Brian Zelden had no trade experience, but that didn’t prevent him from helping a friend in need.
Zelden was a South Florida marketing guru who specialized in finding efficient ways to grow companies. In the fall of 2021, his friend Mark McCandless Jr., who runs Austin Refrigeration in Austin, Texas, with his father, needed someone to answer his phones for a week while he finished a project.
He did the job remotely from Florida. The week went by without issue, but Zelden noticed some inefficiencies. The company’s software was outdated and muddled up many processes.
“Hey, you’re really hurting in this business,” Zelden confided in his friend at the end of the week. So McCandless Jr. asked Zelden if he could work for Austin Refrigeration for a month longer—still remote—and continue to answer phones and run dispatch. Zelden agreed.
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“But then I made the mistake of doing a good job,” Zelden laughed.
At the end of the month, McCandless Jr. asked Zelden to come work with him in Austin. The pair drafted a one-to-two-year contract for Zelden to continue to run dispatch, survey the business and find ways to grow and operate more efficiently. Zelden coined the move as “trading the beaches of Florida for some Texas brisket.”
After arriving in Austin, his first big challenge was finding better software for the refrigeration and HVAC company. Zelden did loads of research. That’s how he learned about ServiceTitan, the all-in-one software for the trades that could integrate all parts of Austin Refrigeration.
“It was love at first sight,” he said.
A win-win situation
Before Zelden grew smitten with ServiceTitan, he and many others at Austin Refrigeration had grown frustrated with their previous software.
The main problem, Zelden explained, was the lack of accountability at the nearly 20-year-old company. It was hard to track payments and costs. The dispatch board made little sense and had no room for notes. The interface wasn’t user-friendly. For some reason, whenever you uploaded a photo into the software, it uploaded in poor quality.
The worst part? Amid the tech shortage, Zelden was having a hard time hiring techs because very few wanted to use that software.
“I’d try and train them on it, then I’d see just how frustrated they’d get,” he said.
That’s why it was “love at first sight” with ServiceTitan. It did everything the previous software should’ve been doing—and more. McClandless Jr. was also impressed during the demo.
“His jaw dropped at how much more intuitive it was,” Zelden said.
But Zelden was transparent with his friend. Through ServiceTitan’s referral program, Zelden was in line for a nice payday if Austin Refrigeration ended up selecting the software. For every qualified referral that attends a ServiceTitan demo, you can earn a $500 reward. Then, 90 days after a referral joins ServiceTitan, you can earn a percentage of their annual spend up to $10,000.
“(McCandless Jr.) said to me, ‘I swear to God, if you're doing this just for the referral check, we’re going to fight,’” Zelden said. “And he meant it. We fight like brothers.”
But two things can be true at the same time. Zelden saw no better software. And how could he turn down a referral check?
Austin Refrigeration went live with ServiceTitan in June 2022.
“And we haven't fought, so obviously, he's very, very happy with it,” Zelden said with a laugh.
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‘The real magic’
Their favorite features all have one thing in common: accountability.
Here are a few that stand out.
Reporting:ServiceTitan’s dynamic dashboard can be tailored to display the metrics and KPIs that mean the most to your business. “We had a meeting with our success manager, and Mark set up this thing where he can get a text message every time someone accepts a bid,” Zelden said. “He was so happy.”
Estimates: Quickly get estimates out the door with an intuitive estimate builder that lets you edit items inline, create item groups, and dynamically display your gross margin so you can work more efficiently and improve profits on every job. “Not only can we keep the estimates in there, but then we’re able to book from the estimate so there's no confusion with the tech on how much money they're supposed to be collecting,” Zelden said.
Dispatching: The ServiceTitan dispatch board helps today’s home and commercial service companies optimize technician tracking—so everyone stays on time. “Putting all the bids through ServiceTitan and then having the software communicate with the proper people is such a game changer,” Zelden said. “Like when I put a job on the dispatch board, I can then notify the technician I assigned it to through a text message.”
No longer is Zelden or anyone at Austin Refrigeration frustrated about a photo uploading in poor quality. ServiceTitan has increased visibility throughout the company, and the ease of learning the software is so simple that Zelden is convinced he could train anyone on it—from new technicians to veterans.
“Anybody can learn this, and that's the real magic,” he said.
Returning to his beach
One unexpected perk of switching to ServiceTitan? More time for barbecue.
Last year, before they started using ServiceTitan, Austin Refrigeration entered into a popular competition called BBQ Austin. It was a great chance to market their company—as well as McCandless's famous brisket. But unfortunately, with everything going on at Austin Refrigeration, they didn’t have much time to practice.
This year, thanks to ServiceTitan, it was a different story.
“It was a huge difference in how we were able to focus (on the competition) and prepare. Because (with ServiceTitan), what used to take three hours now takes 30 minutes,” Zelden said.
The four techs worked on sides and sauces. The father and son duo smoked the brisket and pork ribs. And come competition day, Austin Refrigeration placed 14th out of 226.
“In Texas, there really is no greater marketing, branding or client retention you can do than brisket and ribs,” Zelden said.
Long-term, those at Austin Refrigeration are excited to continue digging into ServiceTitan. They hope to grow the service department to 10 to 12 techs, and continue to expand the construction department.
Zelden feels like he’s held up his end of the contract he signed a year and a half ago. Now, he’s hoping to leave Texas and head back to South Florida sometime in 2023.
“But I wouldn't be able to do that without ServiceTitan,” Zelden said. “I don't know a bigger endorsement I could give: ServiceTitan will allow me to go back to my precious beach.”
ServiceTitan is a comprehensive software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and substantially elevate the trajectory of their business. Our comprehensive, cloud-based platform is used by thousands of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and chimney sweep shops across the country—and has increased their revenue by an average of 25% in just their first year with us.