HVAC, Plumbing, Management, Success Story

Yarbrough & Sons, Tucker Yarbrough do the math, find honorable solution for employees and customers

Pat McManamon
May 28th, 2024
5 Min Read

Tucker Yarbrough was finding his way through college when he decided to seek some advice.

Yarbrough’s athletic career in high school had led to surgeries and time with physical therapists. He decided to go to Oklahoma Baptist University to study chemistry with the goal of a doctorate in physical therapy.

A concern arose soon after he dove into his chemistry major.

“I took Calc II and Calc III and got my teeth kicked in,” he said.

That led to a discussion with one of the deans of the business school. Yarbrough mentioned his parents owned a heating, cooling and plumbing business, and that working in the family business was an option.

The dean’s response? “That’s one of the most honorable things you can do.”

Yarbrough called his father that night and asked what he could study that would help grow Yarbrough & Sons Heating, Cooling & Plumbing. The talk led to a new major, in Business Management and Finance, and a new career.

“As soon as I graduated, I came back full-time,” Yarbrough said.

And he brought with him the principle that led him back: being honorable.

Staying true as you grow

Now Chief Financial Officer, Yarbrough has worked with his two brothers to help guide Yarbrough & Sons to slow and steady growth, from $4.5 million in 2018 to $10.1 million in 2023. Through that time, Yarbrough maintained a profit margin of 12-15%.

The secret?

“If you do your job well and you take care of people, people tend to call,” he said.

A little later, he explained that the business’s approach was learned from the way his mother and father ran the business.

“It's one thing to say this, it's another thing to think and another thing to do it,” Tucker said. “It's operating with a tremendous amount of humility. Recognizing that each of us need to approach our respective lanes within the business with a humility that, ‘Hey, you're the expert here.’ Beyond that, it's operating with a ton of humility toward our team, (because) the company doesn't exist without the team.”

As the company has grown, it has become a profit-sharing business, part of Yarbrough’s efforts to honor the team.

“Ten percent of our profits go into a profit-sharing fund,” Yarbrough said. “The last two or three years, we’ve paid upwards of $120,000 to the team. Now that’s not a huge amount or huge deal when you have 40 or 50 team members, but the benefits of being transparent with our team has paid dividends more than anything we’ve done, I think, in our growth.

“Doing that I think has earned us the trust and the respect of the team in such a way that it's given us the freedom to push and stretch and grow the systems and processes that we have in place. Because what we've done thus far has worked OK, and we've taken care of our team and we're going to continue to do so.”

Employees come, and stay

The average tenure for a team member at Yarbrough is seven years; the churn rate is less than 15%. The emphasis from management is to ensure employees know they have a home.

“It’s recognizing that these people choose to spend their life making a career with us,” Yarbrough said. “So we better operate with a ton of gratitude and humility.”

Yarbrough’s parents founded their first business in 1988, and it grew organically with mainly a commercial emphasis. They sold it in 2000 but jumped back in a year or two later, his father promising the latest iteration would stay small. It grew organically again to $4.5 million in 2018.

When Yarbrough returned after college, he and his brothers Will and Colby realized there might be more out there.

Yarbrough & Sons joined Service Nation Alliance in 2018 and onboarded ServiceTitan, the cloud-based software for the trades, early in 2019.

“Then we really started trying to adopt and adapt and implement,” Yarbrough said. “Knowing our numbers was the biggest hurdle. Knowing the flexibility of how we need to price, how we need to go to market.”

Yarbrough focuses its marketing effort from within. The business produces the majority of its commercial and promotional videos in-house, and broadcasts them on YouTube.

“Being an $8 million or $10 million company, you’re bigger than most of the competitors in the market, but you still can’t swim with the big fish,” Yarbrough said. “We wanted to take the approach, ‘Don’t step over good looking for great because you just might end up broke.’”

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Taking care of customers, too

He also relied on estimate templates in ServiceTitan, and automated follow-up – some of which includes asking customers: “Can we give you your money back for a repair toward the purchase of a new system?”

Yarbrough has one location in Blanchard, Oklahoma, a bedroom community in the Southwest Oklahoma City Metroplex. A goal is to add another location in Edmond, north of the city, and perhaps grow further from there.

But growing the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race way.

“(We want to nail) what we have now before we can scale,” Yarbrough said. “Hitting $10 million was a watershed for us. But the systems and processes that got us there aren’t going to get us to $20 million or $25 million. We have to take a step back and look at how we can re-simplify.”

Yarbrough said the business wants to become a go-to option in the area, and points to competing with the larger competitors – in the $60 million-$80 million revenue range.

But he also wants to stay humble and continue honoring those who help the business hit those benchmarks.

“One of the things that we're super conscientious of is, no matter how big we get, it's about the team, it's about the family and trying to be basically the largest small company that you'll ever have a contact with,” he said.

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