The owners of an Indiana HVAC firm decided they could say more about their services by saying less. Chad and Tyler Peterman recently changed the name of their 35-year-old business to Peterman Brothers from Peterman Heating, Cooling and Plumbing. The change includes all-new branding that features the pair prominently.
Chad Peterman, the firm’s president, said he and his brother decided it was time for a change after years of expansion in both services offered and geographic reach. Their father, “Pete” Peterman, started the company in 1986. Chad Peterman joined in 2011, and the firm added plumbing shortly after Chad Peterman joined. Tyler joined in 2013, the same year the firm purchased an HVAC business in Columbus, Indiana.
The Greenwood, Indiana, firm had mainly stuck to the Indianapolis market before that. In 2018, the Petermans tried to buy an operation in Lafayette, Indiana. When that fell through, they moved into the market anyway. Recently, they grew their services into Muncie and Bloomington.
Chad Peterman said there was enough work in Indianapolis to limit their offerings to heating and cooling. In these smaller markets, however, they needed to offer a one-stop solution. Peterman added electrical services last year. Instead of just adding another word on the trucks, Chad and Tyler opted for a more complete overhaul.
The pair has been the face of the firm for years, appearing in all the ads. Chad Peterman said the new brand expresses what they offer as a company beyond just the services.
“In this business, it’s all about trust,” Chad Peterman said. “We want people to know who they are dealing with. When someone calls, I may not be coming out there to fix it, but you know who stands behind the work that we provide.”
Owners Front and Center
The Peterman brothers hired Kickcharge Creative to help them create their new brand. Dan Antonelli, Kickcharge’s president, said creating a new brand is a major investment. Chad Peterman said he didn’t realize until they started how many places they had their brand, ranging from their trucks to office stationery. That all needs changing out over time.
“You don’t want to go into it lightly,” Antonelli said. “But at a certain point, it really becomes harder and harder to rip the Band-Aid off.”
The first decision about the new brand involved choosing a color scheme. The Petermans were using a red-and-blue scheme, something Antonelli usually objects to because it’s too common. But in this case, he said, there was too much built-up equity to change it.
Instead, the image of Chad and Tyler had to make the branding distinctive. Antonelli offered a range of image types, from caricatures to something more nostalgic. The Petermans went with a more modern look. After some adjustments to the pair’s stance and other details, the new look was selected. What made this job a little more challenging, Antonelli said, was the range of trucks the firm uses. The new image needs to work on everything from full-size vans to pickup trucks.
Now comes the hard part of rewrapping all those vehicles. Peterman Brothers runs a 170-unit fleet. They have rewrapped about 30 of those so far, Chad Peterman said. Antonelli said this is always a difficult process. Contractors need to determine the life of a vehicle and decide if it’s worth rewrapping before its replaced. The process also takes a truck out of service for two days.
It’s worth the effort and investment, Antonelli said. The new wrap replaces a very plain appearance of the company’s name in an outdated font with no graphics. The new wraps act as a moving billboard for Peterman Brothers.
Attracting Employees as well as Customers
The new look also helps attract potential employees, Chad Peterman said. It sends a message that Peterman Brothers is a company that has its act together. The modern, professional appearance conveys a message about what kind of workplace Peterman Brothers is.
“They want to be part of what we’re building here,” Chad Peterman said.
Hiring plays a crucial role in the company’s success as it expands its markets and services. Chad Peterman said it wasn’t until the firm had the right people in place that its plumbing division started to perform up to their expectations.
“Adding a trade of any kind requires finding the right people,” he said. “Early on, you’re grasping for any types of people you can find to add to your team and often you get a lot of the wrong people.”
Most HVAC contractors these days struggle to find employees. Chad Peterman said that’s due in part to not really making it a priority. He said most HVAC contractors will say it’s a priority for them, but it’s only really a priority if they are willing to spend money to address it. The Peterman brothers do that in two ways.
One is by having a full-time recruiting staff. These three employees spend all their time promoting openings at the business and interviewing potential employees. Chad Peterman compares this to hiring a service manager to improve the performance of the service department.
Training Their Own Technicians
The other investment is the Top Tech Academy, an in-house training program the Petermans started in October. The intense program turns new hires with little experience into full-time HVAC technicians in four months. They spend the first few weeks in the classroom. Then they head out in the field a few days a week to gain real-life experience while continuing with the classwork.
“What we decided to do was go find talented people in other industries, bring them into our trade, and train them properly,” Chad Peterman said. “What we’re finding is really astonishing results because they’re hungry to learn. They’re excited about the trade.”
Darren Rumple is a graduate of the Top Tech Academy’s first class. Rumple worked at a residential treatment center for children with special needs, but wanted to move into something with more of a future.
“I was looking to learn a trade and start a career,” Rumple said.
A friend works at Peterman Brothers and posted about the training program on Facebook. It was exactly what Rumple was looking for. He said the program prepared him for almost every situation he’d encounter on the job. He’s been in a van by himself since the day he graduated. If there is a problem and Rumple needs help, he said he can always reach out to the other employees at Peterman Brothers.
“Everybody who is in that building is there to help you,” Rumple said.
Investing so much in recruiting and branding seems like a lot to some HVAC contractors. Chad Peterman said it pays for itself in the long run. One plumbing truck can generate a million dollars each year. And if people see the logo on that truck and think of Peterman Brothers when they need work done, that’s also a return on investment. One that’s a lot higher than marketing in an attempt to find a few more leaky faucets, Chad Peterman said.