Working with your family can be tricky…especially when it’s your spouse! Brad Casebier, President of Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning knows this all too well as he and his wife, Sarah, used their relationship to grow a 50 million-dollar powerhouse in Austin, TX. Author of the book Survival Guide to Working With Your Spouse, Brad is hopeful he can help the others out there working with family figure out how to work with each other—not against—to grow and succeed!
Brad’s father was a construction plumber, and somewhat of a one-man army. When Brad was young, his father found an opportunity out-of-state. 13 year-old Brad was told that he’d be going along for the summer to help. It was a 7 days a week, dawn til dusk gig, but Brad wasn’t complaining! It went so well that by the fall, Brad started homeschooling until noon to work for his dad in the afternoons.
Brad certainly doesn’t have a traditional education, but he knows plumbing inside and out. He achieved Journeyman status at the age of 17, and his Master Plumber license at just 20 years old. He did attend college for a while, and watched as fellow students were graduating only to earn less than he was making as a plumber. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Brad knew that really, he just had to show up on time to beat 90% of the competition in his industry. Or, he could get a business degree and compete with thousands of talented people for the same job. He made the tactical decision to move forward in the trades as his career path, and boy did it pay off!
Brad started his own new construction plumbing company in 1995 at the age of 23. He had his wife, Sarah, had a single banking account where they would pay for groceries and plumbing supplies out of the same account. His mom would help them with taxes at the end of the year, mentoring Sarah on how to help. As the company grew and they brought on a few employees, things naturally became more complex. Sarah was a practicing RN, but took on the accounting duties.
Sarah wasn’t really in love with her job, and Brad wanted her to join him full-time to work together on something they both owned. She jumped onboard with both feet! Brad is quick to point out that Sarah is the smart one, and she jumped right into Service Roundtable. Sarah spoke with big names like Ellen Rohr, Frank Blau, and Joe Crisera, getting coaching and soaking up valuable information. Brad is the kind of person that wouldn’t ask for directions if he was lost, so this felt a bit insulting to him. Sarah was learning and excited, and had a big vision for who they would be in the service industry. Brad understood her vision, but just didn’t see how he would fit in it all. He didn’t have the self-belief that he could be more than he was in that moment.
This was an uncomfortable moment for Brad, but he leaned into the discomfort. He changed roles, and handed the torch over to his wife. It was an intense experience, and he and Sarah have done this several times in different roles over the years. It takes a lot of love, trust, and being okay if things fail. Through a lot of personal development as well as having great coaches and mentors, Brad realized he was capable of much more than he gave himself credit for.
Now, Brad is more in the visionary seat and Sarah is in more of an operational role, which they both feel comfortable in. But at the start, Brad couldn’t see the vision and needed Sarah to see what things could be. This back and forth fluidity of roles with a foundation of trust and love allowed the couple to be an incredibly powerful partnership.
The company was getting some serious traction in Austin, and they continued to grow. In 2006, they rebranded to Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning, switching from new construction plumbing to full-service residential. In 2018, they had grown to 13 million in revenue. In 2019, they hit 20 million, and in 2020, they did $34 million in revenue. They partnered with a PE firm last year, and in 2021 Radiant is poised for a $50 million dollar year!
Host of To The Point and CEO of RYNO Strategic Solutions Chris Yano probably wouldn’t describe himself as a bookworm. However, he absolutely read Brad’s book Survival Guide to Working With Your Spouse and has given it a full endorsement. As Chris and wife Anna Yano started and grew RYNO together over the last 15 years, there are a lot of things in this incredible book that would have saved the two a lot of frustration and sped up their growth!
Brad and Sarah had been toying with the idea of this book for many years. It’s a needed resource, and they needed it too. They had been given plenty of advice over the years, but none it was what they needed and it certainly wasn’t trades-specific. About 3 years ago, some of their ideas started to find their way to paper. Brad loves to write, and while the intention was to write together, Brad naturally just started to write more of it. At the beginning, he was writing from a “we” perspective, but felt uncomfortable speaking for Sarah. He tried to write from his own perspective, and before he knew it, the book was finished. Sarah gave her blessing to go ahead with publishing, demonstrating her level of trust in Brad to write about their lives.
If you’re like Chris and can’t stand the thought of a giant book staring at you from your nightstand day after day, don’t worry. At 129 pages, this is a pretty easy read. Brad suggests breaking it up into chapters, and ideally reading it alongside your spouse so that you can go over each chapter together! This is a great way to bring up healthy conversations and work through things together. The book isn’t just for couples, either. There is plenty inside that will benefit any business owner or leader. From tactical advice about P&Ls, balance sheets, and other trades-specific situations it’s packed with wisdom to help you increase your growth pace both personally and professionally.
If there’s one thing you can hone in on if you work with your spouse, it’s sharing a vision. Brad and Sarah found the most conflict when they weren’t shooting for the same target. There were times when they thought they were, but hadn’t communicated that clearly. It’s frustrating to see your partner make a decision that isn’t aligned with your goals when you believe your goals are the same! Ideally, you and your partner both grab a copy of the book and share your thoughts together after each section. This can get you on the same page and with a shared vision.
Once you have a shared vision, focusing on the roles you play is vital. Brad and Sarah use an org chart all the time. When you’re clear on job descriptions, it brings more peace. The two started to have fun once they got clear on who was responsible for what! At one point in time, they acted as CO-GMs, CO-marketers, CO-everything. Their employees didn’t know who to ask for what, and it was a source of confusion and frustration for everyone. Creating defined roles sped up their growth and reduced conflicts throughout the company and between Brad and Sarah.
If you’re in a smaller business, your name and your partner’s name might be in a lot of places on the org chart. Still, keeping clearly defined roles is key. If your partner is doing the marketing, get out of it! If it doesn’t work, you can deal with what’s not working. The takeaway here is that you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to co-decide everything.
Allowing your spouse to fail or struggle in a role is okay! Brad and Sarah both have had moments where things didn’t go as planned, but they made it through. Sometimes, your partner’s life experience might require that they explore a certain role. You have to support what makes the other happy. In many cases, Brad and Sarah discovered that a role wasn’t for them, and they made adjustments as they progressed. For example, Brad doesn’t like organizational stuff, whereas Sarah has a knack for it, so their org chart naturally drifted that way.
To illustrate this point, Brad was once the General Manager. He had implemented Service Titan poorly, and they were wrestling with his leadership. The elephant in the room was that Sarah might be a better fit to run things, and eventually the couple had the serious conversation about switching roles. Sarah took over as GM, and Brad switched to handling sales and marketing. It was a huge blow to Brad’s ego, but it was a moment in time where Sarah needed to take the reigns and Brad had to lean into that discomfort. Sarah ushered in traction, implemented Service Titan in ways that Brad couldn’t have done, and it was a great success for the business. Brad even realized he didn’t want to do those things at that point in time!
Down the line, the conversation came up again, with Brad now in a position where he felt he would be a better fit as the CEO. Sarah cheered him on, and this confidence from his wife was a great bonding experience for the couple. Again, their fluidity and ability to set ego aside to allow each other to take on specific roles on their own yielded incredible results.
One of the most common mistakes couples make in working together is not getting coaching together. In the past, Brad can remember times where Sarah would go to a sales class without him and come back full of energy and new ideas he didn’t understand. Naturally, we want to protect our spouse from being sold a sale of goods, so Brad resisted the changes Sarah wanted to make. This is a common scenario, where one person has some newfound excitement and information and the other doesn’t. It’s a guaranteed way to introduce conflict in the relationship. The simple answer here is to go together! Read books together, go to seminars together, and so on. While you don’t have to make decisions together all the time and shouldn’t be playing the same roles, this will take the edge off and prevent you both from having to sell each other on a new vision.
Not every couple is designed to work together. You may love the person, but they may not be the best business partner. Sarah and Brad are equally yoked in terms of their work ethic and vision, and have learned an incredible amount over the years about how to maximize their relationship and grow their business. Survival Guide to Working With Your Spouse is an incredible tool not just for those in business with their spouses, but for anyone who wants to improve personally and professionally.
We encourage you to buy a copy of the book and leave a 5-star review to help others discover this treasure trove of valuable wisdom! You can reach Brad at [email protected], and find Brad and Sarah at BradAndSarah.com, where the husband and wife duo help other couples find success.