yeah, but you know, something about having the right tools, though.

John Corcoran 23:53

Yeah. Now, you own the company in 2008 2008 2009. Of course, we all know that the national economy in the United States took a downturn during those years. And it hit you a little bit later, as did many of us here on the west coast, the United States. And so now you did well, 2010 and it was around 2020 or 2010 or 2011, that things really started to go down for you. And you had a really interesting response. You ended up buying another startup or investment startup, this company talking about some of the synergies there because there’s a great lesson.

Jeff Hill 24:32

Well, it’s, actually it’s kind of funny because the frog box actually came after I actually bought Tacoma. I bought Tacoma because I wanted to hear about junk, so I bought out a local franchise at the time. This is in oh nine.

John Corcoran 24:47

 So Okay, so where are you losing money at the time?,

Jeff Hill 24:51

Are you Yeah I mean, we were we were you know, we came off of oh eight and we grew and oh nine we thought we were going to do okay. I mean, it was 60%. And so I’m like, Okay, I think we may dodge this thing. And I figured if I added some scale, I knew that Tacoma hadn’t been developed at all. And so even if I kind of parked it, I think I thought I could cover my small business loan and whatnot. And so that was happening. And then at the same time that that was happening, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. And so that was happening. And so it just, it was a lot, it was a lot all at once the downturn was happening, I was, you know, and so that’s when I started seriously entertaining the idea of just getting out of the business altogether. And thank goodness, you know, I was part of the EO Entrepreneurs’ Organization. 

And, I had a great group of leaders and mentors, some of which I think you saw this last week, but so, so they kind of helped me navigate through it. And ultimately, about a year later, I decided to partner up, and I use the capital that I partnered up with to kind of write write the business again, you know, we were a little bit on our heels and, and took a little bit of money off the table for myself to make sure I could be someone hold that. They really stayed engaged for another year. And, you know, the rest is history. You know, I had a frog box that explained oh, yeah, sorry. So. So yeah, so frog box, you know, at the time, we were looking, you know, I had, I had trucks, I had a warehouse, I had a lot of staff, I didn’t have a lot of jobs. And so I was looking like, what can I do? How can I make sure I keep these employees? How can I make sure that, you know, I’m covering this rent for these types of things. 

And so, there was a gentleman by the name of Doug Burgoyne, who was from Vancouver, very familiar with the 1-800-GOT-JUNK model. And so he ended up just dialing me up one day, and he just kind of told me about this idea he had and how he was considering franchising this concept, which is basically, it’s still sustainable moving supplies. And so it’s basically like these plastic totes, that we would bring to you, in lieu of cardboard, you would pack them, and then we would come pick them up, or you pack them you’d move, you do your u haul, and then we’d come pick them up at your new location. So you didn’t have any waste. And it was a neat, neat idea. 

But you know, for me, the model didn’t pencil the way that I initially really hoped and that we had to go out to the people to different properties, right. And so that’s mileage and windshield time, and all these things. And, and so, you know, so I held on I was, you know, because I was early in and, and I am who I am, I kind of needled my way into some ownership share. And so I’m still actually part owner of the company. But I sold back my franchise to the corporate location, and got out because what I was looking at, especially when I was dealing with this implosion, all this stuff is I was spending a lot of time worrying about that business, working on that business, washing boxes, doing all the labor intensive stuff at that. 

But yet, I had this business that had just, you know, I just lost a million and a half to half and revenue. Like, what if I spent my time trying to get that back? You know what I mean? Yeah. And so it was really just, I had to reprioritize where my time was, and, and, you know, I still love the business, I still see the trucks and once in a while. And I still think it’s a great concept. It was just it was tough to monetize in a way that really made it profitable for an owner operator like me.

John Corcoran 28:39

 And Jeez, you’re going through dealing with cancer, your own health journey, and everything. Was this around the time that you got Jay involved? Like, how did you manage all these businesses while you have your own health issues to deal with?

Jeff Hill 28:49

Yeah, so. So let’s see, the move with Tacoma was around when I brought Jay and so Jay was kind of part of that. But yeah, he helped, you know, I had some great people, you know, at the end of the day, I’m, I’m a people manager, I mean, you ride around call centers. I mean, I remember having a boss that wasn’t my favorite boss, and she came to me and she’s like, she’s like, Jeff, I don’t understand it. She’s like, people do stuff for you just because you ask them not because they have to, you know, and I’m like, Well, isn’t that how it’s supposed to be like, That’s how relationships work, you know, and, and so.

So, you know, we circled up and I’ve always, always managed to keep some really great people. And that’s, I mean, I really believe one of the secrets to our success is we’ve created a really awesome culture. And, you know, we believe in our people, we back them up, you know, when they experience tough times. Obviously, I’ve experienced more than my share of them. So when they experienced them, we worked with them we worked through I mean, you know, I don’t think Jay would mind me telling you he’s had his own bout with cancer, and we worked through that and so, so we’re okay That’s a free and we’re ready to kick ass and get through this, this whatever dip we’re going through. 

John Corcoran 30:06

And, yeah, it’s been solid, we’re around 2012, you have stepped away from being CEO. And you actually left the business for a little while and you went back to working in a job with T-Mobile while retaining ownership in the business. So tell me a little bit how that managed with, you’re not obviously not an operational role as CEO anymore.

Jeff Hill 30:27

Yeah. So when I decided to partner up, one of the deals I made with my partner, my new partner, was that I would stick around for a year kind of train and then hand off operations. And then essentially, I’d kind of get lost because I wanted, you know, I’d been the founder, I’d been running that business for several years, everybody knew kind of I was the top guy. And so I wanted to out of respect for Ben, I wanted to kind of let him overtake operations. 

John Corcoran 30:57

And what does that mean? Like get lost? Like, I mean, once a month, you check in an hour a week, like, what does it look like?

Jeff Hill 31:05

Yeah, so you know, I’m still a board member, you know, I’m 45%. Owner, right? So at that time, you know, I agreed, like, look, I want to weigh in, when it comes to major marketing buys, I want to weigh in, when it comes to strategic decisions, things like that. But as far as the day to day and how you’re going to manage, you know, the trucks and the fleet and everything like that, I referred to Ben because he was now the majority partner. And, and that was kind of nice, me acknowledging the fact that, you know, I’m going to, I’m going to follow his lead when it comes to that stuff. 

Okay. So, you know, and we had agreed, kind of during the negotiations of the partnership, that anytime either of us worked in the business, we would be compensated for that work outside of traditional profits, you know, so yeah, so he was taking a more managerial role. And so therefore, you know, he was involved in the minutiae, a little bit more than I was, I was a relatively absentee owner, still getting profits when we had them. 

But again, we were super small, then because we had just shrunk. So, and so I wasn’t leaning on the prophets at all. And I actually went because I had some health issues and cancer, you know, is really important. And growing, my family was really important that I had, you know, kind of the traditional health care benefits and whatnot. 

John Corcoran 32:24

And yeah, dealing is that part of why I went to work is that part of one of the reasons.

Jeff Hill 32:26

And that’s that really was one of the things that really spurred me to partner up because I didn’t want to dissolve, of course, go away from the business altogether, or completely sell out of the business. I wanted the upside, and I knew it was going to come back around, but I also had some immediate health concerns and some other things that we wanted to address. So this was kind of a win-win for both of us. You know, Ben, I think I may have mentioned previously, but Ben, you know, he had started and running the San Diego business.

And then he bought into the Portland, and Vancouver, Washington area franchise as well. And so it was a pretty good synergy just to bring him into my business, which was more kind of Western Washington. And so then we started kind of running them together. I stepped away, went back to T-Mobile for a while, helped run there and basically ran their vendor relations for their financial services division, which was right in the realm of what I used to do previously. So it was a little bit of a swallow.

John Corcoran 33:29

Yeah, I mean, I was gonna ask you, I mean, I, I can tell you, I’ve interviewed a lot of founders that go and then take a job. Oh, yeah. claiming their business. But I mean, how did you manage that?

Jeff Hill 33:42

Well, for one, it was a strategy, right? I knew there was going to be an end game. And it was, look, we’re just trying to we’re trying to give our give the business a little breathing room, you know, I was leaning on it is at the time of sole owner and that was my, that was my sole income, you know, and so, so when things got really tight, and we got small because of the downturn, and we lost half of our revenue, like I couldn’t be taken an executive salary. Yeah, you know, so I went back to T-Mobile Drew and I had a decent enough salary. I knew the business so I stepped right in and kind of helped add some value right away, which was, you know, was personally rewarding.

So that helped take a little bit of the sting away. It was playing in a sandbox, I knew so I knew, I knew all the players in that business. And so it was like reuniting with old friends again, you know, I’ve been out for 10 years but but, but you know, that was fairly short winded, I mean, I agreed when I took the job, because they were concerned I was a flight risk, because they they knew they saw the writing on the wall as qualified for the work I was doing but but I committed I said, Look, all I’ll come back for three years, I’ll turn this program around, I’ll build you know all and then I’ll find my replacement and and it’ll be it’ll be a win for all of us.

And that’s essentially what I did. So after three years I kind of felt out of the field and realized that, you know, where I wanted to be was on the vendor side on the raw material side. And so a guy who is in the industry, who had been my mentor for years, was doing some interesting stuff in the industry. And so I agreed to go back and work for him for a while. And so and so that brought me all the way up to COVID, I worked for him for about three years, was a Senior Vice President of essentially global marketing and sales for him, and travel got to, you know, take clients to India and travel and do some really fun things. And, and that was, you know, it was good it was, and also got to work with someone who I, who I really admire, and to kind of see how he operated.

John Corcoran 35:48

With the were there any growing pains during this period of time, we’re talking 2012 to COVID happens in 2020 is an eight year period when you’re still a very large owner and a big chunk of the business, but you’re not an operator in it. 

Jeff Hill 36:03

And well, you know, I took a lot of personally, I took a lot of the pain away by saying, I’m not taking, I don’t care if I make broth, right? Because I have a day job now, yeah, I can cover my mortgage, I can cover my health care, right. So. So that kind of gave me a little bit of a break. And then what it allowed the business to do was to really apply some financial discipline within the organization. You know, for example, my partner and I, since the day we partnered, you know, well, over 10 years ago, now, we’ve never, every time we take a profit check, we set 20% of his side to reinvest back in just a simple concept. But what that’s allowed us to do is, you know, between the two of us, we have over 50 trucks, they’re all paid for, you know what I mean? 

So that’s all from money that, you know, we would have gotten sucked up and just probably spent on something else, but we’ve consistently reinvested in the business. So, in fact, the last 10 years have been almost the opposite of growing pains of we’ve, we’ve made the business really healthy, and, and been able to scale it. And so now it’s, I mean, well, you know, put it in relative terms, and we were doing, you know, just after, you know, I kind of lost lost my win, because of the downturn, we were doing just under a million, and now we’re doing Ken X that and so. So that’s been a really kind of a fun ride. And what that’s allowed, is, when COVID hit, I was at the time 40 and a half years old, and I was kind of holding out trying to keep the, what I call the day job, you know, keep that train on the tracks for another couple years.

And I figured when I was around 50, maybe I would go back into business, but kind of use COVID as a as a reason to say, You know what, I’m a global salesperson, nobody’s making any moves, I can’t even travel, like, maybe now’s the time to make the move. And so I got back with my business partner, Ben, and renegotiated a role within the organization where I thought I could add some value. And agreed to kind of wear the founder hat to be the face of the business again, a little bit more, because keep in mind, he’s down in the kind of Portland, Vancouver Washington area, I’m up where the heart of our territory is. 

And so and so it made sense. And you know, in in, that’s a little bit more of my personality a little bit less is and so it played to my strengths. And so. So that’s kind of what I’ve been doing. Looking looking at some bigger opportunities within the organization and trying to round out some of the edges, obviously, going from a million dollar company to a $10 million company, you know, any inefficiency started.

John Corcoran 38:46

Very differently, or companies agency, and it’s also a very different company, you step back into yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Jeff Hill 38:51

In fact, you know, I’m just coming off of just a really fantastic meeting I had today with the team, and it’s, you know, it’s fun to work with players that all have expertise in their field, and they’re all working toward the same cause. And then the business that I started, so it’s really, it’s fun, it’s exciting. And, and it’s where I wanted to be, you know, one of the reasons I stepped away the first time and partnered up was because I had this dilemma. Well, I started the business, but I didn’t want to just be a junk guy, like, that was my ego maybe but, you know, like, I feel like I have more to offer than that. 

But what, you know what, me kind of partnering up, stepping away, and then now really taking inventory. And now stepping back in the business has allowed me to say, no, here’s the things I’m good at, here’s the things where I can really add some value. You know, the teams like when I come around so I can kind of be the rah rah culture guy. And really, you know, execute on that and then maybe, you know, I can start to go help us think a little bigger start to act like a $10 million company instead of the little bootstrap startup that I started and yeah, Uh, so that’s kind of that’s kind of where we’re at with, you know, with the junk business. And it’s fun, you know. And I guess that because we have scale, now we can start to really look at some things and create new spin off opportunities as a result.

John Corcoran 40:13

Yeah, I want to hear about those. What do you have in mind, but taking it back to when you had the conversation with Ben, about you coming back into the business? And now this is fraught with potential danger, right? Like, yeah, the business is very big, much bigger now than it used to be. You’re the former CEO, you’re the founder, you’re stepping back in, you know, if I’ve been I, I would need some real reassurance that, that you’re going to step into the role and that it’s going to work. So what was that conversation? Like? What did you say to Ben to assure him reassure him that it’s going to be okay.

Jeff Hill 40:45

You know, this is the same thing that Ben told me 12 years ago, I told him two years ago, when we renegotiated it’s, which is good contacts, good contracts and making good friends? Yeah. So let’s just talk through where the potential pitfalls are. Let’s talk through what we both want. Let’s you know, and we’ve, you know, that’s been one beautiful thing about our partnership, as we’ve always been very open and very honest. And we just talk stuff through, right, right, as it’s come up, and it hasn’t turned into anything bad or whatever. But, but again, you know, keep in mind, I, when I took on a new, another C suite title, it was probably operational, relatively operationalized right now, so it’s not like I’m upsetting the balance of anything or whatever. 

John Corcoran 41:33

Because really, there’s more stuff that’s kind of ironed out and you don’t need things. 

Jeff Hill 41:38

And I’ve been involved in the big decisions all along. And I haven’t been completely absent like, Oh, my, oh, my ops managers know me. And I have independent relationships with them all. But really, what it did was it allowed me to go to bat and say, Hey, Ben, why don’t I formalize some of this? You know, I’m going out. I’m taking J, you know, the wooden golf shop out to lunch once a week, once a month? Why don’t I do that and kind of help and help him coach him a little bit more formally, because that’s an area of interest to me. And, and so it was a really good, it was a really good kind of fit, and it fit kind of given the size, you know, you can imagine Ben’s bandwidth, you know, starting overseeing this little tub, and now he’s overseeing this huge company. Yes, by the way, it’s regional, and it’s virtual. And he has other operations.

John Corcoran 42:23

So yeah, it was a big part of him that was relieved that you were going to relieve the people.

Jeff Hill 42:29

Yeah, he was relieved. And in fact, in fact, this new venture that we’ll talk about in a bit, that was another one where it’s just we’ve been putting it on the backburner putting it on the backburner, but when I finally stepped up and said, Okay, I’ll run with it. He’s like, Oh, yeah, do it. Let’s do this. It’s awesome. It’s gonna be great. But, you know, a guy can only do so much. But so yeah, but that’s but that’s the fun part of where our team is in the size we are now is that we’re starting to get some, some real bench strength.

John Corcoran 42:56

So I went, let me ask you this. Two nights ago, my friend Rob, did a talk. And he had a negative experience with a chief people officer on his team. And his experience, what happened was, you know, the chief people officer, cheap, Chief People Officer, CPR, let’s just say that he came in, and the first thing they want to do is fly around to all of the offices, which he’s got a global workforce. So that’s expensive, me with all the teams. And then he basically became an advocate for pulling every team up to the highest level, these are his words, highest level of benefits of perks that each of the offices were, and he kind of, you know, a number of years ago now, but had to reorganize all that. Because what he found is that, it just, it almost sunk the company. So yeah, I just want you to reflect on that. And how do you avoid becoming the Chief People Officer becoming like, the internal advocate just saying, oh, we gotta get all the benefits for all the team and to the point that it damages the mothership. 

Jeff Hill 44:03

So to speak? Yeah, I think, um, you know, what I’ve noticed is different organizations have different, I guess, terms. And if you call it, Chief People Officer, they think of different things. I say Chief People Officer, because we’ve always said, We’re all about the people, it’s the team, and the people and the culture that build this infectiousness and this blue kool aid that our customers love, and why why we’ve grown and who we are or whatever, and so so but, but there’s also this chief people officer as being HR and then there’s also this chief people officer as being I got to be the guy that battles all the other executives that are and so so I’m trying to fall somewhere between all three of those keeping in mind I’m also you know, a major shareholder, so I’m not going to be trying to just give away free money or anything but yeah, but for me, it’s more about stepping back and enough to say Look, I want to help the organization understand what our mission is, what our corporate what our priorities are, you know, I’ll give you just a quick example.

You know, one of, you know, throughout, in a franchise business, different franchises run and manage their cost structure differently, I, you know, we tend to be more of a, okay, if we bid it at this, this is what it’s going to be, it may, it may be a little sticker shock, but that’s gonna include everything, and we’re going to wow you with the experience. And if it costs me more than I’m going to eat pasta, that’s kind of how we’ve always done it, not necessarily the best. And then some people go and they say, they like to do these things like, Oh, well, we charge quite a bit less. But if you do this, we have to charge more, and you have to do this. 

And so it, you know, kind of to me has a little bit of a almost a bait and switch, switch feel or whatever it’s like, it’s like, for me, that’s an opportunity for me to share with my team, the reason we do things, the way that we do we lean in to issues if we have a problem, we go talk, we pick up the phone, we call the customer we had a problem with and I drive a truck out there, how can we fix it? Yeah, it might be you know, and so and so it’s just a way of the way we do business in a way that has a mindset of the way that we speak. And as we grow, I think sometimes we get away with that. And, and I think what I noticed is with some of my teams, I think they started to refer to management and corporate and, and it’s like, no, that’s not who we are, you know, we are, you know, we do what we say everybody wins. 

And this is what we’re trying to build, you know, and so and so it was a way for me to stay tied in with the team stay tied in to sit down with my ops managers to understand, you know, the guys in the trucks and, and to share my perspective is not only as the chief people officer, but as the founder and as the chief visionary of the company, like, Hey, this is what we’re trying to do, you know, and if you stick with this, there’s opportunities, and hey, if I introduce you to so and so he’s gonna die, you know, and, and start to really show people that that there is opportunity to not only build bench, but also, you know, build a, you know, kind of a career path through our organization. Yeah, and figure out how we do that, too, because, because we didn’t always do that, you know?

John Corcoran 47:17

Yeah. And so you mentioned now you’re looking at things like spinning off different parts of the company and new opportunities, talk a little bit about what you’re looking at. 

Jeff Hill 47:26

Yeah, so this is super exciting, I’m happy to share it with you. I’m guessing by the time this airs, we will have done our soft launch. So I can share this. But this is hot off the presses. But so basically, for years, you know, we’ve been well, we’ve grown my business to be essentially Western Washington’s largest junk removal company. And we pride ourselves on you know, we’ve always tried to be super innovative when it comes to how we recycle and repurpose and do this stuff. But we’ve done it all based on location in a very nuanced , boutique way based on what each location’s demands are and what the resources are and who my diversion partners are. 

So what we’re going to do now is we’re starting at another company that’s called a RePurpose Center, RPC. And, and Well, I’ll tell you the mission, the mission is really exciting. It is we rescue the unwanted reignite creativity and build a greener future together. So the idea is to own 100% of the diversion strategy for my other company. Yeah, that’s what we’ll create. And what that will do is it’ll create a separation so we can be the best at junk acquisition in the Pacific Northwest, which we already are. And then I can build, I can spend my efforts and let Ben focus on that first company. And I could spend my efforts saying, I’m going to be the most thoughtful, community focused, partner driven, mission driven diversion company in the Pacific Northwest as well.

John Corcoran 49:00

And so super excited. It’s more of a vertical integration. You’re Yeah, more of the process, then.

Jeff Hill 49:05

Yeah. And so a lot of it, I mean, a lot of the actual ownership will be some of the same people, but the players will be different. And what we’ve discovered is, you know, essentially, I have, you know, five, five locations that covers 160 Miles span, right, so it’s a big operation, we have 50 trucks running around. So those 50 trucks will now have a system to divert that we will have a list of, you know, preferred diversion partners. My wife who’s super excited, she’s just graduating with a degree in organizational and industrial organizational psychology, but she’ll be taking on all that what we’re calling purpose partners. 

And so that will be all the local charities that we can give to that we can divert to and stuff like that she’ll manage all that network. And then my, my, my partners on the other side will continue to manage the bulk recyclers. The no independent recycler is all that. And so, you know, we believe we were going to be able to actually really kind of scale this thing and hopefully turn it into something that could be a model for other, you know, junk and all in and companies like.

John Corcoran 50:11

Is that creating a revenue opportunity for you, because you’re getting to remove the junk but sometimes the junk turns out, it’s got value..

Jeff Hill 50:21

Yeah, yeah I mean, there’s, you know, obvious revenue streams, or, you know, we get paid for metal, right, you know, so, metal is one of our big recycling part big, you know, I call it a bulk recycler, but our bulk recycling partners, well, that metal money will then go into this new company, RePurpose Center. And then with that money, now, we can use that as fuel for some of these charitable community initiatives, some of these clothing, drive these things like that. And then, and then we have, you know, there’s, you know, sometimes there’s a resale opportunity for some of the items, we can do stuff through, you know, through through our website, we’ll be able to sell stuff and and, you know, wholesale sale and do things like that. And so, yeah, so there’ll be a decent amount of revenue, really, it’s about gaining efficiencies. 

And then, and then obviously, like I said, the last line of our you know, is to try to be more green be better. I mean, that’s, I think our customers, well, I know, our customers on the junk side, they want that they want to know, one of the reasons they don’t call it junk removal companies, because they don’t just want it to go straight to the land, right? They don’t want to know, I can show them and I can demonstrate to them, like, hey, what we’re doing this is, this is actually what happens to it, and it’s not junk to us, there’s value in it, and we break it down to a small enough level that we extract that value out of it. And hopefully, like I said, the best part about it, the part I’m most excited about, it’s more, it’s aligned with kind of where, you know, I want to take my legacy is we’re helping all these little startup businesses, you know, we got, you know, I mean, we work with, I mean, obviously, you heard it, like the panic rooms, or people smashed up up, I mean, that’s the very, very, very tail end of the cycle. 

But we’re working with, you know, South King County Animal Rescue, we’re collecting Pet Carriers in cages, but when they have to rehouse animal, you know, they’re getting all of our cages, and then, you know, clothing companies are getting, you know, so just all these different things, all these pieces will be broken down, and we’ll leverage it at an on a larger scale. And so, you know, I think we can get some really good efficiencies, and I’m hoping to find some good community partners that kind of believe in what I’m doing. And we could put together some really cool initiatives where we partner with different entities and.

John Corcoran 52:29

Yeah, can you help me to understand like, now for every, like, dollar that comes in from a customer paying you to Holloway their junk? Like, do you get a nickel from reselling that material? And, and or what is it? And then yeah, I mean, what do you see it going to in the future? Could it get to the point where for $1, you get paid from a customer, you also get $1 on the back end? Or would it never get that high?

Jeff Hill 52:54

I don’t think it’ll ever be dollar for dollar, but I think it could be, you know, dollar per 20 cents or something. I mean, instead of you gotta understand, I mean, 20 years ago, when I started this business, you pick this stuff up, not a lot of recycling options, you take it to the dump, you pay 150 bucks a ton to get rid of it, so that it ends up being 20. You know, if you have line items, it’s 20 or 25%. Dump. Yeah. So you know, obviously, if we can get the dump side down to whatever, five or 10%, and then the rest of the stuff we’re diverting by either monetizing it or giving it away in a way that it’s helping keep them out of the landfill. I mean, it’s just gonna be, it’s going to be just fraught with awesomeness.

John Corcoran 53:40

That’s exactly exciting for Yeah, that’s really exciting. That’s cool. And that’s fun that you get to step back into the business and get excited and energized about this new challenge that you get to focus your energies on. That’s really fun.

Jeff Hill 53:51

Yeah, yeah. And that’s, and that’s the funny thing I found, it’s really interesting that it’s coming together the way that I did, because for years, people would be like, you know, that’s the number one question you get, what do you do with a job? You know, or whatever. And, and it’s, and I’m like, well, actually, it’s pretty interesting. And I tell them a story. And I’d always, and I always end up saying, Well, you know, that’s my favorite part of the business, to be honest, because there’s so much cool stuff. And so now to be able to really thoughtfully go through and create a program and an organization. And really, it’s, you know, like I said, we’re calling a repurpose center, but really, it’s a repurpose network that we’re going to put together. And that’s going to be really fun, because that leads into, again, some of my strengths, which is, you know, harnessing energy connecting people. 

John Corcoran 54:34

Yeah, yeah. Jeff, I love to wrap up with a question that I call my gratitude question. And I love to give people the space the opportunity to acknowledge people that helped them in their journey. And you’ve mentioned to Ben that you’ve mentioned other people in our first session together. But I love it, especially when it’s peers or contemporaries or maybe a mentor along the way or business partner, but who Do you want to acknowledge for just helping you in your journey?

Jeff Hill 55:04

Yeah, I mean, there’s, I think three obvious well, for obvious people come to mind first would be my wife when that, you know, with me through this whole journey, while I’m an entrepreneur, dealing with cancer, dealing with downturns dealing with whatever she, you know, she, she constantly believed in the plan. So, you know, so I gotta give her props. I mean, it’s not, it’s not easy to be married to someone like me, you know. And then, and then, you know, my, my partners, Ben and Ben, and my general manager, Jay, who’s also a partner in, in one of my businesses, you know, those two have just been fantastic. 

And I think they’re an example of, you know, when you find the right people, and you connect with them, and you can complement each other with varying skills that you bring to the table, it’s just, it’s fantastic. And, you know, and then the last one would be Rick Hunter, who’s my, he’s been my personal mentor for 2025 years. And, and he’s, he’s just been a great kind of a great model for how you treat people and, and grow with people and build your network and don’t burn bridges and, and everything you said, 20 years ago has come true for me. And so I gotta give him props. 

John Corcoran 56:17

Jeff, this has been great. Where can people go to connect with you or to learn more about your businesses? 

Jeff Hill 56:24

Well, we’re going to be launching, repurposecenter.com website. But in the meantime, [email protected]. We’ll get me. That’s J E F R O S T Y L E [email protected] good way to get a hold of me and happy to connect and really enjoyed chatting with you. Awesome, thanks. Yeah. Thank you.

Chad Franzen 56:48

Thanks for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.