Episode 155: Empowering Growth: The Art Of Stepping Back And Building An 8-Figure Business With Tim Maxwell
Growth is not only about increasing numbers, but also about inspiring a team to strive for progress and giving them the confidence to move from being caught up in small details to leading with vision. In this episode, we have Tim Maxwell reveal the strategies for transforming a seven-figure venture into an eight-figure powerhouse. Tune in now and learn the secrets behind Bunney’s Inc.
What the podcast will teach you:
- Strategies to scale a business from seven to eight figures
- Managing seasonal fluctuations and scaling teams during peak periods
- Transitioning from hands-on work to visionary leadership
- The importance of strategic hires and fostering a growth-oriented culture
- Building robust processes and leadership bench strength for sustainable growth
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
I am here with a good friend somebody who I’ve known for several years. I’ll introduce him but then I’m going to ask him to tell a little bit more about himself. Tim Maxwell is one of the co-owners at Bunney’s Incorporated. He serves as the Vice President of Operations. He and his wife Andi have built that company over the last several years. I’ve seen them grow tremendously as people and leaders. That’s why you’re here. Welcome to the show, Tim.
Thank you very much. I appreciate you having me.
Give our audiences a little bit of background about who you are, your history with Bunney’s, and what Bunney’s does, and then we will jump into some of the leadership and company-building work lessons that you’ve had.
Thank you very much. I’ve lived here in Arizona for a little over 50 years. I worked primarily on farms and ranches as a young man. I went into the military. Upon exiting the military, I worked at the power plant, also known as Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, for a couple of years. I went into the construction industry, did approximately 12 to 13 years of working with fire protection systems, exited that field, and became part-owner with my wife of Bunney’s Incorporated.
As owners of the company, we also have to have other businesses because I believe in having multiple buckets of revenue for retirement. We do cattle ranching, not only in Arizona but in Arkansas as well. We had a couple of other businesses in screen-printing hats, stickers, and stuff like that, and then had a business selling beef to the outside world. Since then, we have closed down both of those shops.
Our kids have picked up and moved across the country to South Carolina. We support them from a distance. Here’s a little bit about myself in Bunney’s Incorporated as far as being the Vice President of Operations and growing the company from a 7-figure to an 8-figure company over the years. There has been a lot of trial and error but with the help of great people like Brett and his team, we’re able to move forward.
I want to pause to thank you for your service. I sometimes forget that some of the people in my circle have served in the military, and I want to honor that. Thank you for doing that. The next thing I want to call out is the concept of having multiple buckets through which you ensure your family and your personal financial future. I’ve always respected that about many entrepreneurs and you fit that mold well. You get involved in many things so money is coming in many different ways and that relates to a lot of people that are reading this.
The other thing I want to call out is your deep experience at the power plant. You mentioned the Palo Verde nuclear power plant. You spent time working there in different areas. I want to get to this. Bunney’s Inc. is a contractor that serves maintenance needs at not only the Palo Verde power plant but also other power plants throughout the state. Why don’t you talk a little bit more about what Bunney’s does before we jump into some of your lessons learned?
Some of the things that we do very well for not just Arizona Public Service but for Salt River Project as well and some of the local municipalities is we provide maintenance and service in the power industry. We help utilities throughout the state make sure that there’s power online for the end user, which is you and me. We work on the radiator system of their car or nuclear power plants but we do a lot of concrete and mechanical system work. We don’t just do maintenance but we do service. We do new construction as well. That’s throughout the whole state. It’s not just one plant.
One of the fascinating things about Maxwell’s business, this one in particular, is that it has this crazy swing in seasonality. There are certain periods in the year, especially at the nuclear power plant, when there are planned outages. This probably applies to other power plants as well but let’s focus on Palo Verde. During the planned outage, there are parts of that plant that are going to be out of production so that the right shutdown, cool-down, and then maintenance kinds of things can happen in the window that is the shutdown.
Your team has to swell large for those several weeks that you have a shutdown, and then it contracts back down for more of a standard operating throughout the rest of the year. Why don’t you speak about that, how long those periods are, and how much your team fluctuates? That’s a fascinating dynamic that you have to deal with.
During the refueling outages or the work windows that are given for these different power plants that are throughout the state, our company is primarily about a 70 to 75-person company throughout the year. During those times, we will fluctuate up to over 200 folks for approximately 6 to 8 weeks and then ramp back down. Depending on the outage season, we will determine how many times we do that in a year. It’s pretty consistently twice a year in the spring and the fall but sometimes we do it as the need arises throughout.
That creates or introduces a level of complexity that, thankfully, most of us don’t have to fluctuate that much. I’m trying to get them to imagine as fellow business owners what it would be like to swell 2.5 times or more in employee count for 10 weeks and then slim back down to your normal team size. That has to be something. It seems like there’s always a war on talent of sorts.
How do you find good people, bring them in, ramp them up, and get them ready, and then only to offload them shortly thereafter? I understand in this industry that it’s common knowledge for a lot of these folks who are working these jobs and maybe they like it that way but it’s still an operational feat for you to swell up, do those outages, and then take it back down. It’s super interesting.
We’re signatories with six local unions here in the state from the carpenters to millwrights laborers and equipment operators. We’re signatory with quite a handful and that helps when it comes to the laborer. When we need to ramp up, they step up and help us out quite a bit as far as giving us the trades and experience that they have to support us. We’re pretty grateful for their being there for us.
I could have you share more of your experience in that industry specifically. I find it so fascinating but we will chew up all of our remaining time doing that. Let’s move on to some of the lessons that you’ve learned as a leader and a business builder over the past several years. You and your wife together have successfully grown Bunney’s Inc. double in terms of revenue and impact in the time that I’ve known you.
What are some of the things that you found holding back your growth? You think back several years to when it felt like, “We’re having a hard time moving forward.” What are some of the things that kept you held back where you might have gotten in your way or you didn’t quite understand or see something the right way? As you think back, what are some of those sticking points that you ran into?
One of the biggest ones that I found was myself. I found myself in what we call the grass. I was always doing work and not paying attention to what was coming. When I did pick my head up to see what was coming, it was too late. I had to get mindful about stepping back, letting other folks do it, and projecting where I’m going, what I’m doing, and how I’m getting there. It’s the biggest one when you’re trying to go from the do-it guy to the entrepreneur guy and the business owner guy.
You have to put on a bunch of different hats but it’s a necessity to grow. I know what I’m capable of and I knew that the number that we were able to get to wasn’t where we wanted to be. I had to do a couple of good hires even though it seemed like I never had the money to make those types of hires. I figured out that if I didn’t make the hires, I was going to stunt the growth of the company because I was only able to keep it growing to a certain place.
Reaching outside and surrounding yourself with other people who are going through the same thing, I realize that it doesn’t matter how big or small your company is. You’re going to go through the same pains. The same pains are going to keep resurfacing. If you don’t have a group of people to support you through those pains, it can start making you feel like you’re on an island in the middle of the Pacific and nobody is there to help you. That’s not true at all. There are a lot of great people out there who want to help you succeed and are more than happy to help you get there.If you don't have a group of people to support you through those pains, it can start making you feel like you're on an island in the middle of the Pacific, and nobody can help you. That's not true at all. Click To Tweet
I want to back up a little bit and talk about being in the grass with your head down doing the work. A lot of people can relate to that if you had some practical tips for how to get yourself out of the mode of being in it and doing it because that’s familiar territory for all of us, “We know how to do this work. Let me head down and do it.” Let’s not talk about the virtue of putting your head up, looking out, and getting above it all. Let’s assume that for a second. What are some practical ways that you made it happen to be able to get out of the day-to-day more?
The one thing I had to do was I had to be super mindful and make time available to focus on the on part, not the in part. When you focus on the on, the in becomes easy. The on is the hard part because you always tell yourself you don’t have time to work on that but the reality of it is that if you don’t make the time, you will never have the time.
It was going to my phone, putting 30 minutes a day, and setting a timer so that it would tell me, “You have to work on the company. You have to work on this specifically. Start writing your processes. Start looking at your org charts, the depth of the bench, and redundancy. Where can I build this thing up to where I’m going to be more successful?” It was putting time on my phone every single day to where I made time to do those things and then started working with my teammates so that they could fill the same growth mechanism to help them get out of it to where they could work on what they needed to rather than in it.
I know some people hear that and go, “I’ve tried to do things like that before but then real life happens.” The fires are burning and things are screaming at you to pull you back into the grass. How do you keep from giving in to that? It’s so strong.
I had to make this a priority that if I didn’t do it, all the outside screaming was going to get worse and I was going to become the plug to everything. I had to make it. Other than my wife calling and saying, “You need to get home. There’s an emergency,” that was my top priority because I had so many people relying on me. If I didn’t get to the on part, then they were always going to have that feeling, “We can’t get going where we need to go.”
If you can force yourself to take 30 minutes to hang out by the water stand and get a drink with a buddy, you can take 30 minutes to be intentional about working on the company. Once you start doing it, you will find that it’s pretty easy. When you get the rest of the team involved, it picks up pace pretty quickly. What it took was the discipline, the consistency, and the constant reminder by the phone, “You have to do this to have a better company.”
I want to couple that conversation with the next one. You mentioned specifically hiring some key people that would help you get out of that day-to-day, not necessarily because they would come in and say, “You’re out,” but they would be capable enough leaders for you to confidently give them big chunks of responsibility that would free you up to get out of that day-to-day. If I’m putting words in your mouth on that, please correct me. You talked about some key hires and you were connecting that to freeing yourself up in the day-to-day. Can you elaborate on that?
Sometimes you have to make that hire to free yourself up so that you can do more even though it’s scary, “Where am I going to get $135,000 a year to pay this guy to come in here?” You’re not going to grow. That person will pay for himself three times when you make the right hire. How it worked for us was in my org chart, I have two general managers. By hiring them, I was able to give them significant responsibility in the company where I was able to pull back and monitor what they were doing.Sometimes, you have to make that hire to free yourself up so that you can do more, even though it's scary. Click To Tweet
I was able to go 80/20 with 80% of my time on and 20% in whereas before, it was the exact opposite of 80% in and 20% on. It’s being able to make that higher, shed some responsibility to a degree, keep a monitor up, set guardrails but still make time to get those processes in place where more people are successful. More people will be learning what you know and being as successful as you are. Doing that key hire thing was a big push for us.
I appreciate you expanding on that because you did mention it, and then I wanted to come back to it again. Thank you for that. You talked about working on the business and making time for that each day. Early on, it was probably more of a struggle. Now, you’ve got these key team members in place that allow you to set up to 80% or maybe more of your time working on the business, not being stuck in it. That’s allowed you to scale to a new level altogether.
Let’s talk about any company building, not just changes in your behaviors where you spent your time but some of the things that you’ve done to intentionally enable that business to go to the next level beyond hiring a couple of key people and spending time on the business. Were there processes? Were there planning rhythms? Were there any other keys in the business that allowed you to level up?
Working with you helped a lot. Working with people that want to see you grow helps. As far as what it’s done for us as a company as far as diversifying and growing, we only had one office before. Now, we have two. How we have grown is there are a lot of processes in place that a person comes in. They read a process. They can execute the task and win. We’re getting more relationships with banks.
There was a speaker at the leadership convention in Park City that talked about a relationship with a bank. We had done that years ago. We were able to spend the time that we needed to find a bank and qualify the bank so that we had somebody that we could work with. It gave us a lot of room to play ball but when your head is down, you can’t play ball. You can get a single now and then but being able to see the whole field is a big deal. A lot of processes got fixed.
Speaking of that, we didn’t have some processes in place. We had a person leave. They were in a significant position and it crippled us for a minute to where we had to step back, look at our org chart, and go, “How do we pull the redundancies together? How do we build up rather than out? How do we reinforce so that we don’t come up this short again if something happens?”
Since then, all the critical processes that run this company have been documented. They’re all in a hard case, “If you do these things as this says, you will be successful.” We didn’t have that before and I wouldn’t have been able to do that before had I not done those two big hires. It’s critical, to be quite honest with you.
I know you well enough to be able to ask this question. I want to spend the last of our time on your enlightened way of thinking about building leadership and a bench in your team. I don’t need you to reinforce the idea that you should have a bench and bring people up. Let’s start with that as the assumption. Let’s start with the way that you are building people. How do you do that? How does it show up in your calendar? What does it look like for you to build a leadership bench in particular at Bunney’s Incorporated?
When a person is hired here, we look at, first off, “Is it necessary?” We also look at, “How much do we want to teach? How much do we not want to teach? How much is necessary? How much isn’t?” We have a lot of safety in our programs that a lot of people don’t. When you come to interview with me, what I’m looking for is for you to care about your future, where you’re going, and how you want to get there. I want to know you want to grow as a human being and a team player.
There are a lot of books out there about ideal team players and a follow-the-hungry-humble-and-smart program. Those folks want something in life and I want to help them get there, whether it’s professionally or personally. First and foremost, you have to want something more out of your life because I don’t want to try to teach hunger.
You want somebody hungry and somebody who wants growth. If they say, “This is what I do and that’s all I want to do,” and come in and do the job, what’s your response to that?
“I’m sorry I wasted your time.” It’s not going to work for anybody. I want people to want to grow in a company or grow in their spirit or whatever it is. As long as you’re on a growth path, we can create the rest of your plan. We have milestones here that you’re going to reach and accomplish over time. We want to see you be successful and we want to be successful with you.
To get to the point of the redundancy, there’s some of it that you didn’t necessarily want to talk about but it’s based on the whole idea that if somebody got sick or called off or was gone, there’s always somebody in line with you that can take your place and take over some of your work. They don’t necessarily replace you but it’s not a whack to the company.
It’s like, “The person has gone on vacation for two weeks. Move this person up here and let them do that task as well or do a part of them.” That way, that person is learning how to do that next job as well as the job that they’re doing. Somebody is always learning the next person’s job as well as their own. It helps them with the transition to the next spot.
I have to imagine some of the process documentation you talked about where all the key roles and processes in the company are very well-understood and documented but beyond that, it sounds like you’re having people actively stretching into the next roles. Are they practicing in those roles? Are they shadowing? How are you practically developing these people beyond, “So-and-so is on vacation. It’s time to throw somebody else in there?”
They will be coached and mentored through that. That next leader is going to come down and help that person work through some of those roles and responsibilities. They’re not going to get loaded with all of them. They will get loaded with what they can handle and what they need to learn first, especially about that next seat and how it affects the organization. The next leader up will come down, coach, and mentor as that person comes up. That person is on two weeks’ vacation. There’s always, “If you are my boss and I go out, you’re coming down to meet with Austin and make sure that Austin is going to be successful in that role as well.”
That way, you know who is capable of doing some of what you do and you have an idea of what path he’s on. It’s a direct link from A to B to C to D. We know what your weaknesses are and we can help you. We know what your strengths are and we can utilize them throughout the team. You don’t just get to come, go to work, and get a chick. You have some stuff you have to do here. Hungry people are so much easier to lead. I’ve been told a lot of times, “You’re a great leader.” I have a great student. If I don’t have a great student, I’m not worth anything.Hungry people are so much easier to lead. Click To Tweet
You probably put a lot of emphasis upfront on the selection process and getting the right person in there. Once you do have the right person, it’s not that hard to guide them a little bit, mentor, coach, and help them progress because they’re already on an upward trajectory. It’s what I hear you saying. I haven’t come across many leaders who are as naturally built or able to bring their people along and up.
I’ve seen you do the work of being very intentional about each role and the responsibilities of those roles and then making sure we bring the right people in who are growth-oriented and hungry and who can start to step into roles bigger than the ones they occupy. I see you bench-building as good as or better than any of the other business owners that I know. Thank you for sharing some of that with us.
I appreciate you letting me come here.
If anybody wants to learn more about Bunney’s Incorporated or connect with you online somehow, how would they do that?
The best way is to go to the website. There’s a place in there with a phone number. You can email and leave a message. Everyone would be happy to get right back to you as soon as we can. That’s BunneysInc.com.
You can connect with Tim and his team. Tim, it’s been a pleasure having you on the show. You’re a wealth of wisdom, leadership, and greatness. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you. I appreciate your time.
For all of you reading, please like, share, subscribe, and do all those things so that we can help as many seven-figure business owners as possible get access to these real lessons being shared by real business owners who have taken their businesses from the low 7 figures to the upper 7 figures or even 8 figures and beyond. We always bring great guests like Tim. I hope that you will continue to be with us. Until next time.
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