The path to the trades can be winding, but it’s a safe guess that not a lot of businesses started in nursing school. Especially for a chimney sweep.
But that is precisely how Fluesbrothers Chimney and Fireplace in Kansas City began. It was in nursing school that Brandi Biswell met her husband, Jeremy. While in school, Jeremy had been working for a catering company–and lo and behold they needed a chimney sweep.
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“His boss, being the entrepreneur that he is, said, ‘Jeremy, we should start a chimney sweeping company,’” Brandi said in a recent interview with ServiceTitan.
He did, but six months later the same man said two businesses were one too many.
“(Jeremy) went to the little bank in town and convinced them to give us a small business loan,” Brandi said. “We bought out his little portion, and the rest is history.”
In 22 years, Fluesbrothers (kudos for the play on words) has gone from the smallest of startups to 18 employees and $2.5 million in expected business in 2022. Dispel the thoughts of Charles Dickens, a sooty face and scrub-brush with a long handle. Instead, consider high tech assessments of a chimney or fireplace’s condition, crafted rebuilds of the firebox or chimney, and regular maintenance for safety and appearance. Like all of the trades, working on chimneys is a craft.
Jeremy jumped in feet first in 1999; Brandi continued working as a nurse before joining the business 14 years later.
“We nurses, we like that adrenaline rush,” she said. “In the chimney sweep business, I really like October because it’s busy and fast-paced and people are having issues. I love the adrenaline part of it, for different reasons.”
Now the Vice President of Fluesbrothers, Brandi has maintained a connection with her nursing career–including helping at COVID clinics in the Kansas City area. But her work life is focused on the company she joined in 2013.
“We were a much smaller company then,” Biswell said. “Everything was literally on carbon copies that we paid like a dollar a carbon copy for. I was like, ‘This is ridiculous. It’s 2013, why are these things not electronic?’”
At that point, the Fluesbrothers hired their first CRM software company. But in April of 2021, it switched to ServiceTitan, the cloud-based software for the trades.
“We were afraid to switch,” Biswell said. “But our CRM told us they could not do any more updates.” That forced the move, and Fluesbrothers did not consider an option other than ServiceTitan.
Madison Robertson, the company’s Client Services Representative, became, in Biswell’s words, “the ServiceTitan superuser nerd.”
“I love a challenge, and I like something new,” Robertson said. “Honestly, with ServiceTitan, I can always find something new, and I love that. I can go home and it doesn't feel like work.
“That's another thing with ServiceTitan. I'm more techie than I let on. There's so many different facets of ServiceTitan that you can find, and I'm finding things out every single day. I've been in the system on the weekends, in the middle of the night on the weekends.”
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Biswell admits that ServiceTitan’s reputation in the chimney sweep world was not spotless. But she said she attributed that to owners who did not dedicate themselves to learning what they could do.
“They haven’t put in the work to actually learn the system and to build the system,” she said.
She gave examples of companies that did not heed the wisdom of onboarders, or businesses that did not regularly talk to the CSM provided by ServiceTitan. Another neglected to input his Pricebook, then paid to get out of the contract.
“Which is sad, because it could have been such a great program for them,” Biswell said.
Fluesbrothers has tried to take advantage of every benefit, especially as they learn the software in the first year of the partnership. Example: Biswell was advised to have weekly meetings with their CSM, and that has led to a friendship that has shot … umm … through the roof.
“We exchange Christmas gifts, and she’s great,” Biswell said. “We meet with her every week, and every week we have new questions for her or new issues. She’s great about it. We send them to her on Monday, so that by Wednesday when we meet, she has the answers.”
This would be called making best use of the ServiceTitan system, an approach that suits Fluesbrothers well. Biswell said the company has learned that initial fears about the switch lacked merit–especially when ServiceTitan moved up the onboarding from October to late March to avoid the busy season in late fall. Results have been immediate.
“We were joking because going through this October it seemed so much slower, but when we looked at the numbers, it really wasn't that much slower,” Biswell said. “I think it seemed slower to us because we were getting everything inputted so much faster that we could go ahead and take another call. It just seemed slower to us, but it was just because it was so much more streamlined.”
With the previous software, each day had to be scheduled individually, whereas with ServiceTitan they can do several days at a time. The pair also appreciate the variety and diversity of reports that can be created
“With our old program, if we wanted to know how many crown seals we did last year and what our revenue was, there was no way to pull that data without going through it by hand,” Biswell said. “Madison's gone in and just pulled that report. Which really helps us, especially with product being so scarce and everything sitting in the Pacific Ocean, and us needing to prepare for 2022 and how much we're going to order.
“It helps us to look at our services. Is there something we need to drop because we're not making money at it, or is there something that we need to really ramp up because we're making a lot of money at it but we're not maximizing that potential?
“The ROI has been phenomenal.”
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.