Marketing • Operations • Business Tips • 57 minutes

From High Performing Technician to Small-Market Entrepreneur

December 14, 2021

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Episode Overview

“I’m a guy who jumps out the window, builds my wings on the way down and hopes they work.”

— Russell Furr

After spending a decade in the trades as a technician, Russell Furr took a leap of faith in 2018 and started Virginia-based Culpeper Home Services from scratch. He trusted his entrepreneurial dream and picked a small town where he could work hard and dominate the market. 

On “Toolbox for the Trades,” Furr talks about getting started with no capital, setting high goals, and why companies should be willing to promote technicians to keep talent in the ranks. 

Here are Russell Furr’s top tips for starting up a home-service trade company with little or no resources:

You can get started with nothing.

When Furr chose the city of Culpeper to start a business, he’d just left another trade company and was essentially broke.

“I saw an opportunity in Culpeper to create my kind of business—a phenomenal business,” he says. “A business that I would want to work in as a technician but didn’t yet exist in this small market.” 

He proceeded to bootstrap the company.

“I had a few thousand dollars from a tax return,” he recalls. “I financed the purchase of a van. I got paper invoices from Staples, had some business cards made and just decided I would build it as I go. The goal was to provide to customers amazing service that had never existed here before.”

Build more business by starting new verticals.

Since Furr had chosen to open shop in a small market, he realized there was a limited number of customers. 

“Naturally, the way you expand is to offer more services,” he says. 

The company started out as a plumbing business, but Furr quickly added electrical and HVAC. 

“I really went all in, man,” he notes. “I’m a guy who jumps out the window, builds my wings on the way down, and hopes they work.”

You can advertise services before you have them.

After starting the plumbing business and before opening verticals in his operation, Furr decided he needed to vigorously promote the new services—even before he was ready to offer them.

“I added the electrical services to my Google page, so the phone was already ringing,” he says. “My CSR would say, ‘We’re not quite there yet.’ But we’d call across town and find someone to take care of the customer. No kickbacks or anything. That’s not the way I roll. I just take care of the customer.” 

Create small-market domination. 

Furr knew he wanted to dominate the market, so he sought highly respected techs in the area. Even when it was hard to track them down, he persisted. “A lot of the great technicians in the area thought they had to go to bigger cities like Northern Virginia to make money,” he says. “But my strategy was to prove you didn’t have to do that.” When Furr convinced one highly respected tech to come to Culpeper, that set off a chain reaction of other talent becoming interested in giving Culpeper Home Services a try.

Personalize your in-house training.

Furr’s in-house training relies heavily on techs developing empathy for customer needs. 

“One of the things I enjoyed the most in the field was just interacting with customers and learning what their needs were,” he says. “That’s what I did—served their needs, not mine. And that’s what we always need to do. We need to appeal to the customers’ perceptions of reality. Because it’s going to be different than yours.”

Have a relatively simple strategy.

Furr says creating success isn’t necessarily rocket science. 

“No. 1, success is a blueprint,” he says. “Just follow what everybody else is doing but innovate and do it better. What are the big companies doing? They’re Nexstar companies. And they’re on ServiceTitan—so that’s where I need to be.

“I knew from Day 1 that those were the two things I needed. So, I had to figure out the parameters I had to meet to get there.”

Set ridiculously high goals.

Furr believes in setting goals that seem unattainable.

“I always set big goals that I fail at,” he says. “Because if I set my annual goal at $6 million and I get to $4.5 million or I get to $5 million, well, that's a whole lot better than if I had set my goal at $4.5 million or $5 million and only got to $3 million. 

‘I always set the goals higher so that it gives me more incentive...it makes me work harder for it, basically.”

Be willing to promote technicians.

When he was a tech working at another company, Furr loved the environment—except that it became obvious that techs couldn’t get promoted. 

“That’s total BS,” he says. “That company told me I couldn’t be a manager. Companies need to stop putting people into categories. And open up their eyes.” 

It’s all for the best now, but Furr says if that company had been willing to promote him, he’d probably still be there working as that company’s high producer.

Recommended research and reading

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

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About the Show

Toolbox for the Trades is a podcast where top service professionals share the tips, tricks, and tactics they use to succeed in their industry. Hosted by Jackie Aubel, this podcast is brought to you by ServiceTitan—the leading home and commercial field service software.

Episodes will feature stories and strategies to help contractors grow and scale their service business.

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