Milestones matter, and when one arrives after 33 years, it’s worth buying the party hats and noisemakers.
So it is with Gee! Heating and Air Conditioning, a Gainesville, Ga.-based company founded in 1989 that achieved its first million-dollar month in March 2022.
“Just the coolest thing,” was the way Chief Financial Officer Jacob Gee described it in a recent interview with ServiceTitan. He also credited his entire team of 45 employees, saying he’s “just beyond thankful for them.”
The development, though, is a testament to Gee being open-minded, persistent and willing to learn—and listen. Gee—pronounced like the letter or, as the company slogan states, “O-M-Gee” – is not afraid to admit what he doesn’t know. His willingness to grow led to him tapping into some of the leaders in the trades, including NexGen owner Ismael Valdez and brand expert Dan Antonelli of KickCharge Creative.
Call it some years of true humility, the result a blueprint for a small business to find ways to expand minds and grow spiritually, culturally and economically.
“Our family's been doing this for 67 years, basically since air conditioning was introduced into our area,” Gee said. “It’s really cool to continue carrying this on.”
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When Gee joined Gee! (yes, the dueling names can be awkward) in 2012, his father and older brother were already in the family business. Records were kept with pen and paper, so the next generation went to work. Gee! added ServiceTitan in 2018, and Gee examined how to update its processes to bring itself up to date. It now has expanded to open an office in Alpharetta, north of Atlanta.
“I love giving guys opportunities,” Gee said. “I want to see them so successful, and I want them to make more generational wealth for themselves. That's what gets me up every morning, is just that love for my team.
“But as far as actual real goals, I would love to see us hit that $100 million mark. More importantly, we want to drive our EBITDA. We don't want to just be a $100 million business that spent $99 million to get there. We want to actually make money and be able to be generous and give back and give to our community.
“Our next big, actual real goal, we want to hit $5 million EBITDA. We want to hit a million-dollar week. We did a million-dollar month, now we're trying to hit a million-dollar week.”
Gee’s grandfather first worked in HVAC, and his father started the business in ‘89. As his sons grew, the father did not want them to work in HVAC.
So Jacob went to college, pursued marketing and wound up working for a firm for a year – only to find it wasn’t for him. He preferred to do marketing for his own business, not someone else’s. His brother had joined his father’s business, and talked to Jacob about coming along to “see what we can do with Dad’s company.”
“From that point we just started reverse engineering and trying to learn from other companies and just take in whatever we could from whoever would talk to us,” he said. “It took us a while, but we've gotten to the point now where we know what our business model is and we know how to get there.”
Gee first tried a software that got the team a little more organized and led to buying iPads for the team. But after more study and talking to ServiceTitan at a trade show, Gee! made the switch to the cloud-based software for the trades in 2018. That led them to ServiceTitan Masterminds, a customer-only Facebook group.
“We saw there was a lot of good information on there,” Gee said. “That kind of introduced us into a whole world of Service Avengers (a group founded by Valdez) and all those other Facebook groups that just basically taught us everything about how to properly run a business. We just started implementing anything we could soak in.”
Initially, Gee (and Gee!) barely touched on all the bells and whistles offered by ServiceTitan.
“Real basics,” Gee said of what they used. “We didn’t really understand what the heck the KPIs on the board were saying, why we needed to follow them. And that’s when we dived in. We’re like, ‘Hey, let’s figure it out.’”
When ServiceTitan hosted a webinar with Valdez and NexGen, Gee was listening.
“We actually flew out and met with NexGen in California, January 2021,” he said. “We just sat there and started taking notes.”
NexGen talked about streamlining, to focus on what Gee! does well and what the Gee family wanted to do. Combined with ServiceTitan’s analytics, Gee could see the benefit.
“Once we started going down that rabbit hole, that's when you saw (growth),” he said. “Every month we just started climbing and climbing because we knew that we had a focus and we had a software program that allowed us to measure that.”
Measure growth this way: When Gee! first joined ServiceTitan, it had four vans, three for techs and one for install. It now has nine vans for techs, four for install, and 45 total employees.
Valdez and NexGen also talked about the true meaning of customer service, going above and beyond, and about efficiency, keeping operations simple so everyone understands their job and is pointed to the same goal. And Valdez emphasized culture, communicating with the team, helping them grow, and making it a place where people want to work.
It was eye-opening to someone who never thought of HVAC as “cool” when he was growing up.
“NexGen was making it cool, making it fun,” Gee said. “(Valdez is) about that next generation coming up. I'm only 28 years old, and my brother's 33. We're young. We are that next generation that's taking the torch and being able to make this a necessity in this trade of HVAC cool. Just make the trades awesome.
“NexGen just kind of lit that spark and pushed us to the next level.”
That led to the hockey stick on the monthly revenue display on Gee’s ServiceTitan dashboard.
“Now we know what these numbers are,” Gee said. “We're seeing it daily instead of at the end of the quarter. You look at your P and L and you're like, ‘Oh my gosh, we didn't make any money.’ Or, ‘Oh my gosh, we're all over the place.”
“Having ServiceTitan measure that for us allowed us to figure out we can do better next month, next month, next month.
“That's why you see that rocket ship (aka hockey stick), which is what I like to call it.”
The rebrand and rewrapping of trucks came in 2021. Working with Antonelli, Gee wanted to ensure the company name was understood. Adding the exclamation point to Gee! Heating and Air was intentional – to indicate excitement and effort and to “subconsciously get people to say our name right.”
The ideas from ServiceTitan, NexGen and KickCharge combined to provide sound strategies for culture, self-analysis, and growth. Gee said he entered every discussion with an open mind.
His tips? Stay hungry. Stay humble.
“Being willing to ask questions and being willing to just say, ‘Hey, I don't know this and I want to get it right,’” Gee said. “Because your employees deserve that. They deserve the best out of you.”