Mike and Renee Fortin own Putnam Mechanical, an HVAC and refrigeration company with offices in Mooresville, N.C., and Sarasota, Fla., with the promise of “Revolutionary Customer Service.”
The North Carolina branch is about 50-50 commercial to residential and is expected to do about $3.8 million in revenue in 2020. The Florida office, added in 2016, is almost solely a commercial operation and expected to bring in $2.5 million.
Not bad for a business started in a garage.
“Mike was working for another company and they were supposed to give him some money that they never did,” Renee says. “And one day he said to me, ‘Let’s go out on our own, and I said, ‘OK.’”
They turned a detached garage into an office and set about building a business.
“When we first started, he was fixing pool skimmers, he was hanging microwaves—anything to make a dollar,” Renee Fortin says. “We would bill, and we were at the point where I’m like, ‘Mike, I don't think we're going to make payroll.’ And then all of a sudden, the check would show up.”
A $1,000 check turned into a $10,000 check, then, eventually, a $100,000 check as the business grew.
And Putnam Mechanical, the Fortins say, has been in the black every year of existence.
“We were doing really well,” Renee Fortin says.
Still, there weren’t bumps, including one fortuitous one. A service manager who had been employee No. 2 at the company left for vacation and didn’t come back.
When the Fortins advertised for a replacement, they got an application from a man who was licensed in Florida.
“Michael looks at me and goes, ‘Do you want to do a second location?’” Renee Fortin says. “And I go, ‘no.’ But here we are.”
In addition to a budget in the black, there’s something else that has been around every year of the Fortin's company existence: The same, rudimentary business software they’ve had since the start, with whatever workarounds Renee had to implement to make it work.
But all that has changed. Putnam Mechanical has transitioned to ServiceTitan’s cloud-based software solution for the trades.
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A reputation built over time
With a business that emphasizes satisfaction and their “Revolutionary Customer Service” tagline, Putnam Mechanical works to build relationships with clients over time. Their internet reputation, Mike Fortin says, is “perfect.”
“We have had a bunch of the same customers (at the North Carolina location) for 14 years,” Renee Fortin says.
Those relationships pay off, but it takes time.
“It's a marathon,” Mike Fortin says. “This isn't an industry where you're going to get rich in one year and retire. It's a grind … and you can only do so much in a day. And then you can only do so much with the resources and the help you have.”
One of those resources is cloud-based business software from ServiceTitan. And Renee Fortin has a passion for knowing exactly how it works. With the software Putnam Mechanical has used since its inception, she has learned workarounds to make the program useful for the business.
After almost four years of considering ServiceTitan, she was pushed to action when the old software company was bought out, and the new owner announced their program would no longer be supported.
She looked at that company’s alternative, and it was insufficient.
“They're just as much in the dark ages as the product we just came off of,” she says.
What Renee has learned so far is that the software, which was built for residential contractors but is expanding into commercial applications, can do a lot more than the basic, inexpensive software she has always used.
She’s also finding that she, and Putnam Mechanical, can have an impact on the future of ServiceTitan’s commercial product.
But the technology, she says, isn’t what sold her on ServiceTitan. It was the people.
“They took all the time and care, and they spent a lot of time with me,” Renee Fortin says. “I stumped them here and there, but they were always willing to get that answer for me.”
ServiceTitan’s immediate benefits: Efficiency, revenue
What does a great commercial services software do for a technician? Everything, Mike Fortin says.
“Today's technician can't live without it,” he says. “We were having so much trouble (with the old software) that it was almost an excuse for guys not to do their job. We needed to make a change to something that was going to be more reliable and more user-friendly.”
And also more efficient and profitable. For Putnam Mechanical, those two measurables are evident in a specific ServiceTitan feature.
Less time is spent on the phone with the office or looking up how to get to the next customer, because all that capability is built into the software.
“What the technology brings is at least an extra service call a day,” Mike Fortin says. “Everything being instantaneous, we actually get at least one more service call per day out of that service tech compared to before, and that's huge. With an average ticket of about $700 or $800, times nine guys, it's a lot more money every day.”
That reality is not always readily accepted by shops in the HVAC industry.
“Smaller outfits, guys in a truck, they just can't see a bigger picture,” Renee Fortin says. “And that's why they're a guy in a truck.”
“What we run into every day, as far as competition if you will, is a guy who's willing to do something for half the cost because they have no idea what their costs are,” Mike Fortin says. “But where are they going to be on a day like today in Florida? It’s 97 degrees. (Their customers) call us when they can't get there.”
The ability to help build a better product
There is a similar situation with software. Where is the company going to be when you need help? Where are the people?
That’s where ServiceTitan stood out, Renee Fortin says.
“The cost of (the) program was huge because I already had software in place,” she says. “But what I'm tired of is the workarounds. So I needed (the) product to do the things I needed to do.”
Not all of it is there yet, but Renee Fortin is optimistic.
“(The) product still lacks a couple of things,” she says, “and I'm still gonna have to do workarounds. But I think if I talked enough about it one of your engineers can make it work for me.”
That willingness to adapt and grow a software built for home services to a commercial model is evident in ServiceTitan’s people, the Fortins say.
And those people are thankful for the people like the Fortins.
“As we've gone into the commercial side working with folks like you and other partners as well, (we are) seeing what specifically we do need to enable to better suit commercial,” says Alex Parrish, a ServiceTitan sales engineer. “Identifying those things, painting in the environment, like, ‘This is how our shop can operate at a high level.’
“What Sarah (Dabah, a ServiceTitan account executive) and I tried to do is understand those needs, understand the context and show you how our product could help alleviate some of those concerns.”
That commitment builds the same confidence and trust that Putnam Mechanical has worked to instill in its customers.
The Fortins, for instance, have asked for barcoding capability through ServiceTitan for parts and equipment, and for a feature that analyzes useful life remaining and anticipated repair cost vs. replacement cost for customers.
They would also like alerts to be sent when commercial equipment requires more than expected maintenance and repair, or when a new unit would be more cost-effective than the repair.
“In a commercial application, a store manager will make a call and they might not even realize that we had been there five times in the past year,” Mike Fortin said. “A residential customer is going to escalate it right then—you guys can't fix this, you've been out here five times.”
The alert would solve that issue for Putnam Mechanical. And ServiceTitan is listening. In that sense, both companies are providing the kind of “Revolutionary Customer Service” the Fortins are known for.