““Carve out uninterrupted time to focus on building the business and making it more efficient and scalable.”
—Will Matson, CFO, Apex Services
A.J. Brown (CEO) and Will Matson (CFO) represent more than just a firm with equity to lend. Their company, Apex Service Partners, is in the business of partnering with home services company owners who want to expand, innovate or possibly create a path to retirement.
They talk about focusing on your employees’ long-range success, focusing every day on growth, and being “thought partners” with business owners.
Here are A.J. Brown and Will Matson’s top tips for trade business owners looking for service partners:
Key TakeawaysService partners should be like a pit crew.Focus on your people for long-range success.Solve problems with a “thought partner.” Be selective on equity partners.Be a good partner yourself. Every partnership can be different. Be ruthless about growth, every day. Be ready to change. Recommend research and reading
Service partners should be like a pit crew.
Matson says a good service provider shouldn’t come into a business and want to take over the brand.
“We view Apex as a pit crew that is trying to give the race car driver—the owner—services and access to capital that they never had before,” he says. “To use that pit crew analogy, think of a race car driver who is the best at what they do—and we just gave them rocket fuel.”
Focus on your people for long-range success.
In an industry where the services that are provided are fairly uniform from company to company, Brown says focusing on your team can make your business special.
“We have an intense focus on people, and an intense focus on training,” he says. “An intense focus on developing. An intense focus on hiring. That's across the board. That’s what makes you special. If you’re playing the long game, that’s the right investment.”
Solve problems with a “thought partner.”
Apex wants to be a “thought partner” with companies, Brown says.
“We’re thinking through your prioritization—because there are only so many things you can do in a day,” he says. “You’ve got time constraints and budget constraints. We like to think of ourselves as a thought partner.
“We have the resources to take some priorities off your plate.”
Be selective on equity partners.
“I think, generally, private equity gets a pretty bad rap,” Brown says. “They come in, cut costs. They’re going to ruin the core culture of your business. I would say that’s not always true.
“What I would say to a contractor as they’re looking for a partner is be sure you find the right partner. Do your diligence, like you would with any vendor. Call references. Make sure you find the right steward.”
Be a good partner yourself.
“When we look at potential partnership opportunities, we focus on three main things,” Matson says. “It’s your customers, your employees and your brand.
“What do your customers say about you and do they keep coming back? How strong is your team and how long have they been together? And, is the brand held in high regard in the market?”
Every partnership can be different.
Matson says there are no two partnerships that are exactly alike.
“In short, a lot of it depends on what the business owner is looking for,” he says. “We do partnerships of every sort. Sometimes it is someone in the later stages of their career who may want to retire right away. Or someone who wants to start to slow down, and maybe only work as a consultant for another year. Some partners want to stay on, but need a new service manager.
“We can handle all of those situations.”
Be ruthless about growth, every day.
No matter what kind of partnership a business owner is looking for, the recipe for success is doing what’s right for your employees and your customers, Brown says.
“That’s one constant,” he says. “You have to be ruthless about growing every day—interacting and having that growth mindset. Trying to get better.
“The best companies we see, they're investing in software like ServiceTitan. They’re sending their technicians and managers to industry groups. That sort of investment pays off over 10 to 15 years.”
Be ready to change.
“Most of the time, our partners come to us wanting to have a sounding board, and to talk through about managing through change, and scaling their business,” Mattson says. “The old adage of, ‘What got you here won't get you there’ is so true. Most often, we’re talking to our partners about managing through change, and setting up the business to scale.”