For most home services contractors, opening up shop in a rural area typically means they’ll make less money than their counterparts in larger, metropolitan markets. But that never deterred Russell Furr.
“I saw a whole new market,” says Furr, who opened Culpeper Home Services in 2018 in his hometown of Culpeper, Va., with a much smaller customer base than the Washington, D.C., metro market to the east.
“I saw a huge need for an amazing home services company. Not just a plumbing company, but an amazing company that could provide plumbing, electrical, and HVAC services to customers in need,” Furr explains. “Before my company opened up here, customers locally would have to call companies from out of town to get that level of service.”
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Recognizing a hole in the local market, Furr systematically began filling it by offering his plumbing services then expanding into electrical and HVAC work as he mastered those trades. In just three years, Culpeper Home Services reached the $3.3 million mark in revenue.
“We're rolling right along, and I'm just strategizing to figure out how I'm going to get to $6 million next year,” says Furr, who worked as a plumber for 20 years before venturing out on his own.
Furr began his small-market domination strategy by managing his Google presence, quickly rising to the top of online searches for local home services companies with the most reviews. Now, he leverages ServiceTitan’s Pricebook Pro and Marketing Pro to expand his business even further.
“Pricebook Pro is a great product, because it's 99% complete. You can pretty much take it turnkey and go run calls with it,” Furr says. “Marketing Pro is great, because I can hit all of my existing customer base and let them know of an upcoming trade we might be adding or maybe when our maintenance agreements are coming out. You can really target your audience, too.”
In a recent webinar hosted by ServiceTitan, Furr explains his full-service strategy for opening in a new market, along with help from Jon Dowdy, ServiceTitan Lead Customer Success Manager, and Eyal Binshtock, ServiceTitan Group Project Manager and the mastermind behind Pricebook Pro.
A Soft Opening Strategy to Add Electrical and HVAC Services to the Mix
Interestingly enough, Furr let customers know Culpeper Home Services added electrical work to its repertoire nearly a year before the company actually launched the service.
He simply added electrical services to the company’s Google page at the end of 2018, so when customers searched for electricians in the area, they found Culpeper at the top of the list. When the phones started ringing, his CSRs let customers know the service was coming at Culpeper, but referred them to another highly qualified electrician nearby.
“The whole entire time, I'm interviewing electricians, I'm building that groundwork in the background, and then when the time comes, we're just putting the calls on our own board instead of farming them out to the guy across town,” says Furr, who also earned his own master electrician license in the process.
“I wanted the calls coming in before I got the truck, before I got the technicians and everything,” Furr adds. “If the calls are coming in, that's what we need. Let's get the calls rolling in and build everything in the background.”
Furr, who also holds master licenses in plumbing, HVAC, and septic systems, deployed a similar strategy for launching his HVAC division in 2020.
“HVAC is much more complex. That took a lot more work and more back-end foundational work to get that going,” Furr says. “Electrical is identical to plumbing. The only difference is the pricebook. But when you're talking about HVAC, the complexities of the business and the skillsets of the technicians is just far greater than anything you see in plumbing or electrical. I like to say HVAC is its own animal, because it really is.”
Targeting the Right Audience with Marketing Pro
As Furr launched his HVAC division last year, he signed on with ServiceTitan’s Marketing Pro to take his marketing efforts up a notch.
“You can really target your audience, drill it down, and send out customized email marketing to all of them,” Furr says.
Also, the Reputation Management tools help him stay on top of managing any less-than-stellar customer reviews before they appear on his Google page.
“No one else in this market is operating the way we're operating. ServiceTitan is a big part of that, in all the customer communications and everything,” he adds.
In addition to launching new services, Dowdy says Culpeper Home Services also used Marketing Pro to reach out to a targeted group of existing plumbing customers with older equipment. A simple reminder for repeat maintenance services from a company they know worked well to get existing customers back on the schedule, he says.
“We were able to leverage Marketing Pro pretty much on every single sector that he has, and he's been phenomenal at it since then,” Dowdy says of Furr’s successful marketing strategy.
Furr does one thing with his ServiceTitan account that many other shop owners don’t do, Dowdy says.
“He has a lot of reports that are scheduled to go to him every single day. Not once a week,” Dowdy says, specifically mentioning Culpeper’s job-costing and call-center performance reports, which immediately show Furr the number of abandoned calls, booked jobs from leads, job costing averages, and billable hours for every job.
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“For a lot of owners, it's not a priority for them to have that top of mind, until it's time for a meeting, and then they have to go dig out those reports.” Dowdy says. “He has a better insight of what's happening at the shop from every single level of the business, every single day.”
Furr describes the job-costing report as “crucial” to keeping his home services company profitable. He reviews it every morning, divides the job cost by the job revenue to ensure good profit percentages, and makes adjustments if needed.
“Nothing gets purchased without a purchase order. Every purchase order is linked to a job. Everything is very well accounted for in my business. I'm very focused on numbers and building a solid foundation from the beginning,” Furr says.
Pricebook Pro Helps Solve Logistical Challenges
Furr says Pricebook Pro didn’t exist when he launched his electrical division, but it was super easy to download and customize changes for his HVAC pricebook, especially the custom task builder tool that allows him to lock the pricebook.
“You can't have your guys out in the field just willy-nilly creating whatever prices they want,” Furr says. “Using the custom task builder to make a custom price, while also tracking sold hours, is a game changer. We can select the number of sold hours needed to complete the task, the cost of materials to complete the task, and then there's the price.”
Binshtock, ServiceTitan’s Pricebook Pro guru, says the software solution was designed to help companies “get up and running quickly and easily with a very high performing pricebook.”
With well-organized and fleshed-out content, contractors can find clear categorization for every service they offer, techs can easily show customers materials and pricing information on their mobile devices, and owners or the office staff can adjust pricing as they build out their pricebook.
Pricebook Connect, launched in 2019, also helps contractors see fully built catalogs of materials and pricing for HVAC, plumbing, electrical, sewage, and more, and easily identify new content available to add to their pricebooks.
“For instance, you can click HVAC, click a select-all button, and add an entire HVAC pricebook with materials, material links, upgrades, recommendations, images for every single service, descriptions for every single service, quotes, everything,” Binshtock says.
“If you're expanding into a new trade, you can pick up that trade from Pricebook Connect. It's right there in your Pricebook menu. Click the add-pricebook button, then all the services, materials, everything will be there, all ready to go. Materials all linked up, all the sold hours in place. All you've got to do is set up your billable rate, it will calculate the pricing, and you're pretty much good to go,” he explains.
Just understand your pricing changes when you implement a new pricebook, Furr says, but set your billable hours correctly and trust the calculations for sold hours.
“I've had to build out a pricebook before, and it's an immense amount of work. By having a turnkey product like Pricebook Pro, it just takes a ton of work off my plate,” Furr says.
Pricebook Pro also gives contractors confidence when opening shops in new markets, Binshtock says. His ServiceTitan team makes updates to all services and materials each month, and contractors simply review and accept those updates to keep their pricebooks up to date and well-maintained.
“Pricebook Pro is doing that for you. We've got a great content team and a ton of industry expertise,” Binshtock adds. “Pricebook Pro is ServiceTitan's answer to the time issue.”
Binshtock says he finds a huge correlation between how fast a company grows with a well-built-out, well-maintained pricebook versus companies with no pricebook or one that’s not fully fleshed out. On average, he says, Pricebook Pro users see an immediate 4% increase in conversion rates and a 4% increase in average ticket size.
“We see really big growth, we see a lot of success,” he says. “And when we see companies starting to struggle a bit more, we also see correlations with pricebooks that are just barely hanging together. There are no upgrades, no recommendations, people aren't showing images, all those kinds of things.”
Companies can grow without Pricebook Pro, but it may take a lot more time, effort, and expertise.
“Pricebook Pro makes it happen for you potentially months sooner, and it eliminates a lot of the maintenance you'd have to do to keep it there,” Binshtock says. “Investing in your pricebook is one of the most pivotal and profitable things you can do for your business.”
A Final Word on Small-Market Domination
Finding success with home services in a new market, small or large, requires either dumping a lot of cash in the market, or making a big splash, Furr says.
“You've got to get noticed, and if you're not doing either of those two, you may as well save your money,” he says.
To make his splash, Furr tried to present himself as larger than he actually was by ranking higher on Google with more five-star reviews.
“I was just a little one-man operation working out of my basement, but the customer's perception was that I was a larger company,” he says. “In this market, it was all a bunch of backwoods companies that had 10 or 15 reviews on Google. Within the first month, I had more than that and I'm at the top. The reviews give customers confidence that you're going to take care of them.
“Small markets need great service, too, and they're willing to pay for it as long as you can deliver it,” Furr says. “Don't make them call people from out of town. You've got to go in there and get it.”
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