Episode 28 – Michael Crafton on Removing Hierarchies, Ego and Nurturing a Humane Workplace

Our multi-tasking, results-focused world makes it easy to prioritize metrics over people. Michael Crafton, CEO of Nelbud Services, shares why taking a counter-cultural approach matters, and how it's benefited his organization. He gives practical advice, discusses how he overcomes his own self-doubt, and motivates listeners to flip traditional org charts upside down. Join us for an inspirational, action-oriented episode that will help you show up as a servant leader.

Guest Info

Michael Crafton, CEO - Nelbud Services

Michael Crafton is an entrepreneur, CEO, and industry disruptor. He started his company on December 1st, 2005 with $800 and an old pickup truck. Now, it's the largest self-performing Kitchen Exhaust Hood Cleaning company in the country.

Michael’s career reflects his passion for driving his “Employees First, Customers Second” belief growing and mentoring people who in turn provide outstanding service to their customers. Exceeding expectations is the hallmark upon which he builds his people and business strategies.

His mission to change the way people interact with a service provider by utilizing ground-breaking technology has resulted in growing from an old pickup truck to 20 regional offices, over 30,000 customers, and a 20 State coverage area. He has successfully scaled and pivoted his business through the economic downturn of 2008 and more recently the Pandemic of 2020.  From under $400K in revenue in 2006, Nelbud is approaching $30M in 2021. Nelbud is a seven-time winner of the Distinguished Top Workplace award in Indiana and has won many other awards, including: Indiana Company to Watch, Blue Chip Business Award, Top Service Company in Indiana, Spotlight Award, and Michael has been named as a 40 Under 40 Award winner.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Nelbud lost 70% of all revenue in a single day in March 2020 due to the lockdown. In keeping true to their "Employee First" mission, Michael flipped the company within 72 hours from commercial kitchen cleaning to disinfection. As a result, Nelbud was able to grow revenue in 2020 - more than in 2019 despite the pandemic challenges.

Michael earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Indiana University. He has completed events such as Sealfit KOKORO, “Running of with the Bulls” in Pamplona, Spain, backpacked Europe, attended many world championship sporting events including the Soccer and Rugby World Cup, bungee jumped, sky dived, with more to come.


 Guest Resources

Nelbud - this is where you can learn more about Michael's company. 

"Grease Cleaner" CEO - this is another interview Michael did on the Ditch Digger CEO podcast.


Show Notes

In this episode, you'll learn to:

- Cultivate an employee-first culture

- Embrace employees as people

- Invite transparent communication


What to listen for:

• [03:00] Nurturing an employee-first culture
• [05:30] Understanding employees as humans
• [07:00] Crossing traditional boundaries
• [09:30] Investing in employees
• [12:00] Being present in relationships
• [14:00] Opening lines of communication
• [15:30] Sharing financial information transparently
• [19:00] Reversing the org chart
• [22:30] Inviting conversation across roles
• [26:00] Moving beyond self-doubt


Follow Michael Crafton on Social Media

Episode Transcript

Rosie: This is Show Up As a Leader, a show from people forward network, helping you maximize your positive impact on the world by becoming your best, fully authentic self. So you are going to love this conversation that I had with Michael Crafton, the CEO of Nelbud, completely turning business upside down - culture and humanity before it was cool. And you're going to be blown away with how he describes their interview process, their org chart, and the challenge that he puts out to leaders everywhere to create more human workplaces and equip everyone to show up as a leader.

All right. So Michael, I have to dive right in because I'm uber excited to talk to you. And what I love so much about everything that you have shared with me is your incredible focus on giving people opportunities and giving them second chances. And I think that this gets missed. We talk about this in our book Rehumanizing the Workplace, how important it is.

So I would love it. If you would share a little with me about why this is so important to you, and then some of the deliberate practices that you have in place to really foster this at Nelbud.

Michael: Nelbud is a company, it's actually a 40 year old brand that started in 1981, but Nova is a brand that I acquired in 2015, which is a long story.

But the company that I started back in 2005, I started genuinely as a mission-based business to give people opportunities that didn't otherwise have opportunities for multitude of reasons:  bad upbringings, born into bad socioeconomic environments, just they made mistakes, or there was some challenges when they were younger.

Because I truly felt that there was an underserved population that just society just beat down for no reason. Uh, and this was pre social media. This was pre political media overemphasizing, everything that was happening in culture. And I just, I genuinely wanted to do the right thing and help people; and at the same time, build a great business; let people have the white picket fence and half of a dog and three kids and everything that they said that you should have in the United States. And it actually took on a mind of its own, because what I didn't realize is how impactful it had on individuals, but also communities and families.

And at the beginning, what was really special and why we got so much attention nationally as we grew the business, cause we came out of nowhere,  is we were incredibly successful. It was by accident, but it wasn't by accident, because we were all aligned with a vision. We were all part of this little snow globe, I would call it, and everybody had a story. And that story resonated. We went through a phase where a hundred percent of our employees were referrals. We had zero turnover. Our customer base loved what we were doing because they could trust and rely on the same people coming to their facilities, providing a life safety services on a very strict routine schedule by code.

And it was just really funny, great experience. Fast forward nine years into the business, we did a capital raise, got involved with private equity. Purchased some really great brands like Nelbud and the rest is history. We're now the largest provider of life safety services, in-house in the United States.

We're part of a global company now called Holton group and hoping to take our model and employee first culture and motto to all over the world.

Rosie: You said something in there that I think is really important. So many businesses will say our employees are our most valued asset, which don't get me started because people aren't assets.

But I hear all the time in healthcare or patient first and customer first. And it's always the focus on whoever that stakeholder is that the business exists to serve. And so many business businesses and leaders focus on that. Yet are very deliberate that yeah, our customers are important, but our employees come first.

Can you speak a little bit more to that and how you nurture that and how it serves.

Michael: I think there's a lot in there. And unfortunately, and fortunately, because it started the conversation most recently is that it's a topic, right? Everyone currently is talking about HR and how important people are. And there's this great resignation in the United States.

And people are just fed up with poor working conditions, being micromanaged and just. That environments that they thought they had to stay in that cycle. I think what's unique is we have never not been that way. Literally. I was the only employee of the company in 2005, 2006, and I was saying employees first customer second, not truly understanding where it would go.

So we have always preached that. We've always had it in our DNA. It's always been a Bart part of our culture or our employer brand. It's a part of our interview process or recruiting process. We even lead with it in our sales process for customers. So I think because of that, Indoctrination of our entire employee base and they hear it before they even accept a job with no Melba.

It brings them into that circle and they start to expect specific things from the company, from our management team, from our benefits, from every level of the organization to follow that mantra. And it all feeds into our core values, our vision mission, and a lot of our systems and policies. So I think for one it's always been there.

It's not something we made up because of the last couple of years. But it's not a campaign we're doing because we want to hire a bunch of people to continue our incredible growth and demand of our services. It's always been there because of that. People believe it and they want to be a part of it. So that's number one.

Number two is when you say those. It comes with a lot of responsibility. We have 20 offices across the United States. We're starting to get pushed into Canada and we're going to Europe and people will literally email me directly. They'll describe a situation. And then they'll say, Michael, how is this employees first customers second?

Like, how is this treating your employees first? And it's, it could be something that their supervisor did or their manager did. And it's a valid point. So we address those things head on there's two sides to every story, but we work through those issues. And we asked the same question and then again, people start to understand it and think that way.

Another thing that I think is really incredibly important is there are things that happen inside of Melbourne, but also outside of Melbourne that are incredibly impactful to somebody just wellbeing. So we spend a lot of time. 50% of our wake hours working on people's personal development, as well as our professional development.

And that's sometimes is fleeting to a lot of companies is they're always worried about how can we make you a better employee? How can we drive your efficiency? How can we make. Uh, more capable and knowledgeable about what you're providing or the job you're doing, or how do we promote you? Thing gets you on this career path.

And they just forget that those things are fantastic, but a lot of the mood, a lot of people's drive and energy and just wellbeing comes from at home or away from work. And if somebody is in a bad mood is when's the last time they've eaten. That sounds crazy. There's a hunger problem in the United States and that's real, or did they get in a fight with their significant other, or are they having a behavioral problems with their children and that they're dealing with and they're not sleeping.

And so I think for us, we really try to drive home and understand the why of why things are happening to individuals and 99% of the time. It's not perfect. 99% of the time. If you go back farther far enough and address issues that have nothing to do with the business, the person is. Which internally makes them more appreciative, loyal, and a longterm employee that provides really great service next.

Rosie: there's so much in that I want to unpack. My head is spinning. So one, I love that. First of all, we're a whole person. We bring that whole person to work and I love that you're looking beyond the, oh, you're behaving badly today or what the heck's wrong with you, or that you're supposed to suck it up and somehow come to work and be a work robot versus your human beings.

I'm curious because so many organizations, when I talked to them about, you need to nurture the whole person, you need to really think about this. They get all, we don't want to go there, all boundary issues over. So how do you want to have those types of conversations to find out what's going on? And then two, how are you supporting them in that personal development, in that wellbeing?

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. So I'm gonna address the first comment, uh, which wasn't part of your question, but I learned a long time ago that we don't manage by fear. If somebody is going to be litigious, they're going to be litigious, no matter what you do. And it's really hard. The tradition in HR as a department has changed dramatically over the years, but the traditional HR thinking and what I have been taught over my career, Through our legal partners, who are our HR department internally is don't ask, don't tell you, can't ask specific questions.

You can't even get involved because it's going to end up messy. And then there's all this liability. And I'm just saying, listen, we're all in this together. If it happens. And I'm going to tell you, we've gotten burned way more than we probably have one, but the people that we win with it's worth it, it's worth all the bad things.

That's the first thing of it is what it is, right? Like you're going to be in trouble no matter what you do, you might as well help somebody along the way. If that's, what's going to end up happening. So for us. We work with a very blue collar workforce and we intentionally target the demographic that needs that stability and that support structure to build the career that they're capable of.

They just don't have that confidence within themselves. And the only way for us to do that, and it goes back to, I'm not going to pretend like it's not selfish, but we want people to be good employees, the amount of people. And I always have the saying and people like. If you learn a skill here and this isn't for you, when you go off and do something else and are wildly successful, and I will still meet you out for your birthday.

That makes me happy. Use this as a launch pad. If this isn't your really your career, a lot of people take us up on that. You know what I mean? That's okay. Cause we have this incredible alumni network of really great people that just, they just needed that, that boost. And they just needed somebody to believe in them.

So for us to actually get people through that career path and show them that their self-worth is more than what they sometimes see in themselves. We got to start at the very beginning of times, like I said, for us, it was a no brainer. We've always done it. So it's part of our DNA, but because of that blue collar workforce, because of that socioeconomic environment, that cycle, that people get into that.

Necessarily deserve or wasn't really there. They don't see in themselves what's possible. And when we have HR issues or we have conflict within the organization, we tell people, listen, we hired you because we saw something in you that you may not see yet. And we're going to do everything we possibly can to bring that out.

Is this the funnest job in the. Probably not. We're cleaning grease in the middle of the night in the freezing cold. But remember, this is your stepping stone. This is how you get to the next level. This is how you get to the next step. What, what is happening. And then you find out that their lease is up and they, their landlord didn't renew it.

They got two kids at home. One's an infant. Like you just go through this, but nobody's ever asked a question and then you just, people just, they just talk to you because they just aren't used to that genuine care.

Rosie: You're right. When people feel seen and heard, that's a core human need. We want to feel like we matter.

We want to feel like we're seen and heard. And so when somebody honors that it's a gift and for people who maybe don't get that regularly, if ever it's even more of a gift. And yeah, it reminds me of when Kristen Hadeed started at student made and they evolved the company, but it was a cleaning company for students and they knew they were only going to have them for a short period of time.

And, oh, do you want to go clean rat droppings and this and that, but really that was a con. For them to actually be trained, job skills, life skills, leadership skills. This just happens to be the work they do. And it sounds similar. Like you're investing in them and helping them build life skills and wellbeing skills and, and believe in themselves and invest in themselves while they happen to be cleaning grease and whatever else.

Michael: Everybody has the same issues, whether or not they pretend that they're not there, or they're hiding behind some sort of fancy car, or they have a position where they dress up every day. Everybody has those same issues. And when you can actually have empathy and relate and say, listen, I'm dealing with that as well.

Cause we. Our COO any different than we treat our entry-level grease cleaning technician, because that, I'm not saying our CEO is incredible. He's the one of the greatest in the world, but theory, he's dealing with the same thing just on a different level. And I think because of that, we teach people to think about themselves when they're managing, when they're supervising, when they're dealing with conflict resolution, when they're understanding training complaints and all these different things, because they were there once or they're there.


Rosie: that's a great segue into there's just so much humanity in the way you go about business and you were nurturing culture and humanity before it was cool. So I love that. So what do you think is the most profound way for leaders to show their humans?

Michael: So you touched on it earlier, just listen, just shut your mouth, sit down and just hear people.

Like, I can't remember pulp fiction is you hear the music, but you didn't listen or you listen to the music. Didn't hear it. And that is absolutely critical because this world that we live in is so multitasking. Right. Everybody's got their. Everybody's got a TV in the background. Everybody's having 15 conversations worrying about what they're watching and you can just, you may hear the noise come out of somebody's mouth, but you're not actually listening.

And I read a really good quote of, I don't even know what it was or who said it, but be the person that, that others forget, they have a phone when they're with you, because you're just, you're so engaged in the conversation you're having. It's just, you just forget that you have all these distractions all around you, you got apple watches and cell phones and ear pods and all this stuff.

And I've always, really took that to heart, right? If somebody, if I'm with somebody and they are distracted, it means I'm not doing my job of keeping them engaged with whatever I'm doing and me too. I have three very young kids and my wife and I talk about all the time. We need to be really careful because we're always on our phone.

We'll run our kids. And my son one time asked me if I love my phone more than I loved him. And he didn't know what that meant, but it was like it was eyeopening. And what he was saying was you're, it's always you and your phone and me, but I heard him. Right. And we made dramatic changes and it's like, we were very conscious about it.

So it's the same thing in business. So I just feel like you just, you have to actually listen to what people are saying. Don't just hear the noise coming out.

Rosie: 100%. I love that. And you know, what made me think of is it's not even just, it's not even just our kids. We got puppies during COVID and literally they'll sit and bad at me or bad at the phone.

Like, why are you not paying attention to me? I think it's a universal mammal made. I don't know. So I love that. I love that so much. So with that, Tell me, what are some of the deliberate practices you've put in place from a people leadership standpoint that help nurture that, that help people feel listened to that help them feel seen in that kind of reverse hierarchical structure, if you will, but our reverse orchestra.

Michael: As servant leadership kind of mentality. We do, we have a lot of communication channels and unfortunately, titles are very important to just people at times, which I don't believe in titles. I don't have one on my email. I would just agree with clear at the end of the day, but we make others respect their titles accessible and available all the time.

So one of the things we do is we have multiple communication channels that you can go direct without feeling like. Jumping over and getting in trouble. One of the ways we get out of that mindset, a political mindset is we have a divisional meetings every week with every division. So finance, HR, senior management, our executive team, they all meet once a week.

And then depending on the schedule and who is in those meetings, different people from, without the organization will attend a meeting. That's not part of their division. So like my senior leaders will jump on the. Call and they'll answer questions or just sit in and listen and interact and be human. And then monthly, we have all company, a live town halls where people come from all over the country and it's just basically a state of the union for me talking about what we're doing.

Good, what we're not doing good. And we take live questions and a lot of people cringe and everybody that starts the organization cringe. When they hear that we have a live Q a. With the entire organization on the phone, literally assuming that they show up, but a hundred percent of our employees on the phone, because some of the questions are pretty aggressive, but they need to be asked and I dress.

So I address them head on and there's no, it's like a safe zone right. Level for any repair for any

Rosie: reason. What's the craziest question someone's asked you or the hardest question?

Michael: Most of the questions always revolve somehow around money. You know what I mean? And a long time ago, I was really not secretive, but protective of a financial performance of the company.

Cause I didn't want people to get caught up and scared if things weren't good, but I also didn't want people to think that if things were really good. They were somehow not making what they needed to make because they don't people. Sometimes you don't understand there was a cycle there, like it's a long journey.

It's not just a short-term journey. But what I realized is that actually is really bad for culture. So we're very open about everything. We talk about our total revenue. We talk about gross or gross margins, our net margins. We talk about when we have bad cashflow issues and we do it in a way that's not over complicated.

So people don't feel uncomfortable or they don't feel. I have no idea what he's talking about, or I've never heard that word before. We make things that we talk about things in ways that I would understand it. And don't forget I'm a grease cleaner to try to have everybody relate to the current state of the business so that they can be part of the solution or they can be part of the victory.

Rosie: And I think transparency is so huge and what's coming up for me, as you're saying that is, it's also an educational thing, because I'll tell you that I do work with all kinds of very white collar professionals, as well as blue collar. But they, a lot of them don't know finance basics 1 0 1, they maybe had a class here or there, but they actually really don't understand how the business makes money.

They don't understand how it works. And there's so many people where, unless they took formal training in some way, shape or form, they really don't understand finances. And so that's also an educational opportunity to help them. Become more savvy maybe in their personal life, but also from a business day.

Michael: Absolutely. And it's part of orientation for everybody in the company goes through the same orientation. It's not specialized by position because we want everyone to understand what we do and how we do it and how we make money and how that money supports their personal growth. And we have a saying that profits are power, right?

Unfortunately, and fortunately we're not a huge corporate giant with billions and billions of dollars in cash in the bank where we can be lavish, but profits are power and we tell people. The only way that we get better is by that we're profitable because we buy new trucks. We do raises bonuses. We create positions and create opportunities, and we grow into new geographies for where you people can relocate and be closer to the families.

So all those things going to be unprofitable and people finally start to understand. Every nickel that doesn't go into their paycheck, doesn't go into some fancy car or a private jet. It actually goes back into their pocket somehow, or at least gives them a better work environment. That's what really magic really starts to happen.

And it's hard to get people there. It really is because there's so much corporate greed on the news and everybody consumes their news on Facebook. And that's not reality, right. That's just such a rare occurrence, but that's all.

Rosie: Totally. And I think when we've done purpose work with organizations and one that's coming to mind, they're an employee owned and everyone has a vested interest.

And they're like, why are we spending money on this? Why are we doing this? And trying to help them understand it's an investment, it's not an expense, but also recognizing that everything you do to invest back in the company, to invest in your people, to invest in the culture actually will pay off in the long run.

And so it's really shifting that perspective and saying that our purpose is not to make money. Our purpose is this, and this is the future. That allows us to do that. And guess what, the more fuel we have, the more we're able to do this, right? So you said that the profit is power. I think I stole this one from Kristen hoodie, but she calls it difference dollars in her company.

You know what, when we do this, we can make a bigger difference. And so getting people in that mentality. So it's away from that greed terminology into no this connection make a difference. This can actually positively impact my family, my community. I just, I love that. So I have to ask you, speaking of sir, servant leadership, cause as you were talking about the reverse org chart, it actually reminded me of Barry.

Waymiller where they have their CEO at the bottom and say I'm in service. It's people within my span of care, not people who report to me or on my team. So tell me how that came about and how that functions. I know you said it's open door, but that's so counter to how most people run a business yet you're highly successful.

I would love to hear more

Michael: about. Fought tooth and nail with multiple private equity companies, quality of earnings consultants. We've gone through this. They're like, Hey, you know that you can, you just give it to us normal? And we're like, that's normal for us. I don't understand. You know, I mean, like we always argue, always arguing.

I genuinely, this is like sincere. I genuinely feel. That I, I am no different than anyone else around me. Like, I always feel like I'm looking up to others, how just incredible people can be. And that's why I never had, we didn't have titles in the business too. Like you're seven. And the only reason we started it is because it gave, we were growing and people needed that upward mobility and LinkedIn started to start and everybody wanted to have that for themselves.

And I think that's great. We've been successful with it and without it this whole time, but as a CEO, you have there's this week. What's it. What's the word or not? Oh yeah. There's this weird aura, right? It's scary. Oh, that's the CEO or that's the president or that's the chief operating officer and I've just made sure that we've survived.

I've surrounded myself with very humble people who understand the employees first mantra. So when we started doing that upside down org chart, it was really natural for us because it was in response to me constantly saying the most important people in this organization are our technical. Right. They're customer facing.

They generate the revenue without that group. We are not a business. So what can we do? And how can I, I work for you. So you tell me what you need. I will do anything you ask is within reason, right? I want to make your job as fun and exciting as possible. And we were always asking those questions and we are trying to break down those barriers of that office is the CEO's office.

Don't go near it, right? Like it's scary. And it's this big, important. Fake room. And I don't even know what that means, but, and you'd be surprised like again, all new people that come into the organization, they'll see people in and out of my office back before COVID and our COO he's the same way we are cut from the same cloth or president's the same way.

And it's just uncomfortable, man. Like, why were they in your office? I'm like, they were just saying hi. So we did, you're getting

Rosie: called to the principal's office and they assume it's human you're in trouble or something.

Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Like that. Yeah. My biggest, this is a side story, but the funniest thing ever is when you ask somebody to come to your office and their first question, when they walk in as am I getting fired, I'm like, whoa, did you do something that I don't know about?

What's what do you feel guilty about? But that's natural and we always joke about it. And it's funny, but, and I know I'm going around in a million circles, but yes. So the upside down org chart, how do we put that in place again? It's talked to people in orientation. We talk about it every day when I'm on my senior leadership team meetings and I'm having conversations.

I talk about different divisions as if I'm talking up to my, my supervisor, because I'm trying to let people understand that they are. People that work for them on an org chart or their customers. And it's important that they serve them no different than if a customer called and was mad about a service or needed some special favor.

There, no difference there. Right? They are part of that whole kind of.

Rosie: I love everything about that. One of the things that you told me about in a previous conversation that I think exemplifies this, and I would love for you to expand on this as, so when would that upside on org chart? Talk to me about how you've asked your leaders to have meetings with people.

Like you have some guidelines about them, like not sitting across from a desk from each other, and really how to even model that in just day to day practice.

Michael: Yeah. So one of the things that I like to do, and I'm very intentional about, and it starts really, and we'll go back to the beginning of the interview process, right?

We don't have traditional interviews at Melbourne, so you don't come in and sit in the lobby with your resume, a nervous dressed in your best clothes. And you wait for somebody to call you down the hall and you sit at somebody's desk and answer some, some cliche questions. So we actually start way before.

Our interviews are relatively casual because the majority of our workforce, it's not the position that they're being hired to be in the field technician that drives a truck and gets dirty. Right. Even our sales team, right? Like they're in the facilities crawling around the ceiling, getting dirty. Cause we have to get estimates and stuff like that.

The way we do our interviews is we do walking interview. Uh, so we walk the facility, we go out to the warehouse and show trucks and we introduce the candidate to different employees, just in their natural working environment. And it's not even a stage thing anymore because it happens so often. It's just part of us in Texas.

We get so many tours, whether it's to a candidate and outside community organization and investor group, our board of directors or whoever that nobody really knows who these people are at this point. It's just natural. We just introduce everybody to everybody. And it's just this great, happy environment at that level.

We ask that when we walk past somebody and say, Hey Michelle, this is John. He's applying for a job. Kitchen cleaning department, Michelle, assuming she's not on the phone, which we wouldn't stop. If she was literally would get up, walk out from around her desk, even if it's for two seconds, introduce herself, shake their hand again, reliving COVID now, but she can't shake hands it's like

Rosie: you bumped all bowsers or air, or was it someone said they were going to bring back to David Hasselhoff, finger guns.

Michael: And it's those little touches that people don't even understand. We're doing for them, that they remember over a long period of time. So they're already conditioning to that personal touch. And then when we have meetings, whether it's a disciplinary meeting, a social meeting, a review or good things are happening, I always ask that people don't sit behind their desk.

Every most of our offices have a common area, very close to theirs, or they have the. Like out in front or in the corner. Am I always ask that people come out from around pay special attention, don't be on your phone. Don't be reading emails at the same time. You're trying to listen to something that somebody has to say, and it's really that personal touch and that eye contact.

It goes back to be the person that people forget. They have their phone because they wouldn't bother you. If it wasn't for it. Wasn't very purposeful, not bothered is not the right word, but they wouldn't come to you if they didn't have something important to say. And if it's not important to you, it's important to them.

Right. Perception is always reality. And I think that's a very.

Rosie: I agree. And what I also love about that is that especially if it's a difficult conversation, it takes away that power differential. It takes away that combativeness and more of I'm here to sit with you rather than across from you. And I can deliver this feedback and be side by side with you and not be blaming and shaming.

All of that stuff. So one of the things that speaking of humanity that I love to do, and you've been so gracious in all of this is, you know, people might be listening to this and then go, oh yeah. But even though you consider yourself a grease cleaner, you're a successful CEO. And I think so many times I hear people get nervous about somebody who has been successful or they go, I could never do that.

They think that somehow people who have been successful, it's been a nice straight line and they don't ever struggle. And so I always love to show the human side of my gas. And so if you're willing, I would love you to share what is a self-limiting story that you still tell yourself sometimes. And when it shows up, how do you move beyond it so that you can still show up as a leader and make a positive impact around you?

Michael: So I think my journey. Has been very unique. I started the business with $800 on a pickup truck. That's a true story, not on food stamps, but basically on food stamps, I lost 40 pounds in my first year, I was living in poverty. I was cleaning kitchen exhaust, grease hoods every night, seven days a week. I was trying to figure out how to do QuickBooks during the day.

And I wasn't very, I'm not still not good at math. I didn't have any formal training in leadership or management, finance. I didn't know, financial stuff. But I was really good at, I was a hard worker and I was decent at sales. So I just, I had to learn all that stuff on the fly while being like in the field.

So I was in the field on a truck for almost five years now. That's true. Before I actually was able to build up and hire lots of people and become like functioning business, I guess you can say. So I cut my teeth and learned the business and. Through that time period. I was always looked at as the grease cleaner businessperson, but the grease cleaner was always first.

So when I would go into rooms or talk about the business, the first question out of people's mouth was, is when did your dad start the business? Or how long have you been working with your family business? That just, it was natural and I was always the youngest in the room. And that became part of my thing.

I just embraced it. I started at five years ago or 10 years ago or whatever. So I still to this day look up to everyone. Whether that's real or not real, whether or not I'm perceived as more successful or less successful, I'm still this just a screen cleaner. Who's working really hard to try to make it someday.

And there's one funny thing that my wife hates, but when people ask me what I do, I always say I'm a grease cleaner, and everybody laughs and they're like, oh, how, what do you really do? I'm like, no, I'm a grease cleaner. And then the next words out of their mouth is, oh, that's really cool. I'm like, is it like, do you really?

Because just to get people uncomfortable, get them off their. Um, and then when we talk through, it becomes very evident and clear that this is an industry and it's great, and blah, blah, blah. Uh, so I'm always, I always look at others as being significantly more successful and more capable than I am. And how I get through that is just talking and talking through that with them, trying to relate with what their kind of story is.

And I always want to know people's story because it's, you never know what's behind the curtain. And typically you'd be surprised there is an incorrect. Community of human beings that are incredibly successful, that you would never know, and I'm not successful yet. So don't take that. Don't take that as if I'm saying I am, I'm working towards that level, but if you don't know their story, you don't whether they are or aren't.

So I think how I get through it is just open communication. I always remember that. Yes, we've accomplished things, but we haven't accomplished the ultimate goal and that's to create an amazing amount of sustainable. For every community community that we serve, because there's still a lot of people out there that need a career like this, but just understanding that, you know, being a grease cleaner, isn't the worst thing in the world.

And we have accomplished, we've started to accomplish things and just relating to others through that.

Rosie: We all have a story. And is someone curious enough to inquire about it or ask about, or do we have opportunities to tell it? And we're not what we do. We're not our job. We're not our titles. We're not our health risks.

We're so much more than that. So that's fantastic. So I like to have this little quick questions segment, just fire, rapid fire, if you're game, please. All right. Fill in the blank. Living authentically is. When the world is presenting an opening, but you don't feel like showing up as a leader. What do you do run to it?

What's something people would be surprised to know about you.

Michael: I love art. What's your favorite art? That's a good question. I like all types of creativity, probably paintings is something that I'm very attracted to just in general. And I don't have a special period. I just like all day. My tastes are all over the place.

And that goes to my kids finger paintings that are terrible, but awesome to, I have the lube or whatever. So yeah, I'm all over the place.

Rosie: What's your favorite go-to

Michael: movie? Boiler room is my favorite movie. What's your go-to song? Welcome to the jungle. Yes,

Rosie: what's something. And I say something lightly. It doesn't have to be a thing.

What's something you can't live

Michael: without my.

Rosie: What's something in your ordinary daily life that makes your heart happy

Michael: morning workouts. What's your favorite workout? Um, I go through phases right now. I'm in a functional workout phase where it's like a military Navy seal kind of mentality. So I've been doing a lot of like CrossFit MIRVs and there's a new workout called the chat and pushups, pull ups, all those things.

But I go through the gamut, free weights, all that stuff running. I'm going to love

Rosie: running and last but not least. What are you grateful for right

Michael: now? No, bud was just acquired by a global company based out of Finland, which is extremely exciting for us back in August. And they're giving us the opportunity to expand nationally in the United States, but more importantly, extend globally into Europe, Asia in the middle east, where I think our mentality, our model and our kind of ethos can really help a lot with.


Rosie: so fantastic. My closing question for you, Michael, if you could challenge leaders everywhere to practice this one behavior that would create more human workplaces and equip everybody regardless of their title or role to show up as a leader, what would that be?

Michael: I'm going to say two things. Empathy is incredibly important because not every situation is the same and not everybody is the same.

So perception is reality, whether or not somebody's perception is right or wrong, it's how they perceive situations happening. And you've got to have empathy and understand in order to have empathy, you need to listen. Don't just hear the vibrations coming out of their mouth. You have to actually listen to what they're saying, which all kind of ties itself together.

So I always challenge my leaders to take a deep. Think about what people are telling you understand it's their perception, not yours that really matters in this situation and have empathy for what they're going through, whether it's good or bad, or whether you believe that they're justified. It doesn't matter because they think they're justified.

And it's your job to close that gap and kind of understand the situation with.

Rosie: I couldn't agree more if everyone did that, man, we would have such better workplaces. So I just, oh my God. I could talk to you for hours. Thank you so much for everything you're doing. I am super excited that you get to expand your reach globally because it's just so needed.

And God, if we had more leaders like you, I wouldn't be, I wouldn't have a job, but

I'm Rosie ward and this is show up. To learn more head over to people forward network.com and of course hit that follow button.

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