Sometimes a bad boss can inadvertently motivate you to greatness—if only just to prove him wrong about his opinion of you.
Today, Ben Davis is the CEO of Express Plumbing Service in Idaho. The company he founded 14 years ago is thriving. Since signing up with ServiceTitan two years ago he’s seen million-dollar increases in revenue annually. And Express Plumbing regular collects more than 125 five-star Google reviews a month.
With business booming, Davis can still clearly recall the words of his ex-boss — words which propelled him to quit and start his own home services company.
Davis has been in the trades since 2000. He started as a drain cleaner for a rooter company, doing a lot of work and not making much money. As a 20-something, he aspired to more and started his own company.
It was a disaster. He went into debt, had to close the company and went back to work for somebody else.
At this next job in the trades, Davis worked his way up to service manager, with 22 techs under his supervision. He wasn’t doing plumbing jobs as much as he was managing the problems that arose in the field.
One day, a situation came up that drew the attention of Davis’ boss. One of the company’s techs was doing an unauthorized side job in the middle of the day when he was supposed to be on the clock. Davis and his boss drove out to a residence to catch the tech in the act.
Sitting in front of the house, the boss was furious. He decided to blame Davis and take his anger out on him instead of the wayward tech.
The boss looked Davis in the face and said: “The difference between me and you is that I’m a business owner and you’re a blue-collar employee, and you’ll never become a business owner.”
Before becoming the service manager, Davis had been earning $80,000 as a tech. When he got bumped up to manager his salary dropped precipitously—even though he was now working twice as hard.
Davis’ fire was lit by his boss’s comment. Within a few months he put in his two weeks’ notice, pulled all his money out of the bank and started his own company again.
Not an overnight success
The first five years of his new business were shaky.
“I went out and met with every property management company I could find,” he says. I went door to door. I went to the mall. McDonald’s. Local gas stations. I ended up being everywhere you could imagine, really quickly. But my average ticket was super low.”
Davis’ accounting processes were mostly manual.
“We were so old school,” he says. “We had a whiteboard and every time we completed a service call we’d put a dot on the whiteboard. Then we would count all the dots at the end of the month and then look at how much we did in sales—that’s how we would see what our average ticket was.”
They had a system that included dispatch cards for each technician, which listed every job they had to do that day. After a completed job, they’d match that dispatch card with the invoice.
“Oh man, it was just a nightmare,” Davis says. “We would do 250 to 300 service calls a month, but sales would be under $200,000. We were running ragged and not really making any money.”
Davis bought a software package for the company—but the employee doing CSR dispatching refused to use it. Davis finally had to go to her desk and clear off all the dispatch cards.
“You have to use the software,” Davis told the employee. After that day, business slowly began to grow.
Switching to ServiceTitan
Express Plumbing switched to ServiceTitan in 2018. At the time, the company was bringing in $2.9 million in annual sales while doing about 600 service calls a month.
The onboarding process took two months. Express Plumbing’s QuickBooks software had to be rebuilt from scratch, due to difficulties with the previous software.
Davis says there were problems with logins, and duplicate entries because of minor typos was a huge problem.
In the first year with ServiceTitan, Express Plumbing’s revenues climbed one million dollars, up to $3.9 million. Best of all, they were able to switch from being 80 percent commercial business and 20 percent residential to a 50/50 mix during that year.
“With ServiceTitan, all the information about your business is right in front of you, telling you how you’re doing,” Davis says. “That was the game changer. It’s helped us move the ball in the right direction.”
With ServiceTitan, all the information about your business is right in front of you, telling you how you’re doing. That was the game changer. It’s helped us move the ball in the right direction.”
Being able to see and analyze KPI (key performance indicators) has been crucial, Davis says.
“I have real, live data, right in front of me,” he says. “It’s almost a breathing, living thing. It tells you if you’re successful or not, or if one of your technicians is successful or not—what’s his close rate, what’s his average ticket.”
ServiceTitan has also been useful to Davis for marketing.
“Before, we would just spend money marketing and pray that something sticks,” he says. “But now I’m able to see where my marketing dollars are going and how many new avenues are opening up.”
NexGen’s Ismael Valdez
Davis excitedly recalls his opportunity to meet with and learn from trades superstar and ServiceTitan devotee Ismael Valdez of NexGen. Valdez has helped boost industry standards and is the top HVAC company in Southern California.
“He’s the coolest guy ever,” Davis says. “He welcomed me and some of my team into his office and for six hours he opened up to us and passed on his knowledge. He let my managers go around his office and ask anybody any question they had.”
Davis says one things Valdez showed him was a room filled with desks topped by computers.
“He said, ‘This is where an accountant used to be, this is where a bookkeeper used to be,’” Davis recalls. “By allowing ServiceTitan to control more and more and more of his business, he was able to reduce his manpower and his inside team. I hope to be able to apply some of that to my business.”
Working with ServiceTitan enabled Davis to boost revenue and to interact with a classy business owner like Valdez. Quite the contrast from that ex-boss whose harsh words kick-started Davis on his own business journey.
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