CVC Success Group guest, Sooty Bob Daniels
Listen in as Sooty Bob Daniels joins Jerry this week on The Chimney & Fireplace Success Network. Bob shares with us his history of the chimney sweep industry that started in the 70’s and shares with you what he feels the future of the chimney and venting industry is and how to prepare for the coming world as it changes.
I want to welcome you to another episode of The Chimney And Fireplace Success Network. This is our weekly podcast, excuse me, podcast produced by the CVC Success Group, where it’s our mission to provide you the tools to make your business dreams into your business realities. I want to welcome you for joining us today. And you know, I try to bring out some really unique and special guests to help me tell stories and help you relate to what’s going on and to offer you words of wisdom that you can utilize in your life and in your business. And today, I got a special treat for you. I’ll be honest with you; I’ve been chasing this guy for about two years now. That’s right, two years to do this appearance on this podcast. And now he’s consented to do it. So, we’re going to go forward and we’re going to ask some questions. Now, part of this is going to dig back in the beginnings of the resurgence of the chimney sweep industry in America. You’re going to hear some stories and some tales and the history that you may not know. Because I don’t know anyone better that can relate these stories than my guest today, none other than “Sooty” Bob Daniels. So, Bob, are you [??? 01:53] ready to rock and roll with us today?
Bob: I am and I’m happy to be here. This is great. It’s a great time. And I’m just anxious to get going.
Jerry: That’s it, man. Well listen, I know you are going to spread some value. So, I am going to ask some questions, and then look to you for any answer. So, here is my first one there was a time and I’m going to call it in the land far, far away, which was actually the state of Oklahoma, and at a time when we were both much younger. And in this time, something motivated you to become a chimney sweep. Tell me what that magic moment was that said Bob Daniels needs to become a chimney sweep.
Bob: Well, thanks, Jerry. You know, it is probably the same thing that motivated everybody. You know, you were broken, you needed money, and that was my situation. I had spent 10 years in education and nonprofit pursuits, which were wonderful. But you know, Susan, and I just had a baby and I knew I needed to start making some serious income. And so much of this was just blind luck to start with. I mean I was visiting somebody in the state of Iowa, we lived in Oklahoma, I was visiting some friends in Iowa and picked up a Popular Mechanics Magazine and there in the back was perhaps the first ad that August West had ever run. And it mentioned something about making, I do not know, $40, or something sweeping a chimney. And for some reason, thank goodness, that sounded really great to me. And so, I called him up and I became about the 10th or 11th person in the United States to buy an August West System way back at the very beginning. And so that is what got me going and you know that that then evolved, of course, to wholesaling things to other chimney sweeps. And most significant, I think, for the entry was the education that the industry was thirsting for and did not really know they were thirsting for, and I was able to provide that.
Jerry: Yeah. And that was kind of what my next question was for you. Because I believe that you started out distributing chimney caps made by Jomoco located there in Tulsa. So, what was that driving force that made you decide I am going to go in distribution? Did you see a potential there? Or did you just kind of fall into this thing?
Bob: Well, it’s like, I think any of us, the first thing you do is fall into something and then you see the potential and that causes you to go like crazy. You know, here I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma and like, all I wanted to do was start making some money, right? Okay. So, it’s like, whoa, and I decided to charge $35 for a chimney sweep instead of 40. But I looked in the yellow pages in Tulsa and there was only one other guy sweeping chimneys, and I thought well great, this is for me. And you know, it was not– The resurgence of the industry had not started yet, but it became clear in sweeping chimneys and it was great. I was very fortunate, and I didn’t mind the workers, sweeping chimneys. And once I fell off my ladder on the very second day on the job, it never happened again. But it was clear that it took a while. It took people kind of beating us, customers sort of beating me over the head because I was kind of dense. But it was clear there were opportunities to sell things to homeowners, and that homeowners wanted them.
Now that is completely obvious here in 2020. I mean, whatever we know we go out to the job and there’s repair and there’s level two inspections and all these different things we do, and you know, things that we can sell; waterproofing crowns, chimney caps, relining, we have the tools to diagnose those problems. We didn’t have any of that back then. This was 1977 when I started and all this was, was about being a chimney janitor, getting the soot out of chimneys as best you could. Fiberglass rods, wire brushes, a really good vacuum that kept the stuff out of the house. But that was all we were doing. There wasn’t any Chim scan, you couldn’t look up inside a chimney. You didn’t know what was in a chimney. You’d shine a big flashlight down the chimney and see what? Three feet? You didn’t really know what was going on in there. You were just there to get the soot down and go on to the next job.
But then what started happening was there was in this, so this was such a lucky break. There was a company located in Tulsa, Oklahoma called [??? 06:56] products and they had started really, decades before actually started making a chimney cap, a single flue chimney cap called the flue cap. It was galvanized, expanded metal mesh, but had a very solid base, and they were on lots of houses in Tulsa. And homeowners would ask me if I could find a chimney cap for them. And I didn’t know where they were, where they came from. I didn’t know. I went to a few lumber yards and saw some other guy’s cap that didn’t look as good. I had a monumental experience. I went to a lady’s house one time and I cleaned her chimney and she said, “Will, you put a chimney cap on?” And if you can believe this, I said to her, “Well, there’s a lumber yard down the street from your house here that sells them, you can go buy one and put it on yourself.” Oh, my God. This lady was like beside herself that she said, you know, because… and this is where all of us really start. We all, if we’re a chimney sweep, chances are we come from a blue-collar family, where we don’t pay people to do other stuff. We try to do almost everything ourselves. So, that was my psychology, that was my dad’s psychology, that was the psychology I brought into this trade.
So, here I was recommending a lady in a big ritzy house in the fanciest part of Tulsa, and that’s a very wealthy town to go down and get her chimney cap herself. Yeah, that was me in 1977. And she looked at me in disgust and she said, “I’ll pay you to do this. I’m not going to go buy a chimney cap and go up on the roof. But I’ll pay you to do it.” And I said, “Okay, I’ll look into this.” And I drove away thinking, “Oh my God. There are wealthy people that will pay for things that we can provide. And then I saw the lights and then I found the Jomoco factory and buying 10 or 15 caps a week from them and selling them throughout the week as I was cleaning chimneys, and I saw the potential there. And that became, I mean, those of you who have heard me speak over the years I’ve given the speech many times. If we as chimney professionals, we will succeed to the degree to which we can project our upbringing into a place where we identify with people that are much more wealthy than we grew up as. And then you realize that there are people out there that will pay a lot of money for somebody to do something else. And when we make that something else available, then there’s a lot of extra income that can come our way.
Jerry: That’s great, man. And you know, my entry was through Mother Earth News and the famous August West ad, which you know, August West was selling chimney sweeping equipment . So, right after I got my August West System, miraculously, I started receiving cassette tapes from some guy I have never heard of named Bob Daniels, and from some company called Copperfield. Now, I had seen Copperfield ads in that soot sweeper, the August West newsletter was sent to us after the purchase. But again, you started producing business-building seminars that went to the highest level. You even had sweeping Cancun sweeping Hawaii. And you were doing this for people even that weren’t your customers. Any sweep in the industry was welcome to join Bob Daniels. You had Dave Pomeroy on your payroll at one time as a trainer and doing part of this training. So, let me ask you this; why did you do this? Why did you decide that sharing business building tips what you described to me yourself as the Bob Daniels dog and pony show when we had lunch a year or two ago? But what made you do this which was so phenomenal and help so many people, because Bob, I wasn’t your customer, but I became your customer?
Bob: Well, that says it all right there but let me back up and interject how the transition happened and that’s a great question. I want to get to that. But I want to fill in the gap between how did I get from being this guy driving around in a 54 Chevy pound truck sweeping chimneys to a wholesaler serving all the chimney sweeps across America, or anyone that was that found our product line attractive So, what happened was this, it goes back to [??? 12:03] and the blessings really, of the [??? 12:07] factory. Because [??? 12:10] was an older company, and the father ran the part of it that had to do with making other sheet metal products. And it was the son who was really just about my age, a little bit older, who was making the chimney caps, and he saw a huge amount of potential with chimney caps. And he said, one day, this was the day before Labor Day in 1978, he took me into his office, and he said, ‘Gee, this Mother Earth news article has come out.” Remember, this is a long time ago, still 1978. He said, “I need somebody that can wholesale our chimney caps to the sweeping industry.” And I’m like, “I’m sitting there thinking to myself, what does he mean? What do you mean wholesale?” So, I said to him, I said, “Joe, you mean when I buy 15 caps, I’m not getting the better price, the best price?”
And he laughed. He said, “Of course, you’re getting a big discount at 15 caps. But when you buy 50 and 100, and 200 hundred, you get a bigger discount. And so, you would then sell that to chimney professionals. And your profit would be the difference between what you paid and what the wholesale price that I charge you out the back door.” So, that’s just the understanding of wholesaling. And I remember I went home and told my wife, I said, “Susan, Joe’s got this great idea. I’m going to wholesale chimney caps.” And she kind of looked at me in her kind of very, always three steps ahead of me way and said, “Well, you don’t need to stop with chimney caps. You can wholesale anything; brushes you use, the dampers, you sell, chimney deodorant, stovepipe, anything that comes along. And so that’s how Copperfield Chimney Supply was born. And then there was this trip to the bank where I convinced the banker that Joe was going to buy these things back if they didn’t sell. And then that guy got me alone. And so, then I filled up my garage with chimney caps. I made friends with the guys that Blackmagic, who was the other larger guy putting chimney sweeps in business. And he either gave me or sold me his mailing list. And then with time, August West started giving me their mailing list too as guys went into business. So, what year was it Jerry, that you started?
Jerry: I started in 82.
Bob: Okay, yes. So, maybe they were giving me the names at that point, possibly, or else you had send in a request for a catalog, but our goal was to– Well, backing up, it became really, really clear that it wasn’t just selling chimney caps, it was teaching chimney sweeps to sell chimney caps, so that they would want to buy more. That was all there is to it. So, the motivation was, is make as good a business as possible out of this. And it didn’t do any good for a guy to buy two dozen chimney caps and have them sit in their garage. But if I could do a workshop telling them such things as “Oh be sure to put the cap in their hands, customers love it, they desire it after they touch it.” That’s one thing. You can sell customers a cap as a sample, and then ask them to pay you in a month, then tell them you’ll come and get it if they don’t like it. Well, they always like it. So, you know, there were things that I taught chimney professionals to do that help them sell. And then so pretty soon it was like, “Wow, Bob, these ideas really work. This is great. I’m making all kinds of extra money selling caps.”
And then after that it was replacement dampers. And then it was stainless steel relining pipe and along the way it was brushes. This was back in the day when it was all wire brushes. I remember when flat wire brushes came along, they were like a big breakthrough. And so that’s what did it, it was natural to me to get in front of a group of people and talk. I had done that in some educational settings before. So, that wasn’t uncomfortable to me. And somehow when I got in front of these big audiences and started teaching folks to sell things, I was– Basically I had the joy of teaching chimney professionals to be more successful. And yeah, the side effect was Copperfield’s business grew as a result. So, that and a million details is what created the Copperfield Chimney Supply.
Jerry: So, have you ever thanked Joe for that business advice some years ago?
Bob: Of course, profusely. I think sometime in the 90s. I gave him an award and a big get together called the Founders Award or something. Yeah. Yeah.
Jerry: So, Bob, you were so innovative, and somewhere back in those late 70s, you made a major public relations coup, I’m going to call it. Because somehow you were able to secure an appearance on a late-night television show, I believe it was on NBC called the Tom Snyder Show, and you went on the Tom Snyder show, and you were dressed with top hat and tails, and you had your bag with you and you actually showed them how a chimney is swept. And you can find this on YouTube videos today. So, how did you manage that coup a public relation where you were broadcast across the world on NBC late-night television?
Bob: Yeah. Well, that’s a fun story. Let me rearrange the timeline to make it correct. I was on– So, I bought my August West System in July of 77. The Mother Earth news article came out in either late 77. The first one came out in late 77 or early 78. And August West went from this tiny little company trying to sell an August West system every month to a Bob Daniels kind of a guy to all of a sudden, they had orders for hundreds or thousands of them. And they were like, “Oh my gosh, there’s real potential here.” And there was potential because in 1983 1980 Five when all this was taking off, remember America was entering [??? 19:04] jobs were all fleeing the country. There were many, many unemployed factory workers looking for something to do. So, August West Systems was running ads everywhere. It wasn’t just teeny ads like I saw on the back of Popular Mechanics. They were running full-page ads and infield and stream and Mother Earth news, in scientific– I don’t know if it was ever in Scientific American, but they were running ads everywhere and they had become a fairly big business. And they had a public relations agent and along the way sweeping chimneys I would call up the founder of August West, and I became friends with him. And so, he and their public relations agent decided to get some TV station appearances and they asked me if I would go do them.
So, I didn’t set them up. And I didn’t even have my wholesale company at that point. And so yeah, there was this talk about me being on NBC. But first I was on TV in San Francisco. And then I was on TV in St. Louis and maybe Pittsburgh, and a few places like that, small little shows. And it was fun, but I was getting kind of tired of it. There wasn’t anything in it for me, except just helping my friend out here. And then this thing came on to be on the tomorrow show, actually, with Tom Snyder. Mind you remember, Labor Day of 1978 had not yet come. I went on Tom Snyder thinking, “Well, maybe some people will call and get their chimney swept as a result in Tulsa.” So, anyway, I flew out there and did the show. It was a lot of fun. The reality was God’s hand was at work there because there were hundreds of unemployed factory workers watching that show, who over the next few weeks and months, looked me up in the Directory Assistance in Tulsa and called me and said, ‘What’s the number that company again that sold you that equipment? That sounds like something I want to do.” And so, to this day, last year, in fact, people would come up to me all the time saying, “I started sweeping, because I saw you on the Tom Snyder show.” And it was again, just a very fortunate circumstance because I went on there just being a friend to Tom and thinking maybe my phone rang and I’d get a couple of chimney sweep jobs in Tulsa.
But the reality was, it helped sweeps all over the nation and created a bunch of new sweeps, which was just one of the small early steps on our industry becoming the big thing that it is now. And if I can just blab on this topic, those of you who are listening, you see this history. This history was that our industry sprang really, from out of work hippies, and out of work factory workers looking for something to do, following this ad saying, “Be a chimney sweep, work for yourself.” And this was in the energy crisis, and everybody was starting to burn wood. We weren’t sophisticated. There wasn’t any certification. There weren’t any UL listings. There was nothing. It was just like becoming a chimney janitor, and if you don’t mind and if you can actually wear this top hat and tails then it helps you get jobs. So, thousands of us did that. That of course, went away, the world evolved.
Bob: What we have now is a situation where nobody’s going out and buying August West Systems. There’s nobody in the business of strictly putting individuals into business sweeping chimneys. People go to work for a chimney sweep company, they learn the trade and they go off on their own. That’s generally how it happens now. And we’ve evolved really from thousands of one man sweep operations, to way fewer chimney sweep companies than there were in the 80s and 90s. But much bigger ones doing more things and we’ve evolved to this, I’m not at all one of these things were better in the good old days. No, they weren’t better in the good old days. We have so much equipment and so many things and so much more safety can be brought to chimneys and beauty can be brought to chimneys and all these things we didn’t have There wasn’t any waterproofing, there weren’t any multi-flue chimney caps, there was just guys with a brush and some poles and maybe a 13 by 13 chimney cap kicking around in their truck. And it’s completely evolved since 1978 to what we have now, which is a major business providing huge amounts of safety for people and a really good living too for people. So, I never saw it getting this big, but I saw it getting bigger than it was, really and it’s just been thrilling to see it. So, the Tom Snyder thing was done, was a move by August West and it was great to be on that show. Of course, going to NBC that whole thing is a whole nother story. But yeah, it was fun.
Jerry: Well, when you were talking that brought a couple thoughts to mine, Bob. One was, according to Tom Risch, he estimates that he sold 12,000 August West Systems. And with an average cost of between 1,400 and probably 1,700 to maybe $1,900, if we knew the average cost is a lot of money that was sold in chimney sweep backs. And as you talked about what people thought about it, it made me think back to a dear departed friend of both ours by the name of Roger Sharon. And Roger Charron, talked about when Elmer’s Pipe had done a survey of their customers of what their impression of a chimney sweep was. And the following was what Roger said their data showed; that a chimney sweep was an individual that came to your home, usually needed a shave, had a vehicle with at least one vendor that didn’t match the rest of the vehicle and smoke the cigarette of questionable origin. Okay. But I just thought I would throw that in because definitely, it’s a different time today because many of us were children of the 60s. And we know what that means as far as the way we were raised. But Bob, as you went in and running Copperfield, you were a marketing genius and a lot of ways, but you also so innovative, not just in marketing, but in product development. As I look back over every time I got those business building tips, you were also rolling out new products, rectangular pipe, different things that you came out with, different cleaning tools, new marketing methods, it was just– And this was why, when those tapes came out, twice a year, they came out on a cassette tape. And in those days, we had cassette players, and that’s how so many of us learned. So, how did you become this innovative person with all these innovative ideas that you had Bob?
Bob: You know, Jerry, first of all, thanks for the compliment and thanks to every chimney professionals that’s listening, that whether you’re brand new or whether you’ve been in it since 1979, it’s a wonderful industry. There is a feeling almost sort of a genetic– It’s kind of like you go to a football game and you’re all rooting for the same team. You know, when you go to a trade show with chimney professionals, there’s that same kind of feeling that everybody’s on the same page. Everybody does the same work. There’s something that attracted us to this. When you think of the number of the millions and millions of people who the last thing they would think of doing is sweeping a chimney for God’s sakes. And that you have the rest of us in the industry that are like, “Oh, yeah, I can do that. Getting dirty, that’s good. Going on the roof, oh, yeah. That sounds cool.”
So, it’s a wonderful thing where we’ve come. It was just natural to me, you know. Yes, we developed a lot of innovative products. You know, stainless steel chimney caps, that was a cool one. But you know, there were other innovators too that came along and had bigger innovations. The biggest innovation of all was the Chimscan for God’s sakes, the biggest. Being able to look down inside the chimney, Tom Urban and the Chimscan looked down inside the chimney, diagnose problems that would lead to chimney repairs and relining. Relining hadn’t been thought of back in the day. And then others like Fred Schukel who invented flexible relining pipe. If you can remember, if you can just picture if all you had to reline a chimney, were rigid pieces of pipe, and you went out to Mrs. Smith’s house and that chimney had a big bend, how would you do it? We used to give workshops on how you would bash a hole in the bricks, set an elbow, go down a little ways, bash another hole, and then go and brick it back up to do the whole thing with rigid. So, flexible relining pipe completely changed that. So, that was a really, really good thing.
And then the other big innovation, well there’ve been so many, my God, so many. And I guess the point is that it was easy for me to make those tapes because other people were coming out with great innovations. Yeah, we had a few ourselves, and they’re good and I’m proud of them. But you know, Petr Luter inventing the roclean and the whole thing of a chain flying around inside the chimney, and actually getting rid of the third degree of creosote without breaking all the flue was a great, great innovation that he developed, which led to today’s sweeping of, everybody uses some kind of rotary device to clean inside the chimney. You know, I mean, you’d be laughed off the street if you had just nothing but rods and wire brushes today. I hope I didn’t insult anybody but that was all we had for a million years. So, it was easy. It just seemed really, really easy. And I was very comfortable making those cassette tapes. I did write them all out ahead of time. But they sounded as though they were done just oh, I just I’m thinking this up as I’m going along, but they were very good. And it was a great way to communicate.
And as soon as we switched to CDs, then the interest in them stopped. And I do not understand why that was because people loved the cassette tapes, but the cassette tapes were irritating. You couldn’t put them down somewhere and then forget about them. So, you would take it to your truck, and you’d stick it in that little slot in your truck and you’re driving from one house to the next and you say “Oh, well, hey, I’ll listen to this for a few minutes. Oh, and then I’ll keep listening to that.” Whereas a CD was easy to put it in there with a pile of bunch of other papers and forget about it and then eventually throw it away. But it was a great run and now anyway, understand that when I was doing those cassette tapes, the guild and the other, the regional guilds were, for the most part, not teaching what I was teaching. I was teaching ways to go out and take a product and here’s how you sell it in the home or here’s the new product.
For probably the first 15 or 20 years, our industry the trade shows were almost exclusively how to do something, technical hands-on; a workshop on laying bricks, a workshop where we set a chimney fire inside a flue we’ve just built and we watched that. It has only been in the last, of course, but now see, it has been in the last 10 years where everybody’s providing really, really good education. Oh, my goodness, all the wholesalers are providing good education. Copperfield provides fabulous education. Copperfield had 19 events last year, where 800 people came, and they have a whole bunch more this year. And there’s education that’s accepted and desired by chimney sweeps, whereas before, they’re like, “Oh, yeah, yeah Daniels is going to speak on business building. No, I think I’ll go to this bricklaying thing instead. That’s more fun.” So, we’ve evolved now to where we realize that the business building and the salesmanship as an industry is more important. Well, it’s not more important, but it’s very important and that’s why you see it as part of all the sweep get together educational things.
Jerry: So, I would say when I look… First, Bob, I got to offer you an apology. Because I remember the day, I walked up to you in the trade show and said, “Bob, you got to quit doing cassette tapes.” And you said, “Why?” I said, “Because nobody has cassette players in their vehicles anymore and you got to switch to CDs.” Now I’m finding out that wasn’t such a good idea, Bob.
Bob: It was just one of those things. I mean, really, nobody had cassette players anymore. So, it was just one of those things.
Jerry: Right. So, this is another thing, Bob, one of the things that a lot of people probably don’t know that you did was you actually went into the field and you would get on trucks with chimney sweeps around the country. And part of this was so you could learn what people were doing, and then you could share those ideas with other people. In fact, one of these I don’t remember, I believe his name was Roland, you can correct me on that. But where you walked in and found the guy doing forward scheduling and then you shared that with the industry, and you also talked about the lifetime value of a customer. And I don’t know what year you put this out, but you identified then that the lifetime value of a chimney sweep customer, I believe was $33,000. And that was something that stuck with me. And Bob, I still use that today and quote you on that, because it’s such a significant thought process. So, why did you get out and travel with people? Why did you share these ideas like you did?
Bob: Well, Jerry, that’s a great question. And again, thanks for the compliment. But we had an industry that was running faster than I was. In other words, the ideas that I was sharing with people were often ones that a sweep had given to me, and I would ask their permission to share them with everyone else. So, there were so many good ideas. Oh my gosh, the different techniques for selling chimney caps, I had developed a few of them. Forward scheduling, of course, is the idea that at the end of the day, we’re like, dentists, you’re in the repeat business, business. And so that’s because the chimneys get dirty every year. Or if they don’t get dirty, they need to be checked. And even if there’s gas logs, things erode, there’s freeze-thaw cycles. Now we’re seeing the class A chimneys all rusty now, which will be the next thing that our grandkids are going to be doing. But you know, it just made sense. Number one, and number two, I liked it. I liked going out and riding with guys. And you know, at 74 I don’t like to get up on roofs very much anymore, but I sure loved it back then. It was natural to me. And so, it was fun.
But, yes, there was a sweep in Massachusetts, and he had really developed the forward scheduling. My initial pitch forward scheduling was as you’re leaving the house, you ask if it’s okay to come back next year and sweep it again. And then you go home, and you keep some kind of card file system and then you call the customer and make another appointment. Well, as we all know if you’ve tried that, that doesn’t work. Customers are experts at wiggling off the hook no matter what they said. But Roland had this technique where he would make the appointment with a customer before he would leave the house. So, he’d say, “Mrs. Smith, I’m going to put you down for a sweep job on July 12th of next year. And here, I’ll leave this refrigerator magnet on your refrigerator. And please take this reminder postcard and fill out your name and address.” He wouldn’t take no for… I mean, he wasn’t like do you want me to come back? Well, nobody’s going to say yes. And so that became the new norm for forward rescheduling. And even others like Jim Brewer and Bart Ogden and many, many others have taken this and run with it. It’s still, there’s a lot to be done a lot to go…
It’s interesting, forward scheduling is a phrase, it’s a two-word phrase that I developed. But if you Google forward scheduling, you’ll find that that phrase is used throughout the veterinary industry right now. You take your cat in for a shot, they make an appointment with you to come back in a year. You take your dog in to have you know his whatever, tonsils out, or something. They’ll make an appointment for you to come back. The idea that you don’t want to turn this into a customer for life or you let that slip away is crazy.
Yeah, I have a quote here from a guy that’s been doing forward scheduling for a long time. He says all of our technicians have a fully booked schedule, mostly regular customers. Almost all our customers are keeping their forward scheduling appointments. I almost feel guilty that we are ahead of last year in revenues and profits, and this is here in the middle of the COVID-19 thing. But you know, it’s something you have to set up and do. And another nice thing that has come along in the last number of years is the number of you know computer systems that are available for chimney professionals that weren’t available back years ago. If you were keeping track of things, you just did it with pieces of paper and then maybe a computer later, but you’ve got things like Housecall Pro and Service Titan, and others that will do a great job and will keep track of your forward scheduling and make it fairly easy. So, it just keeps it getting better and better.
Jerry: You know, you left the industry for a few years Bob, it came that day you decided it was time to sell Copperfield, which you did, you never went completely away, you still actually made an appearance at a convention or two, actually spoke at one and talked about the most significant innovations and some of the history. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted you on here today. But here’s the thing, you’ve been gone, now you’re back. Even when Copperfield was purchased by Olympia and they have made the changes they have, they brought you back to the industry, which I think the industry owes Olympia a debt of gratitude, because your insight, and your advice is that valuable. But as you look at this, what do you see different in this industry today than you saw when you left it? And you’ve already mentioned some of this, but what’s some of the most significant changes that you see in this industry from the day that you sold your distribution business?
Bob: Well, thanks. Great question. And yes, let me back up and thank Will Kozlansky, the founder of Olympia, and the whole Olympia crew because when Home Depot, they had bought the company that had bought Copperfield from me from Interline Brands, and they decided to, so they bought Interline Brands, and they decided to sell Copperfield. And Olympia came along and said, “Great, let’s do this.” And Will and I had been talking throughout the years and that’s why I was thrilled to come back and play sort of an educational role as I’m doing now. Those of you, I’m sure everybody is on the Olympia mailing list get words from Sooty Bob, for me now. And there are videotapes that we will be using more of. And so yeah, it’s great to be back in the industry.
But to get into your question, the main thing, and again, it’s so crazy to go clear back to the beginning and look at how something was at one time and how it is now. If those of you listening, if you could even imagine that there was a time in the industry, where selling things to a homeowner that would make their house safer, was considered controversial. You’re like, well, you’re not a pure sweep. And today, of course, nobody thinks that. I mean, we’re not selling people, we’re in the safety business and everybody knows that. And everybody knows that there’s potential to be found inside these chimneys. And that took us a while because we initially remember what kicked this thing off was just creosote in chimneys and an August West System. And so, people focused on just getting the creosote out and doing the brickwork and then maybe later some tuckpointing and then maybe later some relining, but the focus was still on the hands-on side of it. Now, the focus is equally on how I can realize the financial potential that is available in through the act of making homes safer. Just like a doctor becomes wealthy by, you know, keeping someone’s health up; we can become wealthy by keeping their chimney safe.
When you think about it, I mean just picture yourself standing in front of a house and looking at it, okay. You’re on the sidewalk and you’re looking at the house and everything you look at; the lawn, the driveway, the siding, the gutters, the roof, everything has a huge industry attached to it. But for some reason, you look at the chimney there wasn’t any industry attached to that. It was very small, a few people left over from the turn of the century. And now chimney work is finding its place in the American home panorama, and it’s gonna only get bigger. It’s really is it’s really gonna only get bigger. Yeah, maybe things will be– we’ll have to suffer some financial setbacks with the COVID thing but that’s going to go away. That is going to go away. That’ll be solved and we’ll do what we have to and then business will return. We’re in a great business, many chimney professionals are just as busy as ever right now.
But the biggest thing coming back is number one, the amount of education there is in the industry. Number two, the acceptance in the industry. And number three really is the knowledge that chimney sweeps have that they realize they are in the business of selling confidence and safety. Your homeowner, that’s what they want. They may say yeah, yeah, come clean my chimney, but what they’re really saying is make my home safer. And when you realize that you’re in the safety business, and you address that, and then in certain instances, you can sell things that are purely beautiful, like metals and things like that, that puts you also to a degree in the beauty business. But that’s the business we’re in. And as a group, I think we’re realizing that.
Jerry: You know, Bob, you and I have had several conversations over the years going back, when you were a distributor, I’ve asked for your advice different times. But I’m going to share with people that you and I had a phone call a few short weeks ago, probably about four to five weeks ago, and you had sent me an email and you wanted to know if you can have a call with me the next day? And I said, certainly, because it’s always a pleasure, and I’m certainly going to make time for you, if we can have that conversation. And you shared with me something that day, which was, how can I help these people? What can I do? And you shared with me that you felt that what we were doing through our company, through our outreach, and what we were trying to provide was where you saw you could help. And from that day forward, you’ve gotten involved, you’ve been invited to participate in what I call my mastermind group, which is my clients. You’ve been enabled to hear some really powerful presenters on those meetings that are world-class presenters. And now I’m seeing it in your writings. I’m seeing it in your articles. When you publish stuff, you’re giving people a hope for the future, which I honestly think there is. My next question had been, but you just answered it, which is, where is that future? Is there a future? Because as we face this business is different. This is what we’re teaching, and the new methods and new processes using virtual communication, touchless technicians, all the other thing. Do you agree with me, Bob, that this is an industry that has a phenomenal future, as long as we understand how to guide it there?
Bob: Oh, yeah. And in fact, in my back room here, I’m working on developing a virtual chimney realigning process. I’m kidding. There’s certain stuff that cannot be just virtual but certainly, the outside of the chimney stuff can be virtual. But we’re in the midst of this Coronavirus thing and everyone, of course, has to know what your laws and rules are as I make this podcast here in early May, you know, it’s going to be different in June and different in July and different in August and you have to keep in touch with that. But who knows how long until people feel comfortable with a chimney sweep coming in the house? Or how long people feel comfortable going out and doing anything, but it won’t be forever. It won’t be that we won’t return to some degree of normalcy forever. And people still have chimneys. And you know if anything, this health awareness may increase safety awareness for all parts of the home.
So, that’s my hope, I guess is that as people, they’re not, you know, people aren’t saying, “Oh gosh, the COVID flu is just like having your chimney swept.” No, I’m not saying that. But what they are saying is that in a year, people will retain this. I’ve got to be as safe as possible, which is why we wear masks and all this stuff when we go outside. And that will help our industry because we do, that is our product. It is safety. It is safety and its confidence. That’s what we sell. So, I’m thrilled to see educational things going on about this. We don’t know exactly how it’s going to look in a year. It’ll be kind of fun to look and see how things look in here. But I think it’s going to look a lot better. And certainly, I mean, at some point there’s going to be a vaccine and a cure for this crazy thing, and then we can become confident again.
Jerry: Yeah. And Bob, I know that this has given you a new enthusiasm. I’m going to share an email that I got from you over the weekend because Bob and I communicate a lot. So, I know over the weekend, Bob sent me a picture of something because he received an award, I believe, in 1993 when Victor M. Gordon gave him the President’s Award for the National Chimney Sweep Guild. And he actually wanted me to compare it to the one that I won some years later because there was a change in it. But I know over the weekend, what Bob Daniels was doing was, he was reconditioning his 1993 presence award from the National Chimney Sweep Guild. Am I correct, Bob?
Bob: Yeah, that’s great. And I thank Vic M. Gordon for that. It was good. I had the privilege of being the first supplier to receive that award or manufacturer and now any number of them have, but it was great. It was a great award and yes, it ended up on a shelf and then the top fell off and you know, I’m just lucky that I’m going to be able to fix it.
Jerry: Yes, it’s like I told you the funny story about mine the year they gave me at the end of the banquet, they took it back because they had run out so they gave me the award in the award ceremony. So, it was actually a year before I got the actual one to bring home with me at the next convention. So, anyway, they gave me a President’s Award and took it away at the end of the banquet, Bob. How do you like that one?
Bob: Well, it’s so easy to think how many there have been and as we wrap up here, just you know, and I love our Copperfield guys. I just wanted to plug the upcoming hands-on rip and replace classes. There is going to be a bunch of them in June in six different locations, Northeast Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio. Here is a phone number to call and register. It is 570-340-0482, 570-340-0482. And you can always email me at SootyBob@Copperfield.com.
Jerry: Yeah. Well, Bob, I really appreciate you being on here today. I really appreciate you sharing the stories that you have shared today. Because this is the history of an industry that is proud. We have a time-honored tradition. We have had our ups. We have had our downs. We have had our disagreements. But at the same time, we are a group of people united on a mission to go to a much higher level. So, my friend, I appreciate you joining me on this call today. And I hope we can do some more stuff together. How’s that sound?
Bob: Sounds great. Thanks, Jerry.
Jerry: Okay. And this has been another edition of The Chimney and Fireplace Success Network sponsored every episode by the CVC Success Group. Remember, we’re providing the tools to make your business dreams into your business realities. If we can help you, reach out to us. Let’s have a conversation and let’s get you moving to where you want to be, and where your business dreams are your business realities. Talk to you next time.