For years, Chad Peterman wondered if his family’s Indianapolis HVAC, plumbing and electric shop would ever be successful enough that others in the trades would want to come visit.
So at the start of 2023, he finally decided to find out.
Peterman Brothers had just opened a new building, and was shooting for $175 million in revenue for the year. These accomplishments, paired with Peterman’s desire to give back to the trades, led to his Facebook post on Service Avengers, a popular trades Facebook page, inviting anyone who was interested to a tour.
“Lunch will be provided and you will have access to our team with presentations from recruiting, call center, operations, etc.,” he wrote. “We will also demo our suite of software solutions that lay on top of ServiceTitan.”
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Immediately, Peterman had more than 50 RSVP’s and counting. He knew he couldn’t simultaneously host that many people. So he added two additional dates in March and April, and asked his IT team to create a Peterman Brothers 2023 Tour booking page.
“We filled all three tours in three hours,” Peterman said. “Now, we’re booking out through August.”
The response was overwhelming. But for his first tour on a Wednesday in February, as he faced a packed conference room of 35 business owners and office personnel from HVAC and plumbing shops who’d traveled from Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, even Ontario, Peterman felt something else.
“How’s everyone doing?” he began, and as he looked at the crowd, he couldn’t help but think of the many shops he visited and the mentors who helped Peterman Brothers get to where they are today.
Now, it was time to pay it forward.
‘That's what we want to be’
After college, Peterman had no interest in joining the business his father started in 1986, which was then called Peterman Heating, Cooling, and Plumbing. He knew nothing about the trades and had never been out in the field.
But two years later in 2011, Peterman changed his mind. He joined the company, which at that time did about $4 million a year.
“My dad gave me a job and said, ‘Hey, I think you'll figure it out,’” he said.
Peterman dabbled in marketing and sales, and in 2013, his brother, Tyler, joined the company, too. Their business serviced new construction and multi-family projects, with light residential work. By 2015, they were doing $7 million in sales in the former and $3 million in the latter.
But that would soon change in a big way.
In 2015, Peterman and his father went on a shop tour at Apollo Home in Cincinnati. The fully residential HVAC and plumbing business was making around $12 million in revenue, and owner Jamie Gersden was happy to answer all of their questions.
“On the two-hour drive back to Indianapolis, I kept saying, ‘That's what we want to be. That's what we want to look like,’” Peterman said.
Peterman Heating, Cooling, and Plumbing slimmed down on new construction and focused on residential. By 2018, they were doing $15 million in revenue and had opened another location in Lafayette, Indiana.
But there was still room for growth. Later that year, Peterman went on another pivotal shop tour.
This one was in Charlotte at Morris-Jenkins. The HVAC and plumbing shop was nearing $75 million in revenue, up from $50 million the previous year. Peterman was entranced. He needed to know how a company could make a jump like that, and Jonathan Bancroft, Morris-Jenkins’ president and CEO, showed him.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Peterman said. “I could walk you through their entire building and tell you where everything was, what it looked like, what was on the walls. Everything. That was the fuel for us to say, ‘We can do this. We have a lot of stuff to figure out. But we can do this.’”
Fast-forward four years, after acquisitions, expansions, a new building and a rebranding to Peterman Brothers, which stamped Chad’s and Tyler’s faces on trucks, cardboard cutouts and commercials all over Indianapolis, they did it.
“We went from $50 million in 2021 to $90 million in 2022,” Peterman said, as eyes widened in the crowd. “Our goal this year is around $175 million.”
The trades help each other
The all-day tour included sessions about recruiting, mergers and acquisitions, multiple Q&A sessions, and an explanation of Top Tech—Peterman Brothers’ in-house trades school. There was also a dedicated hour on how they utilized software, including ServiceTitan.
Peterman took the crowd on a guided tour of their two offices, a 23,000-square-foot facility, and a brand new one, which is 54,000 square feet—roughly half of which is warehouse space. Both offices were intentionally designed with the classic blue and red colors synonymous with the Peterman Brothers brand, from handrails to wall decor.
During the catered lunch break, Ty Wickstrom and Cooper Thomas chatted after eating Qdoba. The co-workers had flown in from Boise, Idaho, the night before, hoping this tour would produce tangible tips that they could take back to their residential plumbing and HVAC shop—Wickstrom Plumbing Heating & Cooling.
“Isn't this cool?” Thomas said.
Their shop had a similar backstory to Peterman’s. Wickstrom and his brother took over the family business at the end of 2019, with Thomas as their office manager. Since then, they’ve grown the company from 10 to 30 people and are on track for $7 million in revenue this year.
“We’re not huge,” Wickstrom said. But someday, that’s the goal.
Wickstrom was excited to check out Peterman’s because he wanted to learn the layout of the building and understand the processes of a big operation. He and Thomas also wanted to learn how a company of this size—more than 600 people—preserves culture. That’s why Thomas took a picture of a sign that was posted in a room that read, “Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space.”
“The common thing that we've seen with great, growing companies is culture,” Thomas said. “It’s little stuff like this sign that we can take back and implement.”
This isn’t the pair’s first shop tour, but it’s the farthest they’ve ever traveled for one.
“That's what's awesome about this industry,” Wickstrom said. “People are so open to this stuff. It's freakin’ sweet. I love it.”
‘I might have to come back’
At the end of one of the Q&A sessions, the topic turned to marketing. Peterman Brothers has two graphic designers, an events coordinator and a videographer who produces the commercials that have made Chad and Tyler local celebrities.
This prompted a question from Steve VanHorn, the chief operating officer of Simpson Salute Heating and Air out of New Philadelphia, Ohio, who drove to Indianapolis with three co-workers. VanHorn had long considered hiring a videographer. But he was concerned about cash flow.
“How do you and your executive team evaluate the right time to hire and take on investments?” VanHorn asked. “How do you decide when you're hiring a videographer?”
“The key is knowing where you’re going,” Peterman said. “We want to be a billion-dollar company. So I'll add a videographer. It makes the decision a hell of a lot easier. Where we're going is way over there, and we know that we're going to need one eventually.”
Inspired, VanHorn stepped out of the conference room at the end of the Q&A session and texted the videographer he’d considered hiring.
“I'd love to meet up, discuss, explore options for videography,” he texted.
VanHorn and his cohorts traveled to Indianapolis to figure out how a $100 million-a-year company operates—from how they utilize ServiceTitan to their KPIs. He and Chad Simpson own and operate two HVAC companies, Simpson Salute and Bonsky Heating and Cooling, which together are on pace for $15 million this year.
It’s the same revenue Peterman Brothers was making when Peterman went on his pivotal shop tour at Morris-Jenkins.
“We're scaling and we're trying to scale quickly,” Simpson said. “Every detail here at Peterman Brothers is very well-thought-out. Did you notice how every room had red trash cans with a blue top?”
At the end of the full-day tour, Peterman was greeted with a round of applause and many thank-you’s.
“If you need any help, let us know,” he told the crowd. “I’m more than happy to lend a helping hand.”
As everyone filed out, VanHorn chatted with Peterman in the hallway. He thanked him for hosting the event, told him about his company, that he’d already texted the videographer, and that he’d love to pick his brain further—from how CSRs conduct their calls to what his day-to-day looks like.
“Today wasn’t enough,” VanHorn said with a laugh. “I might have to come back.”
Interested in going on a Peterman Brothers shop tour? Check out https://www.petermanhcp.com/tour for more information.