One day, eight years ago, Brian Hina came home from work in the morning, and his wife Susan Snyder-Hina asked, “What are you doing home?”
He’d been fired.
Brian spoke with a few people about working for them, but he would make less money.
“I started writing down all the things I wanted to do, and the next thing I know I had the vision, mission statement and goals all written up,” Brian says. “And I’m looking at it, and telling Susan, ‘There’s nobody out there that wants to do it the way I want to do it.’ So, she said she’d help me.
“And who’s better than having somebody you trust.”
Today, Hina Environmental Solutions LLC focuses on the testing and abatement of asbestos, silica and lead-based paint, as well as mold remediation, radon mitigation and meth lab clean up.
HES is set up to avoid the mistakes Brian saw as a vice president and president of two different companies in the same field.
He made sure that an awareness of culture has been a part of the business from the beginning, and also set up a workflow, from the first client meeting to job completion, that allows HES to do more with less.
Division of labor
The couple found the division of labor easy to set up. Brian likes sales and handles scheduling, operations and production as the minority owner and vice president. Susan handles the balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and human resources as the majority owner and president.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t the occasional hiccup that takes compromise.
As with any other business, your accounting people don’t always get along with the sales people, Brian says.
“So, we don’t see things in the same way when we look at the business,” he says. “She’ll be gripping at me about gross margins and I’ll be worried about sales.”
Unlike many other husband-and-wife business teams, Brian and Susan don’t have rules about not talking about work at home.
“We actually diffuse at night when we go home. We have a cocktail and we sit around and talk about what’s happened during the day and what may need to be addressed,” Susan says.
“We have no kids. We have nowhere else to put our energy. Our workplace is our children,” Brian says.
While work comes home, their personal lives can come into the office, too.
“Susan and I will have a little cross-confrontation with one another about something in front of everybody, and everybody gets dead quiet,” Brian says. “And then one of us will smack a little joke right afterwards and everybody lightens back up again.”
Some people try to keep work and home separate, but Brian believes that you really can’t do that.
“If you’re having problems at home, it’s going to show at work, no matter who you are. It shows up,” he says.
This belief is part of the reason why every year Brian and Susan share a one-year and five-year goal that they’ve written down. They ask their employees to do the same with a work and/or personal goal, and encourage them to read it aloud.
Brian says it’s amazing how the act of writing it down and having people ask about it helps the goal become more attainable.
Adapting with growth
As the company has grown to more than $5 million in annual revenue and from three full-time employees to 17, plus a temporary crew of 20 to 60, Brian and Susan’s roles have moved further apart.
“Because of our growth, I think there’s become more separation between his and my duties,” Susan says. “I know I used to cross over into his sandbox a couple times, and he would come over into mine — but not anymore.”
It helps that Brian and Susan have a focused CFO who comes in once a week. Not only does he prepare the financial statements, he can give advice or suggestions with a fresh eye, Susan says.
“If he talks, we pay attention to him,” Brian says.
In addition, the couple got help from a Dayton company, Aileron, which teaches professional management to small business owners. Not only did they learn from Aileron, they also sent their executives and team leaders through the training.
But the company’s growth has brought its challenges, too — namely finding people who can handle the workload and work well on a team, Brian says.
HES has had high turnover over the past two years, because even though employees are paid more, a lot of responsibility comes with that. Turnover is particularly problematic when the company may spend thousands on training.
To counteract that, Brian and Susan are approaching people after they work as temporary employees.
“That makes sure to get the right people who can handle the stress and with the right personality,” Brian says. “Because they have to have the respect of the people that are working for them anyway, and what better way to do it than have them work with them before becoming a supervisor.”