The Ins and Outs of Servant Leadership Skills with John Eanes at Eanes Heating and Air

Being a servant leader is not new. The big idea is as the CEO; you serve your people. However, you have to understand the servant leadership skills if you want to get all the value you can out of this idea. Today’s guest is John Eanes, CEO at Eanes Heating & Air Conditioning. Inc Magazine ranked them #4330 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. John shares how servant leadership skills have impacted his company’s growth. We look at why it drives growth in a way that allows you to improve your servant leadership skills.

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Target Audience: John Eanes is the President of Eanes Heating and Air. Eanes Heating and Air Conditioning have been providing high-quality heating and cooling products and services across the Piedmont Triad Area of North Carolina. Centrally located in High Point, NC, the Eanes service area covers the cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Kernersville, Thomasville, Lexington, Randleman, and all points in between. As a local, family-owned business, Eanes takes great pride in providing trusted advice and straight-talk service on HVAC installation, repair, and maintenance for both commercial and residential applications.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

John Eanes
Well, I think if you have the mindset of being a servant to others, that you’ve, you, you want them to be successful in every way possible. So I take it upon myself, that if we bring somebody on and they become part of the family, that it’s our job to make them. And what that means to me and other leaders are serving them, maybe removing up votes for them, getting them training, doing whatever we can to serve them so they can do their job better, which ultimately will serve our customers.

Gene Hammett [0:35]
Welcome to grow Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest growing privately held companies. I am the host, my name is Jean hammock, I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow? servant leadership is a powerful framework for you to think about your own leadership, it does have its drawbacks that we will look at today inside this episode. But I also want you to think about this. When you think about serving your people. As a leader, it really is one of the most powerful things you can do to align people to help them feel connected to what the company is doing, and to create the kind of atmosphere where people can actually perform at their best. And servant leadership is a very powerful style behind that. And today, we’re gonna be looking at that specifically with the CEO of Ames heating and air. They’re a two time Inc 5000 company. They’ve grown really fast over 85 employees. We’re talking with john Eames today, and he is going to share with us his perspective of servant leadership, where it comes from, you can see where his background as a middle school teacher kind of helps them understand how to serve people, and really connect with them. Because as a middle school teacher, that’s one of the most powerful roles that he plays is helping people to truly see what they can’t see. Otherwise, when you think about your leadership, make sure that you’re continue to evolve and look at other styles. You can’t just be top down. Sometimes you can’t be just a servant leader. But today, we look at servant leadership to help you understand this style and framework so that you can actually be a more effective leader. Now, if you haven’t already gotten the training that we put together, make sure you go check that out. It is Ford slash training, it’ll give you a quick view of what the three mistakes are that keep your company from growing, and it will help you grow to the next level. When you think about your own leadership, make sure you continue to evolve. Get that training, absolutely free. Dynamic comm four slash training. Now here’s the interview with john. Hey, john, how are you?

John Eanes [2:43]
doing? Well, hope you are.

Gene Hammett [2:45]
I’m doing fantastic. Well, this takes two, but we will get right into it. I have already introduced you to our audience. Tell us a little bit about the company you work with, that you founded Ames heating and air.

John Eanes [2:59]
Yeah, we specialize in the repair and replacement of heating and air systems and mostly residential homes. We do a little commercial as well. But we only operate in the triad area of North Carolina, which is Greensboro, Winston Salem, and hop one.

Gene Hammett [3:15]
So you’ve grown a company pretty fast. A lot of people are proud of their growing numbers. But I want to ask you, what are you most proud of? When do you think about a fast-growing company?

John Eanes [3:27]
I’m really when you look back, you’re you’re proud of the the moments where people give you positive feedback to work for you or are they say what a blessing it’s been to learn a trade and have a lifelong career. Maybe them and their spouses have been able to buy a home for the first time. Or have found a home as a career. Maybe they bounce around jobs a lot. And then they finally landed on something that they love, and they can put a lot of value back into the world. I get a lot of satisfaction out of taking a person who maybe used to drive a meat truck or put furniture together or they worked. And we’re making burritos. And then we train them and what we do and then they can have a lifelong skill and career out of that. So I think that’s one of the things that when you look back you’re most proud of.

Gene Hammett [4:25]
So it sounds like you’re really proud of the people that you’ve created as a team and probably even a family even.

John Eanes [4:31]
Yeah, it’s always about the people. Even though you focus on revenue and profits and all the numbers, it’s all about numbers, but it’s really about the people. And so if you’re not making a positive impact in people’s lives, then to me, it’s our

Commercial [4:50]
Hold on for a second. John just said it’s really all about the people. You know, if you really believe that as a leader, then you would be able to put your people first and you would be able to do that to create an atmosphere for people to work at their best to make decisions, empower them to build trust and confidence, those things are necessary. If you want to create a company that goes beyond, you want to create a culture where people feel like they’re taking care of their connected, doing meaningful work. Because if they’re just cogs in a wheel, if they’re just showing up every day collecting paychecks at the end of the week, then that really isn’t the way you want to approach your business. In my opinion, you want to make sure that you were serving them in the right ways. Today, we look at that deeply with john. But make sure you’re doing that for yourself inside of all of the roles that you play as a CEO or leader of your company. Now back to the interview with John.

Gene Hammett [5:44]
Well, I can appreciate you saying that we’re going to talk about the factors that has allowed you to grow so fast. I know the company has been around for many, many years. But you just made the list. Is that because you just applied? Or is it just because you just had had the numbers to make it.

John Eanes [6:02]
It was the first time we’ve applied that we’ve made it two years in a row now and we didn’t really know about it before. So I’m glad we found out about the list.

Gene Hammett [6:12]
Well, I will be honest, when I ran a fast-growth company from zero to 5 million, I didn’t, I didn’t know that it really existed and didn’t have time. And no one told me to do it. I was just so busy. So you’re not alone for those years. JOHN, I want to dive into this because we were talking off the air about your background. And you were a middle school teacher. So how does a middle school teacher find his way into running a very successful business?

John Eanes [6:43]
Great question. Yeah, the teacher, as you said, I haven’t got a Master’s to be a principal. That’s what I was going to do. My wife is a teacher as well. She got pregnant with our first daughter. And the district I was in had budget cuts, and they cut principal positions at every school. So we knew I didn’t really have a chance of getting the job that year, maybe the next year. So we just decided to make a change. I came back to the family business. And I love it. I love what I do.

Gene Hammett [7:18]
Well, we’re gonna dive into some of the parts that you love, maybe even some of the parts that you have to muster through. But when you think about growing a company and creating this culture, yeah, but 85 employees, you had told my research team that servant leadership is kind of the dominating style of leadership, how is it really driven growth for the company?

John Eanes [7:41]
Well, I think if you have the mindset of being a servant to others, that you, you, you want them to be successful in every way possible. So I take it upon myself, that if we bring somebody on and they become part of the family, that it’s our job to make them successful. And what that means that me and other leaders are serving them, maybe removing obstacles for them, getting them training, doing whatever we can to serve them so they can do their job better, which ultimately will serve our customers. And when we have our org chart inverted in that way, for that reason, I’m on the bottom, instead of the typical ones, or, you know, the President is on the top.

Gene Hammett [8:24]
But that is one of the typical differences between servant leadership, but there are a lot of like finer elements of how you engage with others and, and whatnot. When you think about servant leadership, what are some of the things you had to learn? Maybe to let go of and in traditional leadership,

John Eanes [8:41]
I think you have to let go of your pride. And you have to be vulnerable, and just genuine with people, maybe you have to own up to your mistakes, what you could have done better. I think you just have to be real them. And I think they will appreciate that. And and they follow leaders that they respect and trust.

Gene Hammett [9:01]
You know, a lot of people talk about being vulnerable, but they rarely are able to do it. Is there something that you can remember where you, you know, if you’re comfortable sharing that with us today, where you are really vulnerable, and it really helps you connect with your team and align them around, you know, some project

John Eanes [9:17]
I have in my head, I cannot think of a moment or anything like that. I’m sorry.

Gene Hammett [9:22]
Well, it’s perfectly fine. I knew I threw you a curveball. When you think about servant leadership, how do you teach that to the emerging leaders are coming on staff? Because, you know, I understand a good bit about the the heating and air conditioning is there’s a lot of crews that are going out. There’s a lot of people managing different crews. How do you actually instill that servant leadership and others?

John Eanes [9:45]
I think a lot of it is by example and then the people we interview and how you bring them on. You’re bringing in people who think in that mindset, like you, and I think everybody just has to be willing to do it. Anything or whatever it takes, there’s no attitude of others are better than anyone else. We’re all in this together. And so I think it just kind of naturally, I think it just becomes part of your culture over time, the more and more that you exhibit this quality.

Gene Hammett [10:14]
Are you most of the most of the time hiring leaders? Or are you building leaders from within as they get more experienced, they’re able to take more leadership roles in the company?

John Eanes [10:24]
Yeah, we definitely prefer building our own leaders. You know, it’s, it’s a wild card, a lot of times you bring in somebody from the outside, it may have the skill set, but they don’t understand your culture. And you can try to explain that or ascertain that in an interview, but you never really know till they get here. So we would much rather build from within because they already understand the culture. And they can lead in that culture as well. So that’s what we prefer. And, and it just that goes all the way down to our field labor. Like our technicians, we would much rather hire someone with no experience than someone with 20 years of experience because we can mold them in our own culture and family, instead of trying to break maybe bad habits from other companies.

Gene Hammett [11:12]
You had talked about a little bit with my team on a flexible culture. How would you define a flexible culture?

John Eanes [11:20]
I think that was referring to, we went to a flexible work schedule, we basically give everybody an opportunity to have four day work week, they have a protected day off every week, and we’ve never forced a person to work on their day off. We have asked them sometimes before, but we’ve never forced that on them, we may have promised that will be protected. And we have helped to that. So we try to be as flexible as possible with work-life balance. We know people have family, sometimes this job does have long hours, especially in the summer. So we try to respect that work-life balance as much.

Commercial [11:57]
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Gene Hammett [12:23]
A four day workweek sounds pretty glorious for a lot of people who are doing something. How did you come to make that a part of the culture?

John Eanes [12:32]
Yeah, well, we had never had a lot of turnovers historically. And then one year I lost it. I lost six guys I really like in one year, and it really hurt my pride. And so as I was studying it, they were all of the millennial or younger generation. And I just had to adjust. And I changed the way we did a lot of our scheduling. I think we were burning them out. I think we were working them too hard. And I knew to survive, we needed to adapt. And so we did that.

Gene Hammett [13:05]
Are there any other areas that you could share with us that you have had to adapt? And you’ve seen some benefit within the culture?

John Eanes [13:12]
We started adding a lot of things to help build a culture. If I could, if that’s what you’re asking. Yeah. We, you know, a lot of people have Slack, we implemented slack and, and I think it’s a culture-building thing where we, we communicate, we post fun things we find, I think that helps create bonds. We’ve implemented things like we have a chaplain on call 24 hours a day for anybody on staff or their family that can provide counseling or just somebody to talk to. We offer Tella doc services for free for anyone who works here and their family. We have pet insurance, we do gym reimbursement, we do fun events, like x curling or laser tag or go car, we’ve increased our vacation times we try to have our guys they can wear nicer uniforms or clothes than the industry norm. We’ve invested in virtual reality training, which is pretty neat. We’re also big in on disk training, which I don’t know if you’re familiar with this, but we do a lot of training for them to help them understand themselves, but also that helps them understand their spouses or their family. And so it’s a benefit all the way around with the disc training because we want you to understand how each other work, thinks or approaches things and you can communicate a lot better.

Gene Hammett [14:42]
Well, I definitely understand. A lot of these investments have probably paid off to create the kind of culture that people want to be a part of, I’m guessing retention. Since you’ve paid attention to all these things. retentions got very where you want it to be.

John Eanes [14:57]
It’s never where I completely want it to be. Because I’m never satisfied with that. But I think we have made a lot of strides. And I feel like we were in a very hot demand industry or all the trades really. And so we really have to fight for our people. They’re bombarded with offers almost daily, to work at other companies. So we really want to make this the best life possible. And it is a daily goal of ours to do that.

Gene Hammett [15:27]
When you think about your own leadership, you’ve talked about the servant leadership style, is there anything else we haven’t covered that, that you feel like you’ve done personally, that makes us the best place to work.

John Eanes [15:38]
We want I want to give all of our people unlimited opportunities to make an income that, that they want to support their family. And so we tried to make our pay plans, we have a lot of hybrid pay plans, or you could call them performance paid plans where they have a lot of goals, but if they reach their goals, or they do some of these extra things, they’re able to make a lot of extra income. And so I like to give them the opportunity, and put really put the ball really back in their court, you know, if they want to make more money, or go after a new house or whatever it may be that they can see a path to do that.

Gene Hammett [16:20]
Well, I want to go back to and finish on this servant leadership. A lot of people believe in the values of servant leadership, they might get it wrong. were some of the areas that you’ve seen other companies get it wrong, or maybe you’ve gotten something wrong, and you had to kind of shift the way you thought about it

John Eanes [16:38]
That was a great question. You know, I don’t really know where others have, have got it wrong. Not that I know of. I mean, I think the ultimate example of servant leadership is Jesus. So if you study his life, and what he did read books about his life, then, you know, he was the ultimate servant and came to serve. So I tried to have that attitude as far as other businesses and where they maybe missed the mark. And I know I missed the mark all the time. I can’t speak to where others may have fallen short there.

Gene Hammett [17:12]
Well, James, I appreciate you being here talking about you know, your journey growing a fast growth company, and your perspectives on servant leadership. I appreciate you being on the podcast.

John Eanes [17:22]
Yeah. Appreciate that opportunity. Thank you, Jane.

Gene Hammett [17:25]
I want to follow this up with a little bit of the conversation I had with John, after we cut off the recording, unfortunately, I just want to share with you some of the details. I had asked him a question that he was, wasn’t really quite sure how to answer. But when we come back to it, the whole question about, you know, what were the challenges with servant leadership? And he had confessed to me that one of the issues is really, how do you delegate the right way. You all sometimes you want to jump in there, sometimes you want to help someone out. And that can actually be a detriment to the development of that employee, and to their own trust and confidence. So you want to make sure that you’re being careful knowing when to jump in, and when to stay back. Because if you’re too available, if you’re too supportive in some of these situations, then they don’t learn to figure it out for themselves, which is very important for them to have their own confidence, to lead others to solve problems to be able to make decisions inside the framework of their role. You want to make sure you’re leading them in a way that develops that competence.

Gene Hammett [18:29]
Now, if you are wondering what to do next with your team, make sure you stay tuned to other episodes of the podcast, you think of leadership and you think of growth, growth, as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.


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