Featuring Shannon Bartlett
Intro: Welcome to Profiles In Prosperity, the leading podcast for residential service contractors, sponsored by Service Roundtable and hosted by David Heimer.
David Heimer: Hi, this is David Heimer, welcome to Profiles In Prosperity. Well, I’m really excited. Today, We get to talk with Shannon Bartlett, of Bartlett Heating and Cooling. Shannon was recently named The Service World Woman of the Year, so this is going to be fantastic. A little bit about Shannon, she is the owner and general manager of Bartlett Heating and Cooling. That’s a family-owned business, located in Marietta, Georgia. The company has been owned and operated by the Bartlett family since the early 1970s, it started out with a focus on new construction. But in 2000 under Shannon’s guidance, they changed the focus to residential replacement and emphasized being the hometown company with a hometown feel.
Since 2010, Shannon has functioned as the General Manager and Vice President, where she was able to facilitate a 100% company growth in revenue, and more importantly, outstanding growth in profits. Shannon has worked in the company since she was in middle school and she purchased the company from her family in 2018. And I thought this part was really nice of her award, Shannon says there are so many brilliant women who contribute so much to service trades. I am in awe of the ladies I meet in this industry, and what I’ve learned from them is invaluable. So to be recognized as the Service World Woman of the Year is a validation of all the heart and soul I have poured into Bartlett Heating and Cooling and of how far the industry has come in part, due to strong women. So that is really awesome. Speaks to the kind of person Shannon is. And Shannon, welcome to Profiles In Prosperity. I always like to start out these interviews by finding out a little bit about the company and you, and I’m particularly interested, how did you get into the industry?
Shannon Bartlett: So I started, like you said earlier, it was the summer of my fifth-grade year. My aunt was working here, she raised me and so I don’t know if she was too cheap to send me to camp during the summer, or too cheap to hire an extra office person. So she started bringing me in to work with her every day. So every day I would sit at a little table and take all the receipts from where we had purchased materials from supply houses, and I would match them. The prices to the catalogs provided by the vendors and that’s really old school. It’s not how you do it anymore.
But I would match prices, make sure we were charged correctly, and it was just a very tedious and never-ending job. We were doing new construction back then, so there were a lot of parts coming through our office. So that was one of my main jobs, and then my other job would be to transcribe invoices. So the service technicians would turn in their invoices, I would transcribe them onto, like an 11 x 7 card where we could have a quick summary of the customer’s service history if they were to call in. So, I became an expert at writing, teeny tiny, but legibly, and learned a lot of information from all of those invoices. But that was my job for many years, every summer.
David Heimer: That’s a great way to start out though. I mean, maybe at the time you didn’t think so. Did you like it when you were doing that work?
Shannon Bartlett: No, I didn’t. It was not that much fun. It was tedious, all my friends were out doing fun summer things. But it wasn’t an interesting way to start. It built a really great foundation in terms of, I knew the lingo. I had a general idea of the parts because there were pictures in the catalog. So I could sort of associate the parts and make a picture of it in my head. So I did become familiar with the lingo, and what we did on a day-to-day basis, and what technicians did in customers’ homes. Of course, I could never do the work myself mechanically, but I had a pretty good idea. And I have found that to be like I said, a great foundation for moving forward with the company.
David Heimer: You just continue to grow in the business, continue to work? And at some point, did it become interesting to you?
Shannon Bartlett: So this job that I did, continued on through middle school and on into high school, actually. I’m sure I had some other duties in high school. But I do recall that I still was not allowed to speak on the phone to customers because my voice always sounded so young, that they felt that it would sound like a kid answering the phone, and they called me Minnie Mouse. So Minnie Mouse was not allowed to answer the phones. After I graduated high school, I was starting college locally. My goal was to not really work here anymore, I wanted to move into Social Services, do something with the welfare department. And right as I was starting my first semester at college, the only other office person at that time who worked here was, this was in the 90s, things that slowed down, new construction was all but dead.
Our service business was struggling a little bit. It was a really hard time. Our only office person left a note on the door, saying she wouldn’t be coming back. And so they asked me to help pick up the slack. So at this point, I knew a lot about invoices and kind of what we did, but I had to jump right in. And all of a sudden, I was the scheduler, I was the dispatcher, I was the bookkeeper, which I knew nothing about. I just knew that there was this giant folder full of unpaid bills. And I had to figure out how to make this work, and again, it was a really hard time. So it was a daunting experience. Again, the thing to be learned from it though for me, was that I learned that every penny counts, every customer counts, every service call has an impact, whether or not it’s today when times are good, or, you know, maybe later when times aren’t so good, what you do today really makes a difference.
David Heimer: Wow, talk about a baptism by fire.
Shannon Bartlett: Yes, it sure was. So I just continued in that capacity throughout college. It did make college pretty interesting because, after about a year, I decided to change my degree to business management. So, you know, usually, when you’re in college, you’re working on a degree that you’re not quite sure what you’re going to do with it, or maybe you have aspirations to do something, but you’re not doing it yet. Well, I was able to kind of put my college experience to work every day.
David Heimer: Did it change for you? I mean, you’re working in the business, you suddenly got this huge responsibility thrown on you, stuff that you didn’t know about, that you’ve got to work through, and then you change your major to business. So did you change your major to business because at that point you found it interesting and thought that there was real applicability to this and you said, this is what I want to be doing? I want to be in business. I want to run this company. Was that what you were thinking at that point in time?
Shannon Bartlett: Sort of, I found that I enjoyed it. I felt like I could really make a difference. I kind of felt important to the business and it moving forward. So, that really helps a lot when you can see your place and see that you can do something good. That’s what I felt and that did help me get through school. I didn’t know at that point that I’d be owning it. But I did know it was in the family. So I really felt like I was responsible for the well-being of my family and the continuing of the company. It was a lot of responsibility. But I felt like I could do it if I had the proper knowledge to do it.
David Heimer: Yeah, that’s great! What a great story, very unique. So tell me a little bit about Bartlett now.
Shannon Bartlett: So Bartlett now, totally different from the company that we used to be. We don’t do any new construction at all. We just do residential, pretty much single-family homes. We are in Metro, Atlanta, but we don’t get down in town a whole lot. We’ve actually, over the years really consolidated our service area. We are located in a County called Cod County, which borders Atlanta city proper. And that’s where we’re doing all of our business. We still have some customers in surrounding counties, but over the years, they’ve definitely dwindled and we’ve kind of let them go, so that we can really focus on having a smaller service area. And that’s really helped to grow our business.
We have 20 employees right now, and we’ve managed to still keep that hometown feel.A very family-oriented company, within the four walls of our company, as well as what we project to our customers. And that’s kind of where we plan to stay too. We think that that’s our niche here. There’s a lot of companies everywhere, but especially in Atlanta, huge companies. And sometimes you lose a little bit of that personal touch when you become so big. And we’re trying to make sure that of all the things that we evolve into, we don’t lose that personal touch. So that the customer doesn’t really know that they’re doing business with a company that only has a few employees versus a ton of employees, they feel that personal connection. And that’s what we’re trying to do now.
David Heimer: You’ve done a lot over the years to improve your business. We talked about more than a hundred percent growth. When you think about the things that you’ve done to make a difference in your business, what are the top one or two things that you think about?
Shannon Bartlett: Well, I have to give a big shout out to Service Nation Alliance, which has really helped us dramatically, to be able to know your numbers, know what numbers are important. And then, for me most importantly, is the AB groups that have your peers and colleagues, and be able to talk through business problems and strategies. You’re really able to pin ideas off of other people and grow your company that way. So again, a huge shout out to Service Nation Alliance. I wish that we had joined a long time ago. It’s just a wonderful thing to help you grow your company.
David Heimer: Thank you for saying that. But I didn’t prompt you to say that for this interview, right?
Shannon Bartlett: No, not at all. That is God’s honest truth. That’s how I feel. It really does help to have people within your industry. It’s like having friends, and it helps immensely. To continue to grow, we really focused on our service department, especially in our maintenance department. You know, we don’t wait on those demand calls. We really focus on the maintenance, to say, push our products, but to get customers to invest in indoor air quality products and things of that nature. The accessory items, as well as to start prompting them for when it’s time for a replacement.
So we really spend a lot of attention and focus on the maintenance, and doing what maintenance should do. Not only to maintain it, but also to enhance the customer’s indoor air. Again, to let them know what products are out there, what we can do to make their home healthier and more comfortable. And, my husband, I have to give him a lot of credit. He does a really great job with our guys and keeping them motivated each year to keep driving, and pushing forward, and offering those new products, and not getting into the habit of just going out, and, I think our guys call it a wipe and clean, where you just kind of going over the air conditioner or the furnace, and not really giving it the focus that you need to.
He drives them with challenges, with incentives, and keeps it exciting and fun. He’s just done a phenomenal job of that, and I think that the guys working here really appreciate that. It’s something to look forward to, and you know, and it’s a real camaraderie around here. And that helps, it helps your business grow when everyone’s having a good time, and they like each other. There’s a real team spirit around here. And again, that’ll do wonders for your growth when you have that.
David Heimer: I want to dig into this. Your husband is in the business with you also. Was he in the business when you met him? How did that happen?
Shannon Bartlett: We have known each other for a long time. He also worked here, during summers growing up. He worked in the shop and he would also ride along, that’s when we were big into new construction, he would ride shotgun and help deliver, load and unload our trucks. But we did spend one summer, he tore his knee up. So he was one of my partners through one summer when I had to go through all those purchase orders and find the prices. But we’ve both always worked here. He’s taken a few hiatuses, he was a Police Officer for a little while, he was in the Military for a little while. But we definitely work well together and he actually holds a warm air license for the company. So we’re a good team in that respect.
David Heimer: Wow! That’s Such a cute story. That’s great! So you guys have known each other since you were in high school, grade school, middle school?
Shannon Bartlett: Elementary school, our parents go way back.
David Heimer: Wow! That’s fabulous. So I wanted to ask you about another thing, you know, the heating and air conditioning business and plumbing for that matter too, is pretty much a male-dominated industry. You’re a very successful woman in a male-dominated industry. And I’m wondering what you think contractors could do to do a better job of marketing to women? And what could they do to attract more women to our industry?
Shannon Bartlett: Well, on attracting women to our industry, I really wish I knew the answer to that. We don’t have any women technicians or any women in the field, not the salesman or anything. So I really wish that we could get that. I think women could really make an interesting connection with customers that men can’t. Because a lot of times we’re in a woman’s home and she’s there with her family, she’s got young kids at home. And I think to have another woman to be able to come in, would take down a little bit of the, I don’t want to say intimidation factor. But it would just make a woman customer much more at ease, I feel.
So I would really love to be able to tap into that. And I, you know, I think we probably have to start more at the high school level and start talking to the girls in particular and letting them know that, hey, this is a great career. I think it’s come a long way. I don’t think it has the stigma that it used to. Like when I was in high school, a girl would never get her hands dirty, for lack of a better word. It wasn’t a cool thing to do, but now it’s almost kind of sexy to be a woman and be able to be mechanically inclined, and it’s a big thing. It has really come a long way. So I hope that we can do a better job of tapping into that. Of course, I’m thinking of girls in high school who are in the ROTC program and also women who were in the Military. For some reason, I feel like they might be a little bit more inclined to this idea of getting out and working in this field. So if I could figure out that I would be a happy girl.
David Heimer: Well, we all have something to work on. Alright, what about marketing to women?
Shannon Bartlett: I think you just got to talk to them about their home. I mean, their home is their castle, their heart is in their home. So if we can connect to them in that way, and I think it is interesting to have women, even if we’re not coming into their homes, just our office here is full of women. We really try to make that connection with women. So when they’re calling and trying to describe what’s going on with their furnace and they can speak to another woman versus a man, I think it does help to ease their mind a little bit. We really try to be their connection here. So they don’t feel dumb or anything like that. Because I know that sometimes if you call the auto mechanic, and you’re trying to explain something and you’re talking to another guy on the phone, he is very technical minded, so he just wants the nuts and bolts of it. Whereas women tend to speak with feelings too, I think marketing to women involves marketing to these feelings that they have, you know, what’s close to their heart, which again is what goes on within their home.
David Heimer: Well, Shannon, I really appreciate this time you spent with us, you’ve done so well in this industry and we’re also proud of your accomplishments and this really well-deserved award. So congratulations. Thank you for taking this time to talk with me forward to seeing you again soon at some of the industry events.
Shannon Bartlett: Sounds great. Thank you so much.
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