HVAC, Electrical, Management, Operations, Business Tips, Success Story

Capital Heating goes from 900 mph blindfolded to efficiency, visibility with ServiceTitan

Pat McManamon
April 10th, 2023
6 Min Read

Seth Rawson hadn’t worked a single day in the trades when he interviewed to be Chief Operations Officer with Capital Heating, Cooling and Electric in 2017.

Not that he didn’t have a resume that would make a person sit up and take notice, mind you. Rawson is a Harvard business school graduate and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. His places of employment include Tyco SimplexGrinnell/Johnson Controls, Master Lock and the White House.

Yes, that White House; Rawson spent seven years with the George W. Bush administration.

None of that, though, prepared him for what he was to face when he interviewed to join the trades.

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“That was the longest and most in-depth interview process,” he said. “I spent an hour at a time with six different people during a day. And I’m like, ‘What is going on?’”

Rawson had met Capital owner Jason Fox while doing executive consulting. He knew nothing about the trades, so when Fox asked Rawson to assess the business, he did the work for free. The inefficiencies he saw scared him.

“I'm like, dude, how do you even know what's really going on in the business?” Rawson said. “It's like driving a car at 900 miles an hour with a blindfold on knowing that there's a turn somewhere ahead but not knowing when.”

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‘There’s nothing but upside’

To complete his work, Rawson wrote a 12-page best practices assessment: a state of the business with ideas on how to improve.

“I remember I said (to Fox), ‘The great news is that despite all the stuff that’s here, you’re still making money,’” Rawson said. “So there’s nothing but upside.”

A half-hour after receiving the assessment, Fox called and asked him to interview, which turned into that day when Fox and all the members of his team put Rawson through the wringer.

After, Fox asked his team members for an assessment. All five said Rawson would not be a good fit.

“He just said, ‘I appreciate your input. I’m still hiring him,’” Rawson said.

Six years later, Rawson talks about the efficiencies he’s seen added to the business, including adding ServiceTitan in 2021. He explained that since, even while downsizing, Capital has seen “explosive growth.”

“Explosive growth is downsizing a $5 million commercial business and still growing,” he said. “I talk about a $5 million commercial business, but at that point in time we're a $9 million organization. And so we downsized to $5 million commercial business and we grew to $13 million.

“This year (in 2022) we're going to finish off at $13, $14 million. Next year we're probably going to put up $21 million. We've got all the pieces in place. I'm a planner, I've got these big plans.

“I heard a statement that always stuck with me. And it was, ‘I'm turning an aircraft carrier. I've been turning this aircraft carrier for two years since I've been on Service Titan, and I'm growing through it. And now I'm lined up.

“I've got all the pieces and I've got everything I need now to do everything I want to do. I'm straightening up that aircraft carrier.”

The path to efficiency

The 12-page best practices assessment became what Rawson called his Rosetta Stone, not only for choosing a new software but for adding efficiency.

“ServiceTitan now accomplishes 11 of 12 of those things,” Rawson said. “At the time when we went through implementation, I think it checked off eight of the boxes.”

Rawson was just warming up. He called ServiceTitan “the gateway of knowledge.”

"The numbers are not the answers,” he said. “They are the KPIs by which we have to drive answers to resolve issues. So what ServiceTitan gives you is, man, that gives you the numbers. And it gives you the numbers in a way that can be meaningful and inter-relational in a way that makes sense. 

“If you have the numbers in front of you, and you have the motivation and the drive to understand those numbers, you can transform whatever you're doing.

“You're not driving 900 miles an hour with a blindfold on your head. You are driving Miss Daisy. You're sitting in the back seat, and you're getting driven down the road.”

Specifically, Rawson mentioned Marketing Pro’s SMS automation to membership plans, which he first tried as a Beta user.

“I sent a text to 900 people saying spots were filling up,” he said. “Dude, in that week, I got like 300 phone calls. Three hundred calls from one text message.

“That, to me, is crazy.”

Processing payroll was another added efficiency, going from two or three days to a couple of hours. Pricebook Pro “saved dozens and dozens of hours,” he said. Inventory allows tracking and monitoring of supplies. And he raved about ServiceTitan’s knowledge base, saying “every dime they spend on that is worth 500 dimes.”

Even something as simple as customer location popup on phone calls has helped. “Super cool, right?” he said.

Two types of businesses

Rawson recognizes that the company he joined was reluctant to change. He tried to foster an attitude of connectivity within the team, depending on each other—something he learned in the Navy.

“It makes it really easy to not be trepidatious or even anxious when you come into work in the morning,” he said.

As he looks to the future, Rawson said he believes in the next five or six years, there will be two types of trade businesses: Those that use artificial intelligence and machine learning, both of which ServiceTitan is developing, and those that do not. Rawson is bullish about the future.

“I'm more excited for this next year than I think I've ever been excited for anything in my life,” he said. “Because I know the people that are on this ship right now, most of them are going to have the best year of their lives in terms of earning potential this year.

“And we're going to change. I'm going to change people's entire outlook on the rest of their lives. And I'm like, ‘I cannot wait to see what the Christmas party looks like next year. What are they going to come wearing? What are they going to drive up in? This is going to be crazy. It's going to be crazy.’

“The growth that we're going to have coming this year is going to be ridiculous.”

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