Making Something From Nothing: John Akhoian Of Rooter Hero On How To Go From Idea To Launch
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Keep learning. You may think you know everything there is to know in your business but there is always something you can improve on or learn more about. You should also spend time developing your leadership skills so you can successfully communicate your goals to your team.
As a part of our series called “Making Something from Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Akhoian.
As CEO of Rooter Hero, a plumbing and HVAC company serving residential and commercial locations in California and Arizona, John Akhoian’s mission is to help others maximize their careers and live fulfilling, comfortable lives. He is the author of five books, including, “Creating 99 Millionaires,” “Values First: Principle Driven Leadership” and “Temporarily Broken: The John Akhoian Story.” For more information, visit www.rooterhero.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born in Armenia but moved to Hollywood, California when I was 3 years old in 1975. My grandfather was already here and helped my parents secure a visa to come to this country. We didn’t have much, so my family lived in a one-bedroom apartment until I was in high school and that’s when we bought a house in north Hollywood.
After living there for a little more than a year, my Dad had a heart attack and passed away. I had been attending North Hollywood High School and had to drop out to start earning a living to help pay the bills after my father’s passing. I began working in the trades for a family friend where I learned plumbing as an apprentice for $25 a day. I was eventually able to run his truck by myself.
Since the money I earned there was not enough, I started doing extra plumbing work on the weekends for my own clients. I was finally able to buy my own tools and go out on my own. I started my first plumbing company at the age of 19.
Now, I employee between 400–500 people with Rooter Hero, and we are the largest plumbing company in the state of California and it all started because I had to help make the mortgage so we didn’t have to move back into that one-bedroom apartment I hated so much.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is from the great businessman and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, who said, “If you want to achieve your goals, help others achieve theirs.”
Because of this quote, I have always tried to put other people first, find out what they want to accomplish, and determine how I can be of assistance to them. That quote is in the lobby of Rooter Hero’s office.
Looking at the quote reminds to always consider other people and put their needs first.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I’m an avid book reader, but the one that sticks out right now is “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson. I read it years ago, but its message about the habits of successful people still resonates with me. I still go back and listen to the audiobook from time to time.
I like a lot of books on leadership, such as “Good to Great” by Jim Collins and strive to be what he calls a Level 5 leader. A Level 5 leader displays both personal humility and indomitable will. I work on that every day.
I also enjoy the movie, “The Shawshank Redemption.” It’s just a powerful movie about determination and the will to succeed and how he makes a plan that develops over time.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
I think taking an innovative idea into business requires a lot of thought. Running with an idea before it’s well thought out can be a mistake. You must consider the pros and cons. You also have to be prepared to let something go in order to make this new idea come to fruition. You can’t just continue to start new ideas, or you’ll forever be “doing” instead of “accomplishing.”
It’s also a good idea to consider how this new idea affects your team. You should discuss your new ideas with your team to see if it can be implemented and executed.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
Never second guess yourself. Even if someone did come up with an idea before you, you can always come up with a new and improved version and make it your own.
Too often, people give up on their ideas too quickly before taking the time to research them and how they can be implemented.
My advice is that if you come up with an idea that works for you, pursue it. It doesn’t matter if someone has already thought of it, just take the idea and improve it so that it makes sense for you and/or your business to implement.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
In my business, the key is to test out your idea before you bring it to market. You can also involve your family and friends in the testing phase by either bouncing the idea off of them or having them physically test it with a tangible product.
When I think of something, I gather opinions and then test it to see if it’s something that is sustainable.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?
- Be patient. You can’t expect things to happen overnight. Work hard and give your ideas time to germinate and grow.
- Try not to suffer from FOMO disease. When you have a fear of missing out, you think you need to try everything. It’s been my experience that you probably aren’t missing out on much.
- Keep learning. You may think you know everything there is to know in your business but there is always something you can improve on or learn more about. You should also spend time developing your leadership skills so you can successfully communicate your goals to your team.
- Hire slow, fire fast and value your employees. You should pay people well for the work they do and let them know their value to you.
- Take time to plan before executing. Of course, this will take more time, but doing the groundwork for an idea to flourish will give you the foundation you need to make your ideas successful.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
The first thing you need to consider is what problem you want to solve. The greater the problem, the more the opportunity you have by providing a solution. Whether it’s through your personal experiences or as a result of market research, your first steps should be to ensure that your product or service can be properly implemented to solve that particular problem.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
I have always been a fan of seeking advice and assistance from professionals who know the subject matter. Of course, this is subjective because some people do better striking out on their own, but it’s been my experience that reaching out to those who have a greater knowledge in the field you are researching provides you with the background you need to succeed.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
I’ve always bootstrapped, myself, but have had friends who sought out venture capital and were quite successful.
Both can work but you need to be realistic about it. If you decide to bootstrap your ideas yourself, you should know that it may take longer to reach the pinnacle but the results belong to you alone. If you decide to pursue venture capital, you will have a larger safety net but you will need to give up more of your ownership and control sooner than you would if you were funding the idea or business yourself.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I’ve tried to impart my experiences and knowledge to others who might be starting where I did years back. Hopefully, by passing along my advice on what works and what some of the roadblocks a new business owner might face will help them avoid the mistakes I made as I was building my business. It’s my hope that I help others succeed more quickly than I did because they are armed with knowledge.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would like to lead a movement of people who want to become lifelong learners. I truly believe that life only gets better when you get better and the way you get better is to learn. Whether you are learning more about new technologies in your industry or learning to be a better leader, you are continuing to challenge yourself with new knowledge, skills or methods to improve.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
My first choice would be Christ. It would be an honor to sit with him to discuss faith and his dedication. But, if we are choosing someone now living, I would have to say that I would like to meet former President Donald Trump. I’d like to pick his brain on some of the challenges he had to overcome in moving from business to governing.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.