If you can dream it, you can achieve it at Applewood Plumbing, Heating & Electric. Many years ago, the now-40-year-old company set a goal of earning $1 million in revenue.

“We talked about it amongst ourselves and our family laughed it off,” said Josh Ward, vice president of the Denver-based company. “It seemed totally unachievable.”

The family put it in writing, and, less than four years later, had earned it.

“We realized goal-setting, budgeting, and doing the map was very important, so we do spend a good bit of time on that. We have a very detailed five-year plan. Everything we’ve really set our sights to and planned for has happened for us. We just keep on repeating the same thing and, so far, it’s working out.”

That goal-setting has propelled the company, which consists of about 50 percent plumbing, 40 percent HVAC, and 10 percent electrical, to $24 million in sales. But, the company continued to set its sights higher and higher. Its latest five-year sales revenue goal has been set at $50 million.

“If you set a goal, work toward that goal, and meet it, it gives everyone a lot of confidence,” said John Ward, company president and founder. “And, once you hit a goal, you know it can be done. And, once you’ve done it once, it gives you faith that you can do it again.”

Giving Back

While turning a profit is very important at Applewood, the company places an equal importance on giving back to its community. Not only does the company donate $1,000 each month to a local charity, but it also runs the Applewood House, which John Ward said is the company’s version of the Ronald McDonald House.

“We do so many things that we never would’ve been able to do as a $1 million company,” he said. “We put people up for a month at a time, generally. St. Anthony’s Hospital has a world-famous brain trauma center. You’re going to be there at least 30 days, so there’s a huge financial impact on the family. The hospital finds people who have a need, and we put them up in the Applewood House and provide them everything they need, including food. We leave them alone, we don’t interfere. … It’s not all about the money. It’s about what we can do to help our community.”

The Applewood House has hosted families from across the country, including New Mexico, California, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and, of course, Colorado.

Applewood doesn’t only give back to the community, but to its employees, as well.

The company features a number of programs designed to make sure its 116 employees are well taken care of. It provides 100 percent health care coverage to its employees, along with a 3 percent 401(k) match, plus a tuition reimbursement program. Applewood also gives its employees a choice of $500 gift cards for every five years of service with the company, and on top of that, if an employee refers someone who is then hired, the employee receives $500 for each six months that person is employed with Applewood.

“We strive to ensure employees know they’re appreciated,” said Paula Washenberger, marketing director.

Best for Business

Applewood has built its business on repeat customers. John Ward said, on any given day, about 60 percent of the company’s calls are from repeat customers. “We’re really fortunate to have good, loyal customers. We give them clean, safe service, and that’s what they want,” John Ward said.

But that’s not the only difference for Applewood. In addition to boasting a 96 percent on-time record, it makes sure its technicians and employees have the best customer service training in order to make good impressions with customers.

“We do a lot of customer service training with our people,” John Ward said. “We know they have the technical skills, even though we do a lot of technical training, we also do a lot of soft skills training; how to clean up a job site, how to introduce yourself, that type of thing. We’re a service business, we’re not a construction company, so we can’t behave like a construction company. We have to behave like a waiter.”

And with a company that is rapidly expanding — its workforce has grown nearly 50 percent in the last five years — making sure everyone is on top of their game is an important factor. “The biggest thing is coming to work every day, being involved, making sure we’re making sound decisions — not doing stuff that might not make sense numbers-wise,” Josh Ward said. “Always looking at the map, making sure what we’re doing makes sense from that perspective, and always thinking about what the customer will think about it. We want to make sure all our employees are treated fairly.”

Publication date: 4/14/2014 

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