9 questions with Shugarman’s Bath President Chase Shugarman

Graphic by SDtoday, Photo provided by Trainual

This piece is part of our SDtoday Q+A series. Do you know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.

We’re partnering with Trainual, an onboarding and training software for small businesses, to highlight a local business here in San Diego that has found success using the platform. Read on to see how Trainual is changing the game when it comes to leveling up the people + the processes that keep these businesses running smoothly (every single day). 

Profile: Chase Shugarman is President of Shugarman’s Bath, a bathroom remodeling company here in SD. We asked Chase what advice he has for other business owners, what makes the San Diego business community special + what he thinks a perfect day in San Diego looks like.  

Q: Tell us a little about your background, your business, and what you do in your current position.

A: I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and generally followed in my dad’s footsteps of wanting to have my own business. 

I eventually went to school to study business at UC Berkeley. From there, I landed a job helping manage a Kona Coffee farm in Hawaii (Heavenly Hawaiian Farms). This job doubled as helping run a tourism business and running a farm. With that opportunity, I learned a ton about how to grow and manage a small business. I got to work closely with the owners and general manager to overcome many exciting and difficult challenges. Navigating labor challenges in Hawaii, figuring out how to acquire more customers, learning how to digitally market to them, and build an online presence so our visitors could have year-round access to great coffee. It gave me a great foundation for what I eventually moved onto. 

My dad pitched me and my two brothers on starting a bathroom remodeling business. He was in sales at the time selling the product, which we offer to this day, and I realized what a great opportunity it was and how it would be fun to work with the family on something like this. He had a background in home building and knows pretty much everything there is to know about the construction side of the business. He was also great at sales. He brought Rick, Casey, and myself in to help manage and grow it. 

I am the president of the company, and my duties vary greatly from day to day, but in general, it is to ensure the ship is pointed in the right direction and that we have a team that is aligned and focused on the mission of delivering a great product to our customers, offering them great customer service, and creating a great reputation and a sustainable business that customers will love and be excited to do business with. 

Q: What makes SD’s business community special?

A: San Diego has a great business community. Our office is in Bay Park, so I spend a ton of time in the businesses around this neighborhood. There are a ton of small local businesses run by great people. Humble Bean Café, Zgara Greek Grill, and Sardinas are all places run by wonderful people that I have gotten the pleasure of getting to know. We are also surrounded by a bunch of great home improvement companies that we like to recommend. There is definitely a nice community of businesses and owners here that like to support each other. 

It’s a fun place to do business. The weather is perfect. We are lucky to be doing this in San Diego.

Q: What are some of the most important characteristics a leader can have?

A: A leader needs to accept responsibility for anything that goes wrong. I view my position as one that if anything goes wrong, it is ultimately my responsibility. The leaders within our company follow the same belief system. 

A leader also needs to be kind and empathetic. This does not mean shying away from giving critical feedback, though. It is important to be direct with people (something I personally have to actively improve on), so they know what is expected and to hold people accountable. It is also important to be generous with complimenting and praising successes. It is also critical that a leader cares about the growth of anyone they are leading. We want everyone in our business to have opportunities to grow and improve.

It is also important for a leader to “decentralize command.” This idea comes from Jocko Willink’s “Extreme Ownership,” a book I recommend any leader to read. The idea is that you give clear direction on what needs to be accomplished and why, and you let employees run with that and work with their teams to figure out the best way to get it done. Essentially, this is avoiding micromanaging. 

Q: Who are some local movers + shakers you’re watching?

A: There are many:

  • Jocko Willink: As mentioned above, he has a couple great books on leadership. He is a former Navy Seal that consults with businesses and leaders. I try to take everything he preaches and implement it into my own leadership skill set. He also lives in San Diego.
  • Rich Harshaw: He has a digital agency and a daily podcast where they heavily emphasize identity marketing. Marketing speaks to people and clearly explains who you are, why you do it, and why people should do business with you through very specific examples of what we do and through storytelling. This is different than the common “platitude marketing” you see all over the home improvement industry. 
  • John Anglis: He runs a home improvement business on the east coast and heavily emphasizes the use of strong systems and processes to run an effective and profitable business. 
  • Gary Vaynerchuk: He runs a big media company, does a bunch of public speaking, and has written a few books. Tons of good advice on running businesses, marketing, dealing with people, approaches to life, etc. 

Q: Describe your perfect day in SD.

A: There are many great ways to spend a day here. A great example would be waking up and getting some cold brew from a great coffee shop, like Humble Bean Café. Then some sort of outdoor activity like pickleball, disc golf, regular golf, or whatever, that doesn’t matter much. The weather here is perfect. It could be anything. 

In the evening, it would have to be going to a concert (preferably Dr. Dog) at one of the many epic venues here. Bellyup, Humphrey’s, Soda Bar — those are some really good ones.  

Q: What is the best career advice you’ve received?

A: Hire great people and take care of them, so they never want to leave. Having a good team is the only way to really have success. It’s impossible to do this stuff alone, so you need people you can rely on and trust. 

Pick your battles. Some things are not worth the fight. 

Q: What is your biggest challenge? Reward?

A: The biggest challenge is finding the right people to be on the team and to have the right people in the right positions. This applies to everything in the organization, but in particular, it is very challenging to find skilled bath installers. 

We have shifted towards hiring people that feel like they would be a great personality fit rather than having the skills needed (that is important, but it’s less so than the personality fit). We can train for the skills needed, but we want high integrity, high growth, and heavy customer service-oriented individuals installing our bathrooms and taking care of our customers. 

Q: How does Trainual make your team feel more connected?

A: We use Trainual to onboard every person who starts at our company. They learn the ins and outs of the business, learn about the team, their position, and all other important things to know on day one. 

We have some written SOPs and processes that we can refer to, if needed. We do extensive training using Trainual with our remote contact center employees to help them learn about the company and communicate that effectively to our potential customers. They also learn how to use all the technology required to do the remote job. They are quizzed on what they learn. They also can always refer back to it if any retraining is needed. There is so much more we have yet to unlock with Trainual, and we are excited to continue building it out. 

Q: What’s your go-to coffee order?

A: Cold Brew coffee. Black. Usually from Humble Bean Café or Bird Rock (another San Diego classic). Or I’ll go all out and get some Heavenly Hawaiian to make for myself at home.

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