Chris Gist moved to the suburbs of Pensacola, Fla., in 2017 with the goal of using his 20 years of management experience to find new work closer to home. He landed a job as an office manager for a local plumbing company.
That’s where Gist met master plumber Christopher Stewart, who was the company’s lead technician. But when new owners took over, Stewart left to do his own thing.
Unhappy with the situation under new ownership, Gist left too. In October 2018, he joined a buddy to do roofing jobs in nearby Panama City for a couple of months after Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle.
That’s when Stewart reached out to his old co-worker about forming their own plumbing company.
The pair started NWFL Mechanical by the end of 2018.
“My partner and I formed this company to put that (former) company out of business,” says Gist, who now works as operations manager for NWFL Mechanical, based in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
NWFL performs 95 percent residential plumbing services and 5 percent commercial plumbing for customers in Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Navarre, and surrounding areas in the Florida Panhandle. The company currently employs five technicians and wants to hire two more, with future plans to expand into other home services.
Even though both Gist and Stewart got an introduction to ServiceTitan software at the previous plumbing company, NWFL Mechanical initially operated with a cheaper home services software for financial reasons.
“It took me a few months to convince (Stewart), ‘Hey, we need to just go ahead and bite the bullet now,’” Gist says. “ServiceTitan is more expensive, but I would rather jump off on the right foot rather than wait a year down the road and have to transfer everything over to ServiceTitan. So, we just bit the bullet and went with it.”
In the first two months, Gist says, NWFL brought in monthly earnings of $42,000 and $47,000 with the old software. By the third month, after NWFL switched over to ServiceTitan and hired a new marketing firm, the company’s earnings soared to $87,000.
“Our goal for last year was just to hit a million,” Gist says. “With ServiceTitan, we doubled what we were doing in the first two months. In Year 1, we actually ended up doing $1.2 million. Pretty cool, especially considering we only had three vans (out in the field) most of the time.
“This year, the goal is $1.5 million, which I think should be pretty simple.”
We asked Gist to explain the advantages of ServiceTitan’s all-in-one software solution for smaller plumbing companies, versus others on the market.
Q: What were some of the biggest differences you found?
A: The reporting is the No. 1 difference. On the administrative side, that's the biggest advantage. Beyond that, the way we presented estimates in the field on the other software is not nearly as good as ServiceTitan, and it doesn't keep that estimate attached to a customer for later on down the road.
I get (integrated financing through) GreenSky with ServiceTitan, which is a huge advantage. The other software company didn’t offer financing options. Having it integrated within ServiceTitan is much easier than trying to teach a plumber how to go to a different application on his phone … on top of using this platform for selling.
Q: Since switching over to ServiceTitan, have you noticed an increase in your average ticket?
A: Yes, we were huge for a (residential) company! For 2019 it was just under $1,200 a ticket, which is pretty good for residential plumbing.
I don’t know what the average ticket was with the old software, but I can guarantee it was much less because we didn’t have financing. There are some months where I think we’ve done $60,000 or $70,000 just in GreenSky.
Q: You mentioned the other software didn’t allow you to save previous estimates to a customer’s account. Can you explain?
A: The previous estimates were in there, but it was hell to get to them. And once you converted an estimate to a sole job, that previous estimate is no longer out there as an estimate, so you couldn't go back and duplicate it or change it.
For instance, if we converted it into a sole estimate and booked the job, sometimes we would need to change it and add more tasks, but wouldn’t have the estimate we originally sold.
Q: What kind of reporting capabilities does ServiceTitan have compared to the other software?
A: (With the other software) there were like seven reports I could run … hardly any. There was so much calculating I had to do to get payroll done, to try to figure out splits, and who was on what job for how long. It was just a pain.
Because ServiceTitan is awesome, I can tell who has the best closing rate for the month. I set a minimum, it has to be at least 75 percent. Whoever has the highest closing rate over 75 percent, I give them $100.
Then, they have what we call sweat dollars. That's your revenue split based on a percentage and specific levels. And then we have a ‘Top Dog.’ I created a custom report that actually shows your sales dollars … whoever has the most revenue gets 1 percent of whatever they sold. Sometimes I get techs who earn a dozen $1,300 bonuses in their paycheck.
I also give them $10 if they’re mentioned by name in any Google reviews and for any memberships they sell.
Q: Was there any feature on the old software you wish ServiceTitan had?
A: No, definitely no.
The final straw that broke my back was the customer support line. With ServiceTitan, I know I have a success team and there are people I can email if it's not an emergency, or call if it’s something urgent.
But with (the other software company), it was all done via chat. There was never an opportunity to speak with somebody. Even if I wanted to book it out two weeks, they don't have the staff and they don't take phone calls.
Q: What's the difference for your customer base since switching to ServiceTitan?
A: Our customers love it. They all praise the fact we have a photo of our technicians so they can see who is coming, and they can track them.
They like receiving their estimates via email, and they’re professional with a header and the tasks all lined out. Some companies write you a two-sentence paragraph, and say we'll do the job for this. That's all you get.
I think you guys do a bang-up job. I wouldn't entertain any other company.
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