In this special edition of The Service Contractor Radio Show, Todd Liles interviews Mark Stepowoy, owner of 24 different Roto-Rooter franchises across the midwest region of the country. In this interview, Mark discusses his humble beginnings and his success as a business owner.
As a self-described “Cleveland boy,” Mark Stepowoy is pretty down-to-earth in spite of his successes. This can probably be attributed to the fact that he started his illustrious career as a parking attendant. Mark was mostly influenced by his father and grandfather, who went by John E. Stepowoy after coming to America. Mark credits his strong work ethic to his parents and grandfather.
At age 34, Mark started at Roto-Rooter. He started working at “the saddest corporate store” in Cleveland as a general manager. After about 5 years, sales rose from 1 million to 4 million. He was fired in 1999, which was a devastating blow to him. Instead of wallowing, Mark pursued a few different endeavors, including buying (and eventually selling) his own plumbing business and working at ARS Rescue Rooter. Mark had this advice to give on his experiences:
“At least two or three times in my career, I didn’t have the courage or the maturity to quit. So I languished until they fired me. At ARS it was a mercy killing and that’s not on them, there are some great people there. It was just time for me to grow and I wasn’t going to be able to grow the way I needed to there.”
While still working at ARS, Mark teamed up with his sister to buy a Roto-Rooter franchise in Canton, Ohio with the sole intention of that franchise belonging to his sister. After it started doing well, he realized this was something he could do for himself. He then set up shop in some of the smaller midwest cities like Muncie, Indiana with the mission to provide high-quality plumbing service to areas that might not otherwise have access to it.
For those of you who don’t know, the Roto-Rooter Franchise Association is a group of independent franchise owners who work together. They have a wonderful relationship with the corporate Roto-Rooter headquarters. The RRFA works together to make themselves stronger. Mark personally has found a lot of value from being a part of the RRFA, including identifying dispatch software.
Mark stumbled upon Service Excellence Training on the internet. Here’s how he says he decided to work with us:
“I knew there was somebody who would bring more integrity to the process… You seemed to have the integrity that I needed and the honesty and the clarity… There were a lot of common themes and I’d never heard anything bad about you. You hit all the right buttons.”
“I have about 120 employees, and maybe 80 of them are technicians. No trainer, no coach is ever going to reach all of them. There’s a core number that can never be reached, and you seem to reach them. You don’t give up on the others.”
“I have an infinite belief that the right people are there. You just have to have a real good process and the right people will be there. I look for better, smarter, faster ways and replicate them. I steal from everybody and that’s the advantage of having a relationship with RRFA and that’s the advantage of having a relationship with your company.”
For closing thoughts, Mark had this advice to give, “be prepared to learn from anybody and everybody.”
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