In 1954, my grandfather started his own HVAC contracting company in his garage in Burtonsville, MD. Minnick’s Inc. started during the very early days of air conditioning when it was more of an option than a necessity. His focus was on oil, gas, and electric heating. New construction was king in the HVAC industry. My grandfather eventually grew the business to a multi-million dollar firm with more than 200 employees.
A Quick History of Minnick’s Inc.
For our company, new construction and service went hand-in-hand. My grandfather serviced every system he installed (or tried to), but the bulk of the income was derived from new construction work in building track homes and housing developments.
So, you can say service and service agreements have been in my family’s business DNA from the very beginning.
Like all companies in the new construction arena, we found the rug pulled out from beneath us when the new construction markets crashed in both the early 1990s and in 2008. I am amazed our business survived. I often ask my dad how he did it and his answer is always the same, ‘Whatever needed to be done.’
That included reducing personnel from around 200 to only six of us! Four of the six were Minnicks: my dad, myself, and my two brothers. The other two were a secretary and a financial person.
We started rebuilding and refocusing. It was in the mid-1990s that we were introduced to and got involved with National Comfort Institute (NCI).
Changing of the Guard
I took over as president in 2006. As I was learning how to run the business (before that I spent most of my time in the field), I realized I needed help in getting things in place and figuring out how to manage. In that light, in 2009 we began working with consultants Al Levi and Ellen Rohr.
Rohr introduced Minnick’s to the concept of VIP Maintenance, which is a pay-as-you-go program. This helped us keep our customers’ costs down, enabled us to create a reward point system, and create a free membership program for preferred service and discounts (requires customers to share their first name and email address).
Talk about a change! Our VIP program helped us to build up our service base because customers liked getting discounts. By just providing their name and email address they earn 25 reward points, became members of our VIP program, and receive discounts.
In our VIP program, every point is worth a dollar toward any service we provide. For example, we reward customers for referrals with 100 pts. Another example is driving social media ‘likes’ to our Facebook page. If they ‘like’ us, they earn another 25 points. These are things you can create instantly.
This changed our approach to maintenance agreements.
However, with any type of loyalty program, if you aren’t tracking, you can’t manage it. You won’t know how many points a customer has, or what they’ve used, and that leads to your program falling apart very quickly.
Other Loyalty Programs Work. So Why Can’t Minnick’s?
I knew there had to be a way to keep track of everything and began looking at other industry loyalty programs like those used by airlines, car rental agencies, hotels, and others. That led me to a national company called LuxCode that tracked rewards programs for restaurants.
Over the years Minnick’s changed vendors several times looking for better systems that were easy for both our customers and our administrators to use. Eventually, Minnick’s settled on Service Titan, which has a loyalty program that is much easier to use, to track customers and points, and to manage our overall VIP maintenance.
As a result of this approach, we have been able to slowly convert away from a new construction standing and are now 95% focused on residential service and replacement and 5% on light commercial. We have 25 employees and are stronger than ever. Last year our company generated $2.3 million in gross sales.
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