Ignoring their father’s advice to stay out of the heating and air conditioning business, Joseph and Jacob Gee instead took over the family-owned company in 2018 so their hardworking dad could retire. Two years later, the brothers came this close to shutting the whole thing down.
The breaking point came at the end of 2020. Despite the ramifications of a global pandemic causing business disruptions for several months, revenue for Gee! Heating and Air was on the upswing, and the 30+-year-old Gainesville, Ga., company had just completed one of its best years yet ($2.2 million), servicing mostly commercial properties.
“Revenue was going up. We were busier than ever. We had more employees. But we had nothing to show for it. We had no money. Vehicles were breaking down,” says Joseph Gee, now Gee! Heating and Air’s Chief Operating Officer. “It seemed like we owed more money to our distributors than we had in our own bank account for the company.
“I was mad. I was upset. I was confused. I was scared,” he says. “We were talking about going to get personal money to just be able to pay for (Christmas) bonuses. And there was talk of throwing in the towel.”
That’s when the brothers delved deep and remembered another important lesson they learned from their dad.
“We’re not quitters,” Joseph says. “We came in with yellow pads, whiteboards, and we said, ‘We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to fix this. And we’re not going to go back to what it was.’”
Even though Gee! Heating and Air had onboarded with ServiceTitan a year prior, the Gees realized they weren’t using the full functionality of the software tool and needed to build a better foundation and better processes.
“We learned really quickly that nobody was coming to save us,” Joseph says. “A salesman's not going to save you. A coach isn't going to save you. ServiceTitan ain't your savior. You’ve got to use the tool to build your business. It shows you what's there, but you’ve got to do something about it.”
While the steps the Gee brothers took to transform their business might seem a bit drastic, their decisions paid off—and today Gee! Heating and Air is on track to earn $12 million in 2022 (or $1 million each month). They explain how they made the complete transformation in a recent ServiceTitan webinar.
» Want to grow your business? Click here to get a demo.
The Gees’ first step? Fire 60% of its customers.
During this period, when they thought business was going well, Gee! Heating and Air serviced 60% commercial HVAC units for clients in industrial, medical, refrigeration, schools, hotels, and apartment complexes.
“Basically, we were throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what would stick,” says Joseph. “We were doing anything that would keep our guys busy.”
Once they put their investment in ServiceTitan HVAC software to work and discovered their profit margins were upside down on the commercial side, the Gees dug a little deeper.
“Even though we weren't doing that much residential, it had the highest profit margins for us,” Joseph says. “And we realized with commercial, industrial, refrigeration, medical, all this stuff, we had to have all these specialized people. We had to have project managers, and we had to spend six months on bid forms, and hope we would get it.”
That’s when they decided to flip Gee! Heating and Air to completely residential, and let the rest go—which essentially meant firing 60% of their customer base.
“And we lost quite a few employees in the process,” Joseph says. “A lot of people walked. They thought we were crazy.”
The next day, the Gee brothers wrote letters, made difficult phone calls, and informed their commercial customers the company could no longer service their calls, says younger brother Jacob, the company’s Chief Financial Officer.
“We did this all in three days, by the way,” Joseph points out.
“It was scary,” Jacob adds.
The community “laughed at us,” other business owners said “we were stupid,” and even their father asked them, “Okay boys, are you sure about this?”
“We didn’t have a lot of answers, but we knew numbers don’t lie,” Joseph says.
How Gee! simplified everyday processes for scale
With ServiceTitan’s financial insight into the company’s residential profit margins, Joseph says, he determined the company could turn a profit even if they did only 10 residential jobs a day.
“Say we had 10 calls, but we made 50%, 60% profit margins on these. Well, what if I could do 100 calls a day? What if I could get my profit margins to 70%?” Joseph explains.
“Basically, once you have a foundation and you have a process, it's just rinse, recycle, repeat, and you just keep doing it over and over again,” he says.
Creating processes and training their techs to know exactly how to run a residential service call helped to drive the residential workflow, Jacob says, and showed them that low-bid commercial contracts aren’t the only way to keep your team busy in the shoulder season.
“You just got to be creative,” Jacob says. “Let’s make it attractive for people to use us. We have amazing services. We have our processes down really well. We call it the ‘O-M-Gee experience.’”
Next came figuring out how to get into as many homes as possible, so Gee! offered a $58 HVAC tune-up special to existing customers during the slow season. The special got Gee! techs into more homes, where they delivered that 5-star “O-M-Gee experience.”
Then, Gee! created the “O-M-Gee Comfort Club” to convert those special tune-up customers into memberships with a simple discount deal.
“Instead of getting too much into how many systems they have and all these different prices and everything, we said, ‘Let's simplify it. So $99 for a whole year for all your systems on that property. And we're going to come out twice a year. You get 15% discounts.’ It's almost like Amazon Prime. It's a no-brainer,” Jacob says.
And if you’re wondering how Gee! could make a profit with such low prices, Joseph says offering those specials wasn’t about making money—it was about doing whatever they could to get into more homes.
“We made it super easy for our techs to sell and our CSRs to sell, because at the time, we’ve got to replace 60% of our business and we’ve got to get more calls on the board,” Joseph says. “We're not going to get to it just by hoping for pure luck that someone's going to call us one day. So, we made it super easy and super simple.”
More techs in more homes resulted in more 5-star reviews for Gee!
“We care about as many systems as we can touch to keep our guys busy, to create more opportunity. And then we'll worry about converting leads,” Joseph explains.
It’s also critical to make outbound calls to your existing customer base, and not wait for them to call you, Jacob says. Dig into your customer data with ServiceTitan, find those customers who engaged with you in previous years, then find an opportunity to earn back their business.
For instance, offer them complimentary tune-ups, and see how easy it is to re-engage those customers. Ideas include offering “Pardon our dust” free tune-up cards to neighbors of customers, or calling existing customer members and offering a complimentary tune-up to a friend or family member, just to thank them for their business.
“There's no magical pill that's going to make everything just all of a sudden happen,” Joseph says. “You’ve got to re-engage with those old customers. They've used you once before. Just offer them something.”
The #1 newsletter for the trades.
What KPIs and metrics to track consistently to achieve growth
To achieve growth and actual profitability, the Gee brothers went back to the drawing board and worked backward toward their ultimate goal of generating $1 million a month. They started by using data in ServiceTitan to determine their average install ticket (not service), and discovered it was only about $7,000.
“It was terrible. Yeah, it was awful,” Joseph says. “But I said, ‘Okay, that’s what it is.’ Don’t make it a number you want it to be. Don’t make it an imaginary number.”
For purposes of easy math, say your average ticket for HVAC installs is $10,000. To hit $1 million a month, you divide it by 20 business days each month, and know you need to make $50,000 a day. If your average ticket is $10,000, then you need to do five installs a day.
Then, check your sales conversion rate. For this example, say it’s 50%. If you can identify at least 10 opportunities—technician turnovers, sales, replacements, etc.—and convert 50% of them, that results in $50,000 a day.
And check your sales conversion rates for technician turnover service calls that result in replacement jobs to know how many calls you need to make to generate those 10 opportunities. If it’s about 25%, like Gee! Heating and Air, you know you need to schedule at least 40 calls every single day.
Joseph says he also wanted to schedule only three calls per tech, per day, and allow at least two hours per job.
“This hit it and quit it, in 15 minutes, you're not going to get the value,” Joseph explains. “They're not going to get the customer’s trust. They're not going to get higher tickets, and they're not going to get conversions.”
Gee! hired 14 techs and one install per crew. For every two service techs, they hired a salesperson.
“We just reverse-engineered it,” Joseph says. “We figured out how many calls, and then that's how we set our KPIs.”
How to shift your culture and rally your team around the “$1 million month” goal
Once you know your KPIs (key performance indicators), sit down with your team to explain how you will track their performance and how you will hold them accountable to meeting the goals.
“Don't just throw out all these KPIs at your techs and expect them to respond,” Jacob advises. “You’ve got to say, ‘This is the why behind the what.’"
Set goals and explain the vision, such as your expectations for:
Number of jobs on the board
Number of calls coming in to the call center
Number of outbound calls to customers
Service tickets at a certain dollar amount
Technician turnover rates at a certain percentage
“We kind of showed the whole game and explained the vision. And then, all of a sudden, they're like, ‘Okay, I know my part of the mission,’” Jacob says. “For the technician, all you have to worry about is going into the home, building trust, and doing the process."
Add incentives to make it fun, but be transparent. Talk about the money, pay your team well, and create some healthy competition. Gee! put up whiteboards everywhere and tracked goals by drawing a thermometer and updating the boards each week. High performers received rewards like sports tickets, gift cards, steak dinners, and even massages.
There's no point in being a jack of all trades and a master of none, Joseph says, so get focused and determine which KPIs are most important.
“Just find five or six,” he says. “We wanted to know how many booked appointments were on the board the next day, and the day after that. We wanted to know how many installs today, tomorrow, and the next day. We wanted to know our total revenue for the day and how much profit we were making that day. Then we had our sales conversions, and how many technician turnovers.
“Find six and just rinse, recycle, repeat,” he adds. “Just do it, and do it better than anybody else. That's why we chose residential. We knew we could do it better than anybody else.”
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.