Ron Davis learned to be a mechanic while serving in the Army. When he returned home, the military veteran tried his hand at selling cars, insurance and a few other things before deciding he wanted to work in the home services industry to better support his growing family.
Davis chose plumbing, he says, because he thought he could pick up the trade quickly and start his own home services company sooner.
Unlike many plumbing entrepreneurs, Davis had a simple reason for wanting to be his own boss. “Initially, it really wasn’t to grow large and build this big powerhouse company,” he says. “It was really to spend more time with my kids.”
Specifically, he needed a job with a flexible schedule so he could coach his children’s sports teams and be more involved in their lives.
“With most entrepreneurs, they want to start this big, massive business,” Davis says. “I always thought when the kids grew older I would possibly shift my thoughts to that.
“I wasn’t going to start a business and then be that dad the kids would never see.”
He opened Davis Home Services in Burlington, N.J., 20 years ago, working as a one-man shop for the first five years. He answered his own phone, did his own plumbing service calls, navigated to customers’ addresses with an actual map, and wrote everything down with pen and paper.
“It wasn’t very manageable, but I did the best I could, I guess,” Davis says.
After hiring a couple of service technicians from a local tech school — one of whom still works at Davis Home Services as a senior technician — the company grew slowly over the next 10 to 12 years.
“It wasn’t really a business, it was more of a hobby that paid the bills,” Davis says. “There was no mindset for growth. It was just get out there, take care of the customers’ calls and keep moving. There was slow growth, but it was probably more accidental than by design.”
Five years ago, Davis, now 53 and with his kids grown, decided to shift his focus.
“I’m getting older. I physically can’t go out there and do the jobs without being miserable,” he says. “That’s when I decided to really go all out and start working on the business, not just doing the work.”
In 2017, Davis bought his first software program to help organize the company’s customer database and job history online.
“I was missing a ton of stuff, because we were still writing stuff down.” he says. “The first software program was great for me. They got me going in the right direction, and I’m appreciative.”
Wanting to up his game, Davis switched to ServiceTitan a year ago—with only two plumbing trucks on the road. He also joined forces with his brother, John, who had started his own HVAC business.
Today, Davis operates five trucks on the plumbing side and has plans to double that number by the end of 2020.
“I'm doing things now that I never dreamed I'd be able to do with running the business,” Davis says. “I guess I'm reborn. It's fun. I'm loving it. I'm finding out I can do stuff I never thought I could do, so it's great.”
We asked Davis, a seasoned plumber with a growth mindset, to explain how building his home services company works better with ServiceTitan.
Q: What was your experience like, switching to ServiceTitan?
A: I’ll be honest with you—we wanted to switch out of ServiceTitan the first month, but we stuck with it, and we’re really glad we did. The onboarding process was just overwhelming. There was so much to learn. The pressure was on, big time.
We almost actually went back (to the first software), but then I just sat and thought about it for the night. I called my office person back the next day and I said, ‘Look, we’ve just got to put our big boy pants on and get back at it. We are not going back. This is what we need to get to, it’s where we want to go. We’ve just got to suck it up, deal with it and keep pushing forward.’ And that's what we did.
I'm thankful for it, because we had two choices to make there. Be cowards and go back to what's comfortable, or challenge ourselves and push forward and grow. I'm super thankful for it. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
Q: What made you decide to go with ServiceTitan?
A: I wanted to switch to ServiceTitan because of the capabilities. The first software was limited, and it was only good for a certain amount of things. There’s so much more to ServiceTitan. We’ve only been with (ServiceTitan) for a year and we’re really only scratching the surface. It’s definitely changed the game for us.
Being a smaller company with plans to grow, now was the time to start with ServiceTitan. It was the right time and we were the right size. I'd rather try to turn around a little bass fishing boat than turn around a barge. One's a hell of a lot easier to turn around and get started in the right direction than the other.
Q: Did the first software offer some of the features of ServiceTitan, such as dispatching and scheduling boards, a mobile pricebook or building estimates in the field?
A: No, it did not. ServiceTitan is a Ferrari, while the other software is a Ford. They’re just on two different levels.
Q: Which ServiceTitan features have taken your company to the next level, and allowed you to forecast 10 trucks by the end of 2020?
A: For the guys to be able to see their numbers on a screen in their face every day, it creates a nice competitive feel. We’re very team-oriented. … It builds a lot of competition and fun, and they like to bust each other’s chops.
Being able to track certain stuff, to see how much money you're keeping versus going out — just knowing it's at your fingertips is very helpful. We can break down the percentage for call bookings and job completions for each of our techs, which allows us to adjust our marketing spend.
For instance, we know they’re rushing it if they’re averaging 4.8 calls per day. They can’t handle our customers the way we want them to. But we know if we hit these numbers, we'll get X amount of dollars. It gives us the confidence to spend more money for marketing or to hire two more techs. … If we have five trucks on those same calls, we're averaging 2.88 calls a day. Now, we can slow them down, they can take their time and get higher tickets, which is going to bring in even more money than what we forecasted.
Q: Are there any workflow processes in the first software that you miss with ServiceTitan?
A: No. I compare it to a bicycle with training wheels. If someone’s a little bit smaller or wants to start off in a crawl before they walk, and they’re looking for something with a lower price point, I always say that first software is a good way to start. But once you get going, ServiceTitan is definitely the way to go.
Q: Comparing ServiceTitan to the previous software, does your team feel more engaged?
A: From before to now, it’s completely different. I'm still a very small company, compared to the other companies you deal with. We were at $450,000 in 2018 and we grew to just over $1 million in 2019. If I did what I did, and didn't change to ServiceTitan, I don't think our numbers would have been what they are. I know we would not have broken the million-dollar mark, which was just huge for the small mom-and-pop shop that we are.
What knocked it out of the park for me this year — we did a year-end review and went over all the numbers with the guys. When we started with ServiceTitan, they were somewhat bought in. But I asked them to be honest and tell me what they really thought. They were like, “I didn’t think we’d do that.” Everything I’ve spoken to them about has happened.
Now, rolling into 2020, there’s complete buy-in and I think we’re going to hit our numbers. There’s a belief now.
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