Jason Hanson, president of Sierra Pacific Home & Comfort
Originally published: 08.01.18 by HVACR Business Staff
We sat down with Jason Hanson, president of Sierra Pacific Home and Comfort, a 2018 Tops in Trucks Fleet Design Contest winner. Hanson discussed learning curves in business, growing his company and the power of the color red.
1. Can you tell us a little about your background?
I was an infantry officer in the Marine Corps. When I got out in 2000, I was looking to move back to the West Coast. I found a residential HVACR contractor that was hiring, but really this industry found me.
2. What did you do there?
I started in what essentially is a general manager training program, and worked my way through a number of different positions to learn what the residential service and installation businesses is about. I picked up everything from marketing to sales to service, service management and installation management. I also took some technical classes, just to get some basic mechanical skills in the trade.
3. Where did you go next?
I went to work for Lennox Industries as a territory manager and spent a number of years there until the opportunity to acquire Sierra Pacific came along.
4. What made you decide to buy the business?
The company was actually one of my best customers and the owner at the time, he and I got along really well. He was an old Navy sub guy and I was a Marine. He became a coach and a mentor to me. One day he came to me and said, “I’m getting too long in the tooth to keep doing this thing and the people here are ready for it to go to another level, and I don’t have the energy for it. I’m looking for somebody who will keep all these people that have been with me for so many years together.”
5. What is the learning curve to owning a business?
The learning curve of owning Sierra Pacific has evolved at each growth state. I’m still on a steep learning curve in some aspects of the business. I feel fortunate that I have friends and colleagues I can rely on to help me learn.
6. What is your management style?
My approach is to work with fellow professionals in the company with the expectation that they’re capable and responsible to accomplish their duties without micromanagement by me. I look to establish organization, communication and discipline to adhere to our processes, and then monitor the performance through simple but relevant reporting.
7. What challenges have you faced?
Our company’s greatest challenge so far was the recession, which happened shortly after I acquired it in late 2008 and 2009. A significant piece of our business declined in revenue overnight. But the management team responded effectively and we came out stronger than we were before the recession.
8. What is your business mix?
Sierra Pacific’s core competency is residential service and retrofit, with nearly 98 percent of the revenue coming from residential. Our solar divisions do some commercial work.
9. How has your company grown?
Our growth has focused on doing more business more often with existing clients while still also adding new clients into our base. Our diversity has given us the opportunity to be a trusted home services resource to our clients and this has generated good referral and recurring opportunities from our existing clients.
10. Who came up with your tag line?
In the early 90s, the founder and previous owner of Sierra Pacific developed the tag line of “The Guys In The Big Red Trucks” and it was used regularly in the company advertising until about 2000. That’s when the company focus shifted toward solar and the trucks were wrapped in a solar pool-heating theme. The big red truck concept somewhat atrophied. By the time I came into the picture and started looking at our branding, the company needed a refresh. After testing a few new concepts, a nostalgic but new version of “The Guys In The Big Red Trucks” was the clear winner. It still resonated well.
11. How did you come up with your winning truck design?
The logo was updated and we built the tag line into the logo. Then we just put it on everything. We just kept the trucks a simple, but powerfully recognizable red. The first trucks had more than one tone of red, and eventually we came to the conclusion a simple solid red was the best and cleanest.
12. What did your branding look like before?
The branding had become disjointed and lacked a distinguishing image so it was due for something new.
13. What made you decide to embark on this branding journey?
The company image and marketing looked stale and did not reflect the great work that was being done by our team.
14. Did you do anything special to role out the new design?
Regrettably, no. I simply just started using it in each new marketing related item we developed until the new design was fully integrated into every touch point we could have with a client or prospect.
15. What kind of reaction have you gotten?
It’s been a great reaction from the clientele as well as the general public. We hear it all the time, “Oh I know you guys, we see your trucks everywhere!” Now we incorporated that into our radio advertising too. Our endorsers now close out the ad with “Call Sierra Pacific, you see them everywhere, The Guys In The Big Red Trucks.”
16. Do you use GPS in your vehicles?
Yes, we use Fleetmatics to help our operations.
17. What’s the biggest benefit?
Better accountability for driver behavior, and being alert to what they’re doing. When you’re as prominent as we are and you’ve got trucks all over, people will, in a moment, get upset if they see a truck that they think is not courteous on the road to them. You don’t want to create that bad impression. To have all the drivers ultra aware of it has made us better.
18. Do you track leads based off your trucks?
Yes, we track each inbound call for a lead source and it is common to have the homeowner say more than one thing such as, “well, I hear you on the radio and I see your trucks everywhere.”
19. What kind of ROI have you seen so far?
I can’t specifically track an ROI to wrapping the trucks in this theme, but it is clearly an important aspect and the cost to wrap each truck is in reality a great investment for us. It is part of a fully integrated marketing and branding campaign that cuts across to every potential touch point to our existing clients and future clients.
20. Has this new look helped with recruitment?
I would say that it helps because we are recognizable to potential candidates for employment with us. To address the labor shortage, we focus on building our own great technicians. Hiring entry level and using training resources we can get through the manufacturers or other trade schools, like Ultimate Technical Academy and things like HVAC Learning Solutions at Lennox. We build them up and let them advance within the company.