Featuring RENEE LUCAS
Intro: Welcome to Profiles In Prosperity, the leading podcast for residential service contractors, sponsored by Service Roundtable and hosted by David Heimer.
David Heimer: Renee Lucas and her husband, Travis, own and manage LCS heating and cooling in Indianapolis. I had the great pleasure of visiting Renee and Travis at their office a few months ago. I thought I was just there for a visit, but Renee immediately put me to work and had me do a video with her on her HVAC talk video series, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. Travis and Renee are impressive people, their business is thriving. Renee is going to tell us all about her business and give us her rules for business. So welcome Renee Lucas.
Renee Lucas: Hey, it’s great to see you.
David Heimer: Hey, so great to see you. Thanks for being here with us.
Renee Lucas: Absolutely. It’s a pleasure. I’m honored to be invited and to talk a little bit about – I know I learned so much from other contractors, so, I hope to be able to return the favor and give some good tips.
David Heimer: I know you will. Start us off at the beginning. How did you get into this great industry?
Renee Lucas: Well, we started our business back in 2005. It was actually Travis’s career. My degree is in music, music therapy actually, so I was on my way to doing my music therapy stuff, and Travis had been working as an installer, moved into service, and he said to me one day, he was like, man, I think it’d be cool if we had our own company. Two years later, he was a little frustrated where he was working at and he came home and he said, I just quit my job. Okay, so I guess we’re going to do this. And quite honestly, that’s how we got started. He had a connection [1:34 Inaudible] investor downtown, Indianapolis that was flipping homes and things like that. So that’s how our business started out, it was doing the HVAC work for that.
And I’ll tell you, the first 10 years of our business, we were fortunate enough not to have any debt. We were very slow to grow. We would only buy new vehicles and tools if we had the cash to do so and things like that. But we got to a point about 10 years in where we were a little over a million dollars, we had 12 employees and we hated our life. We hated our life, we hated our business, we hated our staff, we hated everybody. You know, we got to a point where we had decided, like, we either need to make a change or we’re done with this. You know, we literally had no life. One of the things that really was hard for me is I had a lot of people – Travis was aging quickly before everybody’s eyes because he was working so many hours a week, we really had not much to show for it, and it was just this rat race that we felt like we couldn’t get out of.
And people kept saying to me that Travis was going to die early, or he was going to have a heart attack or something. And that’s, you know – I got to my point where I was like, this is not worth it. Neither one of us had a business background. I had taken a couple of classes at a local college for basic accounting and payroll and things like that. But I mean, that was the extent of our business training. And so it was after that, that somebody had actually told me about ACA. And so in 2016, we joined ACA. A couple of the contractors there had told us about Service Roundtable and Service Nation Alliance, and shortly after, we joined Service Nation Alliance. So it was really in 2016 and 2017 that we started to turn our business around.
David Heimer: Okay. So tell us a little bit about LCS now.
Renee Lucas: I love LCS. Oh my gosh. It’s so different than what it was before. There’s 20 of us. We’ve just filled, this week, three positions, which we are so excited about and to move forward, but we just have an amazing team. Travis and I are in a completely different place mentally, our quality of life is completely different, and I will say that the group of people that we have, one of our goals is that they have the quality of life that they want. And I can say with confidence that they do, or they are on track for that. And so, you know, it really makes us happy. We look forward to each day. What we didn’t realize in those first 10 years is that we were operating on an average 2% net profit. And we didn’t know.
We never really had cash flow issues. And so we thought that we were doing really well. And you know, you see that big number, like, oh, our revenue, we just hit a million dollars. And you know, you think about that, but you don’t realize that at the end of the day, there’s nothing left. And so, when we joined Service Nation and really started understanding our numbers and what everything meant, I literally was like, oh my gosh, we went 10 years. Could you imagine if we would have joined an organization like this five years ago, eight years ago? But we really tried hard not to look back and kick ourselves for that and just was constantly looking forward.
David Heimer: So what is your role in the company? You guys are owners, but you sort of split up responsibilities, I think?
Renee Lucas: Yeah, we really do. So to back up for just a minute, back in 2016, we cut our company in half. So we went from 12 down to 6, and that included Travis and I, and we really started over and we rebuilt. He and I made a list. We started out by making a list of this is what I enjoy doing, this is what I don’t enjoy doing, this is what I’m good at, this is what I’m not good at. And, you know, really looked at what would make us happy. And so that’s how we started hiring and looking for different people. And we started looking at the type of work that we were doing. I mentioned that we were doing a lot of rehab work and new construction work, and we realized as we started learning about numbers, that was not making us any money.
So we really had to look at what can we do to get the type of work that we want, which is residential, service and change out and maintenance. At this time, we probably had, I don’t know, 200 maintenance plans or something like that. So we really made some new focuses in our business. My role right now is training. So I do a lot of plans for our training. I’m not always the one to implement it, but that is very, very important to me. All different types of trainings. So technical, communication, customer service skills, some of its one-on-one, some of its classes, some of its in-house, some of it’s – you know, a lot of our people have been out of state to different trainings and things. And so that’s a big piece of what I do.
I also work with Lemon Seed Marketing, they’re our marketing firm. And so I work with them on a weekly basis to really invest in our marketing, and that is something new for us as of maybe two years ago. We just got to a point in our business where we figured out that if we wanted to grow and really take the next step, that we needed to invest in some marketing and advertising. So that’s been a big part of what I do right now as well. Something that was really hard for me, I’ve always done the bookkeeping and all of that stuff and Gretchen in our office, she is the one – if you’re looking at the picture to the right in the gray sweater, long sleeves, she has taken over that. She’s been with us almost seven years now, and I have complete trust. And that’s the reason that I’ve been able to give some of that up, and access to QuickBooks and that part of the price book of service heightened and different things like that. And Samantha, on our left, is very involved in that as well. And so just having that team around us has really been able to make me feel comfortable letting some of that stuff go, so I can focus on the stuff that’s going to benefit our whole company.
David Heimer: Alright, very interesting. So when you guys decided to refocus and change your company, you said you cut the company basically in half. So was it just sort of looking at the people and saying, this is just not going to work out, this is not what we want to do and you guys can’t be part of our future? Was that sort of what it was?
Renee Lucas: That was part of it. We had a group of people who – we had a lot of call-ins. No calls, no shows. We had a lot of just bad attitudes and drama, so those people we just fired. We had one guy, he was a super nice guy, but to be honest, he wasn’t mechanically inclined. HVAC just wasn’t for him. So we gave him 60 days to go find a new career path and he did. And to this day, he’s doing great. He’s working for one of the utility companies actually. So, he’s doing fantastic. There were a couple of people that we met with that we thought might have some potential to grow with us, but when we laid out new expectations, they quit. We had three installers that quit there too. And so that’s where – we were prepared though, because we had our list and kind of had an idea of who was going to stay and who wasn’t. We went down to six and it was shortly after, we were down to about three of the original group. And now Gretchen is the only one from that original group.
David Heimer: Wow. You know, a lot of times people don’t have the courage to make those changes, but you guys did well.
Renee Lucas: Thank you. I think we were sent to the rock bottom place, and we didn’t realize that until we made the decision to make a change that Travis and I were one hundred percent on board, no matter what this takes. We felt like we were invested 10 years. It’s easy for us to say, we’re either going to make a change or we’re going to be done. We were to that point, but we didn’t want to be done. And so, you know, we were like, we’ve got to figure this out and make this what we want it to be.
David Heimer: As I mentioned in the intro, you put me to work when I came to visit you and Travis. We did one of your HVAC talk videos, which I think is really unique and very interesting. What is your intent with these videos?
Renee Lucas: Content. Content for homeowners. So we really brand ourselves as a local company, and the way we do that is to be very real. Like what you see is what you get, you know? To make people feel a little more comfortable about who’s coming to their home and who they’re talking to on the phone. The videos are really – it’s me and somebody else. Almost everybody in our company has done a video with me. And we joke around, because sometimes I get volunteers and sometimes I volun-told people.
Yes. But everybody has great attitudes. But we take a lot of questions that we get, sometimes we’ll do like realistic expectations of your heat pump or AC during hot weather, we’ll do pricing questions. So a lot of times, you know, we get that like, well, how do I get out of that service call? Why do I have to pay a service call? And so any question that we have that we feel like can benefit somebody – when the pandemic hit and air cleaners were just, oh my gosh, they were all over TV. I remember seeing a commercial and it was for this little LG air cleaner, and they said, oh, you can take this to the airport and they made it sound like it was going to encapsulate you in the clean bubble or something. And so we did a let’s be real video on [9:44 Inaudible] air cleaners and expectations for portable air cleaners, different things. So that’s our goal with them. I have to comment on our – isn’t our wall amazing? One of our clients painted that wall for us.
David Heimer: Yeah, it is amazing. It was beautiful.
Renee Lucas: Yeah, thank you. But you did a great job, David. Thank you for participating with me.
David Heimer: Well, I don’t know if I did a great job or not. It’s easy with you, you are a natural at these kinds of things. But it’s really a unique idea and I commend you for doing it. So I’m going to be real interested to hear what kind of feedback you get, and how you think these ultimately worked out for you. I think it’s great.
Renee Lucas: Thank you. We’ve been doing them for a couple of years now and it will get people. The technician comes to their house and they’ll say, oh, I saw you on one of your videos. Because, you know, we have them on our YouTube channel and then they’re on Facebook, they’re on our website. And so we’ve had people that said, oh, I saw you. And they feel like they already know us then, which [10:35 Inaudible] too. You know, we’re coming into your private space. And so it’s a way to help make people more comfortable.
David Heimer: That’s a great – you know, I’d never thought about it that way. But you’re right, it is kind of an invasion of private space. I mean, you’re invited in, but still, it’s not somebody you know. And the video – you know, that’s a great point. That visit to you guys was really interesting for me. When I was talking with Travis, he told me this great story. He said that he was telling about the experience of going to a success day. And one of the people on our team said to him, you need to get to double digit profitability, and we know how to get you there and we can do that. And Travis nodded politely and thought inside, what the heck? How is that going to happen? I’m already working as hard as I possibly can. I can’t work any harder. And then he said, Renee said to me, we need to join. And I said to her, how is that going to happen? How are we going to pay for that? And you said, I don’t know, but we’ve got to do it.
Renee Lucas: Figure it out. We’ll figure it out. That’s exactly – and that’s a difference now of our mindset then and our mindset now. It is, for both of us, we can’t work any harder or any longer hours than what we already are. And so you’re telling us you’re going to take us – and we didn’t even know what our net profit was, but you’re going to take us from this to this? I’m going to call you out on that, right? But this was that starting point where, when I was listening to people talk – and Chris Hunter was at the success day. I didn’t know who Chris Hunter was. He came up to us and he was talking to us about how being a member and being involved in the different contractor groups and having so many resources has changed his business and changed his life, and it just struck a chord with me.
And so, to me, when we left there, it wasn’t an option. Like we are joining this. And fortunately, Travis trusts my opinion and we joined. He was on board. He was like, I don’t see how they think they’re going to, you know, whatever, like, we’ll wait and see sort of thing. But he did have a good attitude. And I will say, we joined in February and we hadn’t gotten to a boot-camp yet because, I mean, we were just in that place where you’re in the rat race, you know? You feel like you can’t get away. In July, I went to boot-camp by myself. You know, it’s one of those things. It’s the first time I had traveled to anything by myself, I didn’t know anybody, this group was completely new to us, I’d only been in an AB group for a few months. And it’s the middle of July, which is the hottest, busiest time for everybody, and I was like, I just don’t feel like we can wait any longer. We have to go. And at least one of us has to go. And so it’s just, you make those things happen to make the changes that you want to see
David Heimer: So you joined Service Nation Alliance, what has that done for you?
Renee Lucas: Oh my gosh. First of all, John and Vicky will always have a piece of my heart. They have taught us so much. But we have been to many of the trainings, we’ve been to service world expo, which is fantastic. We have sent our service manager – which we didn’t even have that position when we joined Service Nation Alliance. We’ve sent somebody from our office down to different trainings and stuff. And so that piece of it alone is amazing. The AB groups – I’m in my current AB group and then I was in one prior to that. The consistency, the accountability, having people right there with your struggles and your celebrations and everything, you know, you feel like you’re just alone and you’re on this lone island that nobody can understand. And really, the people that are around you – you know, you have people that support you.
My parents support us, right? But they don’t truly understand what we’re going through. And so to have people that you realize, like, they get it. It’s so motivating. It’s so motivating to keep going, to just be a part of an organization like this. Learning our numbers, my goodness. When we realized what net we were operating at, you know, part of it was like, well, no wonder we feel – I mean, we felt like we have nothing to show for it, but when we truly understood, like, here’s profit. Profit is not a bad thing, right? I think so many times profit is made out to be a bad thing. It’s not. It’s not a bad thing to be money motivated and to have goals and to see that success. And you know, we talk with our team all the time. Here’s our profit on a job, we can use it to pay for callbacks and to pay for fueling repairs when a foot goes through a ceiling and to pay for it, for this, that and the other. Or we can use it to pay for raises and new benefits and new vehicles and awesome looking wraps and company outings and different things like that. So to really teach your team that here’s what we want to use this for. Here’s how we’re investing in you. It really builds morale, it motivates everybody, it’s just amazing.
David Heimer: I mean, without profit, you just can’t do anything. For some people, profit is a dirty word, but I want my vendor partners, I want the people that work with me to be profitable. Because then they can provide the level of service that I need, right?
Renee Lucas: Absolutely. And you know, everybody sets – ourselves included – you set a revenue goal for the year. What I really care about – I don’t care if I’m a $5 million company if I’m sitting at a 5% net. I don’t want that. And so, for the last few years, we’ve been above a 15% net. We’ve got our minimums now. What do we have to do? And what do we have to learn? And what new processes do we need to put in place? And what trainings do we need to do? And you know, a lot of it is the trainings that – Travis and I really started investing in ourselves, which we never did. And some leadership training and some management training and things like that. And then teaching others that training to lead the team and everything. And it’s fun. It’s fun to do it. We had a leadership meeting this morning that we do, and I just – it’s 7:00 AM. And so when my alarm goes off, I’m like, oh my gosh. But I get there, and I’m with my group of people and it just sets the day off right.
David Heimer: Yeah. Speaking of investing in yourself, somebody on your AB group – I cannot remember who it was – said, I need to run my business like Renee and Travis so I can take vacations like Renee and Travis. He said, they really do vacations right.
Renee Lucas: Thank you. Yes. So that was one of our goals. So I’m a big goal setter. Big, big goal setter. So when we looked at why we were feeling so miserable, part of it was because we never got away. And so I set a business goal – not a personal goal, a business goal – to take a one-week vacation that year. And we did. And then it went to a one week vacation twice a year. You know, our travel is very, very important to us. We want to empower everybody on our team to feel like they can keep the company running, right? While we’re gone. It’s not one of those where we’re like, man, hope it doesn’t burn down by the time we get back. Like we feel very confident when we go and travel. And you know, some of the travels that we do, our personal vacations – we’re getting ready to do a bucket list vacation.
And it’s three weeks, we’re going to be gone for three weeks at the end of September through mid-October. But we have our bucket list goals, and we have all of our team members set personal and professional goals as well. And so I want to see them meet their goals. And so whether that’s to buy a house for the first time or get a new car or take a vacation or have some sort of destination or something for one of their kids, it excites us just as much to see them meet those goals, because we have been able to meet some and we know how it feels. It’s amazing.
David Heimer: Good for you. That’s great. Congratulations on that.
Renee Lucas: Thank you.
David Heimer: We asked you to put together Renee’s rules, a few rules for business. So, talk us through these.
Renee Lucas: Yeah. So I mentioned, I am a big goal setter and I used to have – I always only had goals like in my mind sort of thing, but clearly that didn’t work well as the first 10 years of our business. So, you know, I really got to where I set very clear professional and personal goals, short-term and long-term. We met our first long-term goal in 2018. And I remember, like, Travis and I were smiling for what felt like six months. Every time we would think about it or talk about it, it was just such an amazing feeling. And so the goals are written down on a dry erase board in my office, so I see them every day, and am I doing something to work towards at least one of my goals every single day? And so it may be – some days it’s 10 minutes, some days it might be a whole afternoon, but, you know, what those goals are, being very, very specific on what they are. Keeping them in front of you. And then celebrating them. When you do meet a goal, celebrate them. You know, make them realistic, but make them a little challenging.
Something I did once – I felt like it was our long-term goal that we met in 2018. And I felt like we were never going to get there. And what I did was, I took this huge sheet of paper and I stretched it out across my office and I wrote in from 2016, everything that we had accomplished. And so we were in the beginning of 2018. And just seeing all those little ticks of everything that we had accomplished in those two years, oh my gosh. And then it’s like, I’ve immediately forgotten the what was me, this is taking forever, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You get out of that tunnel and you get right back on track. So that’s my number one, it is set clear goals. Yeah, invest in ourselves and our teams. So when Travis and I made the change in 2016, one thing that we did was that we evaluated each other, and as husband and wife too. That’s one of those where we set clear parameters. We’re going to be married after this still.
David Heimer: Wow, that’s just scary.
Renee Lucas: It kind of is. Like I said, you have to be very mentally prepared for this. But some of the things – you know, Travis would fly off the handle at the dumbest things, literally, every single day. My temper was very short, but I also had this mentality of why is this common sense to me and it’s not to you? Like, we’ve talked about this once, why are we talking about this again? And I didn’t realize it at that time because I’m an action person and things like that would just annoy me. I went to therapy for two years to work on this. I got a therapist and I really worked hard on this. And Travis is, night and day, a different person now than what he was. He is also a tornado. So he comes in and he’s like [20:10 Inaudible] everywhere and then he leaves. And you know, it’s still like that today, but not to the extent that it was. Because people would just feel like he was unapproachable because he was always so busy that he didn’t have time for anybody or anything like that.
So we really invested in ourselves. And then, like I said, we continue to – through leadership training, management training, we visit other HVAC companies across the country on a regular basis to continue to learn and grow ourselves. I’m also a big podcast listener. So I listen to a lot of leadership podcasts. I really like the EntreLeadership series with Dave Ramsey and things like that, and so we learn a lot and then really teach others. We do a lot of role-playing in our business. So we have an apprentice who’s moving quickly towards a new lead installer position, and one of his biggest struggles is not technical, its communication, and it’s talking to homeowners. He’s a really quiet guy. He tends to mumble a little bit because he’s just very quiet and it’s not his comfort zone to talk like I do.
And so I met with him at 7:00 AM and we role-play. Like, he would knock on the door, I would open the door as the homeowner, and I videoed it. And we did it over and over and over again. And we talked about practicing it. And the changes that he made from the first time we talked about this to the second time we did it, I literally turned off the video and my mouth dropped open and he goes, I’ve been practicing. And so it’s really cool to see that. During the pandemic last year when we weren’t meeting in our big group team meetings, we set up one-to-one training meetings with every single one of our team members. Was it hard on Travis and I? Yes it was. Because I felt like we were constantly on a zoom meeting.
But there were 30 to 45 minute trainings, and we did everybody one to two times a week, or – I don’t know – about six weeks, eight weeks that it went. We have had, by far, our best year ever, and we completely contribute that to the training that we really dedicated to this past year. So communication, customer service training, technical training, of course, but leadership and management with our leadership team, it has just made the biggest difference in our company.
David Heimer: What great story.
Renee Lucas: Yes. So, okay. One of the biggest shifts that we made is that it’s not my job or Travis’s job to take care of our clients. It’s our employee’s job to do that. But in order for us to trust that they are doing that and want to do that, we have to take care of them. And so we really look at it – our goal, like my client is all of our team members. Their clients are the homeowners, right?
And so with that shift in mind, we do consistent team meetings – now, this is another thing. Travis was like, we don’t have time. We don’t have time for this. I’ve never worked at a company before that ever did regular team meetings, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we’ve tweaked it along the way. So we’ve got our system that works really well for us. We have a service department meeting Tuesday mornings, an install meeting Thursday mornings, and then once a month – first Thursday of the month – we have a full company team meeting. And so that works very, very well for us. We rarely, rarely, rarely miss a team meeting. Even if Travis and I are out of town, we’ll either zoom in or somebody else will lead it. And so that’s something that we are very, very good about. I will say this. Something else that I would highly recommend doing, but you have to, again, be mentally prepared for a little punch in your ego.
We did an anonymous survey with our team on just a variety of different things. But one thing that came back is everybody dreaded our team meetings. And it was mainly because I led them. Okay. And so I was like, what? But it was because they felt very negative. And so I really had to take a look at myself. I’m somebody who – I’m constantly like, how can we improve? How can we improve? How can we improve? I wasn’t doing enough of recognition, the pats on the back, any of that stuff. And so we’ve implemented several things that gives everybody an opportunity to participate, share ideas, and then at the end of our full company team meeting, we do nominations. Anybody can nominate anybody for some way that they felt like they went above and beyond that past month. All the names go in a bucket and then we draw and they get to spin this prize wheel.
And so it’s a lot of fun. But I would never have known that anybody felt that way, had we not done that survey. And so I definitely, definitely recommend that. We do one-on-one meetings throughout the year, Travis and I do it with everybody. We have them set personal and professional goals as well. And over the years, we have a lot of resources. I’ve always done a lot of networking. So, one of our employees was meeting with a financial advisor last Friday and so he had asked, hey, can I take an eight o’clock in the morning? I’m so happy because that’s going to help him meet one of his goals. And so whatever we can do to really encourage them to meet that is amazing. We have somebody else in our office who never took vacations before, and for the second year in a row, she’s taking a vacation and actually going somewhere.
So it’s just amazing to get people to really grow. The other thing we do in training that I will say too, is we talk a lot about – especially in the summer when it’s a little crazy, a little busy – how do you look? If you were to open the door at five o’clock, six o’clock, whenever you get home, if you were to open the door and you saw yourself, what would you see? And so we talked about how that’s what your kids see, that’s what your spouse sees as soon as you walk in that door. What do you want them to see? How should it be different than what you do? So we do a lot of conversation about that too. If we have a stressful day, we don’t take it home. The spouses have to be on board in this business.
And so that’s something that we really look at and work on too. But that has been a big shift for us and it’s something that we both enjoy a lot.
David Heimer: Very cool. So know your numbers?
Renee Lucas: Know your numbers. Okay, so I had mentioned that we were doing a lot of rehab and new construction work. When we really looked at our numbers, we realized that we were not making any money, which is how we ended up with a 2% net profit. So we had to really look at, okay, if we’re going to get rid of that work, which we did – and we did it over the course of a year or so and we really sat down because we didn’t want to burn any bridges or ruin any relationships. So we just were blatantly like, we’re going to show you what we’re making on your jobs.
Well, most people declined to sit down with us and look at that and just understood that you need to find somebody else to do this work. But we really made a big focus on our maintenance plan. So we currently have over 2000 maintenance plans. Our goal by the end of the year is 2500. I felt like we were stuck at 800 for three or four years. And we did a lot of training on it, it’s in front of everybody all the time, we’ve got a good incentive program for everybody and so our maintenance plans have just soared. For the first time ever, our installers were a little grumbly this spring because we never slowed down. And so I was like, we can’t win. We can’t win. It’s a good problem to have, I will say that.
But it is. It’s knowing the type of work that you want to do, that your team wants to do, and it’s going to make them happy. Our team didn’t want to be in nasty crawl spaces and gross basements and everything every day. Nobody wants to do that. And it wasn’t making us any money anyway. And then just knowing and understanding too, like I went through our overhead, our expenses and I went through line item by line item and really looked at what do I need to negotiate? Do we really need that? Can this be replaced with something else? And we dropped our overhead by about 8% when I did that. And so I do that every couple of years just to make sure we’re still on track or if we need to reallocate some money or anything like that. Vicky and John have really taught us the value of breakeven.
And there’s some coaching that we did with them and spreadsheets that we use on a regular basis. But the other thing that’s changed with our numbers is this year for the first time ever, our service department and maintenance department has individual revenue goals. Our install department can be bonused each day, per job. And so we share some of our numbers at every single team meeting. On departments, we do some recognition and things like that, and since everybody’s been aware of what their goals are and what their numbers are, oh my goodness. It’s made a huge difference as far as motivation and things go. I joke around. One of our senior service heads, Remi Halos, last year he sold zero. And like in the past two weeks, he has sold and installed like three. And so it’s just amazing what a goal can do if somebody has some motivation to take the time to talk and educate people.
David Heimer: We are hiring, join our team.
Renee Lucas: Yes. Always be hiring. We’ve just kind of gotten to the point where if that superstar comes along, even if we think we don’t have a position, we are going to figure it out. Because those superstars, those unicorns, are so rare. We learned this summer, we got into a bind this summer where we had – just because of life events – two lead installers that we lost over the summer, which was really tough. And so in our mind, we have apprentices, we train them up into lead so we’ll never have to hire a lead, we’re always just hiring apprentices as it is much easier, right? That was not possible this summer. And so we’ve really changed our approach on – we are just always going to be hiring, always going to be looking. You know, I’m not necessarily always going to have a boosted ad on Indeed or every position in the company, but if we have somebody that inquires, if we have somebody that our that recommends –
I’ll give you an example. A couple of weeks ago, we were not hiring for any apprentices. We had a guy who walked up to Travis at a Speedway gas station and he said – he’s a young guy – hey, I see you have a heating and air conditioning shirt on. And he was like, yeah. And so they started chitchatting. He was like, I’m thinking about going to school in the fall. So Travis asked him what his plans were. They start talking and Travis was like, you know what? I like your initiative. You want to come in and do a working interview? And we hired him. And he’s about 60 days in with us. And, you know, he’s got the initiative to learn. And so it’s just those things that we’ve just decided we’re not going to pass up on those opportunities anymore, if we feel like there’s one that’s come our way.
David Heimer: Yeah, good for you. That’s a smart strategy. Well, Renee, thank you so much for doing this with us. Kylie, do we have any questions for Renee?
Kylie: Yeah we do. We have a couple. Let’s see. The first one is, how long did it take for your company to improve after changing how you did business?
Renee Lucas: We saw instant improvements, to be honest with you. So the biggest improvements that we saw were in net profit, after we started going. So 2016 is when we joined ACA, 2017 is when we joined Service Nation Alliance. We grew by 40% from 2018 to 2019. So we had some significant, significant growth, which I felt like we were prepared for. I will say this. You know, getting to that million dollar revenue, that’s a slap too, I mean, that’s really hard. And there’s things that we were like, okay, we’re going to have to run a million dollar company differently than how we manage a $300,000 company, right? And so I felt like, too, we were better prepared for that growth. We didn’t feel like it kind of punched us in the face like we did before. But, the one thing I’ll say is, you can go to any training and every conference and everything, but if you don’t take the time to implement, you won’t see that change. We implement.
And so what that means for us – not so much now, because we have more time built in during our day – but what it meant for us at the beginning was, Travis was up between 4:30 and 5:00 AM every morning. So he would have a solid two hours to work on the things that we were working on before he was at the shop to meet our installers. I’m more of a late night person, and so I would work a lot into our evenings on these things. And so just having that dedication to implement what you learned, if you do that, the growth happens quickly.
Kylie: What profit percentage do you shoot for?
Renee Lucas: So, 20% is what I shoot for. Our minimum is 15%. And so I’m really not finding it – and I’ll tell you, this spring – we moved into a new shop last July – and so this spring, we were doing some work in our shop. So we were spending some money, you know, [31:10 Inaudible] and all of that good stuff, and our net profit dropped down to 13%. And I was like, well, we’re below our minimum so we’ve really got to watch this. And it’s okay because I knew where it was, that’s the most important thing. If you are below what your goals are, know why. And so I knew why it was. And so it’s okay. But I mean, for me, I’m shooting for a minimum of 15%.
Kylie: And the last question is, besides the videos, how else do you recommend branding your company?
Renee Lucas: So something that has been really successful for us – so I’m a big social media person. I really like social media, Facebook, Instagram, things like that. So that’s a great way to brand. We are not ALD on those at all. Like it’s the fun stuff, right? I will say too though, there is a local TV station here in Indianapolis that we partnered with. We did some commercials, we did some digital ads, we’ve done some community sponsorships. This year, one of our favorite community sponsorships was with a local food bank. And so our team totally got into it because it was a pasta push. They were collecting pasta. And so that was a great branding thing for us this year. And then also, this particular news station did what they call their top eight, it’s channel eight here, so it was their top eight. So it was a series of eight videos that we recorded. And then they would do like a Facebook campaign with those videos, and then each quarter they would take one of them and they would air on the news.
And so that really complimented what we were doing with the HVAC talk videos on our own. And then we own all of those videos. And so I have two years – so they gave me a bonus the first year. So I have 17 videos that I own that I can still use, that we have used in a lot of our advertisements. And a lot of those is all content. So it’s content towards homeowners and it’s a lot of branding in that way. So if you have something – and I mean, we’re in Indianapolis, so I feel like sometimes when you are in a smaller town or a smaller city, you feel like you might be able to brand a little bit better, but we’ve totally been able to do that, I feel like, here in Indianapolis with our local TV station.
David Heimer: One last question for me. Looking out into the future, say five years out, what do you want for your company and for you and Travis?
Renee Lucas: It’s so funny, we’ve just laid out new five-year goals in July. We just laid them out. And so we have our revenue goals. What I would really like is to develop – our leadership team right now is very new. And I’d really like to have a very strong leadership team and management team in place who really own their department or whatever section they’re doing. I want to be able to make them feel empowered. I want this to be a career for everybody, not just a job. Travis and I have talked about potentially a second location. It’s not something that we have done anything with at the moment, but, you know, it’s come around enough to where we verbalized it. And so I would say if that were to happen, we’d be looking at probably the next five years with that as well.
David Heimer: Okay. Cool. Well, Renee Lucas, thank you so much for doing this. This was fabulous. I love hearing about what you guys are doing. You’ve got some unique stuff going and you’re taking such good care of your employees and yourselves as well. So hats off to you guys, congratulations on all this.
Renee Lucas: Thank you. And Service Nation. I mean, we honestly would not be where we are today if it weren’t for the people that surround us in this organization.
David Heimer: Thank you. Alright, talk to you later.
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