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Jackson Services Isn’t Waiting to Attack the Future of Tech in the HVAC Business

User IconPat McManamon
Clock IconSeptember 2nd, 2022
Glasses Icon8 Min Read
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Dale Jackson knows the past and present of HVAC, and his vision of the future comes from real-life experience.

Jackson literally worked his way up to co-ownership (with his brother Ben) of Jackson Services, a heating, air conditioning and plumbing business in LaGrange, Ga., that will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2023. The business is about 50-50 commercial to residential. 

“The future of where this country is going in the next 20 years is the trades,” Jackson said. 

He’s bullish for several reasons, starting with what he calls “the electrification of the world.”

“That means transferring everything from fossil fuels to electricity, whether that be heat pump, or a VRF technology through ductless systems and heat pump and heat recovery,” Jackson said.

Nowhere, he said, is the emphasis on being “green” more prevalent than in the trades.

“An air conditioning service tech is the No. 1 person fighting to lower the carbon footprint of the world,” Jackson said. “You say what you want to about coal plants and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, every single home and every single building has an air conditioning unit that uses electricity. And it's our job to reduce that electrical consumption.

“That's a much bigger field to play in than just looking at the raw source of energy.”

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Jackson Services is a living example of what he says. He has a contract to do all the HVAC for county buildings and facilities in Troup County, Ga., which is southwest of Atlanta and bordering Alabama, managed through ServiceTitan. 

In his view, every individual living in the 446-square-mile county is a customer. With ServiceTitan software, Jackson Services can track every unit and pinpoint opportunities for efficiency and savings.

“What we're able to do to help Troup County be more efficient—lower their refrigerant consumption and reduce their energy consumption also across the entire county—is amazing,” he said. “And it's saving tens of thousands of dollars for the taxpayers of Troup County.”

But for Jackson, those taxpayers aren’t the biggest beneficiaries of ServiceTitan’s power. His technicians are.

Dale Jackson ATL 2

Dale Jackson literally worked his way up to co-ownership (with his brother Ben) of Jackson Services

Resilience at every step

Jackson Services came to be in 1973, when Jackson’s father persuaded his brother (Dale’s uncle) to drop out of trade school and work with him. The two became longtime partners, starting in antenna and small appliances.

The foray into refrigeration came later, and meant working with large dairies in the LaGrange area. In dairies, urgent problems could arise at any time of the day or night. After growing weary of those random calls, Jackson’s father transitioned to traditional refrigeration, and eventually air conditioning.

As a child, Dale would break down room air conditioners with his grandfather, who tinkered with them as a hobby. Dale’s father let him ride with a crew when he was 10 or 11.

Ben and Dale started working at Jackson in 2000, after graduating from college at about the same time.

“He went to get a degree,” Dale Jackson said. “I went to find a wife. We both accomplished our goal.”

That entry into the business came right before a stock market crash. They bought into Jackson Services in 2006, a couple years before the recession. And they bought the business outright in 2018, right before the pandemic.

“It was like every major milestone that we had in the company, something drastic happened right after it,” Jackson said. “It made us stronger, more resilient.”

That resilience required change, on a number of fronts.

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A new focus, and a new software

Some of those changes were forced, as with the pandemic and the related social disruption. Others, the company undertook on its own. 

Jackson Services was a $5 million business when Dale and Ben took over, with 90% of the work in residential. Now they are doing $18 million to $22 million annually, with growth on the commercial side at $8 million to $10 million.

ServiceTitan has helped, Jackson said, especially as the software has been adjusted to serve companies that handle large commercial projects.

The software wasn’t always built for that. When Jon Longshore, Jackson’s Operations Support Manager who has a background in tech, first investigated ServiceTitan, it was in 2019 at the AHR Convention in Atlanta, it was because he wasn’t thrilled with the software he was using.

Longshore dropped by the ServiceTitan booth “just for kicks,” he said.

What he heard that day wasn’t exactly encouraging. ServiceTitan told Longshore it wasn’t built to handle projects or multi-day jobs. Yet. 

But ServiceTitan, all the way to the top, wanted that to change.

“It wasn’t long after that that we got a phone call from ServiceTitan,” Longshore said. “One thing led to another, and Vahe and his team came down and explained the road map.”

Vahe is Vahe Kuzoyan, the President and Co-Founder (with CEO Ara Mahdessian) of the cloud-based software for the trades. 

Not only did Kuzoyan take the time to visit a potential customer in Jackson Services to explain where the software was headed, he sought advice and help so ServiceTitan could get to an even better place, faster.

To Longshore, Kuzoyan was basically saying, ‘You can help us build this the way it needs to be.’

“To hear that they were willing to bring us on board and then also value our opinion as far as setting up that module … really it’s a no-brainer,” Longshore said. “I will never want to go back to any other piece of software.”

With input from Longshore and others, ServiceTitan developed a module that Jackson uses with residential new construction, mechanical (what Jackson calls ProjectWise), and projects—some as long as 18 months. 

The improvement has been rapid, Longshore said. 

“We're able to use (ServiceTitan) in a way we never thought was really even possible,” he said. “It's kind of been a huge leap forward from when we actually saw it two years ago—it's grown tremendously.”

Also growing? Technician salaries, for all the right reasons.

Downtown LaGrange

LaGrange, Georgia

Rewarding the right things

ServiceTitan’s focus on working better for longer projects and in commercial settings has made a significant difference, Jackson said, in Jackson Services’ ability to ensure the entire project proceeds smoothly and profitably, no-matter how intricate. 

That knowledge helps Jackson reward technicians appropriately, based on real data.

“We do 100,000-square-foot schools,” he said. “You have to be very exact with running your copper line sets and the way you wire everything. It's a very complex system.

“My guys are out managing $1 million, $2 million, $3 million installs. That alone makes their wages go way up, as it should. So that's what excites me. Technology equals better careers for the service techs and the trade in general.”

Jackson said ServiceTitan gives him the ability to know which technicians to reward for doing good work.

“They’re giving me all the metrics I need to know the performance of every single individual in my company,” he said. “I don't want to reward on how many callbacks I did. I want to reward on the efficiency of that service tech. And I want to make sure that they are rewarded hand over fist, because the more efficient they are, the more profitable they're going to be for the company, and the better they're going to care for my customer.

“If they care for my customer, there's no way I can overpay them. If they're as efficient as they need to be, then I know they're doing a good job taking care of the customer, and I can't pay them enough.”

What technology is in HVAC’s future?

With the value of the trades increasingly being recognized by investors, better technology is sure to follow—and in some cases it already is. Better software that leads to better data. The integration of smarter, more connected equipment that alerts contractors when repairs and replacements are needed, before a breakdown. Augmented reality to make technicians faster and smarter. Cloud-based technology that ties it all together in real time. All propel the industry forward. 

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As excited as he is about the present, Jackson is more excited about the future—especially in the partnership with ServiceTitan and the role the software will play in the advancement of the industry.

“It energizes me every single time I get on a call with anybody from ServiceTitan, because they truly are so visionary and they get it,” Jackson said. “When I start going down a path, they're like, ‘Oh yeah, and then we could do this.’

“And I'm like, ‘Yeah, that's what I was just about to tell you.’

“But then they're like, ‘Oh, but then we can do this.’

“And I'm like, ‘Oh, I didn't even think about that. Yeah, let's do that too.’

“That's a typical conversation with me and somebody at ServiceTitan. I don't know how better to explain that.”

That inspires him to think about the future of the industry, and to want to be a huge part of it. 

“The technology coming into our industry has never been seen before,” said Jackson. “And the opportunity for true professionals is there.”

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