James Terry never questioned his father’s work style—until he was old enough to work for him.
His father operated a one-man residential plumbing business in South Florida, the same industry as his grandfather and uncle, and was the kind of contractor who’d write customer addresses and phone numbers on the side of a cardboard box.
At 16, Terry entered the family business, hoping to earn enough money to be the first among his friends to buy his own car. That’s when he learned that the pen-and-cardboard approach was extremely inefficient.
“I got sick of driving to the wrong addresses and not having the right phone numbers to call my clients. It drove me nuts,” Terry said. “This childhood trauma of driving around Miami, not knowing where I was going or having a phone number to call, is when my obsession with daily operational efficiency started.”
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Today, Terry’s the owner and founder of Green Team Plumbing, a straight-line commercial plumbing company that also does hydro excavation, storm drain cleaning and large vacuum truck work. He manages 50 people and does $10 million in yearly revenue.
How does he ensure operational efficiency? ServiceTitan. The all-in-one software for the trades puts data from all parts of Green Team Plumbing in the same place, powering great decisions throughout his business.
When Terry learned about ServiceTitan five years ago, he was ready to make the switch. But here’s where his story gets interesting. Terry was turned away.
Because ServiceTitan wasn’t ready for him.
Unlike his father’s business, whose residential customers often lived in working-class neighborhoods with Section 8 government housing, Terry wanted to service different real estate.
“Some of those neighborhoods weren’t safe. They were places where no one cared about the real estate,” Terry said. “Now, my client base is Class A office buildings that are worth $100 million and have lobby floors that cost more than my house.”
How did he wind up here? Well, it started in 2009 when Terry Googled, “Is it a good idea to start a business during a recession,” which produced a resounding “Yes.” That’s when Green Team Plumbing was born.
Terry bootstrapped as much as possible in those early years, doing side jobs from his beat-up van while he slept at his friend’s parent’s house. Eventually, he got his contractor’s license, and linked up with a large mechanical contractor who serviced HVAC requests at all of the hospitals in South Florida. They were in need of a good plumber.
“They didn't want to touch toilets or anything that had to do with bodily fluids. So this contractor said, ‘I'm going to bring you in under my payroll, and you're going to do all of my subcontracted plumbing work in the hospitals,’” Terry said. “I had never done commercial plumbing in my life.”
Entering into the healthcare vertical gave Terry the foundational revenue to grow his business into many different commercial markets. Today, he’s in retail, industrial, municipal, government and education.
“I tell people, ‘If you come to South Florida and you fly into the airport, I'm working at the airport. If you get hurt when you come here, I'm at the hospital. If you go to school here, I'm at the school. If you go to your local store, we're working in the store.’ Once you're in so many vertical markets, it's really just a matter of time until each individual one grows. In my area, commercial work has unlimited potential.”
As the contracts kept coming, Terry saw his headcount and business swell. He was earning $3 million a year in revenue with 15 team members. To maintain operational efficiency, he used software he built himself. But it didn’t have the scalability that Terry needed.
In 2018, he learned about ServiceTitan and knew, right away, that it “was the best in the market,” he said. So Terry spoke with a sales representative.
“But in 2018, ServiceTitan had almost no commercial presence — it was built for residential use,” Terry said. “The ServiceTitan sales guy said, ‘I'll call you in eight months.’”
Servicing all markets
Five years later, ServiceTitan has heavily expanded into commercial and construction, and is continuing to build out exciting new features such as better project tracking, appointments capabilities and fleet management.
Terry and his wife, Karen, who manages the financial side of Green Team, have seen that evolution firsthand. They switched to ServiceTitan in 2020, knowing that the commercial side of the software would only continue to grow with their growing business.
“ServiceTitan was not a short-term play for me, it was a long-term play,” Terry said. “When I went live in 2020, I knew it wasn't going to be the greatest. But when it got better, I wanted to have a good grasp of it. That couldn't be more true than right now with all these big changes happening on the commercial side with accounting, operations and agreements. I’m super excited that I made the move.”
Here are Terry’s favorite features:
Estimates: Terry has scaled his business by getting estimates into as many hands as possible. “It's like putting bait in the water,” Terry said. “The more hooks you have in there, the more fish you're going to catch.”
Dispatch board: Terry loves the efficiency of the dispatch board and knowing where people are/what they’re doing. It gives him great visibility and soothes his childhood trauma of driving lost around Miami.
Follow-up: Managing unsold estimates via ServiceTitan’s follow-up tab has led to more revenue at Green Team. “I might do 30 estimates this month and only four of them sell, but 16 of them sell next month,” Terry said. “In our business, there's longer lead times for approvals, because the dollar amounts are usually higher on commercial.”
Gross margin visibility: Terry’s gross margins in 2021 were around 36%. In 2022, they were at 54%. That change had a lot to do with his ability to see and manage his profit margins in real time. “I can literally go in right now and look at every job we did last month that was over $10,000,” he said. “Being able to see that number on every single job and take that information and do what you want with it is huge.”
Terry likens his switch to ServiceTitan to a growing company purchasing a large office building—even if its current headcount couldn’t possibly fill that space yet.
Because eventually, they'll grow into it.
“Software is no different,” Terry said. “We did $6.4 million in 2021 and $10.5 million in 2022. A lot of that is attributed to the ability to scale ServiceTitan. It’s not something you're going to scale on the first day. You're going to learn it the first day, and it's going to take you 12 to 14 months to really see the benefit.”
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All aboard the software train
Long-term, Terry wants to continue his reach across Florida. He just landed regional contracts with Coca-Cola and Walmart, and one day wants to roll out a commercial plumbing maintenance agreement program.
“We have the version of it and already have them sold and in ServiceTitan. That's why the next beta I want to get my hands on is agreements, which focuses on the commercial version of a maintenance agreement,” said Terry, who’s already in ServiceTitan’s AIA billing beta. “I need it like I need the next sip of water.”
Terry said this commercial plumbing service maintenance program would have the potential to scale to 60,000 office buildings in Florida.
“My customers are global real estate companies. They manage 85% of the office buildings in every market you could imagine: Charlotte, Austin, South Florida, New York, Texas. If we have the ability to scale the maintenance agreements for commercial, I could take the company nationwide just on that.”
Terry’s goal is to grow his company to $50 million per year and 100-plus people, and he’s confident he’ll be able to achieve that goal with ServiceTitan.
He’s proud that his need for operational efficiency gave him the foresight to know that great software is integral to running a business. For those who are thinking of doing something similar and hopping aboard the software train, Terry has one piece of advice.
“Technology is moving faster than any of us really think it is. And if you don't catch up with it, it's going to be moving so fast that you can't get on the train.”
ServiceTitan is a comprehensive software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and substantially elevate the trajectory of their business. Our comprehensive, cloud-based platform is used by thousands of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and chimney sweep shops across the country—and has increased their revenue by an average of 25% in just their first year with us.