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Family Business: ServicePro, ServiceTitan Find Common Ground, Common Values

Mike Persinger
February 2nd, 2021
9 Min Read

They grew up in the family business. They recognized the need for better technology but didn’t find anything quite right in the marketplace.

They built a software solution that changed lives for their customers in the trades, fed by an intense desire to do just that. 

ServicePro executives Andy Deering and Kim O’Connor, and their pioneer father Richard Deering, really do have a lot in common with ServiceTitan founders Ara Mahdessian and Vahe Kuzoyan.

Building better software to help their fathers — and those like them — run their companies motivates ServiceTitan’s founders. Helping their father improve a trailblazing software company serving pest control, lawn care and arbor companies drives Deering and O’Connor.  

ServiceTitan has been a rocket ship,” Deering says. “They have a playbook, they have a plan they're following, and they're executing it really well. When you look at HVAC, plumbing, electrical, they were just knocking it out of the park. And they wanted to get into pest, lawn and arbor. Well, that's what we do.”

That feeling of family, and the alignment of mission, ultimately convinced ServicePro’s leadership that ServiceTitan was the right acquisition partner for them, and their customers. 

“That really spoke to me, just that fundamental thing they wanted to do for their fathers. I love that,” O’Connor says. “Same thing for me. I went in because I wanted to help my dad, and he needed help. I went in, and I didn't look back.”

That shared history, even if one group was in Southern California and the other on the Deering Family Farm in New Carlisle, Ohio, moved both siblings.

“That was it,” Deering says. “I'd be lying if I said it didn't give us a warm feeling knowing that they had a similar background.”

An early adopter

Richard Deering still lives on the farm where ServicePro was born. He started a lawn and pest management company there 35 years ago, growing it from one truck to more than 200. And he quickly saw the need for a more efficient data reporting system that catered to the specific needs of his company—tasks as simple as running an accounts receivable report. 

“They didn't know how much money was hanging out there,” Andy Deering says. ”They had to solve some of those problems.” 

Richard Deering looked for solutions on the market and found nothing. So he set about creating his own. 

“He was an early adopter, for sure,” Andy Deering says. “The mainframe days, AS/400. They were very involved in some of the early stages of computers. It was clearly much more primitive.

“He never did take it to market to sell it to other companies at that time. It was more focused around solving solutions for his own business.”

As time went on and technology changed, he improved the software. By word of mouth, awareness of his Windows-based solution spread—and other lawn and pest control companies wanted it. When the internet made SaaS products possible, business took off. 

“And, well, here we are,” Andy Deering says. 

See need, fill need

Soft and Green Lawn Care, which also did light pest control, came first before being sold about 20 years ago, and the software company became the focus. Growing up, Deering and O’Connor saw both the successes and the struggles. 

As a kid, Deering would go to work with his dad. “It was just part of the weekends,” he says. “You see what he does and you hear him talking to other people, so you grow up around the culture.”

He joined the company as a lawn/pest control technician after high school, learning the business from the ground up before transitioning with his father to full-time software, first as a sales associate and now as CEO. 

O’Connor watched the business grow, too. 

“It was cool for me to grow up in that household,” she says. “You just get a different perspective of what a small business owner goes through, and what it takes to make it.”

She went to Ohio University to play basketball and study the sciences, and didn’t really think about joining the software company at first. 

“I was finishing school, and I was going into the office just because I was hearing him come home and all the stuff going on,” she says. “And I said, ‘Well, I'll come in and help.’ And that was it.”

She spent the next decade on the road, onboarding two or three new customers a week in person. 

“It was an education, because I was in all these different companies, and I was seeing how they ran, and I was getting them live,” she says. “It was invaluable for me.”

Now Head of Operations and Founder, she says that experience also gave her a big investment in ServicePro’s 1,000-plus customers — and a determination to see that commitment to customer service continue. 

A two-year process

ServicePro’s first contact with ServiceTitan was about two years ago, at the beginning of the family’s decision-making process, O’Connor says. And at that time, she says, they had never heard of ServiceTitan, although “it seemed like a really cool company.” 

Meetings with private equity and venture capital companies followed, but none of them seemed right. “They’d promise all these things, but when you started getting right down to it, they were talking about cutting costs,” she says. “It didn’t seem as good as when they were trying to sell us.”

ServicePro, she says, got busy, backed off and kept growing. And ServiceTitan didn’t give up. 

“At that time we had had a broker, and he kept calling us, saying, ‘Look, ServiceTitan has just called and called and called. They want to talk to you guys.’ So we started engaging again.”

That led, eventually, to a face-to-face meeting with Kuzoyan — and an important moment in the relationship. 

“We had a great day meeting with them,” she says. “We kept chatting more about how we'd work together, and it just kept getting better.” 

At one point, Kuzoyan excused himself to take a call from a ServiceTitan customer. 

“When you meet with a group of people, you verify they're taking care of their customers,” Deering says. “Any time you're in a meeting and a customer calls you, you drop out of that internal meeting and you take care of the customer. That's something my dad has kind of drilled into us over the years.

“Right now it sounds kind of small and it's pretty fundamental — but it resonated with me. I thought it was a good part of it. I looked at that and I thought it was a good fit.”

Soon, the deal was done, but the work is just beginning. There are customers to care for.

“Vahe wants to know what our customer commitments are,” O’Connor says. “He wants to know what we promised to make sure that we come through on that. They care not only about ServiceTitan customers, but also now ServicePro customers.” 

You look at a lot of platforms out there and they either dabble in a bunch of industries or do one industry really, really well. Nobody's doing a lot of industries really, really well. But together, we can do that.”

Andy Deering

Next steps: Help customers

ServicePro serves more than 1,000 customers in the pest control, lawn and arbor industries industry, including Rollins, one of the largest companies in the home services industry. ServiceTitan, with its missions of helping customers become wildly successful and becoming the software solution for the trades, counts 100,000-plus contractors among users of the cloud-based platform. 

Together, they offer an enterprise approach to the software to a broader set of customers. 

“When you show up on someone's doorstep,” Deering says, “and you say, I have a solution that's going to help you track your customers, route your trucks, bill your clients, track your receivables. It's going to automate the back office and it's going to do scheduling, route optimization. It's going to help you track your commissions. 

“When you start building these profile things of what it does under one umbrella to eliminate dual processes … it really starts resonating.”

And, O’Connor says, the increased support possible with ServiceTitan deepens the value. 

“I'm very implementation and support-oriented,” she says, “and it drives me nuts if the customer's not happy. Customer happiness and customer success, that was just a fundamental thing throughout ServiceTitan and everyone I met. So, I just loved that culture.”

Time to ‘move dirt around’

O’Connor says she’s excited that the sale means her father can retire and “move dirt around” on the farm. 

“I am really happy for my dad that he gets to do the things he loves,” she says. “As a small business owner, you never hardly ever get a break. One part of the business is starting to go good, and you're dealing with something else. There's always something.

“He's lived that his entire life. So now, he gets to truly just tinker around on his farm, and I just couldn't be happier for him.” 

Deering and O’Connor will continue to operate ServicePro separately as a company wholly owned by ServiceTitan. The companies will combine resources to expedite improvements that can help all companies in the trades, such as maps and routing, memberships, recurring service patterns, accounting and office automation, leads and follow-ups, and multi-location business setup.

Deering is excited about what ServicePro and ServiceTitan can do together. And about what ServicePro’s expertise in pest control, landscaping and arbor industries can add. 

“You look at a lot of platforms out there and they either dabble in a bunch of industries or do one industry really, really well,” he says. “Nobody's doing a lot of industries really, really well.

“But together, we can do that.”

‘All about acceleration’

Going with ServiceTitan over private equity or venture capital, Deering says, will ultimately be better for ServicePro customers. Being bought and sold multiple times — the danger with private equity — could slow development as priorities change with each buyer. 

“ServiceTitan's all about acceleration,” he says. “How can we retain better? How can we grow faster? The ServicePro clients are not going to be bought and sold and shifting around the way things operate. 

“ServiceTitan is and wants to be the largest, fastest-growing service industry software there is. With that backing, it's a very different mindset and it's going to create a better experience for the customer.”

Deering and O’Connor are on board for that ride, too. 

“Me and my sister are very excited for this,” he says. “We're on board. We're no longer a bootstrapped company, we get a lot more resources to go do things we want for our customers and our people. 

“We're ready to go.”

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