March is Women's History Month and ServiceTitan is spending the coming weeks celebrating the Women In The Trades! This blog series will profile some of the most dynamic and inspired women who are currently working in the trades, defying barriers, and making singular contributions to the industry. In this blog, we speak with Danielle Putnam of The New Flat Rate!
Meet Danielle! "I'm doing exactly what I've always wanted to do my whole life," says Danielle. "I knew I wanted to be in business and I knew I was an entrepreneur."
As President of The New Flat Rate, Danielle Putnam finds herself at the intersection of two disciplines that have played towering roles in her life: technology and the home services.
"I often get the image in my mind of a symphony orchestra director," she says of her position at the company she and her father founded. "My job entails making sure that everybody is supported and has what they need to do their job well."
And that work, she says, is to do the best for her customers: men and women in the trades. "We developed the first ever, done for you, menu pricing system because we wanted contractors to get paid what they were worth. Our system was designed to put more cash in their banks,” she explains. “And now we have contractors calling us saying, 'Thank you. Because of you, we can continue to make payroll. Because of you, thirty-seven people that work for us still have jobs.'"
"So I love that I'm able to be an entrepreneur and help people at the same time," she adds.
Early Beginnings Danielle's career in the trades began before most children ever hold their first job. At the age of seven, she remembers helping to promote her father as an electrical contractor in Georgia.
"It was in summer, I was seven years old and we had a station wagon with no air conditioner in Georgia," Danielle recalls. "So I have a very distinct memory of walking into businesses, as a little child with my brother saying, ‘My daddy just started a new company and here's his flyer.’"
Danielle's father's business had good times and bad but eventually, he was able to expand by buying an HVAC and a plumbing company to merge with his electrical business. Into her adolescence, Danielle stayed involved with the family business as a dispatcher and parts runner. By her late teens, Danielle was working for her father full-time.
"And so I got to experience a lot of different aspects of a service company from, dispatching, scheduling, inventory management, office management, payroll, marketing," she remembers.
Building The New Flat Rate Danielle left the trades behind, but the break proved to be temporary. She had moved to California to work in the tech industry but, in 2011, her father came to her with an idea: “What if tradespeople had a digital, visual menu of services and products they could show homeowners to help them book bigger tickets?” Danielle knew the idea was good... but her father would need help building it.
"So I quit my job—which was a big risk—and moved back across the country from California, home to Georgia," Danielle says. "And in his garage, we spent an entire year, 12 hours a day, seven days a week building The New Flat Rate."
That was seven years ago—and since then, The New Flat Rate has become a proven tool for tradespeople looking to dazzle customers and increase their average ticket size.
"The national average HVAC service ticket in our industry right now is around $236. But with our system, the technician is no longer responsible for selling, they diagnosis, find the problem and then present a menu page from our system, showing the customer five options," Danielle explains.
"We offer five options, five price points for anything that can be diagnosed in the home and the customer buys more because they're given choices. And so on day one with no training, we see an average increase of $246 per service ticket. Turning that once $236 ticket into $482 without raising prices."
Lighting A New Path For Women
Danielle understands that the trades have traditionally been a male-driven industry, but she doesn't believe that means there isn't a role for women who want to be administrators, project managers, and even techs.
"You know, some women do want to work with their hands. Some of us are more mechanically inclined than others and we like to use our brain thinking of systems as a whole," she says. “Women's brains work really well in our industry, looking at it and getting in and figuring things out."
Because of this, Danielle has been active in trying to attract more women to the trades. She is Vice President of Women in HVACR, an organization that matches women industry mentors with mentees and strives to expose more women to the HVACR industry.
The organization focuses on education and hosting networking events for women and tradespeople to meet and connect. In 2017, Women in HVACR held its own conference, as well. "Last year was our first year doing our own standalone conference and we had 100 women attend in Texas," Danielle explains proudly.
Looking Ahead Anticipating the industry's looming staffing crisis, Danielle also believes that women could play a crucial role in keeping the trades a vibrant and lucrative industry.
"There's a lot of talk about if we’re really having a shortage of technicians and having a shortage of people in the field, well, there's a lot more room to bring women in because we can fill some of those roles," she explains.
Still, Danielle recognizes that the lack of women currently in the industry can be deterrent for new women curious about opportunities. But she remembers what it was like to be the only woman working for her father's company and knows that standing out in this male-dominated field can have its advantages.
"Say you're the only woman and you're surrounded by male techs, everybody's going to know your name, everybody is going to know who you are," she says. "So whether you're in the office or you're out in the field... do your job with excellence and build credibility. Then, you’ll find yourself in a position of strength.”
"I really believe the opportunity for you to shine is really there," she adds. "You get to be inspiring and so you can say, you know [to other women], 'This is what I'm doing, come and join me, together let’s make a difference.'"