Successful marketing is about more than the creative output. In this inspiring episode of “Here We Grow,” Cheetah Capital Management President and Nardco Heating and Air Owner Seth Parker, shares his journey from a first-time entrepreneur to an authority on growing businesses through metrics-based marketing.
Seth tells the story of buying a HVAC business and the numerous lessons he’s learned about how tracking and measurement can unlock the full potential of your business. For example, Seth stresses the importance of not just gaining leads, but getting the most out of the leads you do have to maximize your business and wisely direct your marketing spend.
Tune in to this episode of “Here We Grow” and level up your own entrepreneurial journey with hard-won lessons from someone farther down the path.
To learn more about the podcast and Marcia Barnes’ book Here We Grow: The Marketing Formula to 10x Your Business and Transform Your Future, visit https://mathbeforemarketing.com/podcast/.
- Embrace Technology and Data: By leveraging real-time data, businesses can make more informed decisions, mitigate risks, and identify opportunities for growth.
- Understand the Value of Marketing: By learning about marketing concepts and strategies, businesses can generate valuable leads and significantly improve their overall profitability.
- Empower and Support Your Team: Every team member is key to the success of a business. Ensuring operation efficiencies and providing job security are crucial to create a positive and productive work environment.
Marcia Barnes [00:00:00]:
You. Math was never my favorite subject. I can trace it back to middle school when the baseball basketball coach was assigned to teach my 7th grade math class. We would get maybe 15 minutes of actual instruction. He spent most of the class period talking about practices, games and other sports related things because many of his players were the class. When I started 8th grade, he moved up to coaching 8th grade. This man was my math teacher every year until I was a senior in high school. I learned enough to get great grades in his classes by his standards, but that wasn’t saying much because the teaching was so light.
Marcia Barnes [00:00:41]:
When I graduated high school, fifth in my class, I was blissfully unaware of how much damage had been done. When I got to college. I was behind my peers and woefully unprepared for taking college math courses. This deficiency would follow me into the business world. As you might imagine, I avoided math in college and took only basic courses. I was on a path to become a career librarian and I didn’t think I needed much more in terms of math education. Then, of course, everything changed when I got my first sales job and I shifted my focus to building a professional life in marketing. This is where math would again enter my life and reiterate its importance.
Marcia Barnes [00:01:20]:
So much of marketing is about the creative work involved with developing communications that bring customers to a business. Because of this focus on creative, we lose sight of the fact that there are numbers attached to every marketing effort and decision. Budgets, campaigns, KPIs, ROMs, they’re all about dollars and cents. Whether you realize it or not, there is always a goal to be achieved, a cost to make it happen, and a need to figure out what kind of profit was made as a result. This may not be the way you were taught to approach marketing, but understanding the math associated with what we do is essential to making your efforts to achieve transformational growth for your business pay off. Believe me, I know how you are feeling. I went into My education about how the math of marketing delivers huge results with a little kicking and screaming and a good dose of fear. As I started to learn how to calculate costs, growth returns, and all the other metrics that provide real perspective about the effectiveness of marketing, the more I realized that mastering these concepts would enable me to serve better.
Here We Grow Narrator [00:02:29]:
Successful marketing is about much more than the creative output. In this episode of Here We Grow, we speak to Seth Parker, president of Cheetah Capital Management. In their conversation, Seth and Marcia focus on the operations and financial side of a marketing organization, including the importance of measuring return on marketing spend and how to make the most of your leads.
Marcia Barnes [00:03:00]:
Today I’m getting to visit with my great friend, Seth Parker, the owner of Nardco Heating and Air Conditioning. Welcome, Seth.
Seth Parker [00:03:06]:
Thank you, Marcia. I appreciate you having me on today.
Marcia Barnes [00:03:09]:
Oh, it’s my pleasure being with you. Spending time with you is always a blessing to me. All the things you’re doing in your business and your family. You have this new baby, so, Lincoln. Lincoln Cash.
Seth Parker [00:03:21]:
Marcia Barnes [00:03:21]:
And I think you told me those are your two favorite people.
Seth Parker [00:03:24]:
Yep. Abraham Lincoln and Cash.
Marcia Barnes [00:03:26]:
Seth Parker [00:03:27]:
And the wife agreed with it. Good.
Marcia Barnes [00:03:31]:
So, Seth, you’re running a home services business in Anderson, Indiana. Tell me about the path to get from here to there for you. What did it look like for you from your beginnings up to where you’re at today?
Seth Parker [00:03:45]:
Well, there’s a lot of up and downs. I come from a military family. My dad did 26 years in the Marine Corps. And whenever it became time for me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, he said, you’re going to go to college. And luckily, I had a professor at IU that steered me towards accounting and finance and away from the political science degree that I was pursuing at the time. And she said, if you want to pay back those student loans, you better get out of political science. And so I went to IU. I studied accounting and finance there.
Seth Parker [00:04:17]:
And then when I graduated, I came to Indianapolis and I started working for small businesses around the town, mainly in logistics and trucking. And there I cut my teeth on acquisitions, learning how to run a business, learning accounting, and learning our favorite thing, marketing and how to grow business.
Marcia Barnes [00:04:34]:
Right. That’s great. What made you decide? Because typically, from what I read in the research, if you’re in that finance accounting role, sometimes the ability to take on risk can be too much. To own a business or go buy a business or become an entrepreneur, what motivated you to go down a path to own a business?
Seth Parker [00:04:55]:
I think it was my bias towards action a lot of times, and this was my youth. I wasn’t the most patient person, and I wanted to grow this business and invest in it, and it wasn’t my business to do those things. And so I was getting impatient, so I started turning on, hey, let me learn how to run a business. Let me learn what the inputs are in order to get the outputs that we want. And that’s what led me down there, because I just probably wasn’t the best employee that wasn’t just sitting there, just passing time in order to get along. I was trying to move the business forward.
Marcia Barnes [00:05:30]:
That’s nice. When you start to look at buying a business for someone like me, we’re going to go and look at, like, three or four things and try to make a decision, but you need to probably do more than that. But tell me about your journey of searching for a business to buy, because I think it’s fascinating.
Seth Parker [00:05:47]:
Yeah. So in 2019, or about that time, my dad, whenever he retired from the Marine Corps, he got into HVAC at Williams Comfort Air, which is a big player in our market. And my goal was to always work with him and partner with him. And since I had the business background, I started looking for and acquisition background, I started looking for different acquisition opportunities. And funny enough, I looked at 63 acquisition opportunities. And like you said, I couldn’t get 63. I looked at 63 all over the Midwest, in the south, and I could never really get that comfortable with them because they either had bad reputation problems, employee turnover problems, or they weren’t profitable. And I was no turnaround expert at 29 years old, so I had to find a good business my first time.
Seth Parker [00:06:35]:
And so I was turning the wheels for two years, and I hadn’t really talked to many people outside of my dad and a few others about what I wanted to do in my plans. I kept it close to the chest because I was working for people and didn’t want everybody to know. And so after looking at 63 of them one Sunday, I’m an usher at my church, and the head usher said, seth, do you want to be a bean counter for the rest of your life? And I laughed. I said, no, John, I don’t. I said, I’ve been looking for two years to buy my own heating and cooling business to work with my dad. He said, oh, okay. Well, that was on a Sunday. On a Tuesday, he calls me and he says, hey, Seth, you’re never going to believe it.
Seth Parker [00:07:12]:
He says, I was out cleaning this man’s windows today, and he owns a business called NARDCO Heating and Air. And growing up in Anderson, John had known the name because it had been around since 1961. And he said, seth, he said, it’s a really good business. The family is really good. It has a great reputation and good customers. No employee turnover. Really? And I was like, wow, no way. That doesn’t make sense.
Seth Parker [00:07:34]:
After the 63 I looked at, I was like, there’s no way I’d mentioned this on a Sunday. And on a Tuesday, this guy calls with this type of lead, and he gives me the man’s number and he says, hey, call this man. He’s waiting for you to call him. His name was Jim Milliken. And I called him that night and I said, hey, Jim, I’d love to talk to you about this business that you have. And he said, yeah. He said, would you like to meet on Monday to get the financials and the tax documents and stuff? And after going through 63 of them, I’m like, wait a second. This guy didn’t send me an NDA or nothing.
Seth Parker [00:08:08]:
He’s just ready to get on with the process. And I told him, I said, jim, I wish I could. I sAid, but I have a men’s group that I teach on Monday nights. I said, so I won’t be able to make meeting you Monday to get those. He said, that’s just fine. And so we ended up meeting on Tuesday and was able to get the documents. I probably did not do as much due diligence as I probably should have because I built a very good relationship, trustworthy relationship with him, and he still comes around once a week to the business, visits me, and it’s an awesome relationship that we have.
Marcia Barnes [00:08:41]:
Wow. So on Sunday, somebody asks you, are you going to be a bean counter through your whole career? And you say no, and explain to them you’re looking for a business Tuesday. They introduce you to somebody, and the following Tuesday, you’re at the table with them.
Seth Parker [00:09:04]:
Yes, I’m at the table with them getting the financials and the tax documents. It’s kind of funny how in this world I sometimes try to do things all on my own power, and then I get some other believer involved with me through the church and bam, there your dreams are. Come right to you, to your footsteps. It’s like, probably should have tried this before I beat my head against the wall for two years.
Marcia Barnes [00:09:27]:
Yeah, I do a lot of things with the youth, with a mission program, and those missionaries teach a class on listening to God. I’m like, listening. I might have been doing all the talking in this whole deal.
Seth Parker [00:09:42]:
Yeah. That whole bias of action that I talk about a lot of times gets me in trouble more than it can help sometimes when it comes to those things, I think God, especially buying a business and then getting married and having our first kid all within 18 months of each other, I think I’m God’s biggest humor right now.
Marcia Barnes [00:09:59]:
He’s like, let’s see what the Seth sitcom is doing tonight. Exactly.
Seth Parker [00:10:04]:
What other decisions can he make to stress him out?
Marcia Barnes [00:10:08]:
That’s great. So it was about two years ago, is that right? Or a year and a half ago?
Seth Parker [00:10:14]:
About two years ago.
Marcia Barnes [00:10:15]:
Two years ago, you did an online search for marketing agencies and called us at Valvin Meter, and we started talking about marketing and what it looks like and digital marketing specifically. The company is kind of small, so there’s not a ton of resources. Right. And we just kept sharing and educating one another on what your business needs are and what we do on our side. And that’s caused you, last year, you made a decision at the end of the year to come on valve and meter as a client. What’s that been like for you, that process? You’re about six, seven months in, I think. So tell me about making that decision, what it’s been like for you so far around your marketing results.
Seth Parker [00:11:03]:
Well, I think it’s interesting, because coming from an accounting background and buying an HVAC business, I didn’t know really much about HVAC at all. I didn’t have a network in the industry at all. And I got introduced to Marcia, and she has really helped me a lot, network with different people, teaching me how to market in this industry, teaching me what to look for in different aspects in the HVAC industry. And so that’s really led me to building a relationship with her where she would introduce me to these people, and I always had her trust, and she would keep coming back to me and sharing with me client success stories that, oh, they’re at ten to one on marketing spend, 15 to one on marketing spend, and these were companies that I would go back, look at, and you could see the fact that they are doing a lot better than they just were. And so it was like an 18 month process from the first time I started talking to Marcia about Narco and marketing and everything. And over that time, I got more and more comfortable with it, because, like I would told Marcia whenever I signed up for Valve and meter is, Marcia, I’m not sure I know much about this marketing thing, but I trust you and what you’ve shown me. And so we decided to go with there. And it’s been amazing for us, because beforehand, whenever I was doing, quote unquote, marketing, I was pretty much just doing everything that came into my inbox, some billboards, some local TV, some local newspapers, the high schools, anything that came up, I was like, well, at least we get our name out there.
Seth Parker [00:12:37]:
There was no tracking of return on marketing spend or anything like that. And to see what Marcia was doing, I was like, that could really help me in order to understand where to spend my money to get the best return to grow Narco. Because, like she said, whenever I bought it, it was a $1.9 million business. Or so $1.92 million business a year, and there wasn’t many resources. So we had to be very smart with where we spent that money if we were wanting to grow.
Marcia Barnes [00:13:03]:
Right. And sometimes people will hear 18 months later, you come on as a client, but it’s important what you were doing in between when we met and when you came on as a, you know, we talk about Jim Collins’s flywheel effect in business, where you have marketing at the top of the flywheel, developing leads for sales. Sales is getting orders for the operations team to go repair or replace or fix whatever the operating platform of the company is. You get paid the finance team, pays your bills, pays your people, and spends off profit, and then you reinvest in marketing. So when you didn’t have a lot of leads and you weren’t growing terribly fast, you were working on that business to get it operationally. Excellent. Make that fly Railroad Sing so one of the first things I think you did, if I recall, was put in a new CRM.
Seth Parker [00:13:57]:
Yes. We started using service Titan because before the business was ran the same way, from the day it opened in 1961, and it was a whole bunch of paper being pushed around. And in order to grow, there’s no way that that process would have scaled. So the first thing I identified, I call it low hanging fruit, was changing that CRM over to service titan in order to get digital processes and then pushing for marketing and reviews.
Marcia Barnes [00:14:23]:
It is a great product. I’ve seen that be a real game changer for a lot of HVAC, especially.
Seth Parker [00:14:29]:
Since most people in our industry, they don’t really measure much. And so that right there really pushes you to get reports, get gross margins, to get your turnover rates and closing rates and stuff like that. And that’s the data that you can make decisions with and know how to coach people.
Marcia Barnes [00:14:46]:
I think my friend Steve Becker, I introduced you to Steve at one time.
Seth Parker [00:14:50]:
Marcia Barnes [00:14:51]:
Steve has a theory that service Titan is part of the surge behind the valuation of HVAC companies.
Seth Parker [00:14:59]:
Marcia Barnes [00:14:59]:
Been in the HVAC business his entire career.
Seth Parker [00:15:03]:
Probably the best operator in our industry.
Marcia Barnes [00:15:05]:
I would say that he’s right in there. Absolutely. And a great, great man. Very high character and values. But he thinks that before service Titan and some other software CRMs, field edge those types of things, before the companies had that, you really couldn’t substantiate the value of the company. You couldn’t really measure the value of the service agreements, the value of the repeat customers, the value of the close rate is this high or the revenue per deal is that high. And that became this great equalizer across many, many companies.
Seth Parker [00:15:42]:
Yeah. Because before service Titan or any of those digital platforms, nobody was really keeping long standing history of any customer relationships or anything like that. So I believe that there was no housing of that. So whenever you went to go sell the business, that person that’s buying it is asking, what am I really buying? And there was nothing there for them except for some sheets of paper that they were to operate off of.
Marcia Barnes [00:16:06]:
Right. Someone was telling me about all of their customer agreements were on a wall and paper. And so when they scheduled the service agreement, they went over and pulled the ticket off the wall and went out and fixed.
Seth Parker [00:16:17]:
And the great thing about service Titan, too, that we found is we would have had to have hired a lot more people internally to track the things that we needed to track, like turnover, close rate, job per ticket and all of that. That’s a full time job every single day if you don’t have a software calculating that for us. So whenever it’s already hard to hire people, you’re trying to look for ways to cut back on that. And Servicetitan has been a great help because if you look around, we should probably have six or seven people in our office and we only have three of them.
Marcia Barnes [00:16:48]:
Well, one of the big differences I saw was pricing, being able to update pricing of equipment and parts inside of service titan.
Seth Parker [00:16:55]:
Yeah. In real time. And so if you see, you’re getting daily gross margin reports like we do, and you’re seeing, oh, man, we shoot for 50% gross margin and you’re seeing it’s down at 45. I can literally go in there and up the prices within minutes to five more, six more percent in order to hit our goals.
Marcia Barnes [00:17:14]:
And that was all done manually. I mean, when we started valve and meter in 2017, I would encounter businesses that had not done a pricing update for a year or two and were losing money. Right.
Seth Parker [00:17:26]:
And I think the reason is the owners are so caught up in running that day to day business to sit down for. It would take you a month if you had all of that and had to do it in paper in order to update it. And so they just passed it on. And I think in COVID, that’s where a lot of small businesses got hurt, is because we got price increases every single month and they weren’t able to.
Marcia Barnes [00:17:46]:
Keep up with them. Exactly. That would have pulled a lot of people under.
Seth Parker [00:17:50]:
Marcia Barnes [00:17:51]:
So also in this flywheel, it’s always interesting to me in our relationship, we sit on opposite sides of this flywheel, of where our strengths are at, I’m strong on marketing, really great at sales, but my strength is in marketing. Your strength? Finance. And you’re a great operator. Right. And so we’re in these opposite camps. So typically, from my seat, it’s really hard to understand the operations part and especially the finance part. From your seat, it can be. Marketing is a mystery.
Marcia Barnes [00:18:22]:
We have to figure out how do.
Seth Parker [00:18:23]:
We collaboratively work through that, communicate it to each other.
Marcia Barnes [00:18:27]:
Right. So one of the things early on that you were really interested in is being able to identify for every dollar that you’re investing in marketing, how many dollars of revenue are you getting back for?
Seth Parker [00:18:38]:
Marcia Barnes [00:18:39]:
Seth Parker [00:18:40]:
And I think, like the old saying goes, opposites attract. Me and Marcia are like perfect partners in crime whenever it comes to. And one of the big things, because my accounting background was to know, all right, if I’m going to spend this much money on marketing, I have to know where we’re making our money at or where we’re losing money at and where we’re not hitting goals. And the whole reason I believe that is not all the time. Is it the marketing people’s fault that you’re not getting leads, that you’re not having the average ticket? Sometimes you have to look within your company, within yourself, and find out where are we going wrong with the leads we do have. And we call it lead by lead coaching at NARDCo. And it’s where we look at all of our leads each day and see where we could have made more out of each one of those leads. And I think that’s where you really get, like an operational excellence program going on with the people, because they know that, yeah, it would be nice to have 1000 more leads a month or whatnot.
Seth Parker [00:19:39]:
But at the end of the day, if you’re not doing the most to capture the most from those leads, then you don’t need those leads and you’re just paying money for no reason.
Marcia Barnes [00:19:46]:
Yeah, absolutely. So you buy the business, you fix the CRM. The other challenge you had was there was one key person in the business. Tell me about that.
Seth Parker [00:20:02]:
Yes. So our general manager, he does awesome for us. He’s been with us for almost 40 years. His name is Rick Betts, and he had always been there. So me coming from outside the industry, not having any industry experience, it was, again, the perfect situation to be buying a business. But it also wasn’t the perfect situation, because when you have a man that runs the service department, runs the install department, does all of the sales, has all the knowledge in his head, of customers. That’s a key man problem that you have. And so what I had to do, and the last owner, he didn’t really care, because he could go on vacation for ten months out of the year and not really worry about the business, because he had a man there running the business.
Seth Parker [00:20:45]:
If I was 74 years old running a business, it’d be perfect situation. And so, as I took Over, I think the biggest thing for me was to mitigate that risk with him. There was no employment issues or anything like that. It was just a huge risk. And like I explained to Rick, is you could be pulling away and get hit by a truck and be in the hospital for a while. NARCA would be in a hard position. And that talk is hard whenever you’re talking to somebody in their upper 50s that’s been there for 40 years, because they’re going to start getting defensive, like, why are you taking all of this? That I worked hard for? And so it was painting a picture of him to where I’m empowering you to lead more people. I’m not taking your work away from you.
Seth Parker [00:21:24]:
I’m just shifting your focus.
Marcia Barnes [00:21:26]:
Good. That’s great. And those key people are important. One key person is a problem, right?
Seth Parker [00:21:33]:
Exactly. Yeah. And like, a small business, like, we have 20 people. I agree with Marcia. Every one of them is key. And that’s why I key in on the small things with them, like attendance and those Things, because that’s what really moves the needle in our business. If one person misses and we can’t fulfill all of those leads that we’ve just gotten, and people cancel calls or we have to move them around, we really miss out on a lot of opportunities. So I think it always goes back to, yes, marketing and leads are great.
Seth Parker [00:22:02]:
You have to have them, but you need to focus on your operations to make sure they’re there to service those leads and to service those customers.
Marcia Barnes [00:22:09]:
And that time you spent in those 18 months before you became a client and working on that operational excellence, your close rate went up, your revenue per ticket went up.
Seth Parker [00:22:17]:
Marcia Barnes [00:22:18]:
The call answering Was better. All of those things help us achieve a better return on marketing spend.
Seth Parker [00:22:23]:
Yeah. When I first started, we would have a call retention rate of about 70% to 74%, and now we’re.
Marcia Barnes [00:22:31]:
My eye is twitching there, Seth.
Seth Parker [00:22:34]:
Yeah, it was scary. And now it’s near 90% to 94%. And it’s so amazing because it’s really driven our business to grow a ton just by adding those calls that were already coming in that were being missed. Or overlooked or anything like that. And then the average ticket when I took over was about $105, and now it’s pushing $300. Those are the things that move the needle in the business, where we were able to do that with the original employees that were there. We haven’t had turnover in the business since we’ve taken it over. It was just changing the way that they looked at things and changing the SOPs and processes to get better outcomes.
Marcia Barnes [00:23:15]:
That’s great leadership. People don’t just comply with that. You have to love and serve people along the way so that they’ll give you permission to lead them. Once you got that, then the sky’s the limit for that team. Right?
Seth Parker [00:23:29]:
Exactly. And I think Marcia hits the nail on the head, is you have to serve your team. As the CEO, I call yourself the chief serving officer, because you’re just there to help them, to move the ball down the field a little bit more and to be there for them. And so as soon as they know that, hey, this person has my back, whenever you ask them to, hey, we need to sell more service agreements, or we need to do better on the forms. They buy into those things very quickly once they know that you’re going to have their back. And one of the big things we do that’s different than our competition is we guarantee 40 hours a week throughout the year. And so that was one of the big things where even if they were slow, they had that comfortableness of, hey, I know that I’m always going to get paid. So if you take care of their home life, they’re going to take care of you.
Marcia Barnes [00:24:11]:
Yeah, absolutely. So not to make you feel the pain every time, but went in and switched out the CRM, solved the one key man thing, and now you look at the marketing horizon and there’s not much going on.
Seth Parker [00:24:26]:
Marcia Barnes [00:24:26]:
You’ve got a billboard and you’re in the Yellow Pages. So what did you do there? I know you’ve gone with us, but talk to me about from when you went in to where you’re at today, what has happened for you, and what is marketing? What should it be? What does return on marketing spend mean to you?
Seth Parker [00:24:44]:
Well, for me, before we had signed up, it was a huge problem of, I want to grow this business, but we’re not getting the marketing, we’re not getting the leads. So how do we do that? And I had been talking to Marcia over and over again, and I said, okay, Marcia, we have got to drive these reviews. We have to be able to get the calls in and we have to be able to do something with those. And at that time where our return on marketing spend was probably about a dollar, 50 to a dollar, and it wasn’t doing too well. So whenever I came over to sign up with Marcia, she said, okay, how’s your operations? I explained to her how all of our operations were, and Marcia lit up like, hey, those are the things that are successful in our industry. And I’m like, well, I’m not being successful right now. And she’s like, yeah, because you don’t have the SEO, you don’t have the hyper local content, all of these things that matter in our industry today. And it’s funny because she told me, like, oh, it’s going to be six months before you see a return on this.
Seth Parker [00:25:44]:
And in the Midwest this year, it’s been a funny year with marketing and HVAC. And she told me, oh, it’d be about six months before I got five to one on marketing spend. Well, I think that it took us about 60, maybe 65 days to get there. Right?
Marcia Barnes [00:25:58]:
I try to be conservative there.
Seth Parker [00:26:01]:
Exactly. And so it was awesome to see that. And it’s like, man, if I can just keep investing in this area, then I can see the growth happening for the business already. One of my favorite things is Marcia and her team at Valvet Meter. They’ll meet with you once a month to go over those marketing numbers. And so they say, hey, you’re doing very good in SEO, or you’re doing very good in PPC. Let’s invest more money into there. And so it makes you be able to be better prepared to use the data to execute on the operations side.
Marcia Barnes [00:26:33]:
Absolutely. That’s a very Good point. And the other thing we evaluated was how much risk is there if it didn’t work at all, how much would the loss be? So we even looked at, like, worst, worst, worst case scenario. If it took longer than we thought, how much would you have out there before it felt like you were putting the check in and getting results back?
Seth Parker [00:26:54]:
Marcia Barnes [00:26:55]:
I had an account I was talking to a few days ago, and they said it was a pretty big business in home services, a 200 million dollar business.
Seth Parker [00:27:02]:
Marcia Barnes [00:27:02]:
They said, how much is this going to cost? And I’m at the beginning of, I’ve not even done strategy work. There’s no way I could have given a prize. And I said, well, essentially, it’s kind of free because it works.
Seth Parker [00:27:14]:
Marcia Barnes [00:27:15]:
It’s not going to cost you anything. Cost is relative to results.
Seth Parker [00:27:20]:
We’ve seen that in our own business. And one of the nicest thing is whenever you used to be ranked 30th on HVAC repair around where you are, and now you see that you’re number one. And not only that, not only do you see it, but you fill it in your business, you’re getting way more calls. The guys are busy, and that just makes everybody feel good around the shop. Whenever you see those things returned and.
Marcia Barnes [00:27:42]:
It sounds like you’re kind of filling up to capacity. Right. You’re not adding a lot more jobs. So that should help the margins. It should help people’s pay be better. All the things that abundance can bring through marketing.
Seth Parker [00:27:56]:
Exactly like, it was a great business whenever I bought it, but there were a lot of what I call soft spots throughout the year and things and the marketing, it’s like the guys will say that have been there forever, they’re like, Seth, we’ve never been this busy. It’s the middle of September, and we got installs every single day, service calls every single day. And they were usually standing around the shop during that shoulder season. And so if you want to grow your business, you’re going to have to invest in it, but you’re going to have to track where it’s coming from, too. And for us, one of the biggest thing is we have those soft spots. People’s schedules are getting built up. And we had this situation where if you want to invest on all this marketing, you want to grow as big as we want to grow. You have to do something about people and the people in the business and hiring and making sure that the right people are in the right seats.
Seth Parker [00:28:45]:
And one of the big things we did was implement traction EOS, which has really helped the business.
Marcia Barnes [00:28:49]:
I did not realize you had done that. That’s a great idea. You’re going to lead very well with EOS.
Seth Parker [00:28:55]:
It makes your job a lot easier as an owner. Whenever you have a book to operate by and just say, this is the way it needs to be done, these are the measurements we need to do in order to make sure everybody’s on the same page.
Marcia Barnes [00:29:06]:
Seth Parker [00:29:06]:
And I think as you start shifting those people, they get comfortable because now they’re in a role that actually matches who they are as people. And they’re like, oh, this isn’t so bad. After a week or so.
Marcia Barnes [00:29:17]:
Absolutely, I get to walk with you through life and business, but we’re also, in truth, of work together. So we have some shared things that we do. And I’ve really loved being alongside of you while you’ve become a father. Tell me about what? That transition for you. That’s transformational, right?
Seth Parker [00:29:35]:
Oh, yes. It’s been a huge transformation for me because I used to be very selfish with my time and wanting to spend time only with the things that benefited me and Seth. And luckily, with a kid, it’s just changed that entire outlook and one of the best things that I’ve done, because I always think, my dad told me growing up that, son, your only goal in life is to do better than what me and my mom were able to do for you. And I’ve taken that responsibility seriously, and that’s what I want to do for my son. And I’m like, man, our family hasn’t done good of keeping family history or anything like that. And so one of the biggest things that I want to do is pass on the knowledge and the actually shortcomings and the low parts of my life where I messed up and things to my son. And so recently, I started a Gmail account for him, and I email him every morning and talk to him about how I’m feeling that day or think something on my mind about him, mom, or any of those type of things I just share with him. And I want to keep that going until I feel like he’s at the age that he can appreciate those things, read them, and understand them.
Seth Parker [00:30:43]:
And so probably about 16 or 18 years old, I plan on giving him the password in order for him to go back and read all that history.
Marcia Barnes [00:30:50]:
Nice. He’s a year old. About a year old.
Seth Parker [00:30:52]:
About a year old, yes. And he’s already talking and laughing and everything. It’s just so much fun to go home to every day.
Marcia Barnes [00:30:59]:
They change so quickly. They’re very interesting.
Seth Parker [00:31:01]:
Oh, and just to watch them learn. One of my favorite things at my day to day job is to invest in people and to watch that light bulb go off in their head and to see them transform. Well, I get to see that every day, almost every hour with my kid as I take him on a walk and he sees something new or something, and he just gets so excited, and it’s just like, you could have a terrible day. And whenever you see that, it just changes everything for you. I think a lot of that is how God looks at us whenever we do what he wants us to do. And a lot of times, we can be selfish people that get off of his path. But whenever we get back on, he’s like, yes, this is what I wanted.
Marcia Barnes [00:31:43]:
That’s a very good point. And you talked about in the beginning of our conversation today, wanting to get into an HVAC ownership position and work with your dad again. Have you done that?
Seth Parker [00:31:55]:
Yeah, dad has joined us. He actually works in the office next to me, and it’s a great privilege to be there with him. And just like I said, we haven’t been the best of passing long history in our family. And dad being in the military, he wasn’t around much whenever we were growing up. So now to spend those quality years as adults with each other. I just text him the other day and said, dad, we should really appreciate what we have, because not a lot of people have the relationship we do at our age. Yeah. And it was really even my dad’s goal to own an HVAC business at some time.
Seth Parker [00:32:29]:
But him being in an infantry and a sniper in the military and then working in the business, he really needed somebody to come alongside of him that understood that accounting, that understood that business side, and it’s really been a great help for us. And so he leads a lot of our young guys in training them and teaching them the industry, because I talk to a lot of owners in HVAC world, and you ask them, like, what’s your biggest problem? And I promise you, almost every one of them will say, people, I can’t get people. And then you ask them and you say, what are you doing to get people? And posting on, indeed, posting on LinkedIn, all of everything that everybody else is doing. And it’s like, well, yeah, you’re not going to get people if you’re just going to do the same thing. And so what we’ve tried to do at Narco is build relationships with every quarter we go into the local middle schools. Every month we go into the local high schools. And then Ivy Tech Community College has their training facilities for HVAC in the back of our shop. And so we have multiple generations that we’re touching on these things with, and that’s really helped our business and to get our name out there and invest back into the people, because maybe we don’t hire them right out of school or right out of Ivy tech, but they will appreciate the fact that we invested into them and invested in their career and their success.
Marcia Barnes [00:33:47]:
And a lot of those folks become customers.
Seth Parker [00:33:49]:
Yes, they do. Or they just spread our name, because a lot of times we’ll go out to a new customer’s house and they’ll be like, oh, yeah, we heard about you through one of the kids that go to Ivy Tech or the high school or something, which is really nice.
Marcia Barnes [00:34:01]:
Seth Parker [00:34:02]:
I think being in a small community, it’s your role to invest back into that community, being a business owner. And so that’s one of the biggest things I’ve tried to do, is provide a better situation in the community that we’re in.
Marcia Barnes [00:34:13]:
Right. Building a platform that you can organically recruit from that way.
Seth Parker [00:34:23]:
Marcia Barnes [00:34:24]:
Is another important factor on return on marketing spend. Because if you can’t handle all the leads that are coming in, then that’s going to push down the return on marketing spend and create a gap for you there.
Seth Parker [00:34:35]:
Exactly. And I think one of our biggest issues in HVAC is we have peak and trough times where it’s really busy and then it’s really slow. And so that’s where the buy in of your employees really happens, because you know that whenever it’s real busy, we’ve got to get the most, we have to eat well. And whenever it’s slow, we have to be able to train those guys and invest back into them. And it’s just a balancing act of making sure that you’re always ready for those times to come because you have to be ready to go whenever all those leads start coming in. If you drop the ball on there, then it adds up very quickly. One bad week turns into a bad month. One bad month can turn into a bad quarter.
Seth Parker [00:35:15]:
Bad quarter into a bad year.
Marcia Barnes [00:35:17]:
Right. And that can spiral further into the abyss.
Seth Parker [00:35:20]:
Yeah. And especially whenever you don’t know where your money is being spent. Almost everything else in business you can track. I can track like, hey, I bought this HVAC system. I put it into this house. There’s the money, there’s how much I made off marketing was that one piece that you have to find somebody that does stuff like valve and meter and Marcia does as far as tracking that data, meeting with you regularly to make sure that you’re on pace. And it’s not even that monthly meeting. I get weekly emails from her team.
Seth Parker [00:35:50]:
Sometimes that drops in that says, hey, I see that this is going a little bit off. Is there a reason why? Or something like that? We are delayed in our billings on installs. And at the beginning they’re like, oh, my goodness, Seth, your RoMs are terrible.
Marcia Barnes [00:36:04]:
It was alarming in here. We were frightened.
Seth Parker [00:36:07]:
And then I said, oh, no, don’t worry. We have like $50,000 in install billings that we haven’t done yet. AnD Then it shot it up to about five to one, and I was like. And then everybody was very comfortable again.
Marcia Barnes [00:36:20]:
But they’re watching things like close rate and average ticket and booking rates and call answer rates, because sometimes just having that extra set of hands on it.
Seth Parker [00:36:30]:
Marcia Barnes [00:36:31]:
Can bring things into the light quicker.
Seth Parker [00:36:33]:
And the biggest thing that I’ve learned as a business leader owner is you can’t say that it’s everybody’s responsibility to do something. You have to make one person in charge of that. And so we have three people that our answer is the phone. But there’s one person I go to to ask about questions on why phones aren’t getting answered, what’s happening to the abandoned calls, and all of that type of stuff, because she knows that it’s what she owns every single day to do.
Marcia Barnes [00:37:03]:
Seth Parker [00:37:03]:
And it’s funny because she came in as a part time employee to help us file away all that paperwork whenever we first took over the business. And within three days of her being there, she said, oh, I can help you answer phones. And she’s hired on as full time, and now she’s became our dispatch lead.
Marcia Barnes [00:37:18]:
Seth Parker [00:37:19]:
It’s just, again, watching those people transform from what you thought they were into who they actually are right now.
Marcia Barnes [00:37:26]:
I know you’ve not had the business for a super long time, but one of the things that has always excited me, and it’s why we wrote here we grow is transformation. The story of the human being who goes from here to there. That is a redemptive story that is abundant. When you look at your business experience here, tell me about someone that you’re seeing that has gone through transformational change.
Seth Parker [00:37:52]:
There’s one person that really sticks out to me personally in our team. His name is Grant Fisher. He has just turned 19 years old. Whenever we hired him, I had to do a double take to his birth certificate because I’m like, there’s no way he’s old enough to work here. I almost had to give him bad news his first day of like, hey, you got to be 18. But Grant came to us. He had a full ride to go to Purdue University. He had a full ride just going.
Marcia Barnes [00:38:22]:
To work this summer.
Seth Parker [00:38:23]:
Yeah, well. And what I thought was interesting was the first phone call he had with me was, hey, I had a full ride to Purdue University, but I want to tell my parents that I have a career for me before I tell them that I didn’t go to college. So it was a great situation for us to have somebody that was that driven about the HVAC industry calling us, because you don’t get a ton of those. But also to just see him come in, it’s a person that comes from a very successful family. They don’t work in the trades or anything like that. And so it was interesting on how he found us in the first place and found a desire to work in HVAC, which I later found out was from a friend of his dad who worked in HVAC. And he kind of watched from the background and said, well, that guy has a good life. I can do HVAC work.
Seth Parker [00:39:14]:
And he wanted to work with his hands more and didn’t just want to go to college without not knowing what he wanted to do in life. And so he comes in, and within the first week, 18 years old, and he’s already setting his own AC in his own furnace. And it’s a person that had never really used hand tools before in his life, but he had watched a lot of YouTube videos and really grasped onto those. And what I tell everybody that’s coming in that we’re looking to hire is it all is about the desire to learn. And they always ask, like, how quickly can I get to service tech or to sales? And I said, I don’t know, how quickly is your desire to learn? And I think that’s the biggest thing. And Grant has shown over and over again that his desire to learn is what really has been the difference maker of him being able to. I think, here in the next six months, he’s going to lead his own crew at 19 years old.
Marcia Barnes [00:40:04]:
Holy smokes. Wow. Now, let’s just think about that for a minute. So he’s got a full ride to Purdue. You said his parents were career people.
Seth Parker [00:40:12]:
Marcia Barnes [00:40:13]:
Seth Parker [00:40:14]:
Dad is a CFO and mom is a doctor.
Marcia Barnes [00:40:17]:
Those are big jobs, right? Big education behind that. And Grant decides he wants to go down the skills based work path. That’s a beautiful story. But he’s also coming into you and your dad working together. So he’s coming into a family type of environment, going out of a great family as he goes on to his adult life. That’s a set of conditions. It’s really unusual.
Seth Parker [00:40:43]:
Yeah. And especially since we have three sets of father sons in our business, so he gets to see all of that and all of us working together, and he’s just blown away. And one thing that I love is his parents have been a longtime customer of Narco, and now they tell him that, hey, Grant, we don’t have to pay Narco anymore. We’ve got you. Right.
Marcia Barnes [00:41:07]:
I’d like to tell, look, you know, Grant’s going to do great in this. This is a great career, and it can spiral into his own business ownership.
Seth Parker [00:41:16]:
In the future, and that’s his biggest goal.
Marcia Barnes [00:41:18]:
You’re the type of person who abundantly pours into people to help them prepare for that. It’s going to be okay, mom and Dad. Right.
Seth Parker [00:41:27]:
It might turn out a little bit better than you thought the first day he called you.
Marcia Barnes [00:41:31]:
But what a remarkable job his parents did in helping him become a critical thinker. Right.
Seth Parker [00:41:36]:
And think for himself.
Marcia Barnes [00:41:37]:
Yes. And be bold to say, this is the path that I prefer to choose at this point.
Seth Parker [00:41:42]:
And one thing I will have to say that really stuck out to me about the situation was he called me in order to get a career lined up before he told his parents that he wasn’t going to go to school because he knew it would be way worse if he told his parents that he just wasn’t going to go to school and was going to go to someplace to work in a factory or something like that. And then another thing he shared with me is the fact that one day his goal was to own an HVAC business. And I think that that’s where that desire and that drive of learning comes from for him, is he is trying to absorb everything that he possibly can. And I’m kind of an open book with running a business, because I think if you don’t want to share things with employees or how hard it is to run a business or how to run a business, you kind of have a limited mindset. And so if you’re going to go out in the world and grow something and do all of this, you’re not going to be able to do that with a limited mindset. You have to have an open mind helping others and things like that, and it will come back to you. And I think that that’s one of the biggest reasons why I like to share everything with the people. If somebody was to open up a shop down the street from us that used to work with us, so be it.
Seth Parker [00:42:49]:
There’s enough business to go around for all of us.
Marcia Barnes [00:42:51]:
Right? That’s great. What a great story. I want to keep track of Grant as we go down these few next years and make sure that I’m getting updated on that.
Seth Parker [00:43:03]:
Marcia Barnes [00:43:04]:
That’s just fantastic. Seth, I really appreciate you being on the podcast with us today. I’m so blessed to have you in my life.
Seth Parker [00:43:12]:
Well, shoot, me, too. Marcia, you’ve been amazing to me. Thank you. I really mean it. You don’t find friendships like this that you have in business too often, and you really don’t want you becoming adult and stuff. And so just the relationship that we’ve built in two years, it means a lot to me.
Marcia Barnes [00:43:31]:
Yeah, it does to me, too.
Seth Parker [00:43:33]:
Being 32 years old and being lost a lot of times and having somebody in your corner means a lot.
Marcia Barnes [00:43:40]:
Yeah. And you do the same for me. It’s all good. So one of the things, Seth, that compelled you in our conversations early on was our philosophy here at Valvometer about return on marketing. Spend unlimited budget for marketing that works. That’s not an open checkbook. That means we’re going to do tests and we’re going to measure what’s working and what’s not. And then when it’s working, we’re going to do more of that.
Marcia Barnes [00:44:03]:
Yes, because that’s powerful in a business. If we know where to invest, to grow and what to cut to be able to be profitable, it’s very powerful. What was so attractive to you about that? I know it makes solid sense, but you’re coming from a financial background that probably had some appeal.
Seth Parker [00:44:23]:
Yes, I think that had a big appeal. But also being a new owner, a person that just took out a massive line of debt, in order to buy a business, you have to know where you’re spending that money at, and you have to know the return on it. And so beforehand, I kind of just took a shotgun and shot it to a wall, and it was billboards. It was all of these different things, and there was no measurement on where that money was coming back to us from. And so I think the biggest thing for me was, if I’m going to make the investment of marketing and spending tens of thousands of dollars a month, I needed to know which operation was working the best for us. And that’s where I really liked and got comfortable with spending with Valve and meter was the fact that I knew that they had our best interest out for us and they were going to look out for us whenever we were spending that money to say, hey, Seth, you’re not doing that great over here. Maybe we should look at the operations, if you can. Or maybe we should take the money to go spend somewhere else.
Seth Parker [00:45:20]:
A perfect example is just last week, our account manager, Ashton, she reached out to me and said, hey, Seth, you’re not performing as well on GLS as I’m seeing people across the country doing. And I was like, oh, shoot. So what do we do? We go back to that lead by lead coaching. Look at all of them, see where we were messing up. And really it comes back to, we need to tell customers that they don’t need to keep calling back on that GLS number that comes in, because they keep doing that in order to find updates and payments on invoices and stuff. So that’s where that data really helps you be able to do that. Because if not, what’s the definition of sanity? Doing the same thing over and over again. And that’s all you’re going to do with marketing.
Seth Parker [00:46:04]:
Keep spending money there, keep not getting a return and you’re going to get frustrated with your marketing group or something like that. And it’s just because you’re not diving in really looking at what’s going on and that’s how you have to make decisions with your business.
Marcia Barnes [00:46:17]:
Right. It’s very empowering.
Seth Parker [00:46:19]:
Marcia Barnes [00:46:19]:
I can’t tell you how many times in my career I would see a low close rate for a certain group of campaigns that just needed a scripting adjustment in it to get the close rate to go up. And now you’ve got a working program.
Seth Parker [00:46:30]:
Yeah. And I think the hardest thing is being a business owner is having that time to dive into those things. And so it’s nice having a scheduled meeting and having people that are looking out for you on that math to make sure that you are hitting the goals. And the one reason why now in service Titan, you can track a lot of that stuff yourself. But where do you know that the industry benchmarks are for that time? So whenever we meet with Valve and meter, they’re always telling me, hey, you’re doing this compared to the industry around you and things like that. And that really helps give you a sense of comfort and sense of this is where I need to invest back into. And like you said, it goes back to empowering the employees to make those decisions.
Marcia Barnes [00:47:13]:
Here We Grow Narrator [00:47:16]:
Thank you for joining us for here we grow. This show is proudly brought to you by Valve and meter performance marketing. Be sure to check out the show notes for exclusive content that will help you become a transformational leader. For more, visit mathbeformarketing.com podcast.