Every business owner takes a unique path, and in the trades it seems the paths meander quite often.
For Adam Bardi, CEO of Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in Norcross, Ga., the path included cleaning golf clubs, two years of college, a painting business, technical college and an associate’s degree. It involved buying the residential portion of a family business and growing it to $4 million in revenue in 2018, then setting a goal to reach $50 million in 10 years, with no idea how he’d reach it.
With the help of a more focused approach on residential work and the support of ServiceTitan, a cloud-based software for the trades, Bardi now thinks he can reach that goal in six years—meaning a much more aggressive new goal for Year 10.
“The last four years (especially), we’ve been on a rocket ship, and it’s so much fun,” Bardi said in a recent interview.
It’s a path Bardi has sought since he was just starting elementary school. His father, a mechanical engineer who went to Georgia Tech, had started the family business. The senior Bardi had worked for an HVAC company right out of college, but got laid off during the oil crisis of 1982. Soon after, he took a similar job in Atlanta before starting his business in 1989.
“I grew up in the business,” the younger Bardi said. “My dad is an immigrant and an entrepreneur. That’s a recipe for a guy who runs a tight ship.”
An interest in cars and …
When Adam hit his teens, he started to show an interest in cars. His father told him if he wanted to buy a car he needed a job, so at age 13 he started working for his dad in the summer, getting up at 6 a.m. to take part in installs. And because the business tilted primarily commercial, it had its own sheet metal shop.
“We’d build elbows the size of cars,” Bardi said. “I would bend all that metal.”
At age 16, he got his driver’s license and decided he had enough of working with sheet metal in the Georgia heat.
“Looking back,” Adam said, “I wasn't mature enough. When you're the owner's son, there's a lot of pressure. You got to be the best just to be normal for them.
“So I left the trades and I went to work at a golf course. I'm like, I'm going to clean golf clubs and play golf and go fishing. It was great.”
He decided to go to Valdosta State, but lasted just two years. He looks back now and realizes he “wasted that time,” even though it seemed like the right step. After leaving college, Bardi wanted his own business, so he started a painting company.
“It's low-entry to start that business,” he said. “Couple thousand bucks and a truck, and you can start doing it. So I did that up until 2008. Had a nice little business, had a couple employees, had a subcontracting crew, so when I sold two jobs at one time, I could get it all done.
“I thought I was living high in the hog. I was in my twenties, had a house, had a dog. I was playing golf a lot. Then the recession happened.”
Another change, of course
The downturn did serious damage to the business. So Adam went back to being an assistant for other painters to simply make ends meet. That’s when his dad called and asked to meet for lunch. His father proposed that Adam work in the family business.
“His business was thriving,” Bardi said. “It was 95% commercial, probably a $30 million business. He wanted me to be a project manager and learn commercial.”
Bardi’s father put him through all the paces.
“The only opportunity they gave me was the worst job in the place, which was literally the warehouse driver,” Adam said. “Sixteen bucks an hour. Be the warehouse driver, sweep the warehouse, deliver stuff, keep the floor clean.”
After several months, he decided he wanted more – and noticed the residential side of the business was at about $1 million annually. He went to Gwinnett Technical College to learn the trade, then got his associate’s degree in Business Administration and Management from Georgia Perimeter College. While going to school at night, Bardi worked his way from service manager to sales manager to general manager in 2015. In that time, he and the team grew the residential business to $4 million.
Two years later, his father sold the commercial side of the business to the COO and president of sales. Bardi became focused on residential, and in 2018 he bought that remaining business from his father.
“It was kind of like a light switch went off because we were able to make our own decisions,” Bardi said. “We weren't tied to this big commercial business. So I redesigned the website, we wrapped the trucks, we did all the things that I've been wanting to do for so long and focused on marketing and recruiting.”
‘I could do anything I wanted’
Those moves led to the phenomenal growth of the past four years, helped by the transition to ServiceTitan in 2018.
“ServiceTitan was huge,” he said. “We knew that we were locked into a software that could help us if we've got a thousand memberships or 50,000 memberships. We can just continue to scale and build on the platform.
“I just feel like ServiceTitan had all that stuff out of the box that I needed to really build my business and scale my business.”
As he concentrated on growing the business from $1 million to $4 million, Bardi wore many different hats. He didn’t have time to drill down into the data to assess trends. ServiceTitan offered that information with “a push of a button right in front of my face, on the dashboard.”
“I could do anything I wanted,” he said.
Where did the software help specifically? Bardi said ServiceTitan helped him track marketing efforts, leads and memberships.
“All the things that we needed to do to scale the business,” he said.
Memberships were an early focus. When he took over, there were 700 to 800. Now Bardi has 5,000, more than a 600% increase.
“ServiceTitan tells you right off the bat, are they a member, are they not a member?” Bardi said. “So identifying those opportunities of clients that aren't members, and then making sure that we put our highest-converting technicians in front of those clients, is possible. Then really converting at a high level.”
The last four years (especially), we’ve been on a rocket ship, and it’s so much fun."
‘Technology at our fingertips’
Bardi now has one full-time team member whose sole job is to sell memberships through outreach to nonmembers.
“I would've never thought in a million years that we could have technology at our fingertips that would help us do that,” Bardi said.
ServiceTitan helps the company manage all the things that come with a huge membership program, too. They include:
Deferred revenue: “It was very frustrating for me when we were on other softwares that we couldn't figure out how to manage the deferred revenue that we have with memberships.
“So we would have to do manual calculations, and our margins would always have big swings because we had so much trouble matching our cost with our revenue.”
How does deferred membership revenue work with ServiceTitan? “You sell it, it puts it in the bank, it saves it for when you run the call or run the maintenance and it pulls that revenue.”
Under the hood, no manual calculations.
ServiceTitan does it automatically. How amazing is that?
Tracking marketing ROI and reputation: Bardi uses every Marketing Pro upgrade he can, to make tracking the success of every campaign easier.
Reputation and reviews are vital to Bardi, and he said ServiceTitan’s automation makes it easier to have customers recognize the team’s work. He now has more than 20,000 five-star reviews.
Easy pricing adjustments: Pricebook Pro also has been a large help.
“We can make adjustments so fast; if we want to raise our price, I can do it in literally an hour,” Bardi said. “We can distribute it out to the technicians. We got away from printing books and having price books in people's hands and things like that. We found the technicians, they love the technology.”
Bardi said the software helped him hold his margin on profitability through several price increases over the past year.
Leveraging technology: Bardi also believes that Titan Intelligence, ServiceTitan’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Trades, will be a difference-maker.
“I hope that it can help us really do three things,” he said. “It can help us be more efficient, so we don't have to have so many bodies to run this business. I hope it provides a better customer experience, so we can get a better technician or the best qualified technician to this call from a routing standpoint. And it can support our technicians better. So they've got better work-life balance or better quality of life. So they're not driving around the city or whatever it is. They're not sitting waiting for a call or whatever that might be.
“If it just improves those three sections of our business, then ultimately I believe we're going to be more profitable and more successful.”
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A focus on what matters
Bottom line: ServiceTitan gave Bardi the freedom to focus on what mattered in his push for growth. Trusting the data and technology in front of him allowed him to focus where it mattered most.
“There's so many hats that you've got to wear when you're growing a business and you're an entrepreneur,” he said. “There's a lot of things that ServiceTitan just takes off your plate. You can get the data you want, you don't have to worry about software scalability, all those things.
“It takes those worries off your plate so you can really focus on the other pieces that are driving the business.”
And where will that drive lead? Pacing for $26 million in revenue in 2022, with 108 employees, the rocketship isn’t slowing. The original $50 million goal is within reach by Year 6.
That has led to a new revenue goal for 10 years into his ownership: $100 million.
“My team tells me that I don't celebrate wins enough,” Bardi said. “We're like, OK, yeah, we did that. Check it off. Let's keep moving.
“So the team that's here, $50 million is the original goal, and we're going to get there a little early and have a big celebration. But yeah, we're looking past that, to a hundred or more, because Atlanta's a big market.
“There's a ton of opportunity.”
And, with ServiceTitan, a rocketship to reach it.