Entering a new state as a homeowner or realtor can be overwhelming. With no contacts in a new environment, it might be difficult to take the leap of faith. However, our guest today has made it his mission to bring the community closer, one excellent service at a time.
In this week’s episode, we’re welcoming Levi Torres, founder of High 5 Plumbing, a homegrown company that is revolutionizing the Denver plumbing industry. His community-focused approach has catapulted his company into the Inc. 5000 list, which recognizes America’s fastest-growing businesses! Join us for this episode as Levi shares his secrets to successfully building his own company and thriving in a community such as Denver, Colorado.
If you’re thinking of investing in a home or starting a local business in Denver, Colorado, then this episode is the perfect for you!
[1:20] How Colorado Has Changed in the Last Few Years
[4:37] Levi’s Journey to Becoming a Master Plumber
[8:41] The Turning Point of Levi’s Career
[11:28] Overcoming The Growing Pains of a New Business
[14:10] Levi’s 12 Steps to Landing Long-Term Clients
[18:50] What New House Owners Moving to Denver Should Know
[22:55] Pros and Cons of Tankless Water Heaters
[27:10] How High Five Is Overcoming the Supply Chain Shortages in the Industry
[30:05] How Levi Manages The Growth of His Business
[33:36] On Levi's Secret Formula To Maintaining A Positive Work Culture
[36:30] How Can Small Businesses Hire The Right Person?
[39:20] What Business Owners Holding Back Their Growth
[41:30]How High 5 Gives Back to the Denver Community
[50:05] How the High 5 Club Helps Homeowners Navigate Denver
[53:40] Why Denver, Colorado? The Story Behind Ian’s Big Move
[56:00] How Ian Started Giving Back Through Small Businesses
Stay in touch with Ian Jimeno and Levi Torres through their social media handles and follow them for more real estate with a dash of lifestyle goodness in Denver!
Levi Torres on Linkedin
High 5 Plumbing
High 5 Plumbing Website
High 5 Plumbing Facebook
Levi: Hey, everybody. Levi Torres here. I'm a Licensed Master Colorado Plumber here in the city of Denver. I've been in Denver now since the year of 2009. I really do love this. It's the best of both worlds. You get the mountains. You get the urban life. I really do love it. I've been able to raise my kids in this city. I would attest to anybody raising a family in this city, that's one of my biggest fun facts about the city, it's that how family-friendly it really is. That's what I love about this city.
Ian: I love it, Levi. It's something that I can attest too, as well. Not just the humans love it here in Denver, but dogs love it here in this city — my dog. Especially, coming from San Diego where I was born and raised, it's funny the units of measurement for dog parks over there were like in square feet when dog parks over here are in the acres of units of measurements. It's something for everyone. Even the dogs love it here, too, yeah?
Levi: Yeah, it is awesome. Like I said, it's a great state for anybody who, like you said, coming from the city. I grew up in a small, rural Colorado. I came from this. This was the huge massive city to me. So, it's a big jump for me. It's cool to see what it offers.
Ian: No joke. You mentioned you came here in 2009. I'm sure Denver has seen some sporadic growth since 2009. That's 13 years ago, going on 14. Is there anything in particular that you've seen? Going into the next decade of you living here, obviously, the bigger buildings. Is there anything else, maybe a culture shift that you even noticed?
Levi: Yeah, there's been a lot. When you just think of the last 13 years that's just happened in your personal life, let alone in the country as a whole, there's definitely been a shift — a shift in people's mentality, and people's habits, and the way people expect service, I should say. Definitely, a drastic shift. I don't know if it's just Denver. I really think that's across the board.
But definitely, here in Denver, you can see the growth. When I first moved here, you could see all of downtown Denver as you drove down I-25. Now you can't. There are so many buildings that you really can't see the skyline anymore. Definitely, a lot has just changed aesthetically. Also, like I said, the way the culture and people's habits, a lot of that changed as well.
Ian: Yeah, no joke. My parents lived over in the Parker area. Even the DTC skyline is silhouetting the Denver skyline. I feel like there's more and more urban sprawl going into different pockets of Denver. Maybe it's going to be continuing from there. But obviously, I guess, the skyline also of the mountains just overshadows all of it, which makes me even more appreciative of the land that we're living in here in Denver. I'm glad you're enjoying it, man. I feel like it's a good city so far. I've only been here for like two and a half, almost three years. So, I'm definitely enjoying it. I'm in it for the long haul, especially with the good people here.
Ian: Yeah, man. Outside of that, you mentioned that you grew up over in the San Luis Valley, in the Colorado area as well, right? How far is that from Denver? I'm not too familiar with it.
Levi: San Luis Valley is about a four-and-a-half-hour drive south of here. I grew up about seven miles from the New Mexico-Colorado border, a really small rural town called Antonito, Colorado. My parents still reside in that town. So, it's definitely been, like I said, a shock to come from a town of 1,100 to 1,300 people to moving up to Denver. I loved growing up in the rural area. I think it taught me to appreciate some of the things that become day to day here. There's no such thing as next day shipping down there. You can pay for next day, but it's still going to be three days. It didn't matter. Then when you come up here, and you're getting stuff the same day, it creates a little bit more of an appreciation instead of growing up with it.
Ian: Yeah, especially going from that small town vibe to the Denver City. You mentioned that you were a master plumber, or you currently are. Did you always have an affinity towards plumbing? Was that a generational thing? Maybe you grew up with it over in the San Luis Valley?
Levi: In all honesty, I didn't want to be a plumber. Very few kids say that's what they want to be. My dad was a plumber. He owns and operates a plumbing company in the San Luis Valley still to this day. He taught me that if you could use your hands, you'll always be able to provide for your family if you can use your hands. And so, he taught me and all my brothers. I have three other brothers. We're all licensed master plumbers in the state of Colorado. He taught us that as long as we can use our hands, we would never need anything.
From 16, I got my apprentice card when I was 16 years old. My dad started tracking my hours for me right away. So, by the time I graduated high school, I had enough hours to go get my residential plumbing license if I wanted to. But I was the typical student, I should say, that should go to college. I had really good grades, almost straight A student. I got accepted to every college I applied to. So, I ended up going to CU Boulder for about a semester. It wasn't until I got there and I actually first saw my first bill for being at college that I was like, dang, I got charged that much for being at school? If I would just go be a plumber, I would have made this much. I'm a very logical person. So, once I saw the numbers, I just made the switch right then and there to plumbing.
Once again, it wasn't ever that I had a love or I was great at it, I was good at it. I saw what kind of a career it could provide for me and my family. And so, I made the switch at that point to, hey, I'm going to just become a plumber. I made it through about four months of college and went right to my plumbing career from there.
Ian: Love it. It's funny how many people just consider college to be the path that they have to go down. I mean, nothing to blame with the past generation like Gen X or even before that. It's just times have changed. A lot of the, let's say, blue collar jobs or starting a business, or things that people just aren't aware of — a lot of the college students that go straight into universities, when they're 18, 19, 20, they just don't know what they don't know.
Ian: Instead of paying $40,000 almost per year and then coming out with student loan debt, I mean, here you are with a very viable trade that is going to be here for decades, if not centuries to come. Plumbing is always going to be in people's houses for almost ever. You have a skill set that is much needed within the community. I'm glad that you had that logical shift in your brain where you're like, "Instead of spending money, I'm already going to be — I have such a useful skill that I can be making money at this point." Especially at the age of 18, that's very considerable. What was it like starting off being a master, or not a master plumber yet but having that license at 18? How did you grow it from there, and maybe leading into the High Five Plumbing situation?
Levi: Naturally, once I left college, I went back to work with my dad who was still owning and operating the company. I worked with him pretty much from that point until the year of 2009. I really did. I learned how to do all the plumbing. I got to the point where I was managing the day to day of his business. I didn't collect the bills, but I did all estimating. I made all the decisions day to day for getting the jobs done.
I really just, in 2009, I wanted to have more opportunity. In a small rural area, you do hit a cap of potential. As a plumber down there, you're going to hit a cap. You can't grow a $25 million plumbing company in that area. It's just not possible. And so, I wanted those kinds of goals. I had those kinds of things I wanted to do so I made the move to Denver in 2009. I got started with a very great progressive company here in Denver that I became a technician with. I, very quickly, became one of the top plumbers there. I worked there for about two years.
It wasn't until — it was an odd situation, but I needed a day off. I didn't have PTO, and they weren't going to give me the day. I was going to have to get penalized. Me being a little bit stubborn and having a little bit of an ego, especially being 13, 14 years ago, I said, fine, I quit. So, I turned in the keys to my truck. I didn't have anything lined up or anything to do. Me and my wife, we're very heavy in network marketing, multilevel marketing at the time. And so, we were making small income from that, but I didn't have a plan or anything. So, I then quickly went and started applying.
I knew I was a licensed plumber, so I knew I'd get a job. That's one cool thing about being a licensed plumber. It's that, I never have to worry about getting a job. I would always get a job. I literally went from quitting one day to going to the next day to applying at places. I was getting offered jobs. But I was very quickly realizing that the place I had just left was the nicest, best place to work. There wasn't anybody that was offering what they were offering. So, I did what everybody else would do. I said, hey, well, I'm going to just start my own thing.
So, I started my own thing at that point. Me, and my wife Cassie, sat down. She thought of a really good name. I said, man, that is a really good name. We reached across the table and high-fived each other. We both just paused. We were like, well, what about High Five Plumbing? I said, well, at High Five Plumbing, every call ends with a high five. It just literally took off. We just went with it from there. There was not a lot of discussion after that high five.
Ian: I love it. I love that story and the fact that you totally forgot what the original name was.
Levi: Yeah, it was really cool how it happened. We always talk about it, like, dang, I wish we did know the name because it might be a good name. It really might be a good name to use for somebody else. You never know. But it was pretty cool, how it happened.
Ian: That's really good. At that time, I'm sure with small businesses, especially in Denver, in a bigger metro area, in 2009, starting out, you got this fresh new business. What were some of the growing pains going into starting High Five Plumbing? You were definitely able to do the jobs, but maybe hiring one or two more technicians to get more jobs. What was the next step as far as starting that small business?
Levi: The first thing that I noticed was, I had to generate work. That was the toughest thing. Being a new business, I had to start generating work. I right away started to do Grassroots stuff like chamber events and chamber of commerce. Every chamber of commerce I could go to, I would go to. You know what I'm saying? I started to tell the story because I knew that the story of High Five would mean something to somebody and say, "Dang, that has a little bit of a meaning to it. I think I'll give this guy a try." Me, being the person in the field at the time, being the only person in the truck, if you call the High Five, you were going to get the owner. You're going to get Levi. It was going to be Levi high-fiving you at the end of the job. I really started to lean on to the community. We started to see growth that way.
It was about two years into it before I hired my first employee. We got about two years in when I finally said, dang, I need to start training somebody. I always started High Five because I wanted it to be bigger than me. That's why I didn't call it Levi's Plumbing and Heating or Levi Torres' Plumbing. I wanted it to be something that was not tied to me, because I always wanted it to continue to grow whether I'm here or not. That's the reason why we went with High Five. I always wanted it to be bigger. After about two years, I knew I had to start bringing people on. And so, that's when I hired my first technician. It was after two years.
Ian: That's really good. Even after two years, I mean, me personally seeing — I'm a real estate agent. In a way, I have my own small business. It's a matter of, can I get my systems down and know what the payroll is like, or what the follow-ups are with my clients and things like that prior to hiring on that first technician or the first buyer agent in my side. In order for me to fully transfer those set of skills to that next person, I need to make sure that it's ironed out to almost perfection. If it's too perfection, I'll never get there. But near perfection, right?
Ian: I guess, getting those technicians on there and making sure that every call ends with a high five or even every job ends with a high five, I know you really take care of your clients. We were mentioning this before, on our previous call, that you have 12 steps to the ultimate client experience. I'm not sure if you know this or memorize this. But I'm very curious. What are those 12 steps to make sure that your client is coming back to you, sending out referrals to you? I know you're a networking guy, so you definitely want to make sure that they're well treated, right?
Levi: Yeah, definitely. The 12 steps, I don't know if I have them all, but I can get very close. In all honesty, when we started in 2012 to 2015, everything we did in those first three years was by accident. We had no plan, no game plan, no budget. We were just grinding. Calls were coming, I was going. There'd be times when I'd have to go take the money I just collected from one job to go buy the materials for the next job. It was a disaster, but we knew that we had to grind through that.
But in 2015, at the end of 2015 is when there was a massive shift for High Five. That's when we started to get a little bit more vision and clarity on what we wanted to do. At the end of 2015 in December, we made the decision to switch from a new construction remodel business model that we were in to a 100% service-based, which was a complete opposite of what we were doing.
In January 1 of 2016, we switched to 100% service model. Then we hired a coaching group at that point, called The Blue-Collar Success Group. That group was the one who then introduced these 12 steps to us. Now, it's a cool, unique story on how I knew that group. But the owner of that group actually was a coach of mine when I was a technician in the field. That's how I knew of him. It's cool that it stuck with me that the person was training, and then now he's training our technicians.
The 12 steps: the first one is, check your mindset. The second one is, check your appearance. The third one is shoe covers. You got to take your shoe covers with you to the door. The next one is not going to step back. The fifth one is introduction and business cards. Sixth is clarity questions. Seven is direct, discover, deliver. Eighth is build options. Build multiple solution-based options. Nine is present options and High Five club memberships. Ten is gain authorization and reinforce work. Ten is perform plumbing. Eleven is ask for review. Twelve is ask for a high five picture.
Ian: Nice. I love it. I feel like it was almost as if I was a client already, and you just walked me through the steps of what a technician would do at my own home. I absolutely love it, Levi. Going back to the whole coaching situation as well, I'm a big believer of coaches. In whatever profession you are, and whatever industry that you're into, a coach who has done it and seen it before can move you pass the growing pains so much quicker than having to learn everything yourself. The Blue-Collar Success Group, how long have they been working with your team ever since that switch to service-based in 2016?
Levi: Pretty much, we've been a member of their coaching group since January 1 of 2016. When we joined on, we were the smallest company they had ever signed on to coach.
Levi: It's a cool story for another time. The reason why he decided to coach us was because of my passion, because of where he saw I wanted to take the business. So, he took us on as the smallest company he'd ever taken on. We, very quickly, since 2016 to now, we've seen nothing but exceptional growth since then. Like you said, having that coach. It's funny, we call it the dumb tax. I didn't have to play near as much dumb tax when you have somebody who's already paid it.
Ian: Right. That's really good. Going back to the whole client experience. Especially with the 12-step process, even the first three or four, it's almost like preparing the technician to even interact with the client — the shoe covers, the mindset, your appearance, and all that good stuff. You make sure that they're in a prideful work situation. They love their job or, at least, they're appreciative of it. They respect it, right?
Ian: Then going into the actual client, maybe I can ask you some questions of what certain clients of mine ask or even just out of curiosity for me. I know with me moving from the San Diego area where you have tons of zero scape, not many lawns, it's a chaparral or a desert environment. Going into Denver, you have a lot more lawns. Some could argue that you have near amount the same of sunny days or dry weather as almost San Diego. There's really not too much precipitation that goes on these days, which makes me wonder why is there so many lawns. Nonetheless, I'm digressing. Or, let me digress.
They're winterizing the sprinklers or even certain plumbing issues with, let's say, pipes bursting and things like that — that's the only thing I can think of right now for people that are moving into the Colorado area that they should be more aware of. Is there anything that you see that — as problems arise with newcomers in the Denver area, is there anything that people should be aware of other than, let's say, winterizing their sprinklers?
Levi: I mean, that's really it. Another key to that now — I'm glad you bring this up because something we've been seeing in the industry is, there's a lot of people moving to Colorado right now. Now, there's a lot of plumbers moving to Colorado as well. Now, we hire a lot of plumbers from out of state. That's great, because then they come to work for us and we can teach them Colorado code. Because Colorado code is different than any other states. What we're finding though is there's a lot of plumbers that move from Florida, Texas, California, and try to start their own business before getting all the proper knowledge of the code. Then they come in doing plumbing like they did in those states. That's fine for nine months out of the year. But then, those three months, if you do plumbing like you do in those states, it will not make it through the coldest months that we'd have here.
That is the key. If you are going to be doing plumbing work in your home, yes, winterizing sprinklers is important. Don't leave your hoses connected. Just get in a habit of disconnecting your hoses all of the time. Never leave them connected. Swamp coolers. If you have a swamp cooler and not an air conditioner, you have to make sure you properly winterize all of those so you don't have problems.
If you live in a home that's older, a lot of the times, you've probably already had problems and solved the problems. Where we're seeing a lot of the problems is is in the newer homes. Because homes that have only been built in the last three or four years haven't experienced really harsh winters yet. The first really hard freeze we get, you may find some little gaps that weren't filled in your new home, in a brand-new build. Where a house that was built in 1950, they've made it through some pretty rough winters, and now they know what they need to do to prevent freezing. It's really about gaining education. If you ever have a problem from cold weather, make sure you gain because there's always a way to prevent it.
Ian: Yeah, 100%. Interesting how even just seasonality is such a difference here compared to any other state. Well, maybe in some other states. But the ones that you mentioned — from Texas, or Florida, or California — were just so not used to the winterizing or just preparing for those really cold months where it hits the teens or the single digits.
I guess, more on my curiosity's sake. I'm seeing more and more of these upgrades for, let's say, water heaters or plumbing where a lot of people are moving towards that tankless water heater situation. To me, I think it looks great because you're saving space, and it looks all modern in 21st century with all the LED lights and things like that. But with all this, I guess, upgrading for the tankless water heater, do you mind going into certain pros and cons of having this tankless water heater?
Levi: Yeah, 100%. Whenever somebody brings up the conversation of tankless, the first thing we have to know is like what is the reason that they're wanting tankless. Is it because you're running out of hot water? Is it because you need more space? Is it because you want to be more environmentally friendly? What is the reason behind you wanting to make that switch? Because that's the key. That's the very first thing. Because if you're just looking to get more hot water, and you're just tired of running out of hot water, well, we can get you another tanked water heater, than we can almost guarantee you would never run out of hot water. Tankless doesn't have to happen. That's the first thing. It's understanding what is the reason for wanting that tankless.
The thing with tankless is, if you have a really good setup, like if you have the proper size gas system and it's able to be vented properly, then I always recommend tankless because it is a great unit. You would never run out of hot water. They are very efficient, but they tend to be a lot more expensive. You're not going to save so much money and efficiency that it's going to pay for itself. It's probably going to take 10, 15 years to pay itself off based off of the cost of what they cost to install. Because a lot of the times, if you have a standard tanked water heater and you want to switch to a tankless, a lot of the times, the gas system has to be upgraded. The venting system has to be upgraded. And so, now you've added these added costs that you want.
That's why I always tell people, yes, tankless is 100% an upgrade. But what is it that you're trying to upgrade from? Are you trying to upgrade from lack of efficiency? Well, then we got to go tankless. You know what I mean? Because that's what we can do. But if you're just lack of hot water, well, there's other routes that aren't going to be as financially as expensive as a tankless. Yes, if your house is set up to have a tankless installed, it is a great, great product.
Ian: Got it. I'm glad that you're going through several different options than, "Yes, we got to get in that $9,000, $10,000 tankless water heater in order for you to feel very happy with it." No, it's not necessarily the case. You can actually answer a lot of your questions or a lot of your problems through anything but that tankless water. It's just the solid, or I guess not solid investment but it's just so — it's almost like an extra thing that you don't necessarily need. I know you brought up a certain bullet point there where it might be a little bit more eco-friendly. Is that the case? I guess, I just don't know the dynamics of how that works. Does it just heat it up very quickly as it goes through the system? How does that work?
Levi: Exactly. It's a normal stored water heater, it's a 40-gallon tank. It's going to always keep that tank to temperature regardless. So, if you're at work for 12 hours, it's going to probably heat that tank three times even if you're not there. Where a tankless unit, it only heats the water once the hot water turns on. It heats with a much hotter flame. That's why the venting and the gas has to be upgraded. But now it's just heating the water at a much quicker rate, so it doesn't have to store hot water. That's why they're so inefficient. Because as a storage tank, it's going to just heat the tank all the time. Whether you're using the water or not, it's going to just keep it at that temperature. Where a tankless is going to not even kick on until somebody turns on the hot water in the house. It won't even start to fire.
Ian: Got you. Thank you for educating me on that. I was very curious about that myself. That was more of my own curiosity. I'm noticing, with a lot of other contractors and as my buyers buy certain properties, a lot of them are first time homebuyers. They're just not knowledgeable of how much things costs, or how soon this job can get done, or what the length of time before it gets scheduled, all that good stuff.
But the main thing I'm wanting to address here is the supply chain shortage, and seeing if you have seen that affect your business in the past couple of months. Because I know, let's say, with egress windows, a lot of my buyers are looking to rent out rooms in the basement. They need those egress windows in order for it to be a conforming bedroom. Are there certain items that have been affected by the supply chain shortage on your business for High Five?
Levi: In the industry, there has been. But for High Five, there has not. We are a very, very systematized company. We kind of know, okay, we're running low on these. So, we always are very prepared. Even throughout COVID, when it all really started — that's when a lot of this supply chain issue started. It was in COVID — we never had a problem with anything. Because PPE gear, we've always carried it and always gave it to our technicians. They always had masks. They always had gloves. They always had hand sanitizers. So, we've already had it on stock.
If you were to walk through our shop, you'd see we are like our own plumbing supply house essentially that supplies our technicians. Our goal is to always make sure that we have stuff on our shelf. So, we haven't felt it near as bad as like some of the HVAC industry, where you can't store thousand furnaces and AC units. But with us, we haven't seen it near as bad. We've been able to properly plan knowing that these are going to be harder to find. So, we start the ordering process a lot sooner before we run out.
Ian: Got it. I'm sure your clients really respect that too of like, "Hey, you guys can get this done ASAP. Great. Let's get it done." I'm glad you guys are even taking —
Levi: I would say, we can complete about 98% of all jobs the same day. Our trucks are fully stocked. They come with water heaters, sewer cleaning machines. On site, we never, very rarely leave a job. When our technicians get there, they can estimate the job, complete the job, collect on the job all same visit.
Ian: Love it. Me, as a consumer myself, I love to hear that stuff. So, it's really good. Moving on to present day High Five Plumbing, Levi. I know we mentioned earlier that you're the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce 2022 Small Business of the Year. You got 2,000 five-star reviews. You're part of the Inc. 5000, which is the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the nation. That's really significant and a lot of really good metrics there. I'm curious. What do you attribute this growth to? Is it something with the management, the business itself? What is the secret?
Levi: There's no real secret. It goes back to making sure that you treat your clients right. Like I said, our mission, our High Five mission is to come together as more than individuals to create a positive impact on our team, clients, and community one high five at a time. So, it's literally in that order. We really believe that we have to take 100% care of our team. If we don't take care of our team, then our team is not going to take care of our clients. If our team doesn't take care of our clients, then it's not going to give High Five the ability to take care of our community. It really does all start with that. You have to make sure that — if you don't have a team that wants to come to work for you, then you're not going to be able to grow. You're not going to be able to get better. You're not going to be able to do these things, because you're going to be fighting with people to come to work every day.
I think that's really where it comes down to. I think a lot of people, they think about their team. But a lot of the times, it comes after the revenue, or after the bottom line, or after a lot of those things where it has to switch. Like, "We give you insurance after the day you start with us. Now go prove to us that we made the right decision." You don't have to wait a year. You start getting PTO right away with us. You don't have to wait a year. Go prove that we made the right decision now. That's what we've done differently with how we hire and how we build our team. It's much more of, "This is what we think you're worth. Now just go show us that we made the right decision," instead of, "Go do this, and then we'll give you stuff," which is a lot of the way it usually is.
Ian: I'm really glad that you're actually taking care of your employees. That's just something that you were seeing even prior to starting High Five Plumbing as a new technician, going out into the world and making a name for yourself as a plumber. But at that time, even at the best company at the time where you are realizing like, hey, even with the best company that I should be working for, I'm not getting proper PTO. I'm not getting proper insurance, dental, health, vision or whatever that might be.
And so, starting High Five Plumbing, you wanted to set that foundation. Everyone who is worthy of being in this business, you want to make sure that you're taking good care of them and have them prove to you like, hey, we made the right decision. I want to make sure I'm proving that to you. I think that's really good. As far as like, how many employees do you have currently at High Five?
Levi: Currently, at High Five Plumbing, we have 37 employees total between technician and office staff as well. So, we're still considered a small company, but we're right around that middle size. We're almost to the mid-sized company as far as employee numbers.
Ian: I, myself, have not grown a company to that degree yet. But with 30 something people in the company over the past five years, I find that to be still really significant. With a fast-growing company like that and you're hiring so many new people in different parts of the company, from the back end to the technicians, how do you maintain a good culture with High Five Plumbing? I figure there's enough people coming in or even out. You want to make sure that the quality of life within the company is top tier. How do you maintain that?
Levi: Once again, I think that's something that a lot of people throw around too lightly in all business' culture. It's, how do you maintain your culture? How do you do this, or how do you do that? The bottomline is, you have to learn how to hire for your culture. That's the key. Because if you're going to constantly be trying to get people to learn your culture, most of the time, the culture, you could probably pull the owner or the operator of any business. That's what the culture is, that person's personality. It's hard to train somebody to do somebody else's personality. But if you hire people, and if they see the culture before they get hired, a lot of the times they make their decision for you.
At High Five Plumbing, before we even have an interview, you get a tour of the shop. We take you on a tour because we want you to see that you're going to be building vision boards with us. Have you ever built vision boards? No. Do you know what a vision board is? No. Are you comfortable building vision boards? Because you're going to be building a vision board if you come to work for us. They also see that we donate to the community, and that we volunteer as a company. Have you ever volunteered? No. Have you ever thought about volunteering? Nope, I don't have any interest to volunteer. Okay, well, it might be awkward here for you. Because every month, we're going to be coming up and saying, "Hey, do you want to come and volunteer?"
Before they even sit down for an interview, they've already decided if they think this is built for them or not. A lot of the times in the interview, it's a very quick, like, "Hey, dude, I don't know if this is really the culture that I want to be a part of," or, "This is exactly what I want." That's what, I think, has allowed us to really increase our growth level. We weren't wasting a lot of time. We were hiring the people because they knew what they were stepping into before they even got offered a job.
Ian: Got you. I love that. It's almost like putting that sign in the fork of the road and like, "Hey, this is this is what it is. Take it or leave it. If you stay with us, this is what you're getting." There's really no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I can really respect that and lot of people. It saves a lot of your time as well, especially hiring the newest person. "Hey, this is what it's like. If you're interested, alright, let's keep going. Let's keep talking." I can definitely respect that.
Going into the hiring process, I guess, how do you maintain your sanity? Some of the audience members that are listening to this podcast, they're sort of in that growing stage. We have a lot of small businesses that also listen to the podcast or are featured on the podcast as well, and they're planning on hiring or maybe they were in that 2010, 2011 of Levi, where they're like, okay, I'm starting to make a name for myself. I got to start networking. How does one hire the right person? Maybe you've already answered that. But is there anything else that you want to impose to the audience as far as hiring?
Levi: The thing that I've found is, your hiring is going to be a lot more successful the more clarity you have. If you're just like, "Dang, I'm crazy busy. I need somebody to help me," and you just hire somebody but you don't know what exactly they're coming to help you with, it's going to be a disaster most of the time. There has to be clear cut lines. Everybody can run on the track together, but we all need to know what lane we're in. If you don't have the lanes, then you can hire, hire, and hire, and you'll never advance because there's no clarity.
That was a big learning curve for me. I was the guy that hired because I was busy. So, I just hired people. Then they would come in. Before you know it, I had five people who were just waiting for me to tell them what to do now. They weren't actually self-sufficient. So, it was like, yeah, it solved one problem of me not being busy, but it created another of me not having a plan. Once again, if I had a little more clarity of, okay, this guy is going to come in, this person is going to answer the phones, this person is going to do all the installs. Like I said, the first three years of business was just like shooting from the hip. Sweet, another person. We need help. Let's get this. Luckily, we made it through it. You know what I mean? Where a lot of companies don't. They don't make it to that first three or five years.
That's what I would say the key to hiring. Make sure you're clear on what you're hiring, because then that's going to make you ask a lot clearer questions. Now, you know a little bit more clarity on what you should be interviewing for because you know what they're coming in to do. That's what's tough. A lot of the times, if you're a smaller business, or you're hiring because you've never had this position, a lot of the times it's going to be some guess and check. You may hire somebody, and then they come in. You say, dang, man. I'm going to have them actually do this. Then you may lose people because you hire them thinking that they were going to be doing this, and now you're throwing and changing some stuff. That's all part of the learning curve. They expect that. But have some clarity when you get ready to start hiring.
Ian: Having the clarity, setting expectations. I feel like also letting go of control is another hard part of it as well, especially when you're the main plumber for High Five for several years. You do all the networking. You put on so many hats as that business owner, and letting go of some of that control must have been a hard part of it. I don't know if you wanted to delve into that a little bit more. But I noticed, even with myself, I like to do a lot of things myself. But the thing is, I can't grow because I'm so limited on time. I don't know if you want to expand on that a little bit more.
Levi: Yeah, up until 2016, we did not grow much at all. From 2012 when we started to 2016, we experienced very minimal growth. But once again, that's because I was trying to do everything. I wanted to be the man in charge. I had to talk, and I had to see every invoice. It wasn't until I got a coach, until I got somebody who can start to point out my flaws and the things that I could be doing to hold back the business, and start to question my thinking. I start to actually say, like, hey, well, what about this? Then that's when I started to realize, like, yes, I needed to give up some of the control.
Then once I got the coaching companies, when I started to hire management, I then started to actually hire managers. Once again, I like to call it guess and check. You're going to hire somebody, and it's going to either work or it's not. If it doesn't work, then you got to know that sooner than later. A lot of the times, people make a bad hire. Then they try to fix it, instead of it taking the defeat of maybe I hired the wrong person. That then puts a lot of businesses into binds. Like I said, I think clarity, clarity, clarity, clarity. Once again, knowing that if you go get help — don't be afraid to ask. If you're a plumber, and you want to reach out to me on social media, I will answer any questions. It's all about knowing that there's people out there who want to see you succeed. You got to find those people. Because if not, you're going to feel like you're spinning your wheels a lot of the time.
Ian: 100%. I love it. Speaking of that, giving back to the community, I know you're helping out with plumbers. You're helping out with your clients. But not only that, you're helping out with the community as well. There's a lot of aspects to High Five Plumbing that not many people know, that there's a third dimension to it where you're donating so much to these nonprofits, like a nonprofit of the month that you have. I wanted to delve into that a little bit more, especially with your apparel in specific. Maybe we could start out with — I know we mentioned this in a certain story with having your apparel or having a high-profile person represent or at least show off some of the High Five apparel. I was wondering if you could tell that story for the audience.
Levi: Yeah, definitely. We have our High Five Cares program, which is our giveback program. That's when we give back $3,000 every month. At least, $3,000. A lot of the times, more. But $3000 is at least the minimum. We created this because we wanted to give back to the community. As part of this program, we wear really cool stuff. I'm actually repping the Christmas gear right now. This is a Christmas shirt we make and give out to people.
People started to ask about where they could buy our gear. And so, we started the apparel program. But what actually start it from, it was, we had a spokesman. He was an NFL football player. He just did radio commercials for us and stuff like that. I met up with him, and I had asked him. I said, "Hey, can you do me a favor? Can you throw one of our shirts on and go to the park? Just take some pictures at the park with your family." I told him, "I don't want you to be like, hey, call High Five Plumbing for all your plumbing needs. I just wanted it to be like wearing my T-shirt while you were out on a Saturday. I didn't need any shoutouts. I just wanted it to look like you were repping us because you like us, not because I'm paying you, essentially." I was told by them that he would not do that because plumbing wasn't sexy. And so, that hurt my feelings a little bit as a plumber. Because I think we're kind of sexy.
But I did sit back. It caused me to say, "Dang, would anybody else, besides my employees, wear my gear? Would anybody, even my employees, wear it if they weren't at work?" The answer across the board was no. Nobody would wear our stuff if they weren't at work. I wouldn't wear it if I wasn't the owner. And so, that's when we made the shift. We started making cool hats, beanies, hoodies, T-shirts. We started to do it. That's when then we started to get people wanting to buy it. We're like, "Hey, we don't need to make more money. We're a plumbing company. That's how we make our money as a business."
But if we have people who want to go rep High Five Plumbing, then let's sell them some stuff. Let's just give all the money back to the nonprofit. All profits from all the clothing sales — it's not like it's a ton, but we do sell some stuff — goes right back to the nonprofit every single month. So, it's just a fun thing. It allows us to have a creative outlet, to create cool designs. It allows us to create shirts to give to the team. That way, they're always wearing our stuff around. My goal is still to, someday, just run into somebody who's wearing our gear that I've never met, like just randomly somebody walking down the street. I know people who have run into people. I've had employees be like, "I saw somebody at the Pizza Hut last night that had a hat on." It's cool to hear those stories, but I have yet to just run into somebody wearing our gear.
Ian: That is awesome. I will attest to that, too. When I was looking over at the High Five apparel website, there's this one new design. I don't think I saw it the last time we talked. It was like this '60's vibe. It just said High Five. No affiliation with the plumbing, nothing like that. But you know that as soon as someone, let's say, searches it online, you will come up in those searches. In a way, it is representing your business. I honestly would have worn that on my own, not knowing that it was a plumbing company.
Levi: It is funny. That's really what we did. That was one of the big switches. It was none of our gear says plumbing on it. Even our trucks don't say plumbing because we want to be known as High Five. Yes, we're a plumbing company but we're also a personal development company. We also help grow people, and we also help the community grow. High Five is just — we're High Five, and we just do it all.
Ian: I love that. I feel like that little snippet right there, that one is for the social media. I love it. One other thing that I want to bring up as well, I guess, before we get into that, is the current nonprofit of December. By the time this releases, it's not going to be December. It'll probably be in January. But maybe you have next months. But as of right now, do you know who the current nonprofit is? How did you even find this nonprofit?
Levi: Our Cares program is headed up by — we have a position called the community outreach coordinator. This person's job is to spend all day every day networking. They go to BNI events, they go to chamber events, they go interview preferred partners. We actually have other businesses; I could talk about that a little bit later. But we actually have somebody who goes around, and he finds different nonprofits. He looks at them and finds out where's their money going. Are they an open book nonprofit, or are they a closed book nonprofit? We go and look at them. Then we also do have to look at the business end of it a little bit. Do they have a social media presence? Are they trying to actively grow their nonprofit? Because we also ultimately try to help one that's really trying to get bigger and grow, so we can share their mission. Then they come up with three or four options that they have felt aligned with our values as a company. Then they go, they lay them out. Then management chooses from there who we've spotlight.
This month, it's actually Veterans Post Number One of Denver. It's the first ever veterans post ever created. They have an art gallery that is completely stocked with art from veterans that you can go purchase, and the veterans get the money from it. It's been really cool. The gentleman who runs it is actually legally blind, and he's an artist. To see some of the art that he creates when he can't even legally see is just amazing. That's huge for December.
January, I don't think we've announced yet. So, that won't be announced until probably shortly before Christmas because we do try to be real strategic. Because we don't want people to think that we're not doing — because our ultimate goal is to spotlight the nonprofit. We try not to roll out the next nonprofit before we fully finish spotlighting the existing one.
A lot of the times, we will not introduce the next nonprofit actually till a couple days into the next month. Because we don't want people to feel like we're just doing this just to get recognition, whatever anybody may think of the reason. Because that's all been stuff that we've gotten back. Because people naturally, on social media, you get a little bit of hate sometimes even when you try to do good things. And so, we have gotten a little more strategic about making sure that we do spotlight them to their fullest. That way, they can 100% get the benefits of being partnered with High Five in our social following.
Ian: Love it. That's so good. I love it. I love it all. The art itself, I'm noticing too. I'm definitely living in a place that has a lot more square footage and has a lot more white walls. I don't have enough art to put up on these walls. So, I definitely got to reach out to the nonprofit. I appreciate you mentioning all that, Levi. I guess, the last thing I do want to mention is the club membership as well. I know you were talking about some affiliate partners if you were to join this club membership. Why would someone want to join the High Five Club? What are some extra perks?
Levi: The High Five Club was actually created because a lot of companies in our industry have what they call a maintenance program. They can come and check your plumbing or heating. They'll check your stuff, make sure it's working good. I didn't want to start another maintenance program. I wanted to create something that was of value for people. And so, the one cool thing about being in the trades is, I know people in every walk of the trade. I know tile people. I know drywall people that I trust and I would have come into my home. What we were finding with our customers and our clients is that they didn't have that. They were essentially going off of just whoever was popping up on their phone. We thought, well, dang, if we could just create a list of other home service providers that we know are good because we've worked with them and we've used them, and they'll give a discount to our customers, then why shouldn't we do that?
So, we created the High Five Club. We have 14 other home service providers. We have garage doors, painting, landscaping, fencing, window washing. Anything to take care of your home, there's a provider in our club membership. They're going to give you a discount from their normal costs because you're a High Five Club member. So, not only are you going to get the perks of now you're one of our VIP customers. You call us, if you're a club member, you're going to get the time that you want us to be there because you're a club member. But now you're going to get discounts from vetted, respected vendors that you can now know. If I trust High Five, then I know that they reviewed these companies. They believe that these companies are going to treat me the same way they treated me. So, it's a huge value with the club membership.
The problem I didn't like in maintenance programs is because maintenance programs were usually only sold if the discount, what made enough sense to pay for it. Because you usually get a discount by joining these memberships. People were only buying it, so they very quickly became a discount program. Where with ours, we actually have people who will buy the club even if there's no plumbing that needs to be done, because they see the value of having this discount from all these vetted vendors.
Ian: Love it. That's so good, man. Not only that, but you're also building that own referral network within your company as well, and people that go to — I think it was, Rex Environmental is one of them. They're currently working on my basement bathroom for like — we had some sort of water issue. We had to do some restoration on it. They check for mold and all that good stuff. So far, they've been really good and very communicative. I saw that on your membership program. I was like, hey, I know those guys. Definitely, I can attest to them. I can't wait to start using you guys as well for High Five. I want to try you guys out in the future.
With that being said, Levi, thank you so much for hanging out with me and even talking about High Five. Before we sign off, I'm curious if you have some questions for me. I like to turn the tables here and make sure that it's not just a one-way street here. Sometimes I like to have the guests ask some questions over to me. I'll leave the floor to you. I'll give you the mic.
Levi: Perfect, Ian. Me, growing up in Colorado, I've lived my whole life in Colorado. I'm just going to straight up ask you. What were you thinking leaving San Diego's weather to come to here?
Ian: You're not the first to tell me that. People in Denver and San Diego told me that I was crazy for moving over here. The big thing was is that, my wife and I, we were born and raised in San Diego. A lot of our extended family lives over there. A lot of people that I was meeting that weren't from San Diego, they were telling me like, "Don't ever leave here. This is the best weather, the best place that you can ever be." I was like, how can I even have that mentality if I don't know what it's like outside of it? I don't know what living in even Florida or any other state is like.
If anything, I think it was just more for the experience. I think we had a couple of other states in mind. But also, my brother and my parents moved here not too long ago before I did. My brother sort of started the trend. I think in 2015 or 2016, that's when he first moved here. Then we also want to experience the whole snow situation. The first two winters were not very pleasant for me. But nonetheless — it's funny, too, I mentioned to people that San Diego, you get that ocean view. But the thing is, you don't get the ocean view anywhere except for maybe like 500 feet out from the coast. Versus mountain views here in Denver, you get that almost anywhere. Even in Aurora, you can see the mountains even over there in some neighborhoods. If anything, I think I'm much more appreciative of the wilderness, the wildlife, and the nature aspect, which sounds very cliche. But I'm definitely enjoying it here. I'm in it for the long haul.
Levi: Awesome. Like I said, that's cool. Once again, that's what brings a lot of people here. Growing up in the cold, it definitely makes me want to go maybe give a try my hand at the warm weather. Awesome. Then my last question I really just have is like, what inspired you to want to start to do this podcast? What inspired you to want to start to give people your knowledge or to bring my knowledge to people?
Ian: For sure. I'm glad you asked that. When I came here in August of 2020, it was during the heat of COVID. I did not have many friends outside of my immediate family here in Denver. I couldn't go to meetups. I couldn't go to restaurants or bars or anything like that. I needed to find a reason for people to talk to me.
The main reason or the reason I came up with is, how can I provide value to the community? That value came in the form of small businesses. I tried my hand at outdoor pop-up shops like small bakeries, cocktail additions like kimchi makers. They were in the cold at these pop-up shops, at swap meets. I just was so curious what that was like starting a small business in a place like Denver, where I hear it's very accommodating for small businesses with the cottage acts and even just, like I said, a lot of accommodations for it. I found myself starting a podcast and broadcasting out their message and story out into the world. It brought me a little bit of joy. I got a friend out of it. They were very appreciative of the free advertising as well.
This is all free. I'm not asking for anything other than your time and your story. I'd rather get good people and good businesses on the podcast that I can portray out into the world. Eventually — I want to say this to you, Levi. I am manifesting it right now — It's that, one day, I want to say maybe like a couple of years in the future, I want to have an Invest in Denver event with local bands. Let's say, High Five has its own tent or pop-up shop, or in a beer garden with local beers and things like that.
Levi: Maybe some keynote speakers, that'd be great.
Ian: Exactly. Even people from the chamber of commerce, like people that are well-networked within the community. That's where I foresee this going. But we'll start with just the podcast for now, this time.
Levi: Awesome. Cool, man. Yeah, that's awesome.
Ian: Yeah, I appreciate that, man. Thank you for the questions. This is why I like to turn it back over to the guest. With that being said, thank you again for being here. How can people even reach out to High Five Plumbing? I know it's very easy to find you on Google. But is there any way that people can reach you?
Levi: The best way, like you said, Google. If you want to find out how our customer service is, then 100% go to Google. We have over 2,200 five-star reviews. But if you want to see how High Five is as a company, then check out our social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter. We're on all of them. Go check us out, and you'll see a little bit of how High Five operates behind the scenes. Like I said, we're good at plumbing. That's why we're a plumbing company. It's the other things that we do that we are really proud of.
Ian: Love it. It's not just High Five Plumbing. It's just High Five. You got all the aspects tied along with it. As for me, myself, I am ian.realestateagent on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube as well. I provide a lot of good weekly content for real estate people, house hackers, home buyers, sellers, whatever it might be. I do vlog tours in Denver. Reach out to me. Also, hit me up 720-704-3522. End of the proper spirit, we want to make sure that every High Five call ends with a high five. So, before we do that, I do want to record it as well. Levi, let's get to high five. Cheers, man. Nice.
Levi: Thank you.
Ian: Thanks again, Levi.