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HVAC, Plumbing, Business Tips

With ‘More Cake,’ Bill Howe’s Multi-Trade Business is Thriving in San Diego

User IconRon Donoho
Clock IconJune 23rd, 2021
Glasses Icon5 Min Read
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With 165 trucks on the road, Bill Howe Plumbing, Heating & Air, Restoration & Flood is a major market presence in San Diego.

Rhett Wheeler says whenever he wears his logo-ed shirt into a grocery store, the checkout clerk will inevitably sing the company’s widely marketed jingle: “Because we know Howe!”

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Wheeler is the risk manager at Bill Howe, has been on the job for five years and quickly became the in-house go-to guy for all software operations. That means he was around for the company’s switch to ServiceTitan.

What he saw at first, he says, was more frosting than cake.

When ServiceTitan was pitched to Bill Howe in 2017, Wheeler says the demo looked great but that the platform didn’t have everything the company needed for day-to-day operations.

“At the time, ServiceTitan had a lot of frosting but didn’t quite have enough cake,” he says. “It had the marketing and phone tracking and all that stuff. But it didn’t have an inventory system and it couldn’t calculate our payroll properly.”

Wheeler says the company looked at a wide range of software solutions. Some had “cake” but no “frosting.”

“So, we asked ourselves, ‘Who are these companies?’” Wheeler recalls. “Where are they going? Do they have capital? Are they growing? Are they looking for new clients? Are they stretching out to other industries?”

Shortly thereafter, Wheeler says his company noticed the larger venture capital investments being made in ServiceTitan.

He says ServiceTitan drafted changes and created new features that would benefit Bill Howe—and other companies in home and commercial services. Meanwhile, other software companies weren’t being as proactive.

“We needed something that was scalable, that could be operated anywhere in the country,” he says. “And we decided to go forward with ServiceTitan.”

Spearheaded by Wheeler, Bill Howe began its onboarding process on Feb. 26, 2018. Over the past few years, the cake has been baked to match the platform’s enticing frosting, Wheeler says.

“And it continues to improve,” he says. “Like a painting, it never gets finished. It’s always being worked on. That was important to us from a software standpoint.

“It wasn’t, ‘Here’s a finished product, now you go have a good day.’ It’s always being updated and improved. They ask for opinions and they reach out, which is key to people in our shoes.

“We want somebody who wants to make it better.”

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How Howe Benefits from ServiceTitan

Before 2018, Bill Howe’s operation was pen-and-paper, transferred to JaRay by the office staff. (ServiceTitan acquired JaRay in November 2018.)

“The guys were writing the paper invoices, and then you have to wait for them to physically bring the piece of paper into the office,” Wheeler says. “Then, somebody in the office had to physically handle the paper, file it, and maintain it for years.”

After getting rid of the paper system, the next step forward was the phone system. Before ServiceTitan, phones rang in the office and nobody knew where the calls originated.

“We had used a third-party service,” Wheeler says. “They would track it, but it wouldn’t capture the whole path of that customer. Now, I can capture what they’re searching on the internet all the way to calling in. It’s helped us with SEO and PPC and what should I bid on and what should I not?”

Having a digital process has saved money in a variety of areas, Wheeler says.

“It has improved efficiencies in the field,” he says. “We’re expending less gasoline to drive to our office to drop off a piece of paper. Fuel efficiency is incredibly up, and our dollars per man hour is up 25% over last year.”

Part of the efficiency comes from having dashboards that decrease lag time for things like restocking inventory, Wheeler says.

“On paper there was a lag, so I wouldn’t know a plumber needed a pressure-reducing valve on his truck for four days,” he says. “Now, I know the next day. They have materials on their trucks when they need them.”

In terms of reaching out to customers, Wheeler is stoked to have ServiceTitan’s Phones Pro and Marketing Pro services at his disposal.

“Phones Pro has been super significant to operations,” he says. “And, I’m really happy we had it before Covid hit. It was very simple to take your dial-pad phone hardware and go home and work. It’s plug-and-play and really slick.”

Marketing Pro has also served the company’s bottom line.

“It’s super cool—especially with tracking numbers,” he says. “All that stuff has helped us narrow down where to best spend marketing dollars.”

How Howe is Thriving Despite Covid

Bill Howe was busier than ever just before the pandemic hit. The coronavirus took a toll on business, but Wheeler says the arrows are pointing up during the first quarter of 2021.

Pre-Covid, the company had 204 employees, he says. That number dropped to about 140 in early 2020, but steadily climbed back and is now up over 210.

Previously, Wheeler says sales were regularly going up, 20, 30, and even 50%. Last year, numbers flattened, but by fall had returned to form.

“It was pretty scary last year, but now we’ve just been cranking,” he says. “We think more people are working at home, and they’re using that home plumbing more often. Or, people are sitting at home and can’t go on vacation so they have a little bit more expendable income.”

There could be myriad reasons why business has recovered and stayed strong, Wheeler says.

“I don’t know exactly what to attribute it to,” he says, “but business is good, and I hope it stays that way.”

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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.

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