Robert Arce knows the value of hard work. He put in long days and nights to learn the heating and air conditioning trade before venturing out on his own a decade ago. Making the decision to transition from HVAC service technician to HVAC business owner wasn’t an easy one, according to Arce.
“It’s very stressful and nail-biting,” Arce says. “You're always thinking about how you're going to earn income, get your next little paycheck from a customer ... but it went gung-ho, and now there’s no looking back.”
Today, Arce Heating and AC, based in Fort Mill, S.C., employs four service technicians and an installation crew. The home service company brought in $1.7 million in revenue last year.
After working as his own HVAC service tech, Arce decided in 2016 to hire several technicians so he could focus on managing the business. To streamline operations, he tested a few software platforms for scheduling, dispatching and pricing, but says he found each solution lacking key features.
While attending last year’s annual meeting of PRAXIS S-10, an organization formed to help small HVAC contractors grow their businesses, Arce decided the featured presenter—ServiceTitan’s HVAC software and mobile app—provided the best comprehensive solution to help take his company to the next level.
Listening to Jimmy Hiller, a powerhouse contractor and one of the PRAXIS founders, praise ServiceTitan didn’t hurt either, he says.
“Jimmy Hiller talked about his transition to ServiceTitan,” Arce says. “We look at what the big boys do, and Hiller is big. I just thought, ‘This is the time, this is the year to do it.’”
Paving the career path from service technician to HVAC business owner
Arce learned the basics of heating and air conditioning while working for an HVAC company in Columbus, Ohio. “I started out as an install helper during the day, went to school at night, and worked my way up to answering the phones,” he says.
Hungry for a bigger challenge and more money, Arce moved to the Carolinas and landed a job as a maintenance technician with one of the biggest HVAC companies in Charlotte.
After a couple of years and with no clear path for advancement, Arce took a job as an HVAC maintenance employee at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, among the world’s busiest. He worked the afternoon shift so he could focus earlier in the day on his own HVAC business.
“In the mornings, that’s when I was doing my thing,” he says.
It took nearly three years of long hours and double duty before he felt ready to go out on his own.
At the airport, he gained commercial HVAC experience, and he used his connections there to build a client list for Arce Heating and AC. With thousands of airport employees working alongside him, Arce turned airport service calls into lead generators for his residential HVAC business by sharing his business card and asking for referrals.
Much like Hiller, Arce built his own HVAC business by providing great service for repeat customers. Adding ServiceTitan to his toolbox, he says, allows him to give customers “big company service with that small company feel.”
We asked Arce, a one-year user of the ServiceTitan software and someone who has tried other technology solutions, to explain the advantages of ServiceTitan’s all-in-one software for smaller HVAC companies.
Q: What did you like or dislike about previous software you tested?
A: I liked the texting feature to let customers know we are on the way, but everything else was really tough to manage and keep track of in the previous software. I did the integration for pricing with QuickBooks, but received no customer support from either the software company or QuickBooks. We also tried to add pictures and things like that, but it was very limited. The estimates were very difficult and not something I liked to present to customers.
Q: What happened when you learned the QuickBooks integration wasn’t working with the previous software?
A: It wasn’t processing our jobs correctly and we were doing almost duplicative work, double-checking each job … it was complete chaos. The integration was really bad and I’m paying for it now, too, trying to clean up some things from 2018. There was no integration or anything like that to really help you step-by-step.
Q: What was your impetus for switching to ServiceTitan?
A: Poor customer support from the previous software provider. The other company didn’t want to talk to you; they wanted to do more texting or chatting online. It’s not the same as someone talking to you and walking you through it.
With ServiceTitan, we had somebody to call to troubleshoot any problems. It was typically just a feature they had to turn on, then BOOM, cool, it’s on. With the other company, we would text and wait for them to text back, which could be anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes on average.
Q: What was the onboarding process like at ServiceTitan?
A: I loved our Customer Implementation Manager. He was like, “You’ve got to do this … this is the deadline.” He was adamant and I really liked that. As an owner, you’re just so tired and busy, sometimes you just don’t want to look at work anymore. It helped to have someone pushing me to meet certain deadlines before the go-live date.
ServiceTitan helped to get us ready for a big transition. Implementing new software always takes time and we needed to be patient while we learned the new operating system. We’re about a year into it, and there’s still a lot that we don’t know and need to learn. ... It’s like an ongoing training kind of thing; you can’t watch it once and remember it all, because there are so many steps to it. It’s our slow season, so now’s the time to learn more and master it.
Q: What was the ServiceTitan experience like for your service techs in the field compared to your previous software?
A: ServiceTitan operated more smoothly. The techs can see pretty much everything they need to know before responding to a service call. They can look at every detail, what time they need to be there, the specific service needed, and they can even listen to the customer’s recorded phone call. That’s a nice feature our guys really like.
Q: Do your techs utilize the pricebooks and the new pricing estimate templates to present the good, better and best options to a customer?
A: I’ve integrated with the Daikin and Goodman HVAC dealers, and I love the pictures shown with each estimate, along with the model numbers. Everyone always wants to know the model numbers and all of the details.
We can include all the pricing and there’s an easy get-financing-now button. I still have people trying to sell me different marketing tools, and I’m like, “No, I still like my ServiceTitan on the estimates.” It’s all there, you don’t need to look at another software.
My techs have also been able to upsell more. They show the customer pictures, pricing … it breaks it all down, right then and there. They no longer have to pull out a notepad and write things down or tell the customer they’ll get back to them on pricing.
Q: Do you use the technician analytics dashboard to foster healthy competition?
A: The dashboard is on display for everyone in the office to see. The techs can see where they’re at now and what their goals are … that’s really good, it gets them pumped up. They’re always asking each other, “How much money did you make this week?” or “How was this job or that job?”
Q: What are your 2020 business goals?
A: We plan to hire more staff so we can be ready for this upcoming season, and I want to break $2 million in earnings. I want to train my guys to really understand what kind of software they have and set it up correctly.
I tell my customers, “This is state-of-the-art stuff.” We have one older customer who loves the software. He tells us, “As soon as you hit dispatch, I’m following you, street by street, all the way to my house!”
One of my biggest goals is to show customers how we can provide big company service with that small company feel. That’s all we’re trying to do, just put a really big dent in the industry.
ServiceTitan is a comprehensive HVAC business software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.
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