Pantheon keynote speaker Chad Peterman shares his strategies for achieving 300% growth at Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in just five years.
Even though he had no mechanical inclinations or interest in joining the family business, Chad Peterman jumped in nine years ago to help where he could with running Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, alongside his father, Pete, and brother, Tyler.
He soon fell in love with the work after making a surprising discovery.
“I found out this isn’t a mechanical business. It’s more so, a people business,” says Chad Peterman, who now serves as president of the Indianapolis home services company started by his father in 1986.
In 2015, the small home services company joined Nexstar Network, a member-owned organization formed to create contractor success through education and sharing, and then focused its efforts internally on helping their employees grow.
In 2016, Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing earned $7.5 million. Last year, the company finished just shy of $21 million and it’s on pace to earn nearly $30 million by the end of 2020. With only 40 employees in 2015, today the HVAC and plumbing company employs 160—an increase of 300 percent in just five years.
“It has been the continual investment in our people that has really been the driving force behind our growth,” Peterman explained to a virtual audience as part of ServiceTitan’s Pantheon 2020 industry conference. “We have worked very, very hard to create a place where people want to come to work and grow into the best versions of themselves.”
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Growth means winning at Peterman
A Peterman employee understands growth means winning for both the employee and the company. New opportunities arise, higher-level positions need to be filled, pay rates increase, and the company can provide employees even more incentives to earn higher pay.
“We gave them every opportunity to improve themselves personally and professionally, and they took those opportunities,” Peterman says. “The more our employees grew individually, the more the business grew. We soon saw, in the end, the pace of the growth was really up to the employees.”
Peterman says society often views people working in the trades as someone with no desire to better themselves or as a last-resort career choice for those who don’t do well in school. At Peterman, the company believes in instilling hope, care, and compassion to help employees dream again, set and accomplish goals, and then recognizes them for it.
“This is why Peterman’s culture is so special,” the company president says. “We provide a place for our employees to call home, a place where our plumbers, our heating technicians, installers, sales people, and others can show off their skills to the world. We don’t want to hold anyone back.”
You can’t stop the growth
Peterman remembers when his dad told him and his brother to be cautious about growing the company too fast. He just shook his head and said, “Dad, I can’t stop it.”
When you develop the right company culture and attract great employees, they automatically grow the business by constantly seeking ways to improve.
“I’m just here to give them the platform to be successful,” Peterman says. “I can’t stop them from wanting to get better and be better. I can’t stop the growth.”
This same idea spurred Peterman to write a book last year called, “You Can’t Stop the Growth: How to Build a Culture That Takes Care of Your Customers.” He hopes home services companies use it as a resource for implementing their own growth strategies, and customers may learn something, too, about how to hire a company they know they can trust.
“We are really doing something special here. This is all about how we do it and why we do it,” Peterman says.
Here’s a snapshot of Peterman’s 4 simple steps to grow your company, along with tools, tactics, and other business tips:
1. Create the ‘vivid vision’
When Chad and Tyler took over running the family business in 2016, they had questions:
Where are we going?
Why are we growing?
How are we growing?
Is it going to take us to where we want to go eventually?
To define the company’s vision, the brothers wanted to determine its higher purpose.
How can we affect the lives of our employees and our customers?
How can we help improve our industry?
The Peterman brothers could have gone with the typical mission statement that other HVAC or plumbing companies use, but Chad says it wasn’t detailed enough and didn’t clearly tell employees what’s in it for them.
He then read the book, “Double Double: How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in 3 Years or Less,” by Cameron Herold, and says it profoundly changed his life and the trajectory for the family-owned-and-operated business.
At the root of Herold’s formula is what he calls the “vivid vision.”
“It goes into great detail about what the future looks like and what it feels like to accomplish your goals,” Peterman explains. “It involves everyone, and makes it easy for them to see their individual roles in the company’s success.
“I know that sounds weird. ‘Simply write down what I want my company to look like in three years and that will somehow grow my company?’ It is the roadmap to your success.”
It’s just a matter of creating alignment within the company, so everyone knows where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.
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2. Crystalizing your vision can unlock massive growth
Where do you see your company in three years? How do you want to operate? How do you define the culture of your company?
You might touch on the company culture in your vivid vision, but culture requires action and not simply writing words down on paper.
“Culture is not about a ping pong table or having a beer on a Friday afternoon,” Peterman explains. “Culture is about caring, and more importantly, culture is about showing through action that you care.
“If care begins and ends at your company with writing that weekly paycheck, I can ensure you don’t have technicians lining up at your door to join your team,” he says.
Instead, show them you care by investing in their continued growth and giving them a platform to be successful.
“The ultimate way to show you care for another is to genuinely invest in them and help them grow,” Peterman says. “When everyone on your team is growing, the company can not help but grow.”
3. Use tools to attract new talent or promote from within
In its branded recruitment process to find motivated employees, Peterman uses three specific tools:
The Orientation Process
Peterman Leadership Academy
Internal Referral Program
The Orientation Process: Unlike other HVAC and plumbing companies that immediately send new hires out to learn on the job, Peterman requires every employee to go through three days of orientation before ever stepping foot in the field.
Day 1: They learn they are no longer just a CSR or tech. “They are now a Peterman CSR, a Peterman HVAC tech, or a Peterman plumber.”
Day 2: They learn, “This is what we do.”
Day 3: They learn, “This is how we do it.”
Peterman Leadership Academy: This company leadership training program views everyone as a leader, no matter their position or title. Peterman offers five levels of leadership training for all of its employees, so they can grow, learn, and move into higher positions within the company.
For instance, Peterman offered one example of a female employee who started in the company’s call center, moved into memberships, and now works as the marketing manager.
“When she started, I had no idea of her potential,”he says. “But talking to her, understanding what she wanted to do, what motivated her, helped her create a career path that’s benefitting her and the company.”
Internal Referral Program: As we develop leaders, we undoubtedly need more of them. Where do we find them? Through our own team members. Top performers are likely to hang out with other top performers, so give your employees an incentive to tell you about them.
Peterman gives its employees $100 for any person they refer, who completes a face-to-face interview with the company. If that person is hired, on their 90-day anniversary with the company, the employee who made the referral starts receiving $150 a month for up to 5 years, so long as both employees remain on the team.
“Ask yourself if it’s worth it to have a growth-oriented team member that one of your current growth-oriented team members vouches for. When you put it that way, it’s a pretty easy question to answer,” Peterman says.
4. Create a culture of empowerment
Creating a culture of empowerment not only helps your employees, but it could be the most powerful thing you can do for yourself as a leader.
“The mutual trust that comes from empowerment reaffirms that you believe in your people and in yourself as their leader,” Peterman says. “Everyone wins when you commit to empowering people.”
Here are some of the tactics Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing uses to help employees reach their goals:
Help people create their own personal vivid vision, so they can see their role in your company’s success.
Give them a path to growth. People are happier and more productive when they know a company cares enough to give them a real future.
Give them the power to do things on their own. Give people space to figure things out, and see how it increases their motivation.
Let your people find solutions. It’s easy to just give people the answers, but if you do, they’ll never learn. They need to try, and even fail, if they’re going to learn and grow.
Praise their efforts. Even if people make mistakes, at least they’re trying. Praising those efforts encourages them to learn and grow.
Celebrate success. Don’t get too busy that you forget to celebrate your team’s success. It will supercharge your growth and your team’s willingness to want to grow.
Live the behaviors you want them to embrace. Take a personal inventory of where you are as a leader. Being the dictator and telling others what to do is the least-effective way to get them to change.
Forgive mistakes, and help them find the lesson in the experience. Giving to people empowers them, but giving them your time, your trust, your knowledge, and your belief in them requires discipline and commitment by you.
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