Keep Things Simple

Posted by Ellen Rohr on Dec 28, 2021 1:26:33 PM

Ellen Rohr, co-founder of ZOOM DRAIN, joins the podcast to talk about how to set the stage for learning common mistakes businesses make and how profit and cash will fix everything.

Click to Listen

Ellen Rohr Pocast - Keep Things Simple


Episode with guest: Ellen Rohr

Co-founder of ZOOM DRAIN

(This episode was recorded in December 2021)

Key Episode Take-Aways:

1. Having a successful business will not always be a smooth ride, it's okay to go the long way around. (click to jump to this topic below)  And maybe it's okay to go the long way around. Like also, if wherever you are like if you're listening to this and you know, you've taken 20 years and you've got this far and you're not happy about it. The point of power is now, it doesn't matter. Like all that like it just doesn't matter when my mentor called it taking the medicine, whenever you take the medicine you know, it's fine. Don't worry about how long it took you to get here, or how many hiccups or whatever, it doesn't matter. It's just the point of power is forward.

2. Allow others to learn, set the stage for learning. Do not always state your opinion or the answer. (click to jump to this topic below)  So, I really love being on the front lines like that. And just have to remind myself 1000 times a day, ask a question, as opposed to just state your opinion or the answer. This spoke, I got this book recommended by a bunch of people.

3. The team is everything. There might be some hiccups, but we're going to be better together. (click to jump to this topic below)  You know, like, if I look at my own behavior, what am I going to do? Not that not going to complain about it. I figure our franchisees are better off with us dealing with the supply chain issues than on their own. That's my promise. I'm not saying we're not going to hit some hiccups, but we're going to be better together. We'll do it together.

Continue scrolling to read the full episode transcription.


Podcast Ad 0:03

Most CEOs, business owners, and leaders find themselves in the weeds and overwhelmed instead of working on their business. What if you had a step-by-step guide on getting a level of buy-in commitment and execution from every person in your company that your competition couldn't touch? Join us January 25 through the 27 for our workshop designed to teach you the principles and practices of a proven operating system that will get you in The Game quickly. And start you on a journey that will transform not only your business, your strategic planning process, and your culture, your people as well. Sign up at That's

Announcer 0:43

Welcome to the "Change the Game" Podcast. Where we share stories of open-book management and highlight capitalism at its best. Thank you for tuning into this episode of the "Change the Game" Podcast with special guest Ellen Rohr. In this episode, Ellen talks about how to set the stage for learning common mistakes businesses make and how profit and cash will fix everything. Here's your hosts Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker.

Steve Baker 1:10

Welcome to the “Change the Game" Podcast where we are changing The Game by doing business differently and highlighting stories of capitalism at its best. I'm Steve Baker and I am out of the world excited today because our special guest is Ellen Rohr. Now many of you know Ellen, she's the president of the ZOOM DRAIN franchise company. She's an entrepreneur, a teacher, a trainer, an author, columnist, and a TV celebrity and probably more than that. Ellen started out with her husband's plumbing company and discovered how to make a business uncomplicated. This fits right into the Great Game idea right, demystify business. She helped grow that company from zero to $40 million in franchise sales and 47 locations in less than two years. She got so good at it, she began teaching others what she learned and in ’95, Ellen started Bare Bones Biz, a venture capital and consulting firm. She's authored four different books, trained 1000s of small business owners, and managers. And we were just at an event recently with Howard Partridge, and I learned that she's also a Zig Ziglar legacy speaker, and president of ZOOM DRAIN franchise. Ellen, welcome to the podcast

Ellen Rohr 2:26

Wow! See, you live long enough to get to have all those cool adventures. I'm here to tell my story. And I'm going to make a correction in that story for you.

Steve Baker 2:35

Oh, good. I love that.

Ellen Rohr 2:36

Yes. Yeah. Well, and that's probably me sending you information that didn't make sense. But I'll share a little bit about how I came to, is that a good place for us to start? Can we do that? Okay. All right. So um, you know, it was fun listening to you say that, because really, my credibility as a business owner is, it began as the wife of a plumber, so I am someone who has lived and has the scars from being the mom and Mom Pop Shop. And it was, you know, I never dreamed when I was a little kid that I would grow up to be an expert in the drain and sewer industry. But here I am. And it starts with-

Steve Baker 3:17

That’s not one of the Disney Princesses really

Ellen Rohr 3:19

No and, but part of you know, I wanted to be an actress. So, a lot of what I've done really gives me satisfaction in that direction, because I love to be on podcasts, and I love to be on stage. So, thanks so much. And you know, I love you. So, your part of my story, so hang tight. So, when I was a little kid, my dad was not handy. We called people I thought that when you flushed a toilet or turn on the light switch these all seem like, first off, I took them for granted. And then once I thought about my thought, I guess a miracle happens, you know, where does it all go? Where does it come from? So, I married my husband the plumbers named Hot Rod. That's why I married him. What's your name and I see that hot rod. So, there you go. So, I Married Hot Rod and hot rod is a plumber. And it was then I started to learn like I would ride along or bring lunch to his jobs, and I started to figure out what plumbers did. And as someone who has no skills and I had previously no understanding of any of this, I was just gob smacked delighted with the whole thing. Like I when you flush the toilet, it is a miracle how they keep good water from bad water and prevent more diseases than doctors have ever cured. And how is it that an electrician will introduce himself as just an electrician when you turn on the light and the power the internet, you know, like it just it's never been lost on me. And I would say that my overall mission in life is to be a champion for tradespeople and for the businesses in the trades. That's really my area of love and expertise. So just to give you that to go to the very, very end but going back to the beginning again. So, what happened is my husband had a partner, and his partner was his best friend. And his partner died, literally worked himself into a health crisis. Worked a 100 Hour Work Week didn't feel well went to the hospital. The last words he said to me are, if I don't do it myself, it'll never get done. And then the kid dies. So, I bring that up, I say that story so often, because it's, part of my frame of reference, that you shouldn't have to sacrifice everything for your business.

Steve Baker 5:32


Ellen Rohr 5:32

That was the first, you know, right between the eyes moment I had were like, that's not worth it. Like, wait a minute, how did how did that go down? So, at that point, you know, my husband says, well, you know, he was in business with your, your best buddies. But however, he never really liked the business. He liked the trade. And what I've learned is you get to do what you want. But at that time, I didn't, I hadn't learned that lesson. So, I talked to my husband, I talked him into sticking in the business, I'll quit my real job, I'll come work with you. At this point, I was working as a restaurant owner, I've had a million jobs. But I had kind of a real job at this point that I knew something. So, I quit my job, go to work with my husband. And it is awful. We, fight all the time, we're not making any money, we now don't have my salary. You know, I have just lived that dream of hanging out your shingle, you know, do what you love in the money will come, none of that happened for me. And so, you know, I feel honor bound to share my story and to offer my you know, my service because people reached out to me and what happened is, I was absolutely going down for the third time and we had no money. We weren't paying ourselves, we're in debt. Our poor guys are just, you know, suffering at the hands of these fools. And I read an article in a magazine in a I'm sure you subscribe to Plumbing and Mechanical magazine, Steve. But you know, every industry has a trade rag right now they're online. But you know, you should read these things, because smart people in your industry tell you how they did it. And this one guy wrote an article about how much should a contractor charge. So, I read the article, and I followed the math. And then I wrote this guy a letter and his name were Frank Blau. I love it. His name is Frank. Wow. He's about 120 years old. He's a crusty, plumbing union contractor in Milwaukee. And he saved my bacon. So yeah, because I write him this letter, Dear Mr. Blau, please help me. We're broke, were hating on each other life is terrible. And then I spent two pages defending why everything he said in his article was wrong. And I'm right. So, you don't know what you're you don't know about my cheap customers. You don't know about my ridiculous guys, you don't know you don't, none of what you just said is going to work for me. So, I please help me and then put up the resistance. So, I mean, I deal with that every day. I am that everybody you know, I don't know. But I'd like I went the hard way around everything. So, I write him this letter. And then he calls me, he calls me on the phone. And he says, I answered the phone and I say hello. And he says, Honey, you have your head. This is how the phone calls start. You have your head. And then he tells me where my head is. And it's a dark place.

Steve Baker 8:35

All the way up

Ellen Rohr 8:37

I'm like, who is this? And he's like, I'm Frank Blau. And I get a lot of stupid letters. This is the stupidest letter I've ever gotten. You think you're so smart? Why don't you just shut it down? Why don't you? You seem to know everything. Why don't you wait, even reach out? Just boom. And I hang up on him. [Laughter] And Hot Rod comes home that day and tell him about it, and I'm crying. And he goes, I think you got to call him back. And I'm like, I know I do. I guess. So, I did. And like, you know, just hat in hand, I go back in, you know, and say, you know, I get very emotional every time I tell the story. I've told it a million times, but I bring up this stuff because it was no smooth ride like business isn't you know, just this gentle curve that goes to the heavens, you know? And I struggled with every single bit of it. Now it's easy, but then no.

Steve Baker 9:36

Well, there wasn't a manual at the time. This is before you wrote the manual, right?

1. Having a successful business will not always be a smooth ride, it's okay to go the long way around.

Ellen Rohr 9:39

And maybe it's okay to go the long way around. Like also, if wherever you are like if you're listening to this and you know, you've taken 20 years and you've got this far and you're not happy about it. The point of power is now, it doesn't matter. Like all that like it just doesn't matter when my mentor called it taking the medicine, whenever you take the medicine you know, it's fine. Don't worry about how long it took you to get here, or how many hiccups or whatever, it doesn't matter. It's just the point of power is forward. So, at this point, this really was the first kind of, you know, grabbed me by the chin moment. And this guy Frank taught me how to read a news financial report, can you believe that, that he taught me, he taught me what my assets versus my elbow was, he just like he just went through any taught me how to do it by sending me his, you know, those old fax machines that were greasy and had the big rolls of thermal paper. And he would like, I'd wake up in the morning, and like, there'd be just a pool of that paper by my desk. And he would say, get me on the phone, and there were no zoom calls, he'd get me on the phone, and he would say, go to page 13. And we're going to go, and on his own financial reports, he just taught me how to read and use financial reports how to figure out what they tell you. Now, I have a college degree in business administration. And I really did not know any of this. So, another piece of the puzzle there. Yeah, right. You know, I knew I know what LIFO, FIFO inventory systems are, but I didn't know, just like, what you have. And then, you know, like most people, my books, such as they were a hot mess. When our partner died, he was in charge of it, he was never very good at it in the first place. And then, you know, it was just like, trying to figure out what we had, what we owed what we own, what you know, we have for sales expenses, and what's the difference? You know, just those two reports, it really was this game changing moment for me, where I started to, you know, some people, like, I'll tell some of my clients or franchisees, you know, what, if you just triple your prices, you're going to do better, and they just do. And I'm like, oh, that was easy. But I needed again, I needed the long way I had, why are you saying that? How come you said that, and then it was by proving it out on the balance sheet, the profit was getting really clear with where we are, you know, then you can figure out what you can do. And I really needed to get clean on that to get you know, get real, I guess that's the best way to say that. So um, so after I visited with Frank a little bit, we raised our prices. And I'll tell you again, now I do things because I see the opportunity and the fun in the game. Then I thought, you know what, if I raise my prices, I'm going to go out of business, which will be fine. That would be fine with me. I don't want to do this anymore. I'll get a job Hot Rod never wanted to do this in the first place. I'm going to raise my prices out of spite. It took me a hot minute, to even do all of this. So, I raised them. In fact, we quintupled our prices, we went from $30 an hour to $150 an hour. Right?

Steve Baker 12:53

Different customer base to because the people that are willing to pay 30 are a whole different group of people than the people who are used to paying 150. Right?

Ellen Rohr 13:03

I would say that maybe 5% of people fell in that category. But let me just share a little neat thing about the trades. Nobody wants to pay you anything. Nobody wants to call a plumber, electrician, a roofer, a concrete guy, nobody wants to pay you anything. So, the reality was, our general contractors didn't want to pay us that anymore. But the actual customers, the people we worked for, you know, they have an expression. They may cry, but they will buy.

Steve Baker 13:36

They need you right.

Ellen Rohr 13:37

They need you. If you show up clean, sober, on time, dressed right and use a checklist. You can charge five times what the competition charges.

Steve Baker 13:45

Oh, slow down Ellen.

Ellen Rohr 13:46

Is that good.

Steve Baker 13:47

That sounds like something we need to write down. Say it again.

Ellen Rohr 13:50

Show up clean.

Steve Baker 13:52


Ellen Rohr 13:52

Sober on time, dressed right? And use a checklist. You put yourself in the stratosphere when it comes to the traits? You really do.

Steve Baker 14:04

I don't think I could be a plumber.

Ellen Rohr 14:07

I won't ask which one. Which one, or two or three or four or five? So, this is you know, Frank was the first I've had a lot of mentors in my life, but he was the one that got me going on the numbers. Then what happened is we're turning our little company around. I don't know how else to explain to our guys why I'm doing what I'm doing. Wait a minute, why are we raising our prices like this? So, I said, well, I got this little spreadsheet and I worked it out on a green columnar pad for those of you are old that you know that have the lines this way in this way. And I added up our cost of doing business and I divided it by the number of billable hours we could sell just like Frank taught me add up your costs divided by the number of widgets you could sell and inflate it for profit. That's the selling price formula that Frank taught me, which was different from my calling my customers and assuming a fake voice and asking them what they charged and charging a little bit less.

Steve Baker 15:13

But you, but you had done that clearly.

Ellen Rohr 15:17

Oh, yeah. So yeah, so this is how I got smarter. So, but I didn't know how else to get my guys in on it, except for to show them how I did it. Yep, was it this time that I got turned on to the Great Game of Business? So, this is going back to when the book, I guess first came out? How old is the book?

Steve Baker 15:38

That came out in '92.

Ellen Rohr 15:40

'92. This was exactly when I was doing all this, okay. And so, the book comes out. And I get the book at someone's suggestion. And I read it, and I go, Oh, there's a name for this. This is called open book, man. This is a thing. I didn't know it was a thing. But it was the book and Jack stack. You know how much I love Jack. I love, love him that the book came out and like validated that this was a good way to go. Like, what else are you going to do? Yes. And then after that came a stake in the outcome. And, you know, we ended up selling well. So, to get back to the story that I said I was going to make a correction, we turned our little company around as fast as we got into debt we got out of debt, we started making money. And if you're writing things down, write this one down, money buys options. That's all it's good for money buys options, you got more options, you got no money, you have fewer options, and you got money, you can make some mistakes, you've got some you can take some chances. And so it was at this point, you know, we made some money, we stopped the bleeding. We turned our balance sheet around, and I turned the Hot Rod and I said, okay, what do you want to do? And he said, I want to work all by myself.

Steve Baker 15:42

I love it.

Ellen Rohr 16:13

Yeah. And so, you know it now as I look back on it, it's kind of a funny little story that takes 30 seconds, but at the time, it was very emotional. For those of you who are in family businesses, I know people are waiting for their mom to die, their dad to die. And they're like, 60, I'm like, Dude, this could go on for a while, you know, make, make a decision about what you really want. So, I think that I know you are of this sensibility. And I am to the premier question when you're consulting with people is to ask them, what do you want? What do you want to have happen? Do you even want to do this business? Now? Let me pause here. Is this resonating with you? Because I just saw you light up as I shared.

Steve Baker 17:44

Oh, okay. So, a number of years ago, I was down in Houston working with mattress firm, and in one of the head of their training department Corey. Just a cool guy, you know, one of those guys who just had these pearls of wisdom that would pop out, so I'm going to give him credit for this. I called him up one day, and I got his voicemail. He said, this is Corey, and you've reached Cory’s questioning machine. Right? Not an answering machine McCray said, I'm going to ask you two questions. Who are you? And what do you want? Because most people go through their life not knowing the answer to either question. That was it? And I'm like, is this guy, philosopher, what you just said, it totally resonates? Because most people are getting up every day. Like you said, money buys options. But options for what if people just wake up and they have no idea who they are or what they want? And I'm really trying to do this for my kids. Is it since they were little, I'm trying to get what do you think you want? What do you think you know, and of course, I couldn't tie my shoes when I was their age, and I'm talking their 20s? All I want to do is just go, Oh, well. I don't want that. I know that. And obviously, Hot Rod knew what he wanted, which was he didn't want to be around a bunch of other people. He just wanted to work on his own and you're going how do I grow a business out of this? I assume?

Ellen Rohr 19:03

I will. I was starting to get the fever for like, we had four trucks. What if we had eight trucks, I was starting to see how this could grow. And he didn't want one bit of that. And so, you know, so like, going back to your story, what you said is that we grew that we didn't grow that business. We decided to sell that business. Okay, and so and then we did what we each wanted to do, which is probably why I'm still married. Right? Okay, so like, because there I am like I wanted him to change I wanted him to want what I wanted, like, as I say it out loud. Doesn't that sound silly? How much do you have gotten your kids to change or your life to change? You're like, zero. Yeah, you can only lose your life. Yeah. And live your life. What do you want to do? How because what I was doing is I was putting all my eggs in that basket, right as opposed to just Deciding what it is that I want to do, what are the gifts I have? What's the what's my purpose? All that big midlife crisis stuff, which is what I would call it looking back now as I had that moment, what do I want to be? So, we decided to sell the company and we sold it to our employees, which, through the Great Game of Business through open book management had a clue. And they still run that business 25 years later, what makes me so proud, I mean, that Yeah, so one guy's dead Hot Rod and I are gone. And they still run that business and put there you know, kids through school and, you know, created lives for themselves. And it makes me I'm very, very proud of them. And that, and that also colored my philosophy. The team is everything for me, like So as he's talking about wanting to work all by himself. I don't do that. Well, I like the creative endeavor. I like working with other people. I like sharing a dream. I like how one idea gets bounced around, then it’s even better, where you split, you know, and go, you know, divide a big task, all that really appealed to me. So hot rod starts his own business, all by himself doesn't do any of the stuff that I would do. And he crushed it. Crushed it. Yeah. You know, so like, even part of me was thinking, oh, he's going to just be terrible without me. And he wasn't. He was fine. You know, I if you're relating to any of this, so like, if you're holding back because you think they can't do it without you. You know what they can, they will, you know, my partner died, everything got done, you know, we're not so irreplaceable. And you know, if you are willing to let go, there's an expression I got from the US women's soccer team. I've been using a lot lately. Small ego, big mission, what do you want and get your ego out of the way of the whole thing, and it just gets so much easier. So, all the all these lessons started to add up with a bunch of different mentors. But what happened when we decided to sell our company and then Hot Rod went and just created that company and sold it. And now he works for this Italian manufacturer as a trainer of solar and hydronics. He's like world renowned. He's like, got this rocking career. And then I'm, you know, while he's doing that, I'm thinking, how can I help? How can I serve? Well, I start teaching some of the basics I learned from Frank from, from Jack from the Great Game of Business, from all my mentors, I've put together a little business book series, and all of my teaching focuses on two things, the things that I learned personally, that had such an impact on me how to read and use financial reports, and then how to put a little business plan together. So, it really was stopping the bleeding, you know, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, get your you know, give yourself some options, and then start asking the big questions. And the big questions are, what do you want? Why? Who do you want to work with? Who do you want to be? What do you want to have buy when those are business planning questions? So, my whole life then has been an exploration of those questions. And along the way, I've had some I've had some, you know, just to wrap up the story part, you know, along the way, I, I met another mentor, who, um, set me up, he was a venture capitalist, and he set me up to start a business called Benjamin Franklin, the Punctual Plumber. And I worked for that investment company. And that's where we grew to 47 locations and 40 million in sales in under two years. And I got the scars to show for that. I did not do everything, right. There were things I learned. And you know what you said before, too, I know what I don't want. And that can Springboard you to what you do want. So, there were elements of that, you know, when you talk to people and say, what do you want? How often did they slip into? Well, I'll tell you what, I don't want to work 80 hours a week, I don't want this, you know, so that's okay. If you don't want that, then what is the opposite of that? Or what does that cause you to want? So that's been like I started writing for the magazines and I, I've been to hundreds of shops. I've talked to 1000s of contractors, I work with our friend, Howard Partridge at the inner circle. And most importantly, and what takes most of my energy these days is with my best friend and business partners, I started ZOOM DRAIN franchise. I'm the owner this time around, which was important to me. Yes, I have partners and we have investors now which has been absolutely amazing and awesome. And I tried to imply these basics that I've learned every day and I guess my latest lesson in my current position, we have 18 locations that our goal is to make to be twice as big next year and then the year after we've got a really good game plan and a solid approach. I'm very excited for you know, to energize this plan is definitely a group effort. And our team is absolutely amazing. It just it's just the basics always work. Even as we're bigger, I'm looking at these spreadsheets now that have like 17 tabs in them and we're talking and I'm just having to stop and have them explain the mnemonics and the acronyms for all these fancy financial and business terms. Wait, what does that mean? And when it comes down to the end of the day, and tell me if I'm wrong here, Steve, though, its profits and cash, profits and cash are going to fix everything and who will fix everything, your team. So, get them in on the game? We need profits and cash, how are we going to make that happen? And then rock and roll that, like, it just has come full circle for me, I'm crying. I'm so emotional about this. Right.

Steve Baker 25:44

I love it. That's one of the things I love about you pouring it out there leaving it on the field.

Ellen Rohr 25:48

That's my story. So, let's, let's make this more of a conversation and less of a diatribe, shall we?

Steve Baker 25:54

No, I love it. So okay, you've talked about some of your bigger influences along the way. And you've hit on so many. I'm taking show notes. By the way, just I love some of these. These snippets here. I am curious about a couple of things. You know, you had mentioned the idea of trying to change someone, you know, you couldn't change Hot Rod, he couldn't change you and you guys found some sort of stasis, there are ways to work through all that by building two different businesses. You're in the midst of rapidly scaling a business. And you made me think of this, you've got a whole lot of people who I presume you're selling franchises to. How do you get over that idea of I'm going to, you know, you and I are in the same business, right? We're training people. But that requires change. And we're both in agreement that change is intrinsic, we have to want it. How are you making, or helping people want to change? By taking on your systematized business at ZOOM DRAIN.

Ellen Rohr 27:00

It is tricky. Yeah. Because you know how it is to like, we just we went on to shop visits last week, and it is my favorite thing to do. I love to get in the field. I love to go and ride along to the guys; I didn't do that on this trip. But I just like, you know, you think things are important in the ivory tower in your office, and then you go into the world, and you go, oh, that was stupid. You know.

2. Allow others to learn, set the stage for learning. Do not always state your opinion or the answer.

So, I really love being on the front lines like that. And just have to remind myself 1000 times a day, ask a question, as opposed to just state your opinion or the answer. This spoke, I got this book recommended by a bunch of people. And we're going to do book club starting January 7. This is called coaching for you can't see this unless you're listening in the car Coaching for Performance by Sir John Whitmore. Sir John. So, you know, it's good. So yeah, and it the overall thesis of this book is about discovery, setting the stage for learning, and not just coming down with, here's what you should do. And I tell you, it's tough because I know, especially if it's not me, you know how easy it is to see what's wrong with someone else it can you could be doing the same thing. But it's so easy to do, you just did that. And if you could pause long enough to help them discover it. And I think this is the key to be okay, if they don't, sometimes the journey, the long way is the better path. I was with my partner; Jim is definitely one of my mentors. And he and I were in the office talking and the door opens and one of his field supervisors comes in and says, hey, I got this problem. And this is what I think we should do. Boom, boom, boom, just need the green light. And Jim says, okay, and the guy leaves and I’m like, that does not sound like something you would green light? What happened here? And he said, I wouldn't do it that way. But I could live with the outcome. I could live with the outcome. Because what we would take away from that guy at that moment by going no, don't do that. Do this isn't worth it. And so even if we lose money, even if we go the long way around, if we let that guy make the decision and get the consequences, would that be a better path? And man, that takes patience, and I am not a patient person. So, I struggle with it. That's why I'm reading the book. Yeah, why we're having you know, at least have these conversations. I would say another tip here as you're trying to improve or change the way you operate because that's the only person, I can change is inside my hula hoop. Someone described it to just want you to take care of the inside of your hula hoop. Okay, so inside my hula hoop is all I can change, or control Then how can I effectively be an act in such a way that things around me change? Wayne Dyer says, until you change, nothing will change for you, once you change everything, and everyone changes. Yeah, so it's that indirect impact of you being better, being more, uh, you know, allowing, you know, finding a way and understanding to that. My hopes and dreams for you is not paramount here is what you want. And it would be perfectly okay. For you to say no, to go a different direction to get in a van and follow what's left of the Grateful Dead.

Steve Baker 30:44

Yeah, no. I love it. Because it's, it's the human approach, right? Instead of the command and control the Jack's been talking about for 40 years, that doesn't seem to work. One of my favorite articles he ever wrote was called, why I'd hate having a boss why I hate being a boss. You know, the whole thing is, nobody wants a boss, really. And so, you're, giving people an opportunity to try some things fail, try some things fail. And this is how we learn. But I really liked that approach. Because it's not the, you know, my way or the highway, and then people get resentful. And you know how that is just poison. So, it's very cool. I love hearing you say this. Now, you said something else that kind of ring a bell in me that sometimes it's really easy to see what's wrong, especially in businesses, and you've seen a lot of small business owners make the same mistakes over and over and over. Can you talk about a couple of you know, like, the top two or three things that you see people doing? And you're like, AH, but you, it can only help them so much. Right?

Ellen Rohr 31:53

You're right. And I you know, I think as you said it, what came up for me as being stuck in being right. So, if you've done something for 20 years, like the there's going to be some grieving, involved in letting it go. You know, maybe daddy did it, and his grandfather did it. There's some legacy about it. And so, you know, when you look at something that isn't working, can you detach yourself from the business? And I believe it's all what is anytime anybody's ever said to me, it's not personal. It's just business. I feel like I'm about to get screwed, just saying.

Steve Baker 32:32

I think those are the words, right? Before you get screwed.

Ellen Rohr 32:36

Exactly. So, I'm not saying that's --

Steve Baker 32:39

You're going to feel a little pressure.

Ellen Rohr 32:43

Yeah, you'll be fine. But the life is senior to the business and your life is how our friend Howard Partridge says your business exists for one reason only. And that's to help you achieve your life goals. So, if you could detach yourself enough from the business to see it as like a car, a vehicle, you can fix it, you can sell it, you could get another one, right? You could just let it rot. You don't have to do anything with it, you could walk away, you could abandon it, you know, it's just a car. And so, when you look at it in that way that can help you take a more, maybe a healthier approach to it. So, you know, making those analogies or trying to share that I see so many people get stuck and do nothing, because they're too attached to the business or what if this business failed, if that business failed, that just goes in the book, it's a chapter. It's a car that you abandoned or sold or let go or broke up and sold the parts. But it isn't you and you are never it. And that you know detaching yourself from the business is some you know, I see it as a healthy thing that most successful business owners have like when you look at the Great Game of Business, and that conglomerate, all those businesses didn't win the campout. Right. And you know, not every team member who comes on board, your company is going to be a good fit. Some of them come on, and hopefully while they're there, it's a good experience, but they move on. It's all right. And it doesn't make them worth less, they're not dead to us because they don't work for us. They're just it just didn't work out. So, if we could detach ourselves a little bit, I think that's healthy and helpful. So that's something I see over and over and sometimes I'm going to say something really brutal right now. Sometimes that turns into whining, and I hate whining and whining is repeating yourself and stating the obvious. So, you know I think where I lose patience is when I've heard it. I've heard it not just from you but a million other people. So that's where my patience runs thin but in the point of power in the Now what could we be in do and have that conversation interest me, but it does not? interest me when someone digs their heels in, like I did with my mentor, Ray Blau, and lists all the reasons why it can't happen. I'm not even being judgey. I'm just over it at this point.

Steve Baker 35:13

So, what got you out? That's really powerful right there. Because you said that you dug in your heels with your mentor, you're like, here's how it won't work. And I can totally relate to that. How did you find a way out of the victim role? In that case?

Ellen Rohr 35:27

I think another one of my mentors I love this guy's name is Harry Friedman fried man, the is his website. And he's a sales trainer. And he's very much a behaviorist. He doesn't get it like, and a lot of times, you know, with my bosses, I'm, you know, I'm an entrepreneur, because I'm completely unbearable at this point, like, you know, like, I get what Jack is saying, because I'm, I've always been a troublemaker, I've had a lot of jobs. I've been fired numerous times, like that is definitely part of my psyche. But one of the things that's always evaded me are pep talks, and rah rah, I am a very positive person, and I work on my own life. I don't like someone else telling me how I'm supposed to think or why I'm supposed to be happy or any, I just don't do well, with that. I believe my motivation is my business. And that's kind of where I come from. And Harry Friedman really struck a nerve with me in his messaging, he said that the only way to create confidence is to win. So, the way, what happened with me with raising my prices, is it worked. Okay, it worked. So, if we could like skip the RAH, like, you've got an investor who's put in a million dollars, and he wants to see someone you can tell him all day long, how great, it's going to be how hard you're none of that. All that's going to matter at this point is you better put some W's on the scoreboard. Yeah. So, what is it going to take for the win? And if you're losing, acknowledge the loss, and put a plan together to change your behavior to go for the win. That is a story, that investor might hang on to for five hot minutes, until you start to see some results. So, I think with me, I started to get some wins. And then I also Steve, are you a voracious reader, do you read or listen to podcasts, you get some other people's voices in your head. I mean, here we are in a pod.

Steve Baker 37:33

My podcast last week was about my goal this year was to get a book a week in whether reading and or with Audible. And I am amazed. Because I thought that it's unlikely, I'll hit that number. And I'm at 89, as of yesterday, so Wow, I'm like, Yeah, I'm soaking it up as fast as I can thank God for two times speed.

Ellen Rohr 38:01

Just to get like to soak your head in voices of you know, people who've done things that are interesting to you. Nobody's done it perfectly. In fact, the stories are interesting, because of the wrinkles and the mishaps and the rocks in the road and all that. But you know, I think over time, I just heard enough people say they don't like they don't complain, and I started to adopt a habit of it. At Benjamin Franklin, the USP at that company, was that we were punctual that were on time, until I became the president of Benjamin Franklin. I was never on time.

Steve Baker 38:37


Ellen Rohr 38:37

So, I had to, I had a decision to make our USP like an on my watch. That's the one we created. We're going to be the punctual. Benjamin Franklin, the Punctual Plumber, worked with Roy Williams, The Wizard of ads, it was spent a lot of money on it the whole bit, and I thought, and what do people want a plumber, they wanted to be on time, I bought every bit of it. And then I thought, but I'm late all the time. So, I made a goal that I would give someone a Benjamin Franklin, if I was late, I give them $100. I was late for a meeting for a phone call for whatever and I broke the habit of it. Thank God, I still work there. But it like broke. But what I realized in that process, too, is nobody cares why you're late, nobody cares that you had a wardrobe malfunction, or you hit nobody cares. I don't care. You don't care. I'm going to stop talking about it. And so again, as I went through this metamorphosis, I started to clean up my own standards, raise my behavior, and then I became pretty intolerant of it in others, just like so when people start to whine, I time them out. Okay, well timeout, cause that’s whining. And let's go about what is it that you do want, what could we do from here? And that's one of the ways that I can I move faster. In light of my no patience, as long as I follow the time out with a question as opposed to a directive. I fail on this every day. But even this podcast helps remind me of what I aspire to become. Alright. Oh, good. That's the direction I want to take. I love that good day. Yeah, I'm off to a good start with you today, my friend?

Steve Baker 40:23

Well, well, we're good for each other. Because we remind ourselves that, you know, there's only one person that can really get you off the blocks. And it's you. I used to work in the motivation industry, when I was in consumer goods. And I thought it was an interesting how many. I mean, there were billions, right in the motivation industry all about, you know, if you give people these points, and they can redeem the points for these rewards, that's going to incent them in some way. And really, they missed the whole point, which is motivation is intrinsic, we got to figure out how to tap it. And, and sometimes it takes this, you know, they I hear this a lot lately, iron sharpens iron, that sort of thing. And what you said about books and reading what Zig used to say, you know, what you put in is what you get out. So, a lot of it has to do with fixing this first I'm pointing at my giant noggin right now. It's like, you know, work on yourself, work your own stuff out. And then, you know, people will be inspired by that, I think and at least know if nothing else, you'll be smarter. And just a little bit, you know, better as you grow.

Ellen Rohr 41:28

I think, um, oh, go ahead. Can I just add something I was thinking about? Like, no, my partner, Jim, is absolutely my mentor. He's very much a behaviorist. And one of the things that he's done just, again, mistakes that small business owners make, maybe falling for things like do what you love, and the money will follow. And, like even so like even though there's a lot of, we can be of service, we can live a life of purpose all within business. And like you can get along in business, when outside of business, you may not with people who disagree with you, politically, or have different religious beliefs. And everything else like business seems to be a river that we can get in and go in the same direction, regardless of a lot of things. So, I believe in business and the peace and prosperity and freedom that it can provide my partner's very much about, let's not forget, we're here to make money. And let's not be apologetic about it. So even with our franchise, ZOOM DRAIN, what we talk about almost daily is no one's going to leave the franchise, if we give them too many calls. Okay, if what our systems that you engage locally, whatever we do, as you know, online and for marketing, and in bigger areas, you know, as we get bigger, we can look at regional and national marketing someday knows, we're like, no one's going to leave us if we give him too many calls. So, I think in business, don't forget the main thing, calls converted to sales. Sales greater than expenses creates a profit taken in cash, and you can fix everything, you know, that like just, this is what I love about my partner, because I tend to get kind of esoteric or look at the bigger you know, I love the big picture. I like the ideal scene. And I get very inspired when I think about like, five years from now. And he's going Yep, and today. This is what we are going to do. he's very good at clearing out the noise. And he's someone who hears all the noise. So, I watch him SIFT, like, he'll walk into the office, and you'll notice the light bulbs are out. And this is that and that, he'll notice all of it. And he'll still boil it down to one or two things that we have to do today that are going to make the biggest impact. And I think that kind of triage is really impressive. And something that I see small business owners, they get busy as easy. But focusing in on the few things that are going to grow sales, sales greater than expenses equals a profit ticket in cash, and fix everything. Yeah, yeah. Keep it simple. Yes. And thank you for the Great Game of Business and all the things you do because then when you engage the team, you might not know how to do it, but they do. Yeah, if you would just ask them, what do you think we should do? What are we missing? This is one of my favorite questions. What are we missing?

Steve Baker 44:21

And in the speed of business, we missed that so often, we missed the Idea Factory, because everybody's hung up in the KPIs in the moment. And pretty soon it's too busy. And it's crazy and all that frenetic mess. We forget the basics. And you just made me think of something that we've seen all the time, both in SRC and in Great Game companies around the world, which is when things get hairy, which they're hairy all the time. Right now, you can say supply chain and talent and you know, in a couple of years, it'll be we got too many people and we don't have enough orders or whatever. I mean, it's just going to be hairy. That's the way it is. And we missed that opportunity to stop for a second and breathe and say what do you think we should do? And the two things that you really brought up for me, were that in every single company that I can recall that there was having problems that they were playing the game, and they killed it the first few years, and now they're plateaued, or they're stuck, or they're in a rut or whatever. And we go, well, are you? Are you huddling? Well, yeah, we had to go to every month instead of every week. Okay, and are you playing mini games? Right, creating those wins, you talked about? Well, we're too busy for that right now. You know, there's always a reason and an excuse, and you're usually really good and legit, and all that, but we go, okay, if we're going to help you, let's get back to basics, which is, are we making money and generating cash? Are we creating wins? And what are we going to do to get to the next place? So, you really, you really kind of crystallized that for me?

Ellen Rohr 45:46

And well, that's why I'm such a big fan man of you and Rich of Jack, the crew. I mean, I'm I, you've had a big positive impact on my life and all the other folks that I've had the honor of working with, as well as so many across the globe. I mean, you're beating a drum, that's really important. So, thank you for that.

Steve Baker 46:05

Well, thanks. I stopped beating a dead horse a while back. So, I'm going for the drum I prefer the drum it smells better.

Ellen Rohr 46:14

You mentioned that. Are we out of time?

Steve Baker 46:17

No, we have time

Ellen Rohr 46:19

You mentioned the supply chain issues and the shortage of people and everything. You know, if you're in a town of even 250,000 people, let's say Springfield, Missouri, right? How many do you need three? Could you find three people? You know, if you're in a town like, you know, Phoenix, Arizona, there's 4 million? Could you find 20? Yeah, you know, like just Is it them?

Steve Baker 46:51

Wow. Now there's, there's some stuff we'd have to disengage with. Because you're right, you know, people get so attached to being right. That was one of the things I put in my notes here for the listeners. I love what you just say, is it. It's not you? It's me it maybe it is maybe it is me. We look at ourselves objectively.

Ellen Rohr 47:12

Four million people and nobody wants to work for you. Yeah, maybe. Right? Yeah. Right. What could you do different and better? And, you know, like, I saw somebody, I've got to be careful, because I don't want to bust anonymity. And it's a person I really, really liked. But I saw him talking about like, hey, I heard about his second home, and how successful and blah, blah, blah. And then he went right in with no irony at all, went right into a conversation of how rotten it is that kids today want $20 An hour for a starting job. And I'm like, you know, could you raise a family on 40,000 a year? Could you do that? Is that too much. And in my world, I'm keeping good water from bad water, I'm preventing more diseases than doctors have ever cured. These guys are going in there, they get it. Even in addition to COVID, we were already dealing with hepatitis and E. coli, and all those disgusting things in the drain. This is what our team, we're sending them out into battle every day with that is to is $20 An hour too much. I wish we could pay them three times what we pay them and that's going to, you know, that's part of my dream is that we just keep expanding, we get better at sales operations and marketing so that customers don't, who don't want to pay us anything are willing to pay us a premium price to keep them from dying. Right, you know, like, so is it too much to ask? I think that's what's changed in the labor force is that once upon a time, you know, my first minimum wage job as a waitress was $2.01 an hour? Yeah, it should be a lot more than that now. Right? It should be it should expand, and we should be able to figure that out without whining about it. So yeah, I don't know I have, well, the rest of the world is going to complain about the supply chain issues in the labor force. I'm going to take action and move under the radar.

Steve Baker 49:09

Oh, I like that. Yeah, a great way,

Ellen Rohr 49:12

What are we going to do? I'm going to go over the bar and share a drink with you and complain about how impossible it is never. I'm not doing that. Just not even fasting.

Steve Baker 49:22

That is a great attitude.

Ellen Rohr 49:27

What is my choice?

3. The team is everything. There might be some hiccups, but we're going to be better together.

You know, like, if I look at my own behavior, what am I going to do? Not that not going to complain about it. I figure our franchisees are better off with us dealing with the supply chain issues than on their own. That's my promise. I'm not saying we're not going to hit some hiccups, but we're going to be better together. We'll do it together.

Steve Baker 49:47

So, what you just said I think is a real big takeaway for folks. Which is, you know, it's all a choice, right? Viktor Frankl you know, said that the last of the human freedom is how we choose to respond to any circumstance. And if he can do that in a concentration camp, I should be able to get out of bed in the morning. My soft warm bed. [Laughter]

Ellen Rohr 50:13

Write that one down if you haven't read that book Man's Search for Meaning, is that the name of the book by Viktor Frankl? Yeah, that will take the whine right out of you.

Steve Baker 50:22

It will, it will for sure. We'll make sure that's in the notes as well.

Ellen Rohr 50:26

Okay, good, good.

Steve Baker 50:28

It's a good read, that's for sure. It'll wake you up. So let me do this. I wanted to ask, because I can see it on the screen. But for our listeners, you know, you're in the midst of this big move to Utah. You're growing ZOOM DRAIN at 1,000,000% a year, I would just tell us what's next for Ellen?

Ellen Rohr 50:52

Well, I this is my last career move. I'm going to die with my boots on ZOOM DRAIN. Hopefully someone else will have my job. Right as we grow and move, I'm absolutely unattached to the position at you know, if I can, when I look at my ideal scene, it's podcasts. I love talking and sharing great ideas and hanging out with smart people like you. It's riding along with service techs, just to let them know that I love them. And that what we're intending is to make their life better. Mrs. Byrne wiki and the service tech make that a great day, make it a prosperous engagement for our service techs, technicians and one that they feel really good about. You know that piece of it I really, really like and to bang the drum of ZOOM DRAIN. I've had a lot of jobs, and I really, really love where I am now. I'm working with people I love and trust and the sky's the limit. I love me a dirty job give me drains all day long. Love, love. Love it. So yeah, so you can find me at or And I don't you know; I also have a website Because everybody is not going to be involved in zoom drains. So, I do make some information and some connections available at Ellen To that's where I connect with my friend Howard and we're doing some work with the Great Game of Business there. So, you know, I just love talking about business and helping people create peace, prosperity and freedom through honorable profitable business.

Steve Baker 52:23

So beautiful.

Ellen Rohr 52:24


Steve Baker 52:26

Okay, so listen, we are always I talked a lot. No, no, this is great. One thing that Rich always likes to do is ask this question, which is what's the question we should be asking you?

Ellen Rohr 52:41

Oh, well, because I was so bossy in this conversation. I kind of talked about what I wanted. So, I'm, what would I let me turn it back around? Um, what? What conversation Do you like to have when you have a podcast? Like what makes it a good podcast for you? When you get off the, you know, we hang up, that was a good one.

Steve Baker 53:07

Oh, for me?

Ellen Rohr 53:08

Yeah. What is your intention with doing a podcast?

Steve Baker 53:13

Oh well, you know, I'm just going to be honest, I'm being selfish. This podcast is simply an excuse to talk to really cool people who are really smart. And I'm looking for some great takeaways. That's why do I go to a conference? It's not to just present our stuff. It's also to learn, right? Because I think I think when you stop growing, that's when you get old. You know, I mean, I'm still 20 in here, Ellen, you can tell that with you, too. I don't know what your inside age is. Mine happens to be 20. It was right before I ran through a plate glass window at a bar. So that's where I'm frozen in time. But

Ellen Rohr 53:48

That's so cool.

Steve Baker 53:50

You know, we're, I'm just very fascinated with what's out there. And it does come down to the simplicity of things. But yeah, that's why I do it is. So, I've got a ton of takeaways. In fact, I will read them back to you to make sure this is like court, you know, read back the record and make sure I got it straight.

Ellen Rohr 54:05

Just Okay, good. Let's do it. No, I'm with you, that's why I'm here too. I love the conversation with people who are willing to ask an answer and at least noodle the big questions.

Steve Baker 54:19

Well, it also goes back to the whining thing, we can choose to be a victim, we can choose to go out and change the world. I'd much rather do the latter. So, talking to other people who are doing it makes me think that okay, I was just at Walmart or whatever seeing humanity and I'm going there's not much hope. Having these podcasts is awesome, because you go there are people out there doing cool things. They're making money, they're changing lives, and they're teaching me better ways to teach other people. So that's pretty cool. Yeah,

Ellen Rohr 54:51

it because I see that too. We're kindred spirits in that. It How do you how do you ask that question? How do you facilitate that change? I don't know. No, like you set the stage, you try and discover it within your yourself and model it. But you don't have control over whether or not somebody is going to take the medicine. But it doesn't mean we stop finding ways to present the information to set the stage. And it's like golf. I imagine if I played golf, it's a game that would get your attention forever that this Great Game will definitely get our attention forever.

Steve Baker 55:26

Great way to put it. Well, here's what I heard. You should never have to sacrifice everything for your business. never marry a guy named Hot Rod,

Ellen Rohr 55:35

No. Strike that. Always marry the guy named Hot Rod.

Steve Baker 55:39

Always Okay. Always. Every industry had trade has trade magazines, read them. Whenever you take the medicine its fine. The power is in the now. Do something, raise your prices now. Get clear with where you are. And then you can get objective and make a choice of what to do next. I'm totally paraphrasing, by the way.

Ellen Rohr 56:05

You took a lot of notes look at you

Steve Baker 56:08

Oh, so many. Nobody wants to pay you anything. They may cry, but they will buy. I think that's a nice little Trifecta there. So, show up clean, sober on time dressed right and use a checklist and you put yourself in the stratosphere in the trades? And I would say probably in almost anything. It's just you know, dress up, show up?

Ellen Rohr 56:35

Mm hmm.

Steve Baker 56:36

That's pretty big. Right? money buys options. I'm going to come back to that over and over. I think it allows you to take some chances. Make a decision on what you want and why. And if you're stuck, maybe start with a question. What don't I want? The team is everything. Are you holding back because they can't do it by themselves? The basics always work, keep things simple. Profit and cash will fix everything. Let's see here ask a question as opposed to making statements set the stage for learning. Sometimes people see it, sometimes they don't. That's okay. Sometimes the long way around is the way people need to learn and ask yourself, can I live with this outcome? Okay, so when I'm coming down to the last few here, some common mistakes that people make being stuck in being right, people get too attached to the business, there will be grieving. If you can detach yourself for a moment and see your business objectively, your decisions would be better. Being apologetic about making money, forget about it. And then you said something really cool. And I probably oversimplified is like calls equals sales. If you, do it, right. Sales equals profit if you do it, right. Profit equals cash. If you, do it right, and cash gives us options. It goes right back to that whole thing of profit and cash will fix everything or it gives you Ellen hates whining because nobody cares. Clean up your own act. What is it that you do want instead of complaining about it, and the only way to build confidence is to win that's from Harry Friedman? Create small wins. And we're such big believers in that. He said something about taking action and flying under the radar where everybody else is whining about the industry or the supply chain or whatever. Just do something and then there were a couple of cool books Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, and the other was the

Ellen Rohr 58:37

Coaching for Performance.

Steve Baker 58:40

Coaching for performance by Sir John Whitmore. Got it

Ellen Rohr 58:47

Yeah, yeah, I mean, so many. I mean, as you were quoting those things, every one of those I got from a mentor, every one of those things I learned from someone so, you know, to Steve's point, fill your head with good, good thoughts and podcasts and interesting speakers and folks with whom you disagree and whatever it takes like to just but keep the conversation at a high standard. Like allow yourself to talk at a high level and not get caught in the things that are just going to weigh you down.

Steve Baker 59:20

Yeah, love it. You said, talking about your degree in business administration and LIFO and FIFO. You made me think of Gago garbage in garbage out. Don't you feel better when you're pouring good stuff into your head, and you wake up with ideas and all that instead of just you know? Yes, it's a whole different world.

Ellen Rohr 59:41

Yeah. And I have to work on like, I don't like someone to tell me what I should think or talk to me about my attitude. I do work on my own. You know, like, I figured that's my job and I do I you know, I'm a sunny person. I'm very positive. But I wind myself up every day I got a morning routine. Like I know we got to go because I'm going to be late and I, one of my one of my promises is to be punctual. So, I've got to go.

Steve Baker 1:00:07

Okay. All right. Well, let's get Ellen, it's always a pleasure to see you and to talk with you. It's been great to have you on the podcast. Let's do it again.

Ellen Rohr 1:00:16

Thanks for having me. Bye, everybody.

Steve Baker 1:00:20

Bye, Ellen. Well, folks, let's keep the conversation going. Send us your questions, your stories, your best practices, your ideas, your challenges and your victories. That is capitalism at its best. Thanks for joining us, and we'll see you next time.

Announcer 1:00:34

The "Change the Game" Podcast is produced by the Great Game of Business. To learn more, visit

Topics: Company Culture, Leadership, Planning, Strategy, Sustainable Business

About The Podcast

Podcast Banner

Hosted by Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker the Change the Game podcast highlights true life stories of organizations influencing positive change by doing business differently. They’re teaching people how business works and closing the gap between the haves and have-nots. It’s capitalism at its best. Inside each episode, you’ll discover stories of entrepreneurs who are Changing the Game.

Change the Game Podcast Trailer


Subscribe to Get notified about new episodes!