When Derek Baer joined Gold Shield Services as office manager in 2018, he had no experience in the HVAC or electrical trades. He had applied for the company’s HVAC technician position, expecting to receive training on the job.
“I wanted to do general contracting my whole life,” Baer says. “I love building stuff and tinkering with things. I had been following (Gold Shield) for about a year and a half. It was a small company with a lot of growth potential and really good reviews.”
Though Baer had no experience in the trades, Gold Shield owner Art Tkachenko hired him as the office manager based on Baer’s experience in retail and with helping other companies grow their operations. Gold Shield, based northwest of Chicago in Des Plaines, Ill., quickly promoted Baer to Director of Operations.
Gold Shield employs five technicians including two master electricians, two master HVAC techs, and one female journeyman electrician who is close to obtaining her license. The company services about 70 percent commercial HVAC and electrical jobs and about 30 percent residential.
“I'm proud to say that (2018) was the first profitable year for Art, ever,” Baer says. “In six months, I helped buy two more trucks, build a $40,000 home office, generate more revenue, manage money better, and still end the year with profit.”
In January, Gold Shield offered health insurance to its employees for the first time. The move, Baer says, positions the company for growth, especially as Gold Shield opens its new headquarters in Algonquin, Ill.
“Art is an amazing electrician and HVAC tech, and he's got visions,” Baer says. “I help him execute those visions, and his standards and values are exactly in line with mine.”
Gold Shield, Baer says, plans to focus its efforts in 2020 on growing the home services side of the business.
“The commercial side is paying the bills and helping us grow,” he says. “The residential side is going to put us in a whole other department.”
When Baer started at Gold Shield Services, the company was already using the ServiceTitan software for home services but for financial reasons was considering a move back to a previous software provider. Baer convinced Gold Shield to stick with ServiceTitan while he explored ways to better utilize the mobile app to increase company profits.
We asked Baer to explain why he thought ServiceTitan was the better option, and to describe how the all-in-one software solution benefits commercial and residential HVAC and electrical companies.
Q: Why was Gold Shield Services looking to return to its previous software provider?
A: No. 1 was price, but they weren’t using all of the capabilities of ServiceTitan. They thought they just wanted the software to dispatch a job, let the customer know we’re on the way, take a payment and file it. That’s it. ServiceTitan offers so much more.
Personally, I’ve seen both systems. I don’t like how the other software is organized, as compared to ServiceTitan.
ServiceTitan is more expensive than the other software, but is it really worth it to go with a cheaper software provider? With the research I've done, ServiceTitan shines higher than every other company.
For a mid-level company like ourselves, this is exactly what I want.
Q: What were you looking for in a software service?
A: For me, it comes down to usability across all platforms. I want reliability. I don’t need techs in the field telling me something’s down or something’s not working. That’s just a waste of time, which means I’m just throwing money in the trash. I want customer service and support for when I do have questions about things that need to get done. When I’m calling with a problem, you need to answer your phone. I pay for your software. I expect you to answer the phone. I don’t want to leave a message and have to wait 24 hours for a response. That’s ridiculous.
Q: Can you tell us what you liked most about ServiceTitan’s software?
A: User interface. I'm a very simple person. Simplistic usability makes for less errors and less time. When you log into the other software, there's a lot of stuff going on—today's stats, open invoices, scheduling—but it’s not as simplified.
With ServiceTitan, when a call comes in it's literally on a dashboard. I can know whether the customer has called before, (and) where the marketing came from. It's all in one spot and not across multiple layers. I don't have to look for it.
You have your calls, your bookings and your chat. Things are very simple and organized.
Q: Since you have experience with both ServiceTitan and Gold Shield’s previous software provider, can you compare the two platforms’ online booking functionality?
A: The other software didn’t provide it, and I love online booking. The online booking with ServiceTitan has been very good. Customers prefer booking appointments online with their smartphones.
You click it, upload information, submit pictures … all of that information gets stored in the online booking process that goes into the system.
When I book that appointment, the information gets sent directly to the HVAC technician or electrician, so I don’t have to touch anything, basically.
Q: You’ve been a professional race car driver, in various retail operations, and now in the skilled trades. What would you consider your biggest area of expertise?
A: Yes, I’ve had a very interesting and wide array of careers in my life.
I raced cars back when I was 18 years old. I was sponsored by Adidas, Goodyear, Porsche. I had a serious need for speed! But I hated the “big business” side of the racing world. I love to race. I just didn't like all the back-end stuff, so I started a retail career.
Today, I'm an expert in efficiency. I love simple processes. Everyone laughs at me, but the simpler things are, the less issues, complications, human error, misinformation and miscommunication you’ll have.
Personally, I love to motivate people to do more work and be more efficient. I love the “no’s.” I love conflict, because conflict is a way to be more efficient. So when I hear we can't do that, I want to know why. Can we really not do that, or have we just not opened ourselves to the idea that it's possible?
I've also dealt with many different point-of-sale software systems in my life, some great, some terrible, and you guys have a great product.
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