Using the Power of Momentum to Foster Business Growth

Last Updated on May 28, 2021 by Owen McGab Enaohwo

Momentum is the gradual build-up of a process. Momentum is important because the little things add up to big things, and build up to greater things, just as Mr. Benjamin Carlson, director of operations at Total Mechanical, explains in this episode of the Process Breakdown Podcast with Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

They talk about change, growth, and how to maintain and promote increasing progression.

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Show Notes

0:06 – Intro

0:26 – Dr. Jeremy Weisz shares the best solution that makes documenting standard operating procedures drop-dead easy, highlighting a 14-day free trial. No credit card required.

2:09 – Dr. Weisz introduces today’s guest, Benjamin Carlson, director of operations at Total Mechanical.

2:50 – Mr. Carlson talks about his company, what they do, and their recent growth opportunity.

4:22 – The guest talks more about what his company does, and how they help with the infrastructure of the HVAC and plumbing in some developments like hospitals and commercial spaces.

6:29 – The guest explains what he thinks of when he hears “small changes.”

7:32 – Mr. Carlson gives examples of small changes he’s sure to have led to significant growth.

8:29 – Mr. Carlson gives some of the examples of technologies/software they rely on and like to use for processing.

9:26 – The guest talks about software that has just recently been adopted for use, and he gives more examples of small changes that he feels have been game-changers.

10:42 – Mr. Carlson talks about some employee training programs at the company.

11:50 – The guest speaker gives examples of some popular books in the company book club.

12:14 – The guest explains how the book club meetings are conducted.

13:42 – Mr. Carlson explains what the white plumes coming out of factory chimney towers is, de-mystifying a common myth.

15:02 – The guest shares some of the things in his line of work that surprised and impressed him at first.

17:03 – Mr. Carlson talks about airflow, how to manage it, facilities that call him to help with these issues, and explains how it’s done.

19:31 – Mr. Carlson talks about dual ionizing field generators for air filtering, how it works, and what it was like seeing it in action.

21:01 – Outro

Guest Profile

Benjamin Carlson is the director of operations at Total Mechanical, based in Washington state. He’s an experienced operations manager with a history of working in the construction industry. He studied economics at Western Washington University where he acquired useful skills, such as time management, event management, public speaking, customer service, and a lot more that aid him in his line of work.

Benjamin Carlson is the director of operations at Total Mechanical, based in Washington state.

He’s an experienced operations manager with a history of working in the construction industry.

He studied economics at Western Washington University where he acquired useful skills, such as time management, event management, public speaking, customer service, and a lot more that aid him in his line of work. 

Transcript of the interview

Speaker 1: Welcome to the process breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now let’s get started with the show.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz Here, host of the Process Breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. Ben, I like to point to past episodes, past episodes, some of my favorites, I mean, they’re all great. But David Allen of Getting Things Done was really good. Michael Gerber of the E-Myth was really good and there’s just many, many more. There was another one with a lady that owns a dentist office, as you just talked about all of the systems and processes and it’s really the stuff that makes things work. And we’ll talk about that today and I’ll introduce formally Ben Carlson in a second, but before I do it, this episode is brought to you by SweetProcess. So if you’ve had the same team members in general ask you the same questions over and over again, and it may be the 10th time you spend explaining it.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Well, there’s actually a better way. There is a solution it’s called SweetProcess. It’s a software that makes it drop dead easy to train and onboard new staff and save time with existing staff. And I was asking Ben, one of the founders, “Owen, who uses the software?” And he’s like, “Well, universities, banks, hospital software companies use them.” But what I realized from talking to them that actually there’s first responder government agencies that use them in life or death situations to run their operations”. I’m like, well, that’d be cool to tell people. So you can use SweetProcess to document all the repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time. So you can focus on growing your team, and you could sign up for a free 14 day trial. No credit cards required. You can go to, sweet like candy S-W-E-E-T Today, as I mentioned, we have Ben Carlson, he’s director of operations at Total Mechanical. And he also is a amazing golfer. If you’re watching the video, there’s a trophy behind him. But Ben, thanks for joining me.

Benjamin Carlson: Hey, thanks for having me on.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: There was a topic I want to talk about with you which is this kind of idea of momentum, and how small changes over time lead to significant growth. But we were talking before we hit record about a growth opportunity that your company has, and talk about the growth opportunity and exploring that growth opportunity.

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah. So my company, Totally Mechanical has been around for 40 years. I was just recently brought on a few years back. But for most of the that time we just did new construction, or tenant improvement or like remodels, repair work. But every time we build one of these new buildings or we do a tenant expansion, our clients were always excited about it. And at the end, they’d say, “Oh can we hire you for a service contract to take care of this building and the systems that we built them. And we’ve always it’s a little bit messier getting involved in service. And so we’ve never done that. We never felt like we could do a good job at it. And then about two years ago, we kind of finally caved and said, “Well, maybe we have enough of these that we could maybe piece together a department.”

Benjamin Carlson: And so as we piece this department together, two years ago, I realized that we have enough to maintain part of a department. But if we want to actually turn this into a service where we can be better for our clients or expand this piece of the company, we’re going to need to not just rely on our construction site, we’re going to have to actually go out and get new clients that just want service. And maybe we can use that to maybe feed more clients into our construction site.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That makes sense. What’s interesting is so just to be clear, you guys help with all kind of the infrastructure of the HVAC and plumbing in some of these developments like hospitals, commercial spaces. Well, how else would you explain so people kind of understand more about exactly what you do?

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah. So, we do plumbing systems. So at the same time kind of systems that are in your house or in buildings everywhere, and we install those and take care of them. But there’s a lot of specialty systems that you don’t think about. There could be situations where you need vacuum systems where the entire waste system is under pressure, where you can’t have clogs or overflows happen like in hospitals or in prisons or things like that. Where is the additional risks to having stuff overflowing or water damage. There’s big pieces of equipment that require cooling, like MRIs and things like that that are multiple millions of dollars a piece, that require piped in chilled water. And then you can also think about systems like when the doctor connects in, in a surgery center, the vacuum system where they’re using to clean blood or-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: You cannot have that breaking down. I mean, if that breaks down, someone’s on the table open, that’s a serious problem.

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah. So the systems are redundant, but every so often one will get clogged, and that’s usually the technicians in the field. All they all draw straws or who has to go and plug it.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. How does that work? You actually have to get in there, and we’re talking like blood and stuff like that?

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Wow.

Benjamin Carlson: They call it acid waste.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So can next time you wear a GoPro and we can all watch along with them? Have you ever thought about doing that?

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah. It’s not really something you’d want to go watch. That and the waste side of plumbing is, it doesn’t get talked about a lot.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I think you should throw that in the ring. We’re putting on a GoPro and the next person to unclog this thing. So thanks for giving an idea of that. It’s, it’s a really, it’s a specialty within a specialty. Right. And so when I say thing like the small changes over time, that lead to significant growth, what, what do you think of when we think of small?

Benjamin Carlson: Well, you know, in the con you know, the construction industry is really hesitant to change or adopt new technology. And so I look at over the past 10 years, if you rewound some of the businesses that we work with, and even us in some aspects, 10 years, almost nothing has changed. We’re still using Excel to manage projects. We’re still using the same email apps. We’re still using word documents that we email back and forth. 10 years ago, when a lot of these new productivity things have come out, we always say, Oh, well, it’s not specifically designed for construction. It’s not going to work. So when I think about small changes, I think about, hey, let’s just push the envelope forward 5% hear and stop looking for this silver bullet. And let’s just focus every day on making these processes a little bit better.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: What have you been seeing that you, over the past several years, you implemented these small changes? What would be some examples that you felt led to some significant growth?

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah. So our accounting department’s a good one because there’s no, there aren’t a lot of construction accounting software that’s specifically designed for our size of company and our specialty of company. So really focusing down and looking at, hey, our accounting solution doesn’t have an option for electronically managing the coding of invoices and things like that. And so how can we just either create that system inside ourselves or purchase another system and layer it on top so that we can capture some of this time savings and efficiency of being able to process this digitally instead of looking for a new accounting system or trying to petition our current one to add it.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. So there’s a lot of technology, software, product efficiency side. What are some of the technology and software that you rely on and like to use?

Benjamin Carlson: So Microsoft Power Automate has been a big, big help recently, and kind of getting into using that. He started experimenting with Notion a little bit and being able to put our documentation and publish it really quickly and have access to everybody. And then in addition to that, we have in, in the field, we’ve been exploring this concept of 3D design and using these, the Trimble systems to help efficiency in the field where once we kind of designed the project or when we receive the plans, we’ll create a three-dimensional model of it in the office, and then maybe we’ll remanufacture some of it on before we headed off to the field.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So has that type of software been around a long time or has that been adopted lately

Benjamin Carlson: Within the past five or so years it’s been adapted.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Any other, when we talk about the idea of momentum, any other small changes that come to mind, you said the accounting piece that you feel has been a game changer.

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah. I think employee development. A company our size, we’ve got about 35 people in the office and about a hundred to 150 in the field. And when you were accompanied this kind of size, it’s hard to justify hiring somebody just to do employee development or hiring a coach, especially with the kind of fast-paced construction environment where it’s kind of this boom bust cycle that you don’t necessarily know when it’s going to be busy when it’s not. Just taking time and focusing on, hey, instead of trying to plan some retreat altogether or hire somebody to do professional development coaching, let’s just focus on spending 30 minutes a week doing something or creating some program for our employees or telling our employees, giving them a certain amount of time each week, just to focus on what they want to be developed on.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: What has worked as far as that? What programs have people liked or what have they chosen to do?

Benjamin Carlson: We started out a few years back. We bought a subscription to Lynda,, that training program, and we had mixed results. A lot of people liked the idea of having this available training, but other than a few use cases, people didn’t really utilize it. So we experimented with a few other things. And eventually we landed on this idea of professional development book club. So we’ll just organize a few of these booklets and we’ll take recommendations from people on, hey, what are some books that you’ve heard about that you want to read that are somewhat related to professional development? You kind of hold their feet to the fire a little bit when you say, “Hey, if this is the book you want to choose, let’s do it. And here’s the reading schedule.”

Benjamin Carlson: And we get together and we talk about it a few times and talk about… A couple of 30 minute meetings every other week, just to talk about what our takeaways have been from that book and how we can implement workspace. And we’ve seen a lot of people, not only wanting to participate in that, but then also wanting to going and starting their own groups within the company.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: What were some of the books that were popular?

Benjamin Carlson: Turn the ship Around by L. David Marquette was extremely popular. Fierce Conversations was really good. Those two have been the biggest, we’ve gotten the most positive feedback on those two books.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: How do you run the meeting? So people are showing up 30 minutes. Are they in personally, on Zoom? How many people are participating in that?

Benjamin Carlson: So we’ll try and keep the group small, maybe five or less people. And then traditionally it’s been in person, but lately it’s been on Zoom. And then we usually designated facilitator, which is usually me or somebody else that has either read the book before or gone or attended some of these classes. And then we’ll open up the floor and say, “Hey, what stood out to you from the book? What have you been working on?” And then typically the facilitator will bring just one or two questions or thoughts that they had on the book. And then we’re big on like everybody coming away with it, with a challenge for themselves to work on for the next couple of weeks. And then reporting back on the next meeting, kind of how that went.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I want to talk about, Ben, a mythbuster, for a second. And I’d love to hear some of the things you’ve learned in this industry that maybe you didn’t know that surprised you, we were talking before we hit record. And you were saying when you pass those big plants and you see this white stuff going into the air, I always thought it was just pollution from a factory. That’s what I thought. And then you were mentioning what it actually is. And I was like, wow, okay. I was totally wrong. I thought all these facilities are just throwing pollution and smoke in the environment. What is that actually?

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah, it’s a little concerning. When you look out your hospital window and you just see this giant plume of stuff coming past your window and getting sucked back into your room, but it’s just water vapor. So those are big cooling towers where heated water will come through these coils that are kind of across and stacked across each other. And then they’ll spray water over these coils to cool them down. And that’s just the water coming contact with that heated water. And as it cools-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It’s not what I was making up in my mind, just pollution spraying into the air.

Benjamin Carlson: There’s a common joke in our industry where if you get somebody new or somebody who’s maybe fresh out of college, you’ll be walking through these mechanical levels and and there’ll be like a big burst of this steam coming across and everyone will walk through it and then you’ll turn around and say, “Oh my God, did you breathe that in?” And every single time their face is just, it’s priceless.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It’s hazing in your world. Are there any other, I don’t know if they’re myths per se, but things that you’ve learned that you had no idea or that surprised you.

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah, I guess just the technology that goes into managing yoke air flow within a building is really surprising. And then some of the new energy efficient machinery, I guess that goes into recapturing heat that was previously lost both out of buildings and out of water systems is pretty impressive. One of the new, there’s an architect firm down here that we’re building their new office, called PAE, they’re building a building called the living building, which is a net producer of clean energy and water. And it’s going to be the largest living building in the world and it’s being built down here in downtown Portland. But the systems they’re putting in, they’re handling sewage treatment onsite, and they’re handling water treatment and gray water treatment onsite, which is not something that you would ever think about, and there’s a lot of places where even if you have a large facility, it may be beneficial for you to recycle your own water on site, and use it for irrigation or something like that.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Why are they doing it? I’m assuming it’s also going to be more costly to do that too, in the short term, right?

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah. You see a lot of these systems are a lot more costly upfront, but the long-term payout is actually a lot more positive.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Talk about airflow. You’re mentioning airflow. I mean, that doesn’t enter into most people’s minds, but now when we are talking pandemic, it’s on everyone’s minds.

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So it sounds like the company has been… has this and knows kind of the most cutting edge technologies and how to manage this. What have you heard, or have you seen facilities call you to help with these issues right now?

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah. I know when this all first started there’s been a big push for energy savings in the past decades or so leading up to this. And so one of the ways they do as they just recycles the air that’s in your current space. They suck it up through your return air, add some new outside air, mix it together, heat it back up, and then put it back into your building. Well, with COVID, especially in a hospital or something like that, you don’t want to have as much of that recirculation of air. Got a lot of calls to just, hey, let’s change these HVAC units, the mix of air to be more outside air. It’s called the OSA settings. Increase the OSA settings so that we get more fresh air in here. We’re not recirculating this airborne virus.

Benjamin Carlson: And then we finally changed a lot of these settings. And then the fires happened in Oregon at the end of . And so we were sucking in all of the smoke from the outside air into all these spaces. And that’s when we really started looking at, hey, what’s some additional emerging technology that can figure this out. And there’s a company that creates these things called fuel ionizing fuel generators, and it’s this small box that you’ve put on your HVAC unit. And it creates a dual ionization field within your unit. So as the air passes through it, it charges the particles in your air, both positively and negatively, and when it gets dispersed in your area, all of those particles start sticking together and finding other particles in the air that stick together. And they either heavy enough to fall down out of the air or even heavy enough that-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So you don’t breathe in some of these things that are not good for you to breathe essentially.

Benjamin Carlson: Right. A virus can pass through most filtration, because it’s so small, but this dual ionization causes it to stick particles that are larger and fall out of the air.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That’s pretty cool.

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And it’s all, I mean, did they even show you, give you an example display in magnification, what it actually looks like? Because obviously we can’t see in the naked eye, that’d be kind of cool to see in the naked eye, you see this virus coming and it all attaches and it drops to ground. It’s like you’re in a war zone of viruses. They’re just dropping to the ground. Did you see anything like that of what that actually looks like?

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah. And it looks like straight magic first off, when we’re looking at this technology, it’s a little expensive. And when we’re reading all the technical specifications, it’s just a bunch of words and diagrams and all that stuff. And then they’re like, “Oh, let’s show you this video.” And they have this big, huge glass jar. This huge glass jar is just full of black smoke, you can’t see through it, it’s just full of smoke. And they attach this device to the top, and they turn it on. And it literally, this fast, the smoke just gone out of it. And I just remember looking, I was like, that’s not real. You should be leading with this. This is what everybody needs to see.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: The rest of hour with you telling me charts, just show me the display.

Benjamin Carlson: Yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: What was it called again?

Benjamin Carlson: The dual ionizing field generator. The company that we purchased it from kind of escapes me at the moment.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That’s cool. The dual ionizing field generator. I’m like, I need one for my house now.

Benjamin Carlson: You can get one. They’re maybe 800 bucks or so. But it’s pretty easy. It’s just for residential ones it just has some magnets that just stick to the side of your unit.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I love it. Ben, I want to say thank you. I want to point people towards the website,, check out more, check out more episodes of the podcast, check out SweetProcess, and Ben, I want to be the first one to thank you. Thanks everyone.

Benjamin Carlson: Thank you.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the Process Breakdown podcast. Before you go, quick question. Do you want a tool that makes it easy to document processes, procedures, and/or policies for your company so that your employees have all the information they need to be successful at their job? If yes, sign up for a free 14 day trial of SweetProcess. No credit card is required to sign up, go to, sweet like candy, and process like Go now to and sign up for your risk-free 14 day trial.

Owen: Hi, this is Owen, the CEO, and co-founder here at SweetProcess. If you’ve enjoyed listening to this podcast interview, actually, you know what I want you to do? Go ahead and leave us a five star review on iTunes. That way we get more people aware of the good stuff that you get here on this podcast. Again, go onto iTunes and leave us a five star review. Looking forward to reading your review. Have a good day.

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