The sign read: “Hiring Today.” Randy Keys was on his way to another possible employment opportunity, but decided to stop and test that sign’s validity.
“I didn’t even know it was a heating and air conditioning company,” Keys says. “But I stopped in … and started as a new construction technician.”
That random job interview led him to today running three companies, and serving as president of Des Moines, Iowa-based Schaal Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, a 70-person business doing $15 million in annual sales.
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You can thank Keys for his service in the trades as well as in the military. In 2001, he left college and joined the U.S. Army, after 9/11.
Keys says he’s consistently found former military folks working in the industry.
“I think a lot of the guys who join the military probably want to be in charge of their own success,” he says. “They’re used to being disciplined. And people who are successful in the trades tend to be very disciplined.”
Along with discipline, Keys sees other reasons military alums would enter the trades.
“The trades are for someone who likes to use their hands and not be bored sitting at a desk,” he says. “And it’s for people who want control of their own future. And like the military, trades are about going in and making a difference.”
Customer service is crucial in a Keys-managed company. And he’s mindful of the business philosophy that his employees are his primary responsibility.
“My customers are my employees,” he says. “My employees’ customers are the homeowners. I look for processes and procedures and ways that I can make it easier for our employees to help customers.”
Keys believes success and profitability comes from staying focused on that employee-customer relationship. “You can’t have your primary focus be profitability,” he says. “But if we do a good job, stay the course and take care of people, profitability will come.”
A great, cloud-based home services software makes that kind of great customer experience possible.
You can’t have your primary focus be profitability. But if we do a good job, stay the course and take care of people, profitability will come.”
When Keys first purchased Schaal Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, he switched the company to a software program he was familiar with from a previous employer.
Keys has painful memories of that onboarding process.
“It wasn’t good for us,” he says. “The reports were hard; everything was really difficult. And it was very time consuming. We had issues. Three months after being on (that software), it was probably far worse than before. No one knew what to do.”
At the time, Schaal was doing $3 million in revenue and had 23 employees.
“It is not easy to train an office staff member on (the program),” Keys says. “At the time, I was the only one at our company that had previous history with (the software). People had to come to me, and it was challenging, time-consuming and stressful.”
Keys found that training people to use the software became a big expense.
"(It) was a great software, but it was just so outdated,” he says.
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Switching to ServiceTitan
Keys switched Schaal over to ServiceTitan in 2018. He’d heard about it through Quality Service Contractors.
“I was looking for something that was more customer-facing,” he says. “(Our previous software) was very inward facing. I wanted something that really had more features and benefits to the customer.”
Like any habit or process you’re used to, Keys hesitated to make a change.
“I dragged my feet in the sand for probably a year to a year and a half,” he says. “I complained and complained and tried to get (them) to change. But I had to finally say, ‘This isn't the software that's right for where I want to go.’”
After meeting with a salesperson and talking to counterparts around the country, Key got onboard the ServiceTitan bandwagon.
“It was like, ‘Hey, this company thinks like we think,’” Keys says. “ServiceTitan thinks 10 miles down the road. Five to 10 years from now, they’re planning that. It was really easy for us to see clearly into the future. It’s software that allows us to plan.”
Hey, this company thinks like we think. ServiceTitan thinks 10 miles down the road. Five to 10 years from now, they’re planning that. It was really easy for us to see clearly into the future. It’s software that allows us to plan.”
The first thing Keys did was hire somebody to oversee the changeover. His implementation manager happened to be his wife, Viktoria.
“Her job was to get everyone the training,” Keys says. “ServiceTitan gave us access to the help and the training and all of that. We assigned modules, we assigned homework, we assigned stuff immediately.”
They planned for a two-month lead-up before going live.
“The single most important thing we did was have someone full time in charge of implementation,” Keys says. “I wasn’t taken away from my job. Nobody was. We had one person whose job was to talk to ServiceTitan and be the liaison to our company.”
ServiceTitan had its staff come in-house to help with the switch.
“But we had somebody who could say, ‘OK, now here’s now what I need,’” Keys says. “When we needed reports for our maintenance agreement memberships, we had a person. If we hadn’t had that, it would have been more difficult.”
When ServiceTitan staff came for a week to prepare for going live, Keys says the pressure was minimal.
“Quite frankly, it was a refresher for a lot of our company,” he says. “They felt like, ‘Yes, we’ve heard this, we know this.’ And when we were ready to go, all we had to do was flip the switch.”
Of course, there were bumps along the way.
“But ultimately, it was a very smooth transition from the very beginning,” Keys says. “Transitioning was amazing.”
Keys says his team was reminiscing about all things software during a recent leadership meeting.
“We were talking about doing reports,” he says. “Running a report in (the previous software) took 20 minutes. Running a report in ServiceTitan takes a click of a mouse.”
Keys has one last opinion regarding ServiceTitan, regarding price.
“You get what you pay for,” he says. “If you paid one price and you still have that software, guess what? They’re probably not working on improving that software. ServiceTitan costs more. But you get what you pay for. That’s my opinion.”
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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.