Jeremy Lewis always had a vision for what his HVAC company could be and how it could operate.
Lewis grew up with Gleason and Elfering, a company owned and operated by his father in Wauconda, Ill., just northwest of Evanston.
Lewis learned as he grew, starting at age 15 doing filing work or whatever would keep him busy in his first experience with the family business. He went to college at the urging of his parents, but after graduating returned to the business.
From 2011 through March of 2021, Lewis was Director of Sales and Business Development. In that role he watched operations, he watched data entry, he watched dispatch, sales, tickets, service – he watched as much as he could and tried to make mental notes of where the company could be more efficient.
On his list: Stop overextending, focus on residential, offer options in sales, update and upgrade the software, improve the size of the average ticket.
In short, he wanted to make Gleason a company that could function at any time and in any circumstances, not a business dependent on one person the way it had been on his father. And make it the best at everything it did.
The vision took life in late March of 2021, when Lewis and his brother purchased the company — now named Gleason Heating, Plumbing, Air and Electric after a rebrand — and he took over as president. He started making changes on Day 1.
“This all had been stuck in my head, so all those years of selling and seeing how the residential worked, and meeting with service guys and trying to get the numbers to be super-efficient — everything just flew out of my brain,” Lewis said in an interview with ServiceTitan.
The result is a business that took off like an Elon Musk rocket. In just eight months, Lewis said Gleason has seen 40% growth in total revenue, and a $600 average increase in average service ticket.
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Gleason has converted from 60% commercial to 90% residential, and has gone from offering HVAC only to a company with divisions for plumbing and generators – with plans to fully expand its electrical in 2022.
“I don’t know if we can keep that (40% growth rate) up, but I think that would be really great,” he said. “We’re looking over the next five years to continue at 20% growth at a minimum.”
The effort coincided with Lewis’ decision to switch to ServiceTitan software, which is cloud- and tablet-based. Lewis had flirted with ServiceTitan a few years earlier but balked. He now says he over-thought the situation.
“If you’re going to do the best, don’t think about it, just do it,” he said. “That’s the way we want to do everything right now. If it’s the best, then that’s the way we’re going to do it. Everything else will work itself out.”
He even accelerated the onboarding process to warp speed. When he was told implementation typically could take six to eight weeks, Lewis’ mind went tilt.
“I’m like, ‘That is not going to work,’” he said. “’I’m going to need to be ready in a week.’”
Let no one try to stop this man. In a week-and-a-half, Lewis had ServiceTitan up and running. The key: Joining a group class with multiple owners learning the software.
“It was nice to hear what other people were doing, how they were setting up,” he said.
There's nobody else who has a better setup than we do ... except for maybe the thousands of other people that use ServiceTitan.”
Lewis has seen several benefits from ServiceTitan, starting with offering choices to customers through Pricebook Pro.
“I tell the guys, ‘We want to give people four, five, six options,’” Lewis said. “’Give them the present option. Give them a recommendation.’”
His closing rate increased, as did his average ticket. Growth increased as efficiency increased, especially when combined with the ability to use Marketing Pro to make informed decisions in real time. Lewis assesses what he calls “a ton of KPIs, more than I probably care about” while using as many as 30 reports to assess what issues need to be addressed and what business changes should be made.
ServiceTitan features that allow him to email a photo to explain the recommended work, to include a YouTube link to a video about the job, to include details about financing – all make a difference.
“There’s plenty of options to make it super visible and easy for the customer,” he said.
The technology has helped the technicians, whether they are inclined toward sales or not.
“When you give them this board of four or five or six options, it kind of, from the tech standpoint, takes that sales aspect out of it,” he said. “All you're doing is presenting the options that are best for them, and the customers get to choose which one is best.
“I think that's a big indicator of why average tickets have gone up so much, because even the guys who may have struggled on that, as long as they follow the system, their tickets are going to go up.”
Following the system leads to better-compensated employees, and Lewis tells them they have the chance to earn a raise every time they present the options to customers.
“Do the system,” he said. “It’ll work.”
Lewis also has reached his personal goal of swinging to residential, and averaging five installs per day.
“The biggest change is saying no to money, to work,” he said. “We have turned down more work than probably anyone who's running a business is comfortable turning down. But we're replacing it with repeatable business, with higher profit, where we're going to end the year making money, which is obviously what the whole point is.”
By working the system, Lewis has proved that the system works.
“There's nobody else who has a better setup than we do,” he said, “except for maybe the thousands of other people that use ServiceTitan.”