March 15, 2023

119. Accountability and Growth with Russ and Dana

119. Accountability and Growth with Russ and Dana

What makes a great accountability partner? How do I find a good accountability partner? Russ has started developing a professional accountability partner relationship and they discuss how that is helping him grow personally and professionally.

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You can find Dana @adashofboss, @dana.dowdell and @hrfanatic
Dana DowdellBoss Consulting – HR Consulting
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You can find Russ @reliable.remediation
Russ HarlowReliable Remediation – Disaster Restoration


Dana Dowdell  00:04

Hi Russ,


Russ Harlow  00:05

Dana, my good buddy, what's happening?


Dana Dowdell  00:09

Do you refer to me as your best friend yet?


Russ Harlow  00:12

I do not.


Dana Dowdell  00:13

Oh, that makes me sad.


Russ Harlow  00:16

I usually say BFF


Dana Dowdell  00:18

Oh, I love it. I love it. I call you my old white friend Ross.


Russ Harlow  00:23

Oh, good. That's great.


Dana Dowdell  00:25

But I say it in the most loving way.


Russ Harlow  00:27

I'm sure.


Dana Dowdell  00:30

So you and I are going to talk business today? So, it's a Russ & Dana special. We, we, and it's motivated by a big realization that you've had recently within your business and your marketing and your time, and the people that you are surrounding yourself with. So can you talk a little bit about what what's going on in your brain?


Russ Harlow  00:55

Yeah, so I mean, you know, I worked with a coach for a while last year and been trying to improve myself, my business, everything else, you know, we aren't growing the way I want to be growing. And I've been trying to improve, you know, one of the things I do is I have a, an audible membership so that I get a credit every month as part of that membership. And I've tried to listen to business books, and I try to learn more, I look for I don't want to just get motivated, I need to get disciplined, right. And I realized that I'm all alone. I'm a small entrepreneur, you know, my family works with me, I don't have a team, I don't have anybody to hold me accountable. And one of the things I did come in into the new year was I decided to talk to somebody about being an accountability partner and, you know, have an accountability call once a week, meeting face to face once a month to talk about goals, you know, what are so I have to answer to somebody. I don't just have to feel guilty about not doing it. Somebody's gonna go hey, well, you didn't get it done this week. What are you going to do to get it done this week? And can I help you? Is there anything I can do to help? I'll give you a perfect example. my accountability partner was going to do some videos that they're going to use on TikTok, and YouTube and social media and all these other things. And we've talked about it on Monday. And I texted them on Thursday, and I said, Hey, how those videos gone? They say, oh, well, you know, I kind of had the thing and the other and the bump up pod. And so I sent him a picture of David Goggin’s, because we're both big, big David Goggin’s fans. And he's sitting there all stern with his arms crossed, and I go, and at the bottom was a meme at bitch better have my videos. Because I want to, you know, that he's going to accept that as good encouragement, you know, he's not, he's not expecting me to, like, you know, crack him over the head, if he doesn't have it done. And you know, it's funny, because later, the next day, he gave me a call. It's like, I've kind of got writer's block, but it's for video. And that's never happened to me before. And I was like, cool, well, what are you doing, and we worked through some of it so that he could start jumping on it, because he knew that I was going to be there for him, not just to hold them accountable, but to help support him to write because accountability without support as a food, a form of cruelty, and support without accountability is just moral weakness. I mean, it just promotes weakness. So, you know, we're trying to do that for each other. And that's been a big help. I've been doing that since the beginning of the year, and, you know, tracking things. And one of the things I had to do was write a business plan for the year. And I haven't done that before. And now I go over it daily. And I read it daily. And I did a SWOT analysis and everything, and I read them both. So that in my business plan is just a simple one page business plan, I There are things I want to really dive into deeper, because there's, I think, some systems and processes that can grow out of it. But it started with that, and I've got a starting point, it's not done. But I have something to start working off of and remind me of my business goals every day so that I can continue to keep it top of mind and be moving forward. There's been some other changes too. You know, I've been trying to increase, you know, my referral network and everything else.


Dana Dowdell  04:25

You had talked to me about how you view yourself as like a technician in your business, meaning that you're doing you know, you're essentially doing the business, right, you're doing all the all the actual services that you are providing to clients and also trying to build and run this business and how you. You want to shift that.


Russ Harlow  04:54

Right? In that's understanding my personality type. When I feel was brought into the franchise they helped. And they could do it with new employees too. They did a, I don't know, some kind of tests, personality tests or whatever. And this one had me pegged, right, I was a technician. And that's because I tried to be good at the things that I do. Right. So the first thing I tried to do is continually be good at the business that we do, whether it be mold remediation, or water damage, training, you know, informing people educating, doing these things, but it wasn't, I'm still not getting good at business. And so all of these changes, I have to recognize, I have to do the things that I need to do to get good at business, and start training others to be good at the things that we do, so that we can continue to grow. And that's, I knew it all along, but didn't really want to move out of where I was it got comfortable, I'm comfortable doing the work I'm, well, it's a little bit of a lie, I get really sore after a hard day's work. I mean, I’m over 50 now and you know, that kind of it hurts sometimes. But


Dana Dowdell  06:03

is there any of that feeling or kind of apprehension of moving out of the technician to work from a place of like fear that no one will do it as good as I do? Or no, like, I experienced that, where I'm really worried that my employees won't serve the client in the same way that I would serve the client. And so it's like a fear based thought, and I don't know if you've experienced any of that when, when thinking about moving out of a technician role.


Russ Harlow  06:37

No, I think it's a different kind of fear. If I'm going to be really honest with myself. I mean, it's been the employee I've always been, I just, I honor the work relationship, when I worked as a W two, you know, they gave me a job, I did it to the best of my ability I came in every day I did those things. I was better than, you know, most of the people around me because that was the mindset that I had. But I just got good at what I did. So it's really natural for me to do that. I think the source of fear for me, if I'm, again, going to be truly honest, is not that people can't do it as well as me, because, you know, my boys work with me, and they do a great job. And we've had employees that have done very good work. It's the fear that I might be not, I might not be able to run the business as well as I should. I think that's, that's the hardest part for me, because that's the stuff I don't know. And growing out of that and facing that fear, I think is the biggest challenge because what if I suck at it?


Dana Dowdell  07:49

I guess everything is figured out a ball, you know, like there's you can learn anything from the internet or, you know, a book or something like that. You had mentioned to like you were we talk a lot about networking here. And Russ and I very much value networking. And that's how we met. That's our meet cute, but that you were realizing that your networking resource was essentially in a room of other technicians at that level, in a way.


Russ Harlow  08:22

Yeah. Yes. And no, I mean, I so I've been with them for about five years. And if any of them ever hears this, I don't want them to take it the wrong way. But I know that they will. And I guess that's okay. Because I'm not. So the challenge there is, you know, when I first opened a business, there were so many people, I was like, wow, I want to be like these people, they run a great business, they have a great service is so impressive what they know, and what they can do and the services and products that they deliver. And that's still the case. like great, great people, great businesses, well, good businesses, because I'm also reading Jim Collins, Good to Great. So I one of the challenges I had or one of the revelations I had, you know, reading that was, there are a lot of very good businesses. And they probably keep track with the and I'm talking big businesses too. And they track growth along with the stock market, you know, average growth somewhere to five to 10% per year, which is, hey, that's good growth. Like whom here listening right now? It would be like if I had to choose, and that was guaranteed to me what I choose that yeah, probably. But the great businesses that are out there outperform the stock market by 2, 3, 4 times. Now that sounds pretty great. And the business there are so few businesses that go from good to great. Like there were only 11 that they chose in this study. And the thing was those businesses once they went to great were outperforming the stock at Marquette by six, eight, fifteen times. And there was a lot of things that went into that some of it was leadership, some of his people, there's a lot of things that happened. And I started to look around and see that, like me, a lot of the people in that referral partner room owned a job.


Russ Harlow  10:24

And if I'm honest with myself, which I'm trying to be, because I've tried to be honest with my clients, and everybody that I work with, I really only own a job. And if that's all I ever wanted, that's okay. Because if given the choice of doing this forever, or going back to being a W two, even at more money, I would still choose this. So there is no shame in that game. 


Russ Harlow  10:52

But I want more, I want to be more than just good, I want to have a great business, I want to scale this to a point where I can either have it as an asset that I can sell, or I could, you know, collect some dividends at the end, I could pass it down, there's a lot of different things that could happen that I want. But it's never ever going to happen with me just wearing all the hats and you know, providing a good service all the time. So, I've got to grow. And when I looked around the room, I realized that of all the phenomenal people and business owners and even you know, salespeople and W twos that were in the room, many of them were like me, they owned their job. And while many could have a book of business they could sell, that's probably not something I could do in my business. So that's there's just not, there weren't any great businesses that I could say, I want to emulate that. And I started to think I might need to be in a different room, I might need to be around other people who are striving to have a great business to have a goal of a great asset that they can sell one day. And I'm not saying that people in because I love those people and I'm angry at them. I didn't leave that room because I was mad. I, I left because I felt like I needed more. And I needed to challenge myself and grow more and be around people who wanted the same goals. And I don't know what all their goals are, I just know that. Over those five years, things had kind of stayed the same, even though some of the faces had changed. It was still kind of the same.


Dana Dowdell  12:27

I think we can get really comfortable doing like, okay, the business makes enough revenue to maintain the life that I'm living, and I'm comfortable working this much, and I'm comfortable with all these people. And that change can be really, really fucking good.


Russ Harlow  12:50

Yeah, I mean, Jim Collins said he's good is the enemy of great. And I don't know if he was the original who said that, but it's true. And we do get comfortable. I mean, even if you have dug yourself a hole or you're in a rut, right? You can look around and go, Oh, no, thanks for okay. I mean, I'm protected. I've got some shade down here and get a nice comfy chair, maybe put up some drapes. And then someone comes along and brings you a ladder to get you out of that hole. And you're like, come on, like it's down here. I'm kind of getting used to it. And then all of a sudden, you climb up the ladder and you get out, you're like, now I'm out here, I don't have any shade. I've got to walk all the way over there now to get where I want to go. I don't know. And I think that's a mentality. I mean, we do get comfortable. You know, I just tried to paint a picture with what you just said, I, it's true. We do get comfortable. And I don't want to be in a hole. I want a ladder, I want to find a ladder, I want people who want to take the trek with me. And then I want to kind of keep moving and going forward. And I just I didn't feel like that was going to happen. I think I think a lot of good businesses are still there. And they're happy with that. And that's, that's okay. Like, I may never be better than good. Like, I might even be capable of greatness. But I'm not going to choose good. When excellence is a choice. And it's an option I want. I want to choose that option. That's good, Russ. It's not mine. I stole it and just repeat it.


Dana Dowdell  14:27

So, what are you doing differently? So you mentioned that you're you have some fear that you're not going to be good at the business part. And are you taking that time that you're spending, doing that networking doing and doing something else with that time or that energy or that bandwidth to help you get from good to great?


Russ Harlow  14:52

Not yet. I just quit or didn't renew I should say but one of the things that I did do Um, I am working with a couple of other small independent Disaster Restoration owners. We are in, you know, we share the market, we're, we're in the same region, but we've over the years have become comfortable with each other. Because we know that we all do great work. And so, we're comfortable referring work to each other. And one of the I was having a conversation with one of the guys, he said, you know, we should get together the three of us, you know, I think we could probably be a great resource for one another. And I'm like, yeah, so there was an email this week, between the three of us where we're planning to get together in the next few weeks, and maybe talk about meeting quarterly and what we can do to help each other professionally, you know, beyond just what type of referrals are you looking for, but, you know, how can we help each other grow? In those types of things, so I think, you know, maybe even becoming a little mastermind of our own. Right here within our own little pond here in Eastern Connecticut. So that's one of the things that we're going to do, and is in the works.


Dana Dowdell  16:05

And you're finding a lot of value in reading books, reading resources for kind of other points of view, other ways to do things.


Russ Harlow  16:14

Yeah, I mean, you know, there's just so much information out there we get the, we asked that question of all our guests, you know, what business book has the most impact? What's your favorite business book, and so I'm growing my reading list, that audible membership has paid dividends, because, one, it forces me to download the book, and, you know, I've listened to it when I'm driving on appointments, or, you know, doing the things that I got to do sometimes, you know, not this time of year, but if I'm on the lawn, you know, listen to podcasts or books and just trying to grow. And even if I'm doing it while doing something else, you know, if I only retain half of what I'm listening to, I still more than I would have had if I was just listening to music or something else. And I gained a lot out of it. So, it is definitely helping. And I just, there's just so many things you can do. But you got to do it. One of the interesting things I heard recently, and it made me think, like a lot of times I'll sit down, and I'll watch YouTube videos at night. Sometimes they're about mold. Sometimes they're about business. Sometimes they're about poker and other different things, right? Other things that I have an interest that I have, but sometimes it's professional stuff. Like last night, I started looking for business things.


Russ Harlow  17:31

But one of the most interesting quotes I heard recently, somebody asked a Ferrari dealership or owner, you know, he said, why don't you have commercials on TV? And the answer was, people that buy Ferraris aren't sitting around watching Netflix and TV. And I was like, holy shit. Yeah, the people that act that kind of money, they are doing other things. They are not just vegging and after work. So put the work in.


Russ Harlow  18:10

And that doesn't mean just kill yourself doing things all the time. But it's a really important life lesson when as a business owner, when you think about that, you know, I know you're never done. And you're always thinking about stuff, you have to take time for personal work or personal time and your family and personal growth and everything else. But their ideal clients aren't sitting around watching TV. And that's why they don't advertise for hours on television. Because they cost hundreds of 1000s of dollars and you just can't afford it.


Dana Dowdell  18:42

And if you can afford a Ferrari, you're not watching Netflix, you're probably going to a movie premiere,


Russ Harlow  18:48

you're probably producing a Netflix movie.


Dana Dowdell  18:53

Or watching a movie in your private theater in your house.


Russ Harlow  18:58

Right? I mean, it's a good lesson. Right? And so again, it's where we're comfortable. You your mindset has way more to do with you know what you're comfortable with, then, you know, breaking out of it and trying to figure out what's next?


Dana Dowdell  19:14

Yeah. Lots to take away from this conversation. Are you looking for people for your little mini mastermind? Are you keeping it kind of closed for now?


Russ Harlow  19:26

I don't know. I've considered doing one nationally with some other owners that are around the country. But I think, you know, if nothing else, these the three of us will be able to you know, help each other in our businesses because we're always up against the big names and the big brands. Those who have, you know, relationships with insurance carriers that are always being referred and pushed down clients throats. And so I think that we can assist each other, but I don't know how much professional growth is going to come out of it until we gotta start filling it out. But there are some other options. And I might have to go outside the industry, because there's a lot to learn about business. From those other lines of work, you know, and these two guys have been in my industry for a long time. So


Russ Harlow  20:19

I have, they kind of have always done it the way it's always been done. They look, they work for some of the larger companies, both of them before. And so, I approach the business differently. So I don't know how much we're gonna gel or not. Because while we all do great work, we do it differently. And we approach our business differently. So, I'm curious as how that's going to flesh itself out to


Dana Dowdell  20:45

I'm excited to hear more about how that goes. Any final thoughts?


Russ Harlow  20:52

You know, it's cliche, but you really just got to get out of your comfort zone. You know, we're all there. And it's, you might think, Oh, I don't want to take more on. Like, that's okay. So sit down, you know, with my accountability partner, one of the things that I did was, I've just found some online resources for goal setting. And, you know, one of the things was, you know, make it easy, like three things, three things that have the most impact on your business. And then what are the things that will help you accomplish that? And so that's what I'm doing this year.


Dana Dowdell  21:25

One day at a time, one step at a time.


Russ Harlow  21:29

Yeah, absolutely.


Dana Dowdell  21:32

I love it. Well, Ross, thank you for sharing a bit of your heart and soul in a way or can I say it? Can I say sharing your heart and soul?


Russ Harlow  21:42

I guess, why not.


Dana Dowdell  21:45

And thank you for listening to It's Just Business and the journeys of Russ and I in our own entrepreneurial journey. So make sure you check that check us out on Instagram and LinkedIn and Facebook at It's Just Business podcast. And the website is It' So, you can send us a message there as well. We'd love to hear from you. And remember, it's not personal, it's just business.