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To keep financials under control, keep it simple and ALWAYS know.
Ellen Rohr made a dramatic entrance into the trades following the death of her husband’s business partner. She was armed with a college education and an outgoing personality, but at the time knew little about the technical side of plumbing.
She partnered with her husband, Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr, and ran his business before moving on to become president of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing. (Yes, she and Hot Rod are still married—36 years and going strong.)
Today, Rohr is chief operating officer at Zoom Drain, which has 18 locations around the United States. A venture capitalist and a consultant, Rohr also writes extensively about business and the trades. Her “Plumber’s Wife” articles have appeared in more than three dozen outlets.
Rohr credits her mentor, Frank Blau, with teaching her a mindset of keeping score with financials.
“Just keeping track of the money is really the foundation of everything that I’ve done since,” she says. “It’s not very complicated. I am not the world’s greatest financial mind. I am vanilla ice cream across the board.”
She labels herself an Occam’s Razor fan.
“What is the activity that we could take right now that’s going to have the least amount of effort and the biggest impact?” Rohr says. “When it comes to your business, good things come from knowing the financials. That's what Frank taught me—though it took me awhile.”
Rohr had discovered Blau after reading an article he’d written in a trade magazine. She contacted him and Blau was kind enough to call her back. He offered tough love.
“Some people need a feather, some people need a brick,” she says. “I apparently needed a brick and that's what I got. He told me, ‘you think you’re so smart, but sister, you are blowing it and it’s your responsibility to fix it.’”
A major part of the new game plan called for adjusting prices.
Blau convinced Rohn that the company had to charge more and actually see a profit on each job.
“We’d finally got the prices where they were supposed to be,” she says. “We bought into it and the team bought into it. We were off to the races. I credit Frank Blau, George Brazil, Mike Diamond and some other guys who showed us how to create honorable and profitable businesses.”
If that sounds simple, it’s because it is. And simplicity is central to Rohr’s philosophy: Business is simplest when you focus on the basics.
“When it comes to the money, honey, I am a master of the basics,” she says. “In times of crisis, going back to the basics is always a good plan.”
Those basics, Rohr said, work in good times and bad.
“Revisit what you are doing, what you swore in the first place — to get back to your mission, back to your why,” she says. “Get clear with the leadership team for starters, and then disseminate that message throughout the organization.
“Our mission has not changed: To demonstrate the best that business can be. At Zoom Drain, we don’t aim to be perfect, we aim to be better than anyone else in our space.”
But to be at your best, you have to know where you stand. Rohr says keeping track of the money coming in and the money going out, in close to real time, is key. And now, more than ever, not knowing will slow you down, Rohr said.
“It’s going to be hard to sleep at night (if you don’t know),” Rohr said. “Even if you’re digging a hole at any point, it’s better knowing than not knowing.”
To do that, Rohr and Zoom Drain use ServiceTitan. The data she is able to extract allows the company to make sure her key goal—making a profit on every job—is always fulfilled.
What follows are some of the key ways ServiceTitan data can be used, so business owners can know, rather than guess.