E: 22 - Joshua Crouch - How To Get HVAC Hiring Right & Get Your Social Media Game On Point

Welcome back to HVAC success secrets revealed with Thaddeus and Evan today. We’ve got Josh Crouch on the show from Relentless Digital. Yes, he is a competitor. He also runs a digital marketing agency specializing in HVAC and home services and we get into why in the show..

But Josh originally started out in the HVAC trade as an accountant, and it didn’t take long for him evolve from his accounting role into the operation side of the business. He has worked with three different HVAC companies as the operations guy growing them each to over seven figures.

He’s got a lot of experience in the industry, a lot of experience, both in marketing and growing a business, and also in hiring. These are the two biggest issues that all companies face. How to hire and how to grow using marketing and sales. And so we got into both of those topics today. We talked about hiring techs for your HVAC business.

As an owner you are a recruiter and you always need to be on the lookout for great talent and great people. And so we talked about that a little bit today. We talked about, for the businesses that are just starting out and they don’t have a large ad budget, what can they do to really grow their business and grow their marketing and their brand in their market talks about Facebook and social media. And then has your business starts to grow how do you design a marketing budget? What is it that you look for? What percentages should you be looking at? And how to scale your company over the long-term. It was a fantastic conversation with Josh today. I know you’re going to love it.

What are some tips that you’ve came across in your days as being an operations manager to help hire and recruit and bring in new guys into the trade? 

When I first started back in 2013, we, I always look for the guy with experience just like everybody else is doing still to this day.

After a certain point, especially with the company, I was just recently at, they have an amazing service manager and the owner of the company has been in trade for 35 years. So they really know their stuff when it comes to the technical side and we were getting so many applications with people. No experience, maybe they went to trade school three months of experience, or they’ve been at a couple of different companies in six months.

So obviously they didn’t really know what they wanted to do yet. And it’s just one of those things that we started taking a risk on someone and started coming up with a training program. There’s some great tools out there. Like interplay learning is a fantastic tool. They have an entire course, that’s all online and you can use like the VR goggles and do your tests and stuff online.

So what we did is

  1.  We took all of their videos and we turn it into a curriculum. 
  2. We took that curriculum and every single week we gave them assignments just like you would in school. 
  3. Every Friday morning we draw straws and the guy with the short straw would have to teach all the lessons back.

And what it did is it started fostering this environment of. Communicating about problems in the field, because we all know guys, aren’t great at communicating their feelings and thoughts. A lot of times we keep it up in here and we don’t tell anyone. So it started fostering a culture were the guys that had a year or two of experience were starting to hop in and they were starting to help out the new guys and just created this atmosphere that was helping each other and we’re all getting better together. And literally the best two hires we’ve made. We made several hires over the last two years, but the last two hires were both fairly green. Actually. One of them was a theater teacher or a theater director at UWM. That’s literally where we found him from and he, his contract didn’t get renewed and he has been with this company, you can even look at the reviews. He’s one of the best employees we got. So it’s a mindset shift and it might be a little bit slower growth than some people want, but it is so worth it to try to find good people and train them and utilize the resources like interplay learning ultimate tech academy, any of the other sales trainers that are out and about in the world today.

It made a big difference for us because it also helped open my boss’s mind to, “Hey, maybe we don’t need somebody with 10 years of experience because they come with all of their own bad habits or maybe they were trained improperly from somebody else.” So we were able to mold them the way we wanted the technicians to run calls and to run a appointment.

Love it. And you posted the other day that I absolutely loved, and it was that there aren’t good quality techs sitting at home right now. Unemployed waiting for you to offer them a job! That doesn’t exist. 

Yeah. One thing I realized with this trade is. Literally, you have to suck at it not to have a job.

So there are other people that are looking at or ones that are unhappy with their boss. So if you don’t have a good culture, you don’t have those things. You might be able to pick someone off, but most of the time, these guys, and they keep them very busy. Most of these guys work, our guys averaged 45, 50 hours.

I think we had one maybe week and a half or so during the first two weeks of the lockdown, right? For guys where we took each guy rotated one day off. Other than that, these guys never had less than 40 hours, right? So it takes time to develop a solid training program. It’s not something that most guys can just fall into and it’s nice that there are tools out there that exist that you can leverage and implement into your business.

But you need to have a recruiting strategy that is ongoing and never ending in my mind. You should never stop looking for quality people. The hardest thing is everybody waits just like for marketing, right? They wait until, oh crap. I don’t have any calls. I need to start marketing.

It’s too late. 

You have to know and trust that this stuff is going to come and just, you have to hire ahead of time because otherwise you’re always going to, be behind the eight ball. And I find that contractors because they get so immersed in the day-to-day they don’t forecast and look to the future. They just worry about, Hey, what’s in front of me today. What do I need? What fires do I need to put out? I’ll worry about tomorrow later.

Yup. Yup. On that’s straight out of the E-Myth right? The technician, the manager and the entrepreneur. I’m actually going back through the HVAC edition right now, and it seems like everyone’s stuck in that technician’s mindset.

And while I don’t need them yet, when you feel like you can handle it it’s too late. Now you’re turning away work when you should have been hiring in the first place. 

Yup. Yup. So let’s transition into the getting in generating the work, the marketing component of things, because we’ve got three marketers on the call so this is probably what they want to hear about, right?

but I guess let’s start with this. You need a good marketing budget. You need to know the numbers in order to be able to create a marketing plan but lets say a company has no budget, or if they have a very small budget, they’re just starting out. What are some things that you’ve seen success in doing when they don’t have a large budget? 

Yeah. I think anything that there should always be some, there’s always some money. If you have customers, you have some money to put towards marketing.

I think one of the most overlooked things, that is so simple, roofers and gutter cleaners, and driveway, guys, they all do this, and they’re really good at it, put a yard, sign out, take a picture with the customer. With the social media world we live in this is a great way to capture a photo with your client. That photo with a yard sign, a happy customer, and maybe your truck in the background. It goes so far. You can do so much with that. We used to run a yard sign contest every month, but even just having those photos. Now you can take that. You can use that in an email to someone you left an estimate and put it with a review. Now, all of a sudden you got a happy customer with a review. It makes it more real and stuff like that.

Leave behinds while you’re in the house. You’re already there. I was actually on a coaching call with somebody else last week. And he said he was looking to hire a landscaping company this year because his business is growing and he’s doing so well. And he hired one last year and he couldn’t remember the name.

So he was trying to find the name and a phone book. He called three different ones. And he doesn’t think any of the three where the company he called because that company did not leave him anything behind no magnets stickers. No direct mail pieces after they were done, no yard sign. Like he just couldn’t remember the name of the company and this happens so often.

People really only care about HVC when their shit’s broken. Nobody cares if there are conditions working fine. So it’s one of those things that people just forget about you and you have to stay top of mind with them, whether that’s through your branding, the pieces you leave behind simple emails.

Simple emails can go a long way. And everybody can get a Gmail account for their business. There’s Chrome extensions you can get that allow you to send 200 emails out in the day, so there’s no reason that you can’t stay in front of your customers. I just find that in the trades, people like to go find the next silver bullet or the next golden nugget versus the clients that they already serviced and already liked them. And that’s a big part of what I usually talk about because they forget about Mrs. Jones that they served six months ago. They want to go find the next guy.They ignore the maintenance part of things, and they just focus on the new business where you want to build an Uber successful HVAC business you need to add in maintenance agreements, add in maintenance contracts, recurring revenue into the business, increases your valuation of your business. Should you ever want to sell that down the road? If you don’t have one, The recurring revenue, your sale price, isn’t going to be as large, but you can do that by focusing on your existing clientele, which is a massive thing and an easy thing to do with zero budget.

Even if you had a G suite email or Google workspace, rather, that’s seven bucks eight bucks a month for one email address to have, at your business info at your business and send out those emails, which is an often overlooked part. 

I love the yard sign idea, by the way, I think that you are right HVAC guys don’t do that nearly enough.

It’s simple. It really can be anywhere from three to six bucks for the nice fields, get a couple hundred dollars worth and you can have a ton of, especially a small business. Maybe they don’t even have a website yet free Facebook accounts. Those buy sell trade groups are free. Local community groups that talk about local things is free.

Share some advice, share some educational content, share some tips and tricks and homeowner think DIY. Just to get people to know who you are and be like, that’s the HVAC guy. That’s what you want to be. Know that you’re the HVAC guy I’m going to call you when I have a problem. 

So would you say then, because you talked about the groups and I know we have one of our clients here in Calgary super active in their Facebook groups and it’s just, they absolutely crush it.

With the local community groups in some of the buy and sell groups. Now, if you’re taking that photo. In front of the yard sign with your customer and your truck. Is that something that you would then have them post into those groups or are they simply using that on their current social media profiles?

What’s some do’s and don’ts of being active and involved in Facebook groups. 

Usually that type of thing we’ll leave for our own Facebook page. If they want to tag themselves or share it or do something, they can, the things that really worked for us in the local Facebook groups is like once a month dropping educational.

Like you guys have extreme weather, just like we do in a lot of parts of the country being in front of that with educational content is huge. Like right before I left, we had a really bad cold stretch coming for two weeks. It was supposed to be super cold. I don’t know, negative 15 or 20 with windshields, even colder than that.

And I had a post from literally the left, unfortunately created the last company I was with while I still had it. I found it and I took it again. And. I shared it to my page and like two other local groups. And the thing got shared like 150 times. And I think we reached like 17,000 people just with a free Facebook post that said, Hey, it’s going to be really cold.

Your house is likely not able to keep up with the temperatures outside, do this, and this before you call us because your system might be working just with. And it’s just free advice and it’s similar to like the videos you guys make. It’s just free advice stuff you guys see, and it’s helpful.

And it’s attraction marketing 101 really? You just get people to like your business Hey, this, these guys bring value to the community. We want to do business with them. 

Okay. So now we’ve built a. A decent sized business off of the free marketing, but we’ve been able to build a reputation up a little bit. Now we want to start paying into some marketing. 
How do we set up a marketing budget? How do we plan for that? How do we create that? What are some things that you used to do as an ops manager and what are you coaching clients?

And that goes back to Thaddeus this point about your numbers. You do need to know your numbers and the numbers you really need to know is your overall revenue sales, your gross profit, and your net profit. And then that profits really the big one, because if you don’t have any net profit, You probably shouldn’t be advertising.

You just, you need to fix other things in your business. First, you need to fix your conversion, your pricing, your operations, something’s wrong in your business, and it’s not going to sustain, but if you have some net profit taking a percentage of that and sticking it to marketing, I know, there’s people I argue with these people all the time, because I’ve done it on a, quite a bit less budget.

They tell you if you’re going to grow 10 to 14% of your sales, I’m like that is a big number. A million dollars in sales is a hundred thousand dollars in just marketing, which you think about all the other things you need to do. That’s a lot, but that’s what the. Gurus say if you will, but the strategies that we’re talking about here with some of the smaller things, if you don’t lose that, and then you add things like a good solid website and a good Google My Business presence, and maybe some Facebook ads and stuff like that, you can really on a smaller budget, get that much further because you already have that presence.

Website’s a necessary evil because you have to have something that you own. I think I’ve talked about with both of you guys or maybe it was just Thaddues, but make sure you’re going to own the website that gets made for you.

Oh,we just had two people. One, I just, I had to create a one-page website cause he had a 20,000 piece mailer going out. He didn’t own his website and he ended his contract with this other company. So he has nothing. So I literally had to work together a throw together a one-page website just to get it up. But the lesson is make sure you own your website and the content. And if you’re with a good marketing company that has your best interests at heart, you will own that and they will keep it from you. 

Correct. Biting my tongue, not to fly off the handle at this. Like it’s.

Completely fucking garbage. If you pay somebody to build a website and you do not own that website after if you are a marketing company and you’re happening to be watching this stop, fucking doing that because it’s fucking criminal. I’m sorry about my I’ve been trying to reign in my language lately, but literally this topic just drives me to rant.

Google’s having a, an update coming soon in June. It’s June. Now it used to be may. So the experience of your user or of your homeowner on your website is going to be important.

So having a good website that converts, which anyone that builds a website these days, It shouldn’t be that. And I would ask them questions about that. But between that and social media, those are the primary places you need to be because that’s where your customers are hanging out. They want to scroll and look for information. They want to click buttons. They want to, schedule online, stuff like that. If you don’t have a mobile optimized website it has to be, not just even that, it has to be fast otherwise you’re going to start losing people.

So we talked about websites, we talked about social media.

A lot of things that people often overlook is Google my business posting. And I know that you’ve posted a lot of stuff on Google, my business and posting and making sure that’s up to date. So how can somebody take all this content that they’ve created in Facebook and also leverage that for Google My business posting? 

With Google, you can take a lot of the same images and turn the content into something more professional. On Google they’re looking to hire someone they’re not looking to hang out like on the social media platforms. They’re looking for a solution for a problem in my life. You can use the same videos, the same pictures to post on both. I think people just they forget about Google. They’re like, I don’t know what to post I’m like. Yeah, you have to think about it because Google wants to, it’s gonna sound really bad, but they want to own everything they do.

They want you to stay on Google docs. And they don’t even really want you to go to your website, to be honest. They want you to book. Now they’re even got an online shopping thing now to try to compete with Amazon and stuff, but you have to post to it because if you don’t, they’re going to look at you as they’re not as relevant as somebody else.

No a hundred percent. And it’s actually funny that you mentioned that Google and keeping, on Google. Facebook’s the same way they want you to stay on Facebook because the more time you spend on their platform, the more money you’re going to spend with them.

So Google my business has the messaging feature now where you can actually direct message and text with a business. If you don’t have something to capture. Google my business direct to text because they say, oh, Google my business photos, tons of reviews, five stars. Great. I’m in Ooh message. Now. Boom texts.

That’s the psychology of the user, like double-edged sword because of I like to have phone calls with people. But I don’t like checking my voicemail. I hate having the notification system. Like I hate having notifications or like unread emails drives me nuts, ask Evan on our own of our shared inboxes. And I’m more like, I hate that. I hate not checking emails. 

Exactly. And so am I’m getting a lot better. I’m not having the OCD of flipping over and what I see. So I shut my email down. I want to work on tasks. I don’t see anything. I don’t have any email notifications on my phone, but I love communicating with text mess.

When I’m trying to book something or do something, especially if I’m the consumer. And so having that set up on our Google, my business page, and even a website is a key differentiating factor for your business because it’s going to allow them to text message you back and forth with that. 

What is the biggest obstacle or frustration that you see in the industry right now? 

Hiring! I see where everybody’s posting.

Where do I find people? I can’t find anyone. It’s the pandemic inside the pandemic. And it’s for multiple reasons. One, we don’t have enough experienced people in the industry because of these, everyone’s doing digital stuff or their gaming or their YouTube or Tik TOK or whatever, the, whatever those terms are.

Now these days two companies don’t have a training program in place. I guess that’s my beating chest  moments. Like I think I posted it yesterday. The mind has to shift. You have to train new people. Yeah, or your hit, it’s just like anything, you adapt or die. And I see a lot of companies not adapting.

And I think that’s also why there is a lot of companies that are going to be selling at some point. There’s a lot of buying and selling going on right now, as you guys are probably aware of is just a lot of opportunity. So if you figured that problem out and have an assembly line of people, good people coming into your business.

The sky’s the limit. Some of these companies are massive and they are growing some of these guys down in Southern California and stuff. These guys are growing so fast. I can’t keep up with how many trucks they’re adding on a given year. So the sky’s the limit if you solve that problem. Sure. 

Thank you Josh for joining us today!

You can find out more about Josh and connect with him here:

Find Josh:

Website – www.relentless-digital.org.

Email – jcrouch@relentless-digital.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/joshua.crouch.39/

Text / Call – 262-720-5739