Gary Michel, President of Trane Residential Systems
Originally published: 02.01.17 by Terry Tanker
Terry Tanker met with Chadd and Keegan Hodges immediately following a presentation by Florida Governor Rick Scott, who presented the co-owners of Best Home Services in Naples, Fla. with the Business Ambassador Award in recognition of their growth from 10 to 145 employees. The three discussed company growth, job creation, risk and company culture.
It’s nice to be recognized for what we love to do. Obviously, you don’t set out with a visit from the Governor as a goal, but creating jobs (68 in 2016) is what happens when you set aggressive growth goals.
Our parents bought a small electric business called Best Electric when we were 13 and 9. We helped out during the summer and on school breaks. Keegan dropped out of high school to work in the trades and later went to trade school to get a certificate in HVAC and electric. Chadd went to college to get a masters in business marketing. One of us is blue collar the other white collar, as our
Our dad retired so, our mom, Marilyn, ran the company along with a service manager and 10 employees. When the economy tanked in 2008, we shrunk like everyone else. Our revenues of $1.8 million were cut in half. Adding HVAC increased our top line revenue by about $400k and that helped bridge the gap in 2009. We purchased the company from our parents in 2010.
Our parents were long standing members of Nexstar, and through that organization we met Jaime DiDomenico, owner of Cool Today in Sarasota, Fla. He’s been a great mentor.
He taught us how to market. But we really didn’t have the money. In 2010, we didn’t have “credit,” but a lot of credit card companies were offering interest free credit cards. Chadd and I took out as many as we could and used the money for marketing. It was sink or swim!
Everything — postcards, billboards, radio, telephone books … you name it. It was relatively inexpensive, because the economy was bad and media outlets needed advertisers. People raise their eyebrows at phone books, but our demographic is older and they use them.
We do so much under the umbrella of “marketing” it’s difficult to say. Internet based strategies, such as Google and SEO, are built to be tracked, while television, radio and billboards are dificult to quantify.
Our serious growth phase started in 2012, and in 2013 we decided we wanted to change our logo, our name … everything. True to our nature, we went all in. Most companies change things as they acquire new vehicles, but we pulled all the trucks off the street and changed them at the same time.
We focus on it. Hiring is our number one priority because our company culture is one of growth. We live by a few simple core values — be a family, be fun, be amazing and constantly grow and learn.
A high percentage, actually. We’ve built critical mass and we’re a known entity. We have applications from as far away as Mich. and N.J. Everyone wants to play for the winning team. We pay well, but have high expectations. Honestly, being small is more difficult than being large.
Some employees will thrive in this environment, others won’t. A percentage won’t buy into our culture even after screening, interviewing and going through the on-boarding process. We’re prepared to release some of our talent to the competition.
It’s simply a mindset. We just visited a contractor in New Mexico. He’s 60 and has 550 employees. He doesn’t have a “cap” in mind and he just keeps growing. He keeps thinking big. For some, $5 million is big, for others it’s $75 million. We don’t have a number.
When we started we thought $6 million would be “the” number. After meeting with Jaime, we thought $12 million was achievable. Last year, we were at $18 million and this year we expect $24 million, maybe a little more.
Chadd is administration and Keegan is production — our backgrounds dictated this and it’s where we’re most happy.
We have a great general manager, Mike Kiser. Then there are managers for each of the divisions, as well as accounting, human resources and our call center.
We had a grand opening in Sarasota on January 1. Later this year, we’re opening another location in Ft. Myers. Next year, we’ll open in Tampa, which is a huge market. Each time we expand, it adds opportunity for our employees to move and take on additional responsibilities
Absolutely! We embed new offices with our company culture by bringing in existing employees who show new employees what we’re all about and how we operate.
Right now, we simply reinvest everything back in the company and it’s been working for us. We live modestly, because that’s how we were brought up and we don’t see any reason to change. There will be time for all the extras later in life, but right now we have a laser focus.
Recently, our bank told us, “We don’t want you to own any more trucks because it’s making your balance sheet ugly”. After investigating the market, we now lease them and it’s had the intended effect.
Al Davis, former owner of the Oakland Raiders, used to say, “Just win, baby, win.” We like to say, “Just grow, baby, grow.”