Asher Raphael is not your average millennial. As co-CEO of construction company Power Home Remodeling, he is celebrating 14.5 years with the company. That’s right. Unlike his peers who may have job-hopped every two or three years, Raphael has grown up and grown his career at Power Home Remodeling, from an entry-level sales representative to CEO. In fact, he admits he’s never written a resume.
Sure, the 37-year old may seem like a throwback to the days when Americans worked a blue-collar job for forty years until retirement. However, Raphael possesses two very millennial-ish traits: innovation and imagination. Alongside his co-CEO Corey Schiller, the two have grown the family-owned and operated Power Home Remodeling to be named a 2018 Best Place to Work through Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards with a rating of 4.5. The win is thanks to Power’s employees’ reviews and feedback.
“Power is a community where your peers and colleagues constantly encourage you to be your best,” said one employee. “You are acknowledged for your accomplishments and held accountable for reaching your goals. The Executives not only know your name but they know you as a person because they make an effort to build rapport.”
Driven not by the bottom line but by a passion for customers and employees, Power, like its CEOs, is an anomaly. 90% of executives started out as entry-level employees. Instead of recruiting a senior VP or C-suiter, Power grooms and develops from within thanks to a one-of-a-kind professional development program. The Pennsylvania-based company has found a way to make energy-saving home remodeling enticing to recent grads and veterans alike. With perks like an annual trip to Mexico, leadership conferences, matching 401k and performance-based rewards, it’s no wonder they’re hiring like crazy.
Glassdoor’s Amy Elisa Jackson caught up with Asher Raphael on the eve of Power’s big win to chat about company culture, what he looks for in the ideal job applicant, and how the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, pumps him up.
Glassdoor: Congrats on the win for Best Places to Work, being the number one construction company, and 16th overall. What does it mean to you to know that your employees have chosen Power Home Remodeling as a Best Place to Work?
Asher Raphael: I’m really proud that we’re succeeding in a stated goal of creating the best place to work and the best culture in the country. My goal for the organization is to create positive change in a meaningful way and I don’t think there’s a group that you can have as significant an impact on than your employees. So this is a milestone for us and it’s a proud one. But I’m also, by no means, satisfied. I want Power to be the Best Place to Work in the country because I want this to be the most supportive, productive and positive place where people can grow and become the best versions of themselves. It’s a great mile marker and gives us encouragement to continue down the path that we’re on.
Glassdoor: How do you stay accountable to that North Star? It’s easy to be sidetracked by scaling and revenue.
Asher Raphael: This is where Glassdoor is really helpful for us [because] we’re getting constant feedback, in an anonymous way. We take every one of those reviews seriously and we learn from them. One of the things that I enjoy the most are the negative reviews because it shows the authenticity of what’s going on and you learn so much from them in different ways. In one aspect it’s where we’re falling short, where we’re not following through with what the expectations are of the employee, but then there’s also negative reviews that you’ll see that are actually living up to what our standards and expectations are. That gives me confidence as well because even if you’re going to be one of the best places or the best place to work in the country, you’re not going to be the right fit for everyone.
Glassdoor: You’re a three-time Best Places to Work winner. What have you done in 2017 to improve employee engagement?
Asher Raphael: For several years now, we have [had] leadership conferences throughout the year, for all different levels of employees — from senior management to entry-level — where we’re focusing on developing people as leaders. That has continued and we now have this really deep bench of leaders throughout the organization. What’s happened this year is those leadership conferences have spawned off into initiatives. So we have a diversity and inclusion initiative that we kicked off in 2017, as well as a veterans initiative and a women’s initiative. These have been three separate summits that we’ve organized to focus on creating a more inclusive environment. What that’s done is it’s also given us an opportunity to hear from people that previously we hadn’t heard from — people who are extremely passionate about the organization who can now speak internally about other things that they’re passionate about, about themselves and how they viewed themselves before they became Power employees. We’re now in 14 major U.S. locations so these summits and conferences are an opportunity to keep a larger, ever-growing business feeling small and intimate.
Glassdoor: What areas do you think you still want to improve as it relates to company culture?
Asher Raphael: For us, it is unusual in that it is not about driving revenue and it’s not about profitability. It’s about affecting people in a positive way. In all of the large and small decisions that we make, we’re asking ourselves, “Does this decision create a better, more positive place for our people?” That is not a destination, it’s a journey. It’s every decision that you make. So it’s really holding yourself accountable to, “Is this decision moving us in the right or the wrong direction?”
Glassdoor: In that same vein, were there any challenges or obstacles you faced in 2017? And how did you overcome them?
Asher Raphael: I always say a business is just about problem-solving. The difference is there are good problems and there are bad problems. This year is our biggest growth year ever, so we’ve been solving good problems. We’ll increase our revenue this year by well over a hundred million dollars, which puts enormous amounts of pressure on specific departments within the organization. It exposes any weaknesses that you have. We’ve had to work hard to overcome that.
Glassdoor: One of the benefits that your employees rave about is Power’s learning and development program. What makes that so unique and powerful when it comes to problem-solving?
Asher Raphael: Our general view of leadership is that we believe leaders are made, not born. Most organizations focus on developing people’s skill sets in order to complete a task. While we offer a lot of skill set training, we think that there should be equal focus on leadership development. We’re unusual in that we only promote from within, similar to the military. So the structure of our organization is dependent on development and learning. Leadership development has to start from the very beginning of their employment and never stop.
Glassdoor: Ah, so your path from entry-level associate to co-CEO with Corey Schiller is not entirely rare. You’re the best example of Power’s organizational structure and growth model.
Asher Raphael: Corey and I were both really blessed in that when we arrived at Power we received amazing training and mentorship. It was a very small company at the time, which meant that two young, fresh-out-of-college kids were able to earn a really good living right away, while feeling that we were cared for and mentored not just through our professional lives, but through the transition that we were making from childhood into adulthood. Our career trajectory wasn’t about title at all; it was really about who was best suited at that moment to solve whatever obstacle was in our way. He and I complement each other really, really well in that where one is strong, the other is weak, but we share a very similar worldview and have total trust in one another. I think that teams throughout history are what accomplish the most impressive tasks. I think that starts with leadership within the organization, and why having co-CEOs makes so much sense.
Glassdoor: Switching lanes a bit, when you’re looking to hire new entry-level employees, what skills or traits do you look for?
Asher Raphael: We only look for one of the two. I’m not interested in what somebody’s skills are; I’m interested in the traits that make them who they are. I believe you can train anyone to do something, but the core of who a person is, is way more important than the skill set that they’re arriving with. Instead of an interview, instead of talking about what they’ve done and what skill set they’re able to come in with, we’re focused on what makes them who they are.
Glassdoor: That’s unique.
Asher Raphael: We look for very specific traits. We look for people that are positive and optimistic, honest and caring, people that are mission-driven, people that want to work for something that is bigger than themselves. We’re asking questions about the hardest thing they’ve had to overcome and what inspires them.
Glassdoor: What makes an informed candidate a good fit for Power Home Remodeling?
Asher Raphael: I want somebody that wants to learn — who wants to be trained and wants to constantly be uncomfortable. That’s a specific type of person. Our philosophy is “Who before what.” The strategy of the business over the course of 25 years now has changed several times, as it needs to, with the reality of our economy and climate, and as our territories change. If you have the right type of people on your team, people who are there for each other, they’re able to shift with the strategy and lead the charge.
Glassdoor: So how do you interview with those things in mind?
Asher Raphael: We take a different approach, which is, “Let’s have as open and transparent a conversation as we possibly can to determine if we are the ideal fit for one another.” If the answer’s no, we’re better off figuring that out at this point. The most important part is the organization being as upfront as we can be in order to empower the prospective employee to make the best decision for themselves. Hopefully, in doing that, [we] create as safe an environment as we can for the applicant to feel that they can be open with us about not only who they are, but also what they’re looking for in their career.
Glassdoor: Alright, now for a few fun ones. What was your first job?
Asher Raphael: I bagged groceries, worked for a painter, and waited tables. Those were my first three non-real corporate America jobs. What I learned from those is that I really enjoy people, but that I wanted my work to make a difference in people’s lives. But Power was my first full-time job out of college. I’ve never written a resume.
Glassdoor: Wait, you’ve never written a resume?
Asher Raphael: I have none and I’ve never written one.
Glassdoor: Not even when you applied to Power Home Remodeling?
Asher Raphael: I didn’t. I got an interview through my brother, and you know, without him, I don’t think there was much about my past that would have made anybody think that I’d be the ideal candidate. I got the job and I thought it was going to be a pit stop. I thought I was going to go to law school. That was almost 15 years ago now.
Glassdoor: That’s pretty amazing. Resumes are so frustrating to write. Okay, what is your “get shit done” playlist or song?
Asher Raphael: This is the best question that I’ve had to answer in an interview in a long time. This is what I’d want to know about CEOs. My “get shit done” song is “The Boss” by James Brown.
Glassdoor: That’s priceless! A James Brown man. Now you’re winning me over. What’s your personal leadership motto?
Asher Raphael: If I had a motto, it’d probably be, “There are no problems, only solutions,” which John Lennon said.
Glassdoor: Lastly, what is your go-to productivity hack?
Asher Raphael: I don’t know if this one counts as a hack, but I’d say having accountability partners. In everything I’m doing, both personally and professionally, I try to create a really safe environment for people I trust to give me very honest and immediate constructive criticism. You have to create an environment where people will call you out on not living up to your responsibilities, or being wrong. It also goes back to being a co-CEO. Having someone that has the same title as you is just a built-in accountability partner.