Learning How To Work On Your Business, Not In It

Pat Grogan relies on a couple of key ‘partners’ to run his company more efficiently and profitably

Learning How To Work On Your Business, Not In It

Pat Grogan

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Pat Grogan has two partners that contribute significantly to the success of his plumbing business: the Nexstar Network and Service Titan, a business-management system.

The former gives Grogan a trustworthy network of contractors available for advice and coaching. The latter helps his business run more efficiently and profitably.

One of Nexstar’s best benefits is the ability to pick other business owners’ brains, says Grogan, who owns Pat Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in Topeka, Kansas.

“I joined back in 2007 because I didn’t want to always have to reinvent the wheel,” he says. “There are a lot of contacts out there that already have established best practices for business. Learning from them is better than doing all that research myself.”

Grogan says the cost of a Nexstar membership is a worthwhile investment for companies focused on growth, which is necessary to cover the expense.

“It helped me understand the financial piece of the business puzzle – recognize all the costs of running a business,” he says. “It taught me to be a better business owner instead of being a plumber trying to run a business.”

Grogan notes that the cost of a Nexstar membership might not be worth the benefits for smaller businesses.

“You have to be able to grow a business in order to cover the costs,” he says.

Aside from helping Grogan better understand the nuts and bolts of running a business, it also provides valuable access to recommendations for systems and equipment. For example, when Grogan wanted to replace the company’s GPS system, a fellow Nexstar member suggested One-Step GPS.

The service costs $13.95 a month per vehicle, which comes out to about $170 a month for 12 vehicles. The benefits include invaluable intel that saves money and improves productivity. For example, it provides details about technicians’ driving habits, including speeding and hard cornering and braking, as well as improves the efficiency of scheduling and dispatching operations.

While noting it’s hard to quantify the money saved by using the system, Grogan says he intrinsically knows it reduces fuel expenses through more efficient routing and scheduling. It also boosts productivity — and as a result, increases revenue — because more efficient routing/dispatching enables technicians to make more service calls than they otherwise would.

“It pays for itself,” he says.

Grogan decided to use Service Titan, a business-management platform, about five years ago when the company’s existing software couldn’t meet the demands of the growing business.

“We were at a point where we were operating off antiquated business-management software,” he says. “We needed something more robust, with a mobile side that our technicians could use in the field for invoicing, documentation, taking pictures and so forth.”

Service Titan offers a multitude of productivity-improving capabilities. One of the most significant changes Grogan cites is a conversion to paperless processes. For example, technicians used to manually write out paper job tickets, then turn them in to the office every day. Then someone had to manually enter all the information into a computer system. Now technicians use iPads to fill out job tickets, and the data goes right into the computer system from there, eliminating inefficient and error-prone double-entry of job tickets.

Moreover, the iPads enabled technicians to more easily create invoices and accept credit card payments from customers. The tablets also rendered obsolete bulky and clunky hand-held credit card processors that reflected the older system’s shortcomings — using many different parts and pieces to make things work.

“Customers like it because it’s more straight-forward and streamlined,” Grogan says. “Technicians can email a copy of an invoice to customers right then and there.”

The system also provides technicians with another valuable tool: access to a complete history of work done at customers’ homes.

“That takes gray areas out of the equation and makes them black and white,” Grogan says.

And because the system is cloud-based, Grogan says he can access it all the time, no matter where he is, which provides him with greater productivity and flexibility.


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