Placing Ego Aside with Susan Frew
Hello, beautiful lady! I have an amazing woman that I would love for you to meet. Her name is Susan Frew. She is the daughter of a carpenter and the wife of a master plumber, which I’m sure makes for interesting dinner conversation.
She is using her business coaching experience, having coached 17 different trades and 150 different companies to propel their family plumbing business forward. They have grown Sunshine, Plumbing, Heating & Air 535% in just one year. It’s a an amazing story. Susan is a former international general manager with AT&T wireless. She is a business coach or was a business coach with ActionCoach, business coaching and instructor for the SBAs National Emerging Leaders Program and radio host of “Coaching, Not Just for Sports” on ESPN radio in Denver, CO, a huge background in business and coaching.
After taking a break to focus on the growth of their family business, Susan began to step forward and back into her power as a speaker and her love for communications. This year she has been focused on delivering workshops and keynotes around a topic called “Leading Through the Rain” where she walks the audience through the journey of almost losing their multimillion dollar company by the way of a bad hire and a cyber crime. I told you they were twists and turns!
She is now focusing on motivating and inspiring others by showing them the way to overcome adversity. And I would add to self-lead during crisis, which is at the core of this conversation. So without further delay, let’s hear from the beautiful Miss Susan Frew!
I know you’re waiting for the gold nuggets. So I had to push pause before we hear from Susan and just share a few tidbits of what I’m thinking about this interview. But first and foremost, I want to tell you that this is an excerpt of my conversation with Susan. Unfortunately, those internet gremlins hit when we were having our conversation and haven’t had the opportunity to reschedule my time with Susan, but I still wanted to put this excerpt out to you because it is so timely.
We are in a time of crisis and Susan has applicable experience of leading self and leading others through crisis. So it would be amiss of me to not put this out there for you and that is exactly what you’re going to hear.
You’re going to hear Susan talk about the unbelievable story of building a multimillion dollar company very, very quickly and the trappings she calls them trappings of wealth and success and what stood in her way of helping her move through the crisis when they found out that one of their employees was embezzling money from them.
It is fascinating and there is a process in there. So I want you to listen for how Susan walks herself through what happened, what she didn’t do so well, how she brought herself out of it. And the number one thing now that she, hindsight is 2020, the number one thing that she can see that stood in her way.
And please hold on to the end because I’ve teased out the entire process for you and I’ll recap and walk you through it before we say farewell to one another today. But now let’s dig in and hear more from Susan.
I just put out a keynote about our investment called leading through the rain. And I tell this story. How about in Africa, when a woman elephant, female often is giving birth, all of the other female elephants in the tribe, parade as they’re called, surround her and protect her so that her and her calf can survive.
And I tell that story in my keynote because of all the people and a lot of the women tribes who came around me during this really dark two years of pulling out of this and supported me and helped me and offered ideas. And whatever I needed there was all these women around helping and there were some men too, but it was primarily the women groups that surrounded me and helped me out.
How did you know to do that? I mean, did you seek that out during that time?
A little bit. I mean, at first I kind of hid for a while and I didn’t want to talk about it cause I didn’t want people to ask me how are things going? Oh great. Right. That’s your answer. And I just felt like I was lying. And then my other keynote was, I just put a book out called “The Pufferfish Effect” about marketing and how we grew this brand and how everybody thought we were this tiny company, all that. And I felt very disingenuous delivering that keynote.
So I really try to tapping into my women’s groups like The Dames and my National Speakers Association friends. And I have a couple of other women’s groups here, the Women’s Chamber. And I just started telling them what had happened and they started sharing ideas and what if you try this and how about that. And we made a lot of changes based on a lot of suggestions that now probably 80% of our customers are women.
So something very positive comes out of the storm. The rain.
Yeah. And we downsized our facility significantly. We went from 5,000 square foot building on the highway with a big light up sign, to being in the basement of my house.
So the women really did rally around you once you started reaching out?
Yeah. And started telling everybody what was happening probably for about a year of the two years. I didn’t say very much.
How did that affect you? Because I know holding stuff in can really be toxic.
Well, I was really grumpy and I wasn’t doing a lot of self care, so I used to be a person who would work out like four or five times a week and I stopped doing everything and I stopped all my healthy eating habits. Everything.
And I just got into this please for about a year. And then I just started eventually telling more and more people about what happened. And part of another part of it too, Michelle, is this, it took 18 months for her to get arrested, my employee. So that was painful. And after she got arrested at the end, the last year, that’s when I started feeling more comfortable sharing the story because I didn’t feel right about the fact sharing the story and she hadn’t been arrested yet.
Right. So there was a lot of internal conflict going on about saving your company, about being able to speak your truth. Tell me more about that. Because you know what I think Susan, is that a lot of women go through this.
Like there’s these personas and secrets almost, I’m not saying in your case exactly, but I talked to another woman, Kathy Crawford, who had a big secret that she kept in for years and years and years and what that did and how it influenced the chain of events. So do you mind if we go a little deeper on that?
Sure. I was really miserable and the thought of going up on stage and telling that story again. So I had a couple of different names for almost the same keynote. Like “How to Rock Star Your Business”, “The Pufferfish Effect” growing your company 35%. And someone pointed it out to me. Well, you can still talk about it. I’m like, yeah, but what’s going on right now is stopping me from the story because the old story to me didn’t feel true anymore. And then we won the Inc 5,000 list in the middle of it. Cause I had applied and I’m like, Oh great. Like, so we didn’t feel like we wanted to go to the event or anything like that.
Your dreams are coming true. Wildest dreams, right? And sitting there going, I don’t want to go, I feel like a fraud or I don’t want to use that word. You didn’t say that.
But that’s true.
And go stand on a stage and tell this amazing story when here’s what’s really happening over here. Most people would want to go into a cave and hide and not come out for the remainder of their human existence. How does one start coming back out? You found some community, you started talking little bit, a little bit by bit.
I found community and then I really ended up finding the one word is hope. I just started seeing that, and I had a friend who kept telling me, you need to think about it differently. You need to think about it differently. I was so aggravated. I’m like, what do you mean? I didn’t get what she meant?
And then I started seeing all these rain references. So the songs would come on the radio and there’d be this song about rain and that song about rain and another one. And then my friend sends me a song and it’s about rain. And then my other friends sends me a Bible verse and it’s about Elijah and the rain and all of these rain references. There must have been a dozen of them, in a two month period. And I’m like, what the heck? And then I saw, Joel O’Steen talking about rain and he said, yes, that gratitude when you put gratitude up into the clouds, the clouds will then rain down blessings.
And I have started doing this miracle journal. So even the deepest, darkest days, how I got out of it was I kept writing these little miracles. I’ve called them and say, Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this amazing thing happened. Or wow, haven’t missed payroll. How is that even possible? Like I was writing down these miracles and the more I wrote them down and the more I became profoundly and intentionally grateful, not just like fill out my gratitude journal and call it a day, that’s when things started turning around. That’s the story right there.
A that, that’s why you said you called, you now refer to some of that time as leaving through the rain.
Yup. Because of all the rain references. And then I even got introduced to a woman, her name was Violet Rainwater. And then some business brokerage firm wanted to partner with me and they’re called Raincatcher.
Okay, let’s unpack this because I think what’s important for the woman listening, I mean we all go through these times, you know, however, to what extent and all of that is, it really doesn’t matter is that we go through these times where we cannot see it differently. And here you had a friend saying you need to look at this differently. What did you need to see differently that you couldn’t at the time?
I will sum it up in one word, and that’s ego. Because I needed to put my ego on the side of having this big giant property on the highway with the sign and the all the success and the awards. I think we had won like 43 awards or something. And so me thinking about moving and into my basement was humiliating and we still have a shop. It’s just, it’s much, much smaller, much more modest.
But we had all these trappings of wealth and success, which were at that time a lie. So we need to get real and put the egos outside and just do what we needed to get done. Our customer service suffered for a while and now I think it’s at an all time high. Like our customers are over the moon and that’s how we grew our company. Sending thank you cards and brownies and gift baskets and I’ll tell if we can’t get your stuff fixed.
So, you know, all those things. Weeks we stepped away from it because I was in a funk. And then the gratitude really started turning it around and thinking about what can we do. And then also going back to when I was coaching all those businesses, what was I telling them to do? You need, if you’re in your properties, like you got ditch it and your car is too fancy, you’ve got to sell it. Like what? What do you have to, you know, ratchet down, which you can get it back later. You don’t just for now, you need to cut. And we’re grateful right now that we did that.
You know, what you’re talking about is so important. I can see how you applied it to the business owner, a world, right? But this happens to anybody in their career. We follow the path, I call it, I’ve referred to it in a couple other interviews, like the report card syndrome, like we are raised to achieve, achieve on this one, next level, one next level, one next level. And all of those things fill us up to give us whatever. The false loving confidence, right? So you do that and you can do that in a corporate career and you can do that as a business owner.
So, let’s tease some of the things out that you coached your people on and yourself eventually when you set aside the ego that anybody could use when they find themselves on this half of insincerity that’s not feeling so good on the inside, but they’re afraid to talk about it on the outside.
Well, you need to pair everything down, right? You need to look at anything that’s in excess. You know, what do I have? What am I doing? What am I spending my money on? The trappings of a life that’s no longer true and we need to cut it down. So we just started slicing, you know, looking at every single thing that worked, but we were spending $130,000 a year in marketing.
Instead of doing that, we bought another company, which people are like, what? You freaking bought another company in the middle of all this crap? We bought this plumbing company. The owners were moving out of town and they couldn’t sell it. They had it on the regular market and they were trying to sell their trucks and everything, their location, all that. So they sold us their book of business with 10,700 customers for $20,000. And they had had enough for sale for 400,000. So we did that in December. And then we just started marketing deep instead of wide and marketing to all the people we had in my database. And their, which is like 25,000 people altogether and I was able to reach almost all of them.
Oh my goodness. So I hope that in this interview with Susan, you heard what when I hear, because it’s an amazing, yet simple process of what we all go through in crisis. And now is a time when most people have been in crisis or feeling in crisis. And let me just recap and walk you through what I heard Susan say. She talked about initially the initial response is wanting to hide, not wanting to be seen, not wanting to be asked, not wanting to talk about or be kind of put on the spot that she would have to lie about how she was really feeling. To me it’s like I didn’t want to have to put on a happy face. I wanted to say I feel like shit or this horrible thing is happening. Not wanting to have to keep up appearances. Those are my words, not hers. She eventually talked about what this did to her, how it made her an unhappy person.
Grumpy I believe is the word she used. She talked about the fact that her self care completely went in the toilet and the part of the conversation with Susan you didn’t hear is she is like self care is high, high, high on the spectrum for her. So she really makes sure to invest time and in taking care of how she moves her body and what she puts into her body. So the fact that self care fell off for her was a huge red flag. So eventually she moved into a space where she started telling, she started putting little pieces of her story out there and that rallied a community around her. But she didn’t stop there because she focused on tiny little miracles, one baby step at a time. You’ve heard other women on the show talk about this and that provided hope, hope to start seeing and thinking differently what her friend told her she needed to do, but she couldn’t get herself there.
But one tiny step at a time. She did. And what was the thing that stood in her way? Did you get it?
I love that. I love that because if you think about the process that Susan went through, one, it was all about the story, the trapping. She used that word, the trappings, the story that we tell ourselves of what is true and what cannot be true. We create a story for ourselves and she says, you need to pair it down, take away everything that is an excess around you. Get quiet. In a way, we are in a forced state of getting quiet. There is no where to hide from yourself right now. You can only see the little lies that you may be still telling yourself. That’s a difficult place to be. When you can start getting real and focusing on the little miracles and focusing on being profoundly grateful, that is when it is time to continue to go deeper.
That is part of her process. If I was teasing it down, I heard her say, pare down. Get rid of what is an excess. Go deep, not wide. That is the opportunity when you can start to strip away as we all have had to do by being sequestered, and really stuck in our own homes, is to begin to go deeper with ourselves.
And the third part that I heard Susan talk about, again, I’m just teasing out my own little process and what she said, but she went back to people, to humanity, to herself. One – to her team. Two – to her clients. Can it really be just as simple as that? I think Susan would agree it is. And so as we’re wrapping up for today, beautiful lady, I just encourage you, this really is, I mean I’m still unwrapping it like an onion right now as I lay it out for you.
But listen back to that segment. It’s just 10 or 15 minutes with Susan. It really is a framework for crisis and it is no coincidence that Susan, I believe, is so well positioned to lead her business, to lead other business owners and certainly to lead herself in her own word – lead through the rain.
I just cannot wait to hear what you think. Please reach out. I love, love, love hearing from you, whether it’s your comments on social, we’re often having conversations on LinkedIn. Some of you hit me up via email. I love that too. This isn’t meant to be one-sided. This is about evolution, your evolution, my evolution, and the guests on this show, so let’s do it together. All right, we’ll talk to you soon.