ServiceTitan hosted its recent Pantheon conference virtually on Aug. 12-13. Conversations from guest speakers revolved around techniques to help close the labor gap in the skilled trades, as well as tips for HVAC contractors to improve sales and their business management skills.
Mike Rowe and Pursuing Trades as a Career
Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs and CEO of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, was featured in a fireside chat on the second day of the conference. He was asked how contractors can inspire high school students to pursue a career in the trades.
“Make work cool again,” he said. “It’s a good conversation starter. But what I mean is that we need better PR. We need to do a better job of explaining what the opportunities really are for a kid who is willing to learn a skill that is truly in demand.”
Rowe said that the industry needs to do a better job of telling the success stories of those who enter it. He recommended short, entertaining videos that can be spread through social media.
“We have to tell the success stories and make them become the tent poles on which our success rests,” he said. “And we have to tell stories of real customers, doing real work. It’s not easy — but it all starts with telling these stories better.”
Mandy Rennehan, Blue Collar CEO
Mandy “Bear” Rennehan spoke on the first day of the conference. Rennehan is known as the “Blue Collar CEO” and is most well known for her success in leading Freshco Inc., a retail maintenance and construction company. She spoke about her path to a career in the skilled trades.
Rennehan grew up in Canada and had a unique path into the trades. She began with earning some money collecting fish feed for her father, then bought tools in order to make log cabins, and then entered formally entered the trades by asking local companies if she could work for free for them, as long as they trained her.
She started Freshco. Inc., a company that thrived by getting work done quickly and with high quality, she said during her keynote address. Rennehan explained that the personality behind her work is what people connect with, and that contractors should try to improve sales by allowing people to connect to their personalities.
She also discussed that contractors can close the labor gap by showing people the quality of the industry.
“The reality is that you need to bring out everything to show people what you are and who you are,” she said. “Because that’s what the young people and the people going to school want to see. Why are they coming into the industry? Why is it amazing?”
She added that women offer a whole separate skillset that has not been recognized yet in the industry.
“This is about us encouraging more women to come into the trade industry,” Rennehan said.
Ten Dozen Ways to Get and Keep Customers
Matt Michel, CEO of Service Roundtable, gave a rapid-fire presentation of “over 10 dozen simple ways to get and keep customers.” Here’s a sampling of his tips:
- Outfit performers in company apparel for outdoor events. They are a good way to build brand and goodwill with the local community. Performers can lead people back to the sponsoring company’s booth.
- Put magnets with company information all over the back of your vehicle. People may take some of the magnets off the truck (sometimes without permission), but that is the point.
- Sponsor champion amateur individuals (5k, bike, duathlete, triathlete), since the people that attend are frequently interested in things like water purification systems, and IAQ products. “When we start returning to life as normal, this could be a really good low-cost way to build your brand,” Michel said.
- Use a website chatbot, as they offer an easy and intuitive way for people to get answers to questions on a company website.
- Buy a toy grab bag for each truck to connect with customers. “With the parents’ permission, let the kid pick out a toy. Parents might forget about you, but the kids will remember you,” Michel said.
- Carry dog biscuits and offer them to the homeowners’ dogs (with permission), since people love technicians who like their dogs.
Julian Scadden and Top Five Tips of Successful Contractors
Julian Scadden, coach, trainer, and vice president of operations for Nexstar Network, spoke about the top five things that successful contractors do, which he said he extracted from the over 750 members that Nexstar works with.
First, contractors need to know their business model and who they serve.
“Get clear on your target audience so you know how to market,” he said. “What’s more important than anything is your consistency. Because consistence equals predictability, and predictability equals stability.”
Second, that contractors should focus on the type of business they want to have, and set the price based on that. Pricing is critical, and incorrect pricing can slow or stop the growth that a company could otherwise have.
Contractors also need to have timely and accurate financials. Scadden provided an outline of how much of the budget should be devoted to salaries, marketing, and more.
“[Timely and accurate financials] can impact your profit line double-digits,” Scadden said. “For some of you, just adopting this one principle could save you.”
Fourthly, contractors must be aware of their key performance indicators, and use them to set a high standard for what their companies can achieve. Simple measuring KPIs is not enough, rather, they should help a contractor pursue excellence, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the business.
Scadden’s final tip was that contractors focus on communicating successfully with their teams. Various means of communication (Zoom, email, phone call, in-person meetings) are different tools for the contractor.
“Figure out what’s the right tool to use for the situation and the message you want to send out,” he said.