An Article from The Successful Contractor Toolbox Winter 2011
To say that Richard Tade embraces change would be an understatement. “I love it. It’s part of life,” he exclaimed. “I have fun with it!”
After bouncing around the U.S. for a number of years, he returned to Wichita to run the family plumbing business after both of his parents passed away in 1999. Soon he found himself taking a big chance when he became one of the very first Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® franchisees in 200l. “The company was a financial mess. I joined Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® because I didn’t know how to run a business. I needed help,” he admitted.
Over the next seven years, Tade, his comptroller Rhonda McCoy and a few other key employees restored the company, but it took a great deal of effort. Rather than continue the grind, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee to be closer to both of his daughters and their families. Tade proceeded to hire a general manager, and he would keep an eye on the business from afar.
By keeping a close eye on the numbers, Tade soon saw that he needed to alter the company’s culture. This process included seeking out a new GM to help McCoy. Following an extensive search, he found Jason Clark, a young plumber from North Carolina with no management experience. In him, Tade saw a hungry young man with experience in Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® companies. Tade gave Clark the reigns to the business in July of 2008.
“Jason had something about him that you instantly notice. He’s a great people person. You could tell he was committed to taking a step forward in his career,” Tade
recalled. “I decided to give him a shot. I’ve never been one to shy away from a big decision.”
Setting a New Business Structure
Clark brought immediate credibility to the company as general manager. He had an impressive track record of performance as a plumber in the field, and his people
skills did not go unnoticed. It helped that when he took over, the company needed technicians. Not afraid to jump into a truck, Clark posted impressive sales numbers
and customers loved him.
Equally impressive, Clark didn’t hesitate to start making changes. He put an increased importance on using SuccessWare® to find new business. Furthermore, he analyzed the Daily Management Essentials report and average invoices to measure plumber performance, The company also restructured its after hours work. Saturday became a normal workday, and any plumber who runs calls that day receives a day off during the week.
“Our pricing was behind where it should have been too,” Clark said. “We needed to get priced so we could make a profit. We had the business, but we were giving
our services away. I feel like we offer our customers more, and that comes at a higher cost,’)
Populate Your Company with Good People
Another major task for Clark was to remove himself from the field, so he could work on and not in the business. He needed to find plumbers that he could trust. He
was working on rebuilding a company culture. It’s a delicate process; it can be poisoned with the wrong people.
Using online agencies, Tade and Clark recruited several people from far outside the state of Kansas. He has employees from California, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. “If someone is willing to relocate for a job, you know they are serious,” Clark shared. “We want people who are career driven;
not someone just looking for a job.”
Whether a candidate is coming from 1,000 or ten miles away, Clark carefully interviews each individual “You want them to do most of the talking. That’s the sign of someone who is serious. You can tell that’s the type of person who wants to invest himself in the company for the long-term,” he continued. “Those are the people who will do the best for your customers.”
Training is an Investment
Even great plumbers with dynamic personalities need training. It was integral to Clark’s success, and he understands its importance to both his existing and new plumbers. Every week, Clark is training with his guys twice a week for an hour,
“I have a training plan for the entire month. We go over invoices and role play. We will discuss new products and watch the webinars that Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® offers,” he said. “If you are watching your numbers every day, you will know what areas need addressing. When you see them slip, you can train on that area. The numbers tend to bounce right back. It’s common sense stuff.”
Clark understands that each of his employees is more than his sales numbers. That’s why he meets with each person weekly to discuss life, ambitions, and goals. “You have to invest in your people. They need to know that what they’re doing matters, and that you care about their future. And I do. I want them all to be successful,” Clark said passionately. “That’s how we make this the best company there is,”
Actively Manage Your Marketing
The need for more plumbers and constant training is largely thanks to Tade’s efforts. While 600 miles away in Memphis, he still takes on the marketing responsibilities. “I definitely keep an eye on our numbers, but I concentrate on keeping us on the top of people’s minds,” Tade clarified. ”As sophisticated as marketing has become, that’s a full-time job.”
By utilizing the unique Benjamin Franklin Plumbing@ web program, he is able to greatly improve his Search Engine performance by feeding off the national brand. He also works with Benjamin Franklin Plumbing@ Success Coaches to develop other successful advertising initiatives, including a simple postcard that waves the $49 service fee. He also purchases a post-it note on the front of the community newspaper promoting their services. Both bring in big business.
“For every dollar you spend in advertising, you should get a minimum of ten back. Both the postcard and the post-it get great returns. We know where our advertising is working because we have more than 29 dedicated phone numbers,” he explained. “We listen to every call we receive and cross-reference it with SuccessWare®, so we absolutely know how that business originated. It takes a lot of time, but nothing is more important to our success. There’s no confusion as to how someone found us.”
“Richard has been a Godsend with his marketing knowledge. I might be working with the guys, but unless he keeps our phone ringing, we’re just standing around. I give him all the respect and credit with his abilities,” Clark added.
By 2008 the Wichita Benjamin Franklin Plumbing@ topped $1.1 million in revenue at a 13 percent profit margin.
In 2009, the company grew a staggering 28 percent, and at the time of this article, they were closing in on an even better 2010. “I think we’re going to hit $2 million this year at double-digit profitability. We’ve doubled our size since I’ve been here. It’s a testament to our amazing team,” Clark gushed.
Tade couldn’t help but agree: ‘Jason has so much ability. He’s done a great job,” he said. “We have so many great people. Of course, Rhonda [McCoy, my comptroller] has been with me for ten years. She’s experienced so many changes with us, and all she does is perform at a high level. What an incredible individual. Her knowledge of SuccessWare@ and the financial side of the business has been essential to the company’ s success. ”
The entire company recently moved into a brand new complex with prime position along the busiest street in Wichita.
They’re positive it will bring even more attention and business to their company.
“Everything is moving in the right direction,” Clark continued. “I’m looking forward to continuing to work with our team, and giving them more opportunity. I want them to be able to advance like I have.”
“This company revolves around taking care of our employees first,” Tade added. “If they’re happy, and they enjoy working here, then I know they will take care of our customers.”
Tade, a man so comfortable with constant change, may just have to grow comfortable with this constant, booming success. It appears even more is on its way.