Steve Truett, president of Aire Serv
Originally published: 05.01.17 by Terry Tanker
Publisher Terry Tanker met with Steve Truett, president of Aire Serv, a franchisor with more than 200 locations. The two met earlier this year in Las Vegas at the AHR Expo. They discussed customer service, workforce shortages, contractor needs and much more.
1. Is there anything about yourself you would care to share that most people wouldn’t know?
I have never tasted coffee. Not once. Not even a sip.
2. How would you finish this — I suddenly realized ... ?
I have 20-year-old son who’s a sophomore at Texas Tech. His departure really brought it home that we will be empty-nesters soon. With that realization, I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with my 17-year-old twin daughters. On Wednesday nights, I go to dinner with Cambry, and I have Saturday morning breakfast with Callie. It’s a simple thing but it gives us dedicated one-on-one time together weekly and we're building memories. I’m also going to take them on some trips with me over the next couple of years.
3. There’s a rumor you’re a very good basketball player — true?
I’m not sure 'very good' would be the description most would use to describe my game, but I played in college and played in leagues into my 40s. Unfortunately, I don’t play anymore — old age and injuries finally caught up with me.
4. What is Aire Serv’s mission?
To keep the air in which we live and breathe comfortable and clean.
5. What was the first thing you did when you became president of Aire Serv?
I spoke with our employees and franchisees to learn what was working and what wasn’t. I was searching for the answers to these questions. What works and why? What doesn't work and why not? What do we need to keep doing? What do we need to stop doing? What do we need to start doing?
6. What was the biggest lesson learned from that exercise?
That we needed to take a long look at our marketing. We went through an evaluation process with members of our marketing and operations teams, as well as a group of franchisees that was led by our advertising agency. This process ultimately lead to several changes including our brand refresh.
7. How large is Aire Serv?
Today, we have about 200 locations, with the majority of those in the U.S. We also have a dozen or so in Canada and a presence in the UK. We still have a lot of great markets open for future franchisees.
8. What does your target prospective franchisee profile look like?
Our franchisees come from different backgrounds, but I think the common denominator is most are already in the industry and they have reached a point where they realize they don’t have the systems and support structure in place to attain their goals. Our best franchisees are those who recognize they need help and are willing to change themselves and their businesses to reach another level.
9. What factors do contractors have to consider before joining your organization?
The biggest question they have to answer for themselves is if they are willing to change to be successful. Change is difficult for most people and certainly for business owners, but you can’t keep doing what you're already doing and expect different results.
10. Is there a common misconception among prospective franchisees?
Probably that they are going to give up their independence — but really that’s not true. They still run their own business, we don’t run their business for them. We do, however, provide proven systems, tools, support and of course the Aire Serv brand.
11. Is transitioning their brand to Aire Serv difficult?
Physically, it's not that hard. Mentally and emotionally, however, it can be difficult; especially if it’s their name on the side of the van. Once they're past that hurdle, we can help them with the transition and they see the benefits of embracing the Aire Serv brand.
12. What’s the overwhelming need that typically has to be addressed?
The customer experience. Our true product is how the customer feels after we leave their home. It's so much more than simply being able to technically fix what is broken.
13. Where do you see the most improvement?
There are so many areas we have systems for, it's difficult to pick just one. The financial management side is a big one. We see various size contractors becoming an Aire Serv franchisee and often they don’t know how to create or read financial statements. If you aren’t keeping score, you simply can’t improve.
14. In general, what are contractors getting better at?
Contractors are getting better at the basics. Using a door mat and booties, or using technology are becoming more common place. The customer experience, however, goes well beyond putting down a mat before you enter the house or sending an email or text when you're on the way. There is still a lot of room for improvement in the overall customer experience in our industry.
15. What opportunities do franchisees have that independent contractors don’t?
Two of the biggest benefits that come with being a part of Aire Serv are the time-tested and proven systems we have available and, just as importantly, the support system we provide to help put those systems into action. Another huge opportunity is being a part of our new Neighborly brand.
16. What does a typical franchisee look like after three years with your organization?
It depends on what stage they were when they came to us. We have people who join us from different backgrounds and with different size companies. Success is measured differently depending on the circumstances and individual goals.
17. What’s your best recruiting tool?
Referrals from other franchisees. Both Aire Serv franchisees as well as franchisees from other Neighborly brands.
18. What’s the biggest challenge facing contractors today?
The workforce shortage in the trades. The statistics show three people retire compared to just one entering the trades today. There is a lack of understanding in our education system of how great an opportunity there is in the tradesmen careers.
19. What can be done to address this?
As a nation, we have to rethink how we address the trades in school. Shop classes were eliminated from school long ago and the education system ingrained the idea that to be successful, you had to have a college degree. Many young people leave college with six figure debt and no job prospects. Most don’t realize what a wonderful opportunity a career in the trades can be.
20. Moving forward, what will change?
As the workforce continues to shrink, compensation will rise and I think the tide will begin to turn. This is not to say our current pay structure isn’t attractive but, simply, supply and demand economics will come into play. Being an Employer of Choice in a market will be more important than ever.