You wouldn’t know it by looking at the company today, but John Moore Services — one of the largest home services companies in Houston — started out as a small plumbing company with a single truck in 1965. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the company has expanded over the years to include HVAC, electrical, pest control, home security, and plenty of other services.
“Our customer demand grew and created a symbiotic business relationship, which made expansion an easy decision,” said Don Valentine, owner, John Moore Services. “We dearly cherish the lifetime value of a customer.”
Valentine, 67, joined the business in 1998 as a co-owner. Then, in 2004, he bought his partner out and became the sole owner of John Moore Services. “I spent 25-plus years in corporate America before that, so my wife’s reaction was interesting. She said, ‘You’re not a plumber, what do you know about plumbing? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.’ But, it’s business. You make the phone ring, give good customer service, and stand behind your work. And God has blessed us — now we’re 12 times bigger.”
Valentine also started Old Union Financial in 2010, the consumer lending arm of his business. Up until recently, the company offered home improvement loans to John Moore customers, but now it also lends to customers at other companies, as well.
“I believe I’m in the trust and retail service businesses,” he said. “As more and more people rent and buy homes and enter the workforce, convenience becomes an important thing. We’re a one-stop shop. One phone call, and they can get all of their needs met. And it’s worked very well. But, you have to be good at everything. If you do a great job on a customer’s air conditioning this week, and next month their plumbing goes out, there’s a good chance you’ll get the call for the plumbing business. But, you must do each one well. If you screw up on one, you lose all their business.”
Under Valentine’s leadership, the business has grown at a 25 percent average compound annual growth rate (CAGR). Additionally, John Moore has expanded its territory from only doing business within a section of the city of Houston to covering all of Greater Houston, an eight-county area. The company is a member of the Houston Contractors Association and has serviced more than 785,000 homes throughout the Greater Houston area.
John Moore’s excellence is further validated through numerous awards and honors, including the AT&T Spirit of Success Award, Consumers’ Choice Award for 2012-2013, and the Best of Houzz 2015 award for service. Additionally, the company is a five-time winner of the Aggie 100 Award from Texas A&M University as one of the fastest-growing Aggie-owned/run companies in the world. Valentine is a proud alumnus of the university.
John Harris, HVAC manager for John Moore Services, has only been with the company for a year, but believes Houston is an area where the company can continue to grow.
“Our customers like us because of the ease of doing business,” Harris said. “All of our technicians carry tablets with wireless integration. It’s also easy to make payments, and we offer in-house financing. Lastly, and most importantly, we stand behind everything we do. We offer not only a 100 percent guarantee on the work we perform, but we also provide workmanship guarantees to ensure customers’ homes are left exactly how we found them.”
John Moore Services also offers its customers a maintenance plan called the Get Moore Agreement, which includes annual air conditioning and furnace tune ups and inspections, annual whole-house plumbing and electrical inspections, and one free whole-house pest evaluation. The plan also offers customers 15 percent off service and repairs in most areas, 5 percent off most new equipment, and 50 percent off all trip fees for any service.
“We also communicate with the customer throughout the day to let them know where they stand on our dispatch board,” Harris explained. “This is unique. We have somebody call our customers and give them updates. We do digital dispatching through our software. They can tell the customer when they should be there and how close we are to arriving. That way, we don’t waste our customers’ time, which is really the most valuable resource they have.”
Harris further explained that the company’s dispatching software will give a customer a four-hour window for when the technician is expected to arrive. One hour before the window, the customer will receive a phone call or email updating them on where they stand. They will receive an additional call or email when the window hits for another update.
“We’re consistently updating them. We don’t want them standing around all day waiting for a technician to arrive,” he said. “We’ve become a lot more professional and sophisticated,” Valentine said. “Our guys have tablets in the field, and our system dispatches automatically, so it eliminates the wait time between calls for technicians and customers. All of our communication is done electronically, so guys don’t have to drive 60 miles through Houston to the office to turn in paperwork to get the job started. We’re more efficient and more effective.”
TAKING CARE OF EMPLOYEES
John Moore doesn’t just focus on customer service; it strives to keep its employees healthy and happy, as well. The company holds regular contests for employees. Last year, some employees were awarded cruises with their families for meeting certain benchmarks. Employees also receive monthly bonuses based off of key performance indicators (KPIs).
According to Harris, his HVAC team, which includes about 75 employees — 38 of them technicians — meet in small groups to talk about things outside of work. Valentine has even initiated a chaplain program after two of his employees sought out guidance from his visiting friend who also happened to be a pastor. “I have two ordained pastors who are here to help anybody. As a result of that, we do special things in terms of helping employees in need, whether it’s financially or with goods and services.”
The company has a family-like atmosphere, Harris noted. “When all of the flooding was going on, my head dispatcher told her people to stay home. And, because she works close by, she came in and worked close to 36 hours in two days. People like her are the reason I like working here so much.”
Al Alvarado, an HVAC technician with John Moore Services for the past 18 years, said the company is vastly different from other HVAC contractors. “Management takes care of its customers and employees,” he said. “When they say a 100 percent guarantee, they mean it. Other companies may say the same, and, then, a week or two later, they might try to charge you more money.”
Alvarado takes pride in his work and enjoys taking care of his customers. “That’s my main goal,” he said. “I love my job, I always have. I started back when this was a small company. Through hard work and everything else, I watched the company grow up. Now it’s a really big company, and I helped them grow.”
“In a service business, if you take care of your employees and they are happy, it can’t help but translate to better customer service,” Valentine noted.
CHANGING INDUSTRY PERCEPTIONS
Like many HVAC contractors around the U.S., John Moore is struggling to find and hire quality, skilled technicians. Valentine said he turns away business every day due to a lack of technicians.
“High schools have withdrawn their support of the trades,” he said. “Compounded with the growth of the high-tech industry, kids seem to have stopped going into the trades. So we have an aging population of skilled technicians spread over a growing number of households. It’s a challenging recipe.”
Thus, when it came time for John Moore Service to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Valentine had a somewhat unique idea: Create a children’s book depicting a day in the life of a John Moore employee and distribute it to elementary students in low-income schools throughout the city.
“When one of my daughters was student teaching in an inner city school, she would comment about the absence of books and the opportunity to improve reading skills,” Valentine explained. “I just became sensitive to it.
“The book does three things: it plants the seeds of skilled trades as a career, it gets a book into a home that may not have a book, and it’s a tribute to our past and present employees because it postures Buddy the Home Repair Bear as a hero.”
Valentine knew the message he wanted to convey, but had no idea how to get it across.
“I’d never written a children’s book,” he said. So, he hired a public relations firm that came up with a way to appeal to children. They, in turn, contacted a local author and illustrator to complete the book.
John Moore Services employees handed out 2,500 books and 2,500 teddy bears through the project.
“The short time I’ve been here, I’ve never seen a more engaged group or a bigger morale builder,” Harris said of the event. “These guys met in the morning, gathered all the teddy bears and storybooks, and went out to different elementary schools. What’s amazing is our whole break area now has little thank you cards from all the children in the schools we visited. There’s no more space on the walls. I’ve bee in this business since 1994, and it was the biggest in-house morale booster I’ve ever seen.”
Valentine plans to continue working to change the perception of the skilled-trade industry as well as grow his business even further.
“I’m 67 going on 17 inside,” he joked. “It takes energy to grow a business. I want to be the best. And I think I am, but the best stay the best by getting better. That’s just my nature. I’m hardwired to continuously improve my company and hopefully influence the industry.
“We’re going to continually emphasize retail service and training. We’ve built a training house inside our building where we train technicians. So, we’re continually improving our people — technically, professionally, and personally. And, I’m hoping that rubs off more broadly in our community and our industry. If we do those things, God will continue blessing us, and we’ll continue to grow.
“It’s a fun business,” he continued. “We work in an industry where we get to wear the white hat, and not many people get to do that, so I’m honored.”
Publication date: 7/6/2015