Crockett Sheds Government Work for Success in the Commercial Market
Crockett Facilities Services Leaving Government Contracting Behind
In its 15 years in business, Crockett Facilities Services Inc. (CFSI) has withstood significant changes in the industry and thrived. The Bowie, Maryland-based contractor, owned by husband-and-wife team Mark Crockett and Cynthia “Cindy” Esparza Crockett, currently provides HVAC repair, installation, and preventive maintenance — as well as data center cooling, energy management, and custodial services — for commercial and government clients in Washington, District of Columbia; Maryland; and Virginia.
In 2013, the company pulled in $28.5 million in revenue, its best year yet, mainly because of the Crocketts’ decision to add commercial work to its predominantly government offerings five years ago.
“We saw where government procurement was going and didn’t like it,” said Mark Crockett. “There were way too many competitors. The expectation is that the lowest technically acceptable price is going to win the job, and procurement cycles were taking from 90 days up to a year. That’s not a business model we wanted to pursue in the future. So, we started performing the same service for commercial clientele, and that’s spurred the largest growth in our company today.”
Three years ago, about 90 percent of CFSI’s business was in the government market. Today, the company does about 65 percent of work in the government market and 35 percent in the commercial market. According to Mark Crockett, the company will be 50 percent in both markets in 2015. By 2017, it will be a fully functioning commercial contractor without any government business.
“This year, we’re actually a bit down in revenue, but up in profitability, which is a good thing,” he said. “It’s kind of weird for us because we’re growing commercially, but government contracts are expiring, at the same time. We’ve increased our sales. It’s probably been our best sales year ever.
“We are changing the mindset of the company,” Mark Crockett continued. “We can’t think like a government contractor anymore. We have to think like a commercial property owner. And we have to provide products and services that adhere to the expectations of that commercial property owner, which are quite different from their government counterpart’s expectations. Commercial property owners are more relationship-based as far as providing the service and building a relationship with the contractor, whereas the government counterpart is more transactional-based.”
It Takes Two
Mark Crockett, vice president, and Cindy Crockett, president, were CFSI’s first two employees, calling the shots from the dining room table within their home. Since then, the company has grown to 231 employees and 19 fleet vehicles and answers 100-150 service calls a day.
“An opportunity presented itself, and it was one of those things — I was about 40 years old, and it was now or never,” Mark Crockett said. “The both of us have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, doing our own things at different times. But this opportunity was too good to be true. We just said, ‘let’s go for this.’”
CFSI belongs to numerous trade associations, including the Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) of Maryland, the Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA), and the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA). The Crocketts actively participate as board members and trustees with many of these groups.
“One of the neatest things is, as business owners, you can impact peoples’ lives by giving back, whether it’s an industry function, you’re helping some of your contemporaries, you’re speaking to a group of apprentices, or you’re helping out an organization or an employee and watching them grow from a position to a position of greater responsibility. One of the really great things about owning a business is helping people grow and giving back to the industry,” Mark Crockett said.
CFSI’s excellence has earned it numerous awards, including being named a Top 25 Woman-Owned Business in 2013 and 2014 and a Top 10 Mechanical Contractor by The Washington Business Journal.
“I’m proud of our success and very proud of our employees because we can’t grow if our employees aren’t providing excellent service,” said Cindy Crockett. “That really is the crux of our business. I’m proud of our growth because I’m proud of our employees. We wouldn’t be here without them.”
CFSI, just like the rest of the HVAC world, has had its share of difficulties in finding qualified employees. “Hiring is a difficult thing for everybody we talk to,” said Cindy Crockett. “I wish we could encourage young people to join the trades because our employees have a really excellent living thanks to their jobs with us, and those jobs aren’t going anywhere.”
The company looks for motivated individuals to join the team, rather than those who would have to be constantly motivated by management, according to Mark Crockett. “We try to hire people who share our values, and those people are already motivated. Through questioning and interviewing experience, I think we can tell the motivated individuals from the individuals who are seeking constant motivation — they don’t usually fit well in our company. We’re trying to find individuals who, regardless of what job they’re doing, are going to be motivated for success.”
The company also offers em-
ployee incentives in the form of a Kudos program, according to Cindy Crockett. “We try to keep employees motivated by recognizing that money isn’t always everything,” she said. “If an employee goes above and beyond what’s required of them and a manager or fellow employee notices, they get a Kudos card, or a gift card,” said Cindy Crockett. “Then, at the end of every quarter, we have a drawing of all the people who received Kudos cards, and the winner will receive a Kindle Fire or something similar. We do this just to let them know we appreciate them. It’s not a lot of money, but they all appreciate being recognized in front of the entire company.”
A Great Place to Work
Tony Mori, senior HVAC estimator and planner, joined CFSI right after graduating from a local apprenticeship school about five years ago. He started out as a field service technician and worked his way through the ranks as a field superintendent, project manager, estimator, and then into sales full time.
“We’re set up as a large company — a conglomerate-type — to do bigger projects, but, as far as our management and direct supervision all the way down to our service technicians, it’s still run with the mom and pop shop mentality. It’s a real easy-to-get-along-with attitude with the management, and it makes it so much easier communicating with the customers when it’s not just a number on a spreadsheet.”
Mori joked the thing he liked most about his job was the stress. “I came from the field. So, 99 percent of the stuff that goes through my hands I know is eventually making its way back out to our technicians, keeping their hands busy and keeping them working. That’s the main motivator for me. Having come from that, and knowing that it’s feast or famine a lot in our industry, that definitely plays a big part for me. It’s knowing the work I’m putting in helps keep our guys working.”
Tony Long is a project manager for CFSI, managing the Wilson Building in Washington, District of Columbia, which houses the executive office of the mayor. He regularly handles high-level meetings, hearings, and special events.
“Crocket is very innovative,” Long said. “I’ve been with Crockett since 2006, and it has steadily grown and plugged into the facility management community. It’s always looking for better avenues to grow and expand the business, it’s very family oriented, and, one of the most important things is, it learns from mistakes.”
Long, who has been in the HVAC industry for more than 25 years, said he likes to see things work and come together. He also likes providing a service.
“I like being behind the stage and seeing the expression on peoples’ faces when the evening goes well.
“The funny thing is, I never wanted to be a leader,” he said. “I wanted to always sit back and watch. As my maturity grew in the business, I just couldn’t sit back when I have the talent. So, now, I go places, and people are glad to see me come and hate to see me leave.”
During his years in the industry, Long said he’s worked for many major companies in the Washington area, but none like CFSI.
“Crockett has really touched my heart,” he said. “I enjoy doing business with them. If I retire, I would like to retire with them.”
Looking to the Future
In this digital age, technology has whittled away at customers’ patience. “Everybody who has access to the Internet can get on Google and find information they want and need, immediately,” Mark Crockett said. “And, when everything’s expected right away, no one is satisfied with waiting. That perception has changed a little bit. We have to be there quicker for our customers, we have to keep them better informed than our competitors, and we have to do the job quicker. Customers expect immediate results because that’s the kind of world we live in nowadays. There’s no more messing around. The future holds great opportunity with respect to some of the new technology that’s out there to help us perform diagnostics. We can get results quicker, which allows us to serve customers quicker.”
The Crocketts’ goal is to grow CFSI into one of the top five mechanical contractors in the Washington, District of Columbia, area. The company plans to develop a partnership with a few local trade schools to not only help them develop their programs, but to also recruit top talent to help meet its goals.
“I like the fact that this industry will never go away,” said Cindy Crockett. “Our customers are always going to need to be comfortable in their working environments and their computers are always going to have to be kept at a certain temperature. It’s a 24/7 opportunity for us to help them out when
they need it.”
Publication date: 12/15/2014