Scott Walker Of Screenmobile: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Trust your team — Allow them to do their job, but make sure you’re available as a resource for guidance.
As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Walker.
Scott Walker is the President and CEO of Screenmobile, the nationwide leader in screen doors, windows, porches, and screen repair and installation. Operating since 1980, Screenmobile is the world’s first network of mobile screen professionals, with more than 100 franchise locations currently open across the United States. Scott has led the Screenmobile Corporation since 1999. Prior to that, Scott served as the Vice President and spent 18 years as a service technician, support manager, and operations manager.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Absolutely! I actually got my start in the industry by working with a home improvement franchise that offered handyman services. My father, brother and I were all involved in the company, and it served as a great learning experience that has helped to lay the groundwork for how we run our company today. We soon realized that a good franchisor needs to have certain leadership qualities and characteristics and found that we didn’t quite align with this company. As a result, we decided to start our own mobile screening company in 1980 out of our garage in Glendora, California. Screenmobile began as a converted tent trailer that became the first mobile manufacturing unit for screens. This business model allowed us to conveniently measure, manufacture and install our products on-site. By 1984, the demand for Screenmobile had become so great that we decided to branch out into franchising. Today, our company has been established as the leader in the screening business and continues to grow to new territories across the United States.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Early on in my career, I was outside working on a screening project and all of a sudden, a guy pulled up with a beat-up truck and messy hair and clothes, looking to get a screen done on his property. I reluctantly agreed, assuming based on his appearance, that he wouldn’t be able to afford the work that I do. This was a huge mistake, and a classic don’t judge a book by its cover moment, because he then had me follow him to his home, where he proceeded to pull up to a gated country club. His house was a lavish property, with an 8-car garage filled with luxury cars, and a huge patio that needed to be screened in. The biggest take away I learned from that experience was to never assume what your clientele are willing to invest in, especially when it’s for excellent service and quality craftsmanship from a Screenmobile professional.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I owe my business partners, my dad and brother, an immense amount of gratitude for the work they’ve put in to help Screenmobile grow to what it’s become today. We all have a really strong working relationship, and we rely on each other to grow and build together, trusting each other every step of the way. We all came from different backgrounds — my dad had years of business experience while my brother had lots of home service and maintenance experience. These combined areas of expertise helped us develop a great mentoring module to lean into as we grew the business together. I have 40 years’ worth of stories, but we did learn early on that when you have a family business, there’s a time for business and there’s a time for family. We learned to be very cautious of co-mingling those throughout our early years.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
When Screenmobile launched its franchising division in 1984, our goal was to provide people with an opportunity to build wealth by using our system and then change their lives as a result. We envisioned Screenmobile locations from coast to coast, with all of our Screenmobile professionals committed to providing exceptional quality and convenient service that homeowners can depend on.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
At the start of the pandemic, we got our system together via Zoom and we made sure to honestly and openly communicate our game plan for the year. We looked back to history, like the economic downturn of 2008, and made plans accordingly. We advised our teams to be mindful of their cash, be cautious of investing too much in a growing plan given these uncertain times, obey local ordinances, and overall tried to give reassurance to the team that Screenmobile was prepared for an economic downturn should it come and had our franchisees’ backs. Despite the pandemic’s challenges, our business actually boomed in 2020 as more people were working from home and had time to focus on renovations. This helped our team not feel the pandemic as much financially and feel stable working alongside Screenmobile.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
No, we never considered giving up. That wasn’t even an option in our minds. Thankfully, all of our franchisees were on board and all-in throughout those early pandemic days. We were all facing the same challenges, so our motivation was supporting our Screenmobile team members. We wanted to skillfully guide our franchisees to make good decisions and help them navigate building a business rather than building a job. Our drive is sustained by our desire to continuously uplift our team, keeping in mind that the decisions we make also affect their families. So, we pride ourselves on providing guidance and coaching through regional meetings and virtual conventions, for example, to remain in close contact with our franchisees.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
The most critical role of a leader is to have the patience and foresight to make good decisions for the long term. It boils down to your leadership style, but I believe taking time to think on decisions, strategizing conservatively, and prioritizing your team’s best interests, go a long way when leading your team through challenging times.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
When the future seems uncertain, I think it’s best to shut off outside distractions and influences and make sure you focus on just doing business. Of course there are concerning aspects in these trying times, but it’s best not to overwhelm yourself with negativity. In our particular industry, we have to remind ourselves that everyone is going through it and to be grateful of where we are at today. We always make sure to reassure our team and internally we always try to approach our staff meetings with these three questions — what are our franchisees working on, what do they need help with, and what do others need to know? This helps us foster an environment of open communication and trust and keeps us tight within our network of professionals across the country.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
It’s best to approach difficult situations with love and integrity. I’m very big on being straightforward. Even though the truth can be uncomfortable, I don’t believe in massaging or manipulating it. People always recognize and appreciate when someone is open and honest with them.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Our company used to do our planning a year in advance, but in these times, we’re finding that six months is about as far as you can plan right now due to how fast things are changing. We believe in moving one step at a time to keep yourself agile amidst all the change.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Integrity from the top down — we believe in walking the walk and talking the talk. If you are the same person no matter where you’re at, whether it’s with family or at work, then that integrity will shine through. We pride ourselves on this as it helps our franchisees instill trust in us. We gave them our Screenmobile baby to generate wealth for themselves and they trust our vision, and together we bring our investment to new heights.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
I find that some businesses are not mindful of their cash flow and don’t have good accounting practices which is crucial. Business owners also need to assess all situations logically and strategically to continue furthering their brand. They should always keep an eye out for trends and opportunities. Good communication internally and externally is also incredibly important. Making sure that everyone is doing a good job and is on the same page allows for the team as a whole to prosper.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Part of our strategy is to make sure we are in good communication with our vendor teams. We ensure that our vendors are operating profitably and make sure that our team members are financially stable. We want to be sure that all parties are mindful of their debt and are focused on growth. We remind our teams to look at what’s affecting the economy and our industry and plan accordingly. It’s also important to not overreact to personalities in the business world, and instead assess whether this is an industry decision or a personality reaction. We make sure to analyze data to decipher trends and most importantly picking the right partners and franchisees will help you keep forging ahead.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Trust your team — Allow them to do their job, but make sure you’re available as a resource for guidance.
- Listen to your CFO — Communicate efficiently internally and talk to business partners to ensure your finances are stable.
- Make sure your franchisees are “healthy” — Franchisees are often measured by sales dollars, but this doesn’t reflect on their “health” as an individual. By that, I mean are they taking time to spend time with their family, are they paying their employees enough, etc. Always check in with your teams and make sure they are not just surviving but thriving.
- Look for trends and opportunities — Don’t get comfortable, but instead always look ahead to what’s happening in the industry to stay ahead of the game.
- Lead with integrity — Know your values and what is expected of you as a leader and serve as an example and a mentor to your colleagues. This helps to build lasting trust amongst your teams and leads to greater organizational effectiveness.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You don’t build a business, you build people, then people build the business.” This embodies exactly how we run our business and what keeps us thriving.
How can our readers further follow your work?
They can visit our website at https://www.screenmobile.com to learn more about our services, take a look at our blog for industry-related insight, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Scott Walker Of Screenmobile: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.