“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
— Ben DiMarco
More than two-thirds of Ben DiMarco’s roughly $5 million in annual revenue comes from commercial-building-related jobs. The percentage of residential work done by Ohio-based DiMarco & Associates grew during the pandemic, but his philosophy is the same for both: Use problem-solving skills to create lifelong customers and never stop learning.
On “Toolbox for the Trades,” he discusses maximum efficiency, finding more residential opportunities, and applying knowledge to real-life situations.
Here are Ben DiMarco’s top tips for both commercial and residential home-services company success:
Key TakeawaysHelp customers run at maximum efficiency.Look at things from an engineering perspective.Do more than just install, install, install. Explore new lines of service by networking. Don’t assume switching from commercial to residential is a breeze. Going from residential to commercial requires absorbing more detail. Acquiring knowledge is just the first step. Don’t keep applying Band-Aids. Look at the big picture. Recruit younger employees by building peer groups. Recommended research and reading
Help customers run at maximum efficiency.
A lot of homes are not running at maximum efficiency when it comes to heating and cooling, DiMarco says.
“You’ve got to apprise the customer of all the things that can be done to get the system delivering its maximum,” he says. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Some companies say fix the box or replace the box. We say look at all the factors involved.”
Look at things from an engineering perspective.
DiMarco notes that installation guides for furnaces and air conditioners contain myriad pieces of information that don’t always get the attention they deserve.
“There’s a lot of detail in those guides,” he says. “Go through them and see that they require you to look at all the other stuff. It’s amazing what happens when you get everything dialed incorrectly. People are blown away.”
Do more than just install, install, install.
Installs are lucrative, and they represent quick money, DiMarco says. But long-term profitability comes from taking the time to do a full commissioning of the house.
“Actually, if you just install, install, install, you’re leaving money on the table,” he says. “If you take the time to make a customer comfortable by turning a cold room into a more-inhabitable room between the months of November and March, you’ve won that customer over for life.”
Explore new lines of service by networking.
DiMarco recommends that any business owner thinking of expanding services should connect with particular experts and study what they do.
“Our industry is full of knowledgeable people in various areas,” he says. “If you start connecting with them, studying what they do, there’s plenty of educational stuff that’s out there. You should also get with manufacturing reps, talk with them, and study and understand what their equipment is designed to do.”
Don’t assume switching from commercial to residential is a breeze.
Yes, it’s typically easier for commercial industrial tradespeople to switch to the residential arena, but DiMarco says you still have to be on your toes.
“Residential is less complex than commercial,” he says. “But there are nuances you have to be aware of. Residential customers need white-glove service. Being on a big construction site is one thing. You have to know that if you go into a million-dollar home you can’t walk across the $50,000 rug.”
Going from residential to commercial requires absorbing more detail.
Residential companies jumping into commercial work need to be aware of what they’re stepping into, DiMarco says.
“Are you dealing with controls?” he says. “Are there structural things that have to be considered? Is it new construction or a retrofit application? If you’re going to pull a rooftop unit off, you’ll need a permit. If you do anything to alter a commercial building, you’ll need engineer drawings to submit your permits.”
Acquiring knowledge is just the first step.
Yes, it’s possible to do your research and learn the right steps for a technical job, but mastery requires real-life experience, DiMarco says.
“The first thing you do is start with the manufacturer and understand what their products can do and how they can be applied,” he says. “Then you have to know where those dots connect to the system and how you put it in. Then, if you can test it and verify that it’s working properly, you’re hitting it out of the park.”
Don’t keep applying Band-Aids. Look at the big picture.
At some point sooner than later, constant nuisance issues need to be addressed, DiMarco says.
“We took over a nursing facility where the previous service company took care of issues right then and there, but they were out there a ton,” he says. “Sure, we want to make money doing service calls, but there’s a bigger picture. The right thing to do is tell the customer there’s a bigger issue.”
DiMarco says there are always creative ways to budget the bigger fixes.
Recruit younger employees by building peer groups.
DiMarco managed to get his son and some of his friends interested in the industry by enrolling them all together in a trade school.
“When you just have one or two of these young apprentices, they don’t really have peers they can share experiences with,” he says. “When there’s seven or eight of them, they’re always asking each other, ‘Hey, what did you do today?’ It’s fun to have these young guys who want to do this job.”
Recommended research and reading
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey