In Business, And In Life, Partnerships Are Important. Just Ask the Seegers.
In business, and in life, there are few things better than a great partnership.
That’s what brothers Chris and Travis Seeger built through years of riding motorcycles and “trying not to get chased by the cows” as kids and continued through their joint ownership of Chesterfield Service, a growing home services company in the area west of St. Louis, Mo.
Chesterfield Service started out as an appliance repair company in 1976, in what was then the rural community of Chesterfield, Mo., but has grown into an affluent St. Louis suburb.
The brothers bought the company from their father in 2009 and have grown it into a service powerhouse with 31 employees that projects an increase of 31 percent in gross revenues in 2020, despite the global pandemic.
Running Chesterfield Service together, for the Seeger brothers, seems only natural. It is a relationship born of their upbringing.
“We were farm kids, so I didn't have a bunch of other friends other than cousins out there,” Chris Seeger, the company’s president, says. “It wasn't like I was really involved with baseball and all this other stuff.”
Instead, the brothers worked together. Travis Seeger, the company’s COO and the younger of the two, recognizes the blessing of their relationship, then and now.
“The great part about it is we're best friends,” he says. “I'm just blessed that I get to hang out and work and sometimes play with my best friend, my big brother.”
But don’t they ever fight, like brothers tend to do?
“Guys, they'll corner us one on one and go, "OK, what is it? There's something that you hate about your brother,’” Chris says.
“And I'm like, ‘Nope.’"
Now, that’s a great partnership. And there are other partnerships being leveraged by Chesterfield Service as part of their growth, too.
One is between the company and ServiceTitan, the cloud-based software solution for the trades that has helped drive growth at Chesterfield Service. But two others are between ServiceTitan and companies that key Chesterfield Service’s rapid growth.
All three pairings play huge roles, just like the Seeger brothers.
The smell of success
Chesterfield Services was started out of either a chicken coop or a smokehouse on the Seegers’ grandfather’s farm, in 1976.
“One of the two, I’m not really sure,” Chris Seeger says. “They both smelled about the same.”
Chesterfield, Mo., in those days, was a farming community where the Seegers’ ancestors had planted themselves in the 1850s. Their father’s company did appliance repair, plus some heating and cooling service and repair—but no replacement— on the side.
“He was servicing friends and family primarily,” Chris Seeger says. “And that was kind of it.”
As the town grew, so did the business.
“The town engulfed us,” Chris Seeger says, “and we embraced it, although we were part of the roots of this community going way, way back.”
The Seeger brothers went to work for the company in the latter half of the 1980s after being gofers and flashlight holders for years, learning everything about the sales and service side of the business.
Although their father’s health problems had them running the business for about 10 years beforehand, the brothers bought the company in 2009. Reassessing the business during an economic downturn was among their first tasks.
“About the end of 2008 going into 2009, it was just getting rough,” Chris Seeger says. “We went from a staff of about 32, down to a core group of probably about 12.”
Those decisions were difficult, but necessary to put the company on a profitable, efficient path.
The other thing the Seegers did immediately was hire Business Development Resources to be their financial experts, and they became devotees of BDR’s bedrock “8 for 10” operational efficiency report, which put information about their business at their fingertips.
“We knew what we knew, and we knew we didn't know that part of it,” Chris Seeger says. “We knew that was a real challenge for us at that point. That was probably one of the best business decisions that we made, especially early on.”
That move gave the Seegers information they had lacked about how their business was performing. And they were hooked.
“We're one of BDR's close followers,” Chris Seeger says. “They say, "Do this," and we do it.”
The only downside? Compiling the underlying data into an excel spreadsheet so that the 8 for 10 could be produced took time—90 minutes or more most days, transferring numbers from what was then their CRM.
“That was the challenge,” Chris Seeger says. “We were spending a bunch of time filling that report in with the data we got from the CRM we had before.”
Ways to avoid working ‘half days’
One thing the brothers knew for sure: They wanted to set up a plan for how they would run the business and, at some point, exit it, that was different from their father’s, which had been “pretty much pine box.”
“Dad's thing was he worked half days—9 in the morning until 9 at night,” Chris Seeger says. “And we saw what that did to him. It took a toll on his health really is what happened.
“We're like, ‘Hey look, we're going to run this thing like a real business. We're going to set this thing up right from the very beginning that if something would happen to either you or I or both of us this business can still go down the road and support the families that we have here.’"
That meant finding the right customer relationship management software. As the company grew, they needed to know, every day, where the business stood.
“And that was a component that we were really missing,” Travis Seeger says. “It was daily chaos.”
Needing a better CRM solution, they tried four. Or five. They can’t remember.
“It was a bunch,” Chris Seeger says. “I don't know exactly when or what the first one was that we started with, but the whole idea of having guys in the field on a laptop or an iPad appealed to us pretty much right off the bat as soon as we could go there.”
ServiceTitan was always in the mix, but the Seegers had cost reservations.
“We were really investigating CRMs,” Chris Seeger says. “They were in the play. The cost was pretty high, and we were like, ‘Man, I don't know if the cost outweighs the benefits.’”
A partnership—sensing a theme?—between BDR and ServiceTitan changed everything. ServiceTitan’s software gained the ability to autofill the information for BDR’s 8 for 10 report.
“That 8 for 10 was like our lifeline,” Chris Seeger says. “We didn't want to lose that tool. Once you guys came on board with the BDR collaboration and having that 8 for 10 report, that was it for us.
“We weren't necessarily ready to make that jump, but once we heard that was happening we were like, OK."
Revenue spikes, and so does headcount
Chesterfield Service’s transition to ServiceTitan came in February 2019. A company that at that point had fewer than 20 employees has grown to 31, and revenues have spiked.
“We've been growing like crazy,” Chris Seeger says. “We added plumbing, and plumbing has just blown up. Really unexpected. We thought, we'll bring a plumbing guy in, and then maybe we'll add a guy in a year and add another guy in another year or something like that, and we're already at like four guys and we've only been doing it for a year.”
The plumbing growth, powered by limited marketing, has been phenomenal.
“We sent out some cute little birth announcements, like me and Trav holding a wrench and a plunger, to about 250 VIPs,” Chris Seeger says, “and the rest of it's been word of mouth.
“Family and friends, you've got to send something special to them because they want to know. And then the rest of them were some VIPs we knew would be blabber mouths.”
ServiceTitan plays a role in the growth, too, the Seegers say.
“Just being able to see on a minute-by-minute, daily, weekly, monthly basis, however you want to look at it, and play with the numbers, that's huge,” Travis Seeger says.
Another pairing makes things easier
Another partnership that could help drive growth? One between Bryant and ServiceTitan.
Chesterfield Service has embraced the Bryant HVAC brand, becoming Medal of Excellence winners and making the Circle of Champions four times.
The ServiceTitan-Bryant partnership offers multiple benefits, including:
A pricebook integration that helps dealers push Bryant product catalogs.
Warranty registration automation.
A web integration to send potential customers searching for dealers on Bryant’s website directly to Chesterfield Service’s ServiceTitan booking screen.
Automated spiff registration.
Bryant templates for national campaigns that can be sent to customers through Marketing Pro.
“Everything is just going to make it faster, better, and easier for us to do business,” Chris Seeger says.
And the automatic integration with Pricebook Pro, an area of the business that previously required Chesterfield to do manual entry, saves work.
“We're super excited about how the new catalog is going to be implemented into our existing Pricebook Pro.” Travis Seeger says. “It's going to make it super easy.”
“Any time we can get a lead that goes directly over without any extra work, something that gets automatically scheduled, any time we can make it easier, faster, or better we're in,” Chris Seeger says.
The integrated spiffs are great for technicians.
“Techs can get out there and see exactly what's going on,” Chris Seeger says. “It's important for those guys to be able to see that. Just builds that much more wahoo in their day.”
Sort of like building a powerhouse home services company with your brother—the original partnership, built over decades and influenced by their hard-working father.
“We worked together from the time we were little kids,” Chris Seeger says. “We were either hiding together to keep from getting yelled at from the old man, or working side by side.
“And it just has grown right into this.”
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