Jason Kapica of Dryer Vent Wizard: “Make time for your hobbies”

Make time for your hobbies. Everyone has something they enjoy doing when they are not at work. This can be something just for you, or it can be activity that you may enjoy doing as a family. I personally like to be active and workout as often as possible. Since COVID-19 has changed our lives, […]

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Make time for your hobbies. Everyone has something they enjoy doing when they are not at work. This can be something just for you, or it can be activity that you may enjoy doing as a family. I personally like to be active and workout as often as possible. Since COVID-19 has changed our lives, this has turned into a family activity and it’s fantastic. We get the exercise we need, but it also provides us time as a family to discuss different topics while we are together. We have started working out together on our lunch breaks at home.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Kapica. He was named president of Dryer Vent Wizard in January of 2018 after joining the company in 2012 as the Director of Franchise Development. With more than 20 years of sales, marketing and leadership experience, Jason has built strong relationships with both the franchisees and home office team while continuing to move the Dryer Vent Wizard brand forward.

Jason began his career in franchising in 2004 when he joined Children’s Orchard as a Franchise Developer. It was in this position where Jason’s passion for franchising and business ownership began to grow. This passion ultimately led him and a partner to launch Park n Party, an online event parking reservation business, in 2010. After growing Park n Party to numerous markets around the country, Jason sold his shares of the business to his partner.

Jason is a Certified Franchise Executive through the International Franchise Association. He attended Western Michigan University and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Advertising in 1998.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share with us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career?

The bulk of my career was spent in sales and marketing, and that is what brought me to Dryer Vent Wizard, a Neighborly company. I had worked with one of the former owners, Terry Reuer, at another franchise in the past and she recruited me to Dryer Vent Wizard to do franchise development.

I began taking on projects in addition to sales and eventually was promoted to President in 2018.

I have worked in a few different industries over the years and franchising has always been my favorite. As a past business owner myself, the ability to help franchise owners realize the dream of successfully owning their own business is very fulfilling.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started? What lessons or takeaways did you take out of that story?

In 2019, Dryer Vent Wizard set a Guinness World Record for the largest ball of lint. This proved to initially be a remarkably difficult challenge and an ultimate team-building project.

We started by sending boxes and bags to all of our franchise owners to have them send us lint that they cleaned out of homeowners’ vents across the country. We weren’t quite sure how much lint we would ultimately receive or if owners would be supportive of this idea. Turns out, there was a lot of enthusiasm for this project and we received over 1,300 pounds of lint! Our ball only needed to be 100 pounds, so we ended up with plenty of lint to accomplish our goal.

We didn’t want to just set a record with the bare minimum 100 pounds, we wanted to go as big as possible. After all, we were receiving hundreds of pounds of lint on a weekly basis! This led to our next challenge of how to shape that much lint into a ball without it falling apart. We ended up making a large box that had a form in the middle to shape our ball of lint. Once we thought we had a winning form, we actually built the ball and sent pictures to our Guinness representative who would give us feedback. I believe this took four or five tries to finally get a thumbs up.

Creating the ball was not a pleasant experience. It took four or five of us to shovel the lint into the box and then we would all get into the box and walk around the plywood to smash the lint down into our form. In order to do this, we had to have on Tyvek suits and respirator masks so we would not breath in the dust from the lint. This was not an enjoyable task, since the Tyvek suits really do not “breathe” and we were in the parking lot, with the sun beating down on us.

We decided to have Guinness come to us for the weighing of the ball of lint and we coordinated the event with the start of our national meeting in Detroit, MI. We bussed out franchise owners and had a lot of press show up for the weighing of the ball. Once the record was broken (just under 700 lbs.), the local fire department set it on fire to show how flammable lint can be.

This strange event offered up a couple different lessons.

First, this was a great leadership lesson. I firmly believe that great leaders “lead from the front.” They are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and help get difficult tasks accomplished as a team. By suiting up in the Tyvek suit and building that lint ball in the blazing heat with my team, it showed that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help get the job done.

Secondly, this was a great team bonding exercise. Yes, it was hot, disgusting and not fun at all, but we cracked jokes and made the best of it. When the entire plan came together and we set the record, we were able to stand as a team and point to what we were able to accomplish.

What does leadership mean to you? As a leader, how do you best inspire others?

To me, leadership means more than just influencing a group of people to work together on a common goal. I believe leadership needs to go deeper than just the organizations goals and help individuals move forward with their own personal goals in life.

I think connecting with people on a more personal level and being willing to roll up your sleeves and help when needed goes a long way with inspiration.

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?

Actually, I would say Dave Lavalle and Terry Reuer, the former owners of Dryer Vent Wizard, would be my answer for this question. I have always taken away a couple nuggets of knowledge from my roles at previous companies and have had a lot of great managers, but Terry and Dave are the ones that really moved me forward and put me in the role I am in today.

There really isn’t a single story to share. They both saw something in me long before I did and continued to move me forward in the organization with a great deal of counsel and the freedom to make mistakes.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main core of our discussion. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your life into your business and career? Can you articulate what the struggle was?

Of course, it can be difficult to balance home life with work life and I don’t think the struggle necessarily goes away. There are days, weeks and months where it is really difficult to accomplish everything at work and meet all of our goals at home.

Drawing from one of the Code of Values we use as a Neighborly company, I feel the secret is communicating honestly and with purpose. Making sure you talk through all of the various tasks at work with co-workers or staff as well as communicating with your family at home are key to staying on the same page and managing busy schedules. It’s equally important to be honest if you find you are over extended and not going to be able to keep a deadline at work or social event in your home life.

I’m extremely fortunate that my wife acts as our “project manager” at home and puts together a monthly calendar of events on a dry erase board for all of us to refer to when considering our schedules. This really helps us stay on track of things at home.

In order to give greater context to this discussion, can you share with our readers what your daily schedule looks like?

My daily schedule looks quite a bit different than it did six or seven months ago, before COVID made us all into teleworkers and before our company was acquired by Neighborly.

My typical day breaks down like this:

  • I wake up around 5:30–5:45 a.m., get ready and head downstairs to have coffee, go through emails and take a look at the tasks on my calendar for the day.
  • If someone on my team has something they need right away, we’ll often have a call before our 9 am daily huddle to discuss how I can help.
  • At 9 a.m. we all gather via video conference to huddle and discuss what everyone is working on for the day. If anyone needs anything, it can be discussed during the call as well.
  • From there, my day can go in many different directions. I spend a lot of time in meetings with team members at Neighborly to discuss getting our company integrated into the large amount of systems Neighborly has to offer.
  • Throughout the week, I have check-in meetings with the various departments: Development, Marketing, our Scheduling Center, Franchise Support, etc.
  • Depending on my exact schedule, I typically work out with my wife and my son around lunchtime. We have a small gym in the basement and it’s great family bonding to work out and check in on each other’s’ day.
  • My afternoons look a lot like my mornings with meetings and helping team members move projects forward.
  • Sprinkled in with all of the above, I spend time on the phone with franchise owners to discuss their needs or any issues they may be having. I also periodically need to throw on my teacher hat and help our son with some homework as everyone tries to keep education moving forward.
  • My evenings are often spent at a sporting event or practice. My son plays travel baseball and that takes up a lot of time during the summer months. Often when I’m at practice, I can squeeze in some additional calls if needed to help out the team or one of our franchise owners.

Needless to say, days are extremely busy and trying to balance work and home life can be a challenge some days.

Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life? Can you explain?

I don’t think my life has been any more difficult to manage as my career advanced.

Looking back on my past positions in sales, I believe I worked just as much as I do now to ensure success at that craft. I have stood at many baseball practices speaking with candidates that were considering purchasing a franchise or a product that I was selling at the time.

I’m also lucky to have a great partner in this chaotic life, my wife Suzanne. Her work schedule is just as hectic as mine as the leader of a grant-funded project at the University of Michigan. We are constantly coordinating our calendars to make sure we can manage our work-life balance.

What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal/family life?

A tipping point for me was when I went through a divorce many years ago and could not spend as much time with my daughter, even though we had joint custody. After that experience, I knew that if I ever remarried and had additional children, work-life balance was going to be key.

Ok, so here is the main question of our interview. Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal/family life? Please share a story or example for each.

  • Set your priorities. My wife and I always say we can only watch our kids grow up once, but there will always be another day of work.
  • Work hard and play hard. Make sure you utilize your vacation time to recharge your batteries. It’s important to take a step back from the hectic schedule of work and often our home life to slow down and be in the moment. Whether it’s a trip or a “staycation” spending time as a family unit without a hectic schedule is very important.
  • Set expectations for staff and leave work at work. It’s important that your staff have a great work-life balance as well. This will allow them to enjoy their jobs more and make them more productive in the long run. Technology has created a 24/7 business world thanks to cell phones and email in everyone’s pockets. This is great for providing a flexible schedule for everyone, including myself, but it doesn’t mean we no longer have off hours.
  • If I send someone a quick email at an off-hour, I don’t expect them to get back to me right away. This goes both ways, so if I receive an email late in the evening, I probably will not be answering it until the following day. Of course, there are always exceptions and emergencies do arise, but in general, I believe it’s important for everyone to enjoy their off-hour time.
  • Make time for your hobbies. Everyone has something they enjoy doing when they are not at work. This can be something just for you, or it can be activity that you may enjoy doing as a family. I personally like to be active and workout as often as possible. Since COVID-19 has changed our lives, this has turned into a family activity and it’s fantastic. We get the exercise we need, but it also provides us time as a family to discuss different topics while we are together. We have started working out together on our lunch breaks at home.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “no.” We only have so many hours in a day and sometimes it just isn’t possible to go to every work conference, training, or friend/family gathering.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’m a huge sports’ fan and an even bigger Green Bay Packers fan, so I guess it’s not surprising I like the following quote from Vince Lombardi:

Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.

I have always enjoyed being part of a team, whether sports, groups in school or working for companies, and I think this quote pretty much sums up life. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to be successful at something unless you are part of a group that shares your goals.

You are a person of great influence. 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. 🙂

Tolerance would be the movement I’d like to see catch on. It’s our differences that make us great and if we could begin to tolerate or accept other people and cultures, we could really move our world forward.

What is the best way for people to follow you online?

In order to balance my work life and home life, I spend very little time posting on social media. The best page for someone to follow me would be on LinkedIn.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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