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#150 - Interview with John Wilson, CEO of The Wilson Companies


Buying, building, and operating businesses in the trades with John Wilson, CEO of The Wilson Companies

Topics Covered:

  • The first 90 days post-close in a service business

  • How to structure compensation and incentives in the trades

  • How John sources deals through CapTarget

  • Why John insists on using ServiceTitan in the trades

Listen: iTunes, Spotify


The only difference between chump and champ is u.

- old Southern saying

If you're anything like me, then Masters week is one of your favorite times of year, and you're using all those extra monitors to stream live coverage of the tournament throughout the day.

Whenever I watch the Masters, I can't help but think about what I'd do if I were in some of the positions these guys find themselves in. On 11, the downhill par 4 with water left of the green, I'd hit a buttery fade that hugs the right side of the fairway, never getting too close to the patch of trees that would block my second shot. The pin is back left, so I'd take dead aim, hit a high 8-iron, and land the ball a few feet past the hole before the spin catches and the ball rips back towards it. Easy birdie, thank you very much. On 13, from the elevated area right of the fairway, I'd hit a low draw that threads the needle between two pines, stays below the canopy, and clears Rae's Creek. There'd be some speed on that ball, so I'd land it on the lower half of the green to let it roll up the hill before coming to rest a few feet from the hole.

These daydreams are fun, but they're obviously totally delusional. I might be able to make some of these shots on my home course, ten percent of the time, but there's no chance that I could make them amidst the beauty of Augusta National nor under the pressure of a Major. If I actually found myself in some of these positions, the best thing that I could do would be to recognize that I'm an Amateur and just try to neutralize my misses. The second I try to make birdies is the second that I'll find myself hitting out of hazards and racking up penalty strokes.

As an Amateur, the angles I take should be toward the wide parts of the fairways, the fat parts of the greens, and as far from the water as possible. My goal as an Amateur shouldn't be to win - it should simply be to not lose. The longer I can stay in the game and keep myself from missing the cut, the more opportunities I'll have for a shot that I'm actually very comfortable with and can finally make a go at.

On the other hand, a Professional's goal should always be to win. They should be taking aggressive lines when they're comfortable and trying to get as far below par as possible. When a Professional starts focusing on not losing, they give up their advantage and start competing with Amateurs again.

In the SMB world, every company has their thing. It's that thing that they're known for - their core competency. Additionally, there are typically a few other things that that company does but for which they aren't known. Oftentimes, these are the areas where SMBs find themselves competing as Amateurs. For example, I spoke with the former CEO of a plastic straw and envelope manufacturer yesterday who told me that the worst mistake he made as CEO was buying his trucks and trying to build out a logistics arm, rather than outsourcing that task to expert 3PLs. In his own words, he was an Amateur trying to compete with Professionals in a non-core area of his business, and the mistake cost him nearly a million dollars. He went on to say that if he had just outsourced that responsibility, he could have used those funds to drive returns in their core business, where they really were the best at what they did.

The first step to knowing when to try to win and when to try not to lose is to recognize where you're competing as a Professional and where you're competing as an Amateur. But then, when you do get a shot that you're comfortable with, and one where you know where all the trouble lies, don't be afraid to go for the pin.


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