How Greg Joyce grew his plumbing business to $2.8 Million and is up 30% this year

by Plumbing Marketing Profits on May 30, 2014

Plumbing Marketing Interview with Schuler Services

Discover how Greg Joyce of Schuler Services grew his plumbing company to $2.8 Million with 11 Trucks! On this interview Greg talks about how he is leveraging the internet, social media, billboards, branding and a number of other marketing channels to keep his company growing. His is up 30% over last year ($600K).

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Read the transcript of the interview below:

Josh Nelson: Hi! This is Josh Nelson with the plumbing marketing podcast. Want to thank you for joining us today. Here in the podcast we interview successful plumbing and HVAC business owners, from across the country.Just pick their brains on how they are marketing themselves in today's economy, and what's working and  getting the story straight from successful entrepreneurs , as far as how they were able to build their business and what's working right now.

Today, we have the privilege of talking with Greg Joyce from Schuler Services out of Allentown, Pennsylvania and he has built a very successful business over the years; as a family owned business. Let me introduce Greg to the line .

Josh: Greg! How are you doing today?

Greg Joyce: I'm doing real well, Josh. How are you yourself?

Josh: Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.

Greg: You are welcome. My pleasure.

Josh: Tell us a little bit about your business. How long you've been around, the approximate revenues, number of trucks...give us some of the basic background information, on the company and where you guys are at today.

Greg: Sure, not a problem. The business was started by [inaudible 01:08] George Schuller back in 1923. We've been around the [inaudible 01:12] for 21 years.

Josh: Wow.

Greg: [inaudible 01:15] the business has changed quite a bit over the years. We now have 1,800 square foot showroom, where we do some bathroom remodeling. At the moment I have six service technicians and two contract technicians that do the bathroom, remodeling.I'm running with eight guys. I have 11 trucks and we're looking to fill...We could use two more right now at the moment. That's where we're at.

The business, from 1923 to 1974, was owned by a couple of different owners. My father got involved, then [inaudible 01:54] purchased the business in the late '70s with a partner that was one of the plumbers, here.

I started in '86. From '86 to 2005, for 19 years, I ran as a plumber, and became a master plumber in that time period.

In 2005, I came in charge when my father bought his partner out, I became service manager from 2005 to May 1st of last year, 2013. That's when I purchased the business from my father.

He is now my dispatcher and still works, 70 years old and still working every day, here at 6:30 in the morning. It's cool [inaudible 02:31] two of us have. That's the history. I've only been in business only for 13 months, but here I am.

Josh: Awesome. A long history, but 13 months as the man behind the wheel sort of speak, and it sounds like about 11 trucks and growing. You feel there's a growth behind the business right now.

Greg: Yes, Absolutely! I had a plan when I bought it. That was my marketing plan. It started with my first thing...It started with you guys and we grew much since last year around this time, that's for sure.

Josh: We'll drill down into that a little bit more as we go. I appreciate you giving us the sense of where you are at right now, and what the direction of the company is.I once feel the fundamentals of any strong marketing plan include market, message and media. The "Market" being who the customers that you target are, what your ideal customer is?

"Media" being where you are marketing yourself, what tools you use to get in front of those customers? "Message" being what are you saying, how are you positioning yourself in the marketplace?

When I do these interviews, I hit on those three elements in a sequential order. That way the listeners can start to get the sense. Here's what I could or should be doing if I want to grow my business to whatever, the next level is.

Let's start. Tell me a little bit about who your ideal customer is? What your target market is? In the area that you serve.

Greg: By asking the ideal customer...any customer to me is my ideal customer. We target certain areas [inaudible 04:26] . The western part of our town is our target area. Although we are extending in much of we are now.It's important how we put ourselves in front of our customers. Our reputation is been there [inaudible 04:44] 21 years, the longevity. [inaudible 04:50] family homes [inaudible 04:44] and also our service.

We classify ourselves as a first-class service and it's a tag-line for our marketing services [inaudible 05:05] for first priority. Right down from the [inaudible 05:08] as we walk in the door.

Put our boogies on. Walking with our briefcase to present ourselves, look at the project at hand and then do the up-front pricing at kitchen table. That's our MO.

[cross talk]

Josh: The messaging is that you guys are family-owned, you provide outstanding service, and you try and bring a premium experience to the customer in your market.

Greg: My team all knows that that's my goal -- to give them the best possible service experience that they deserve. They understand. We educate them on the value of our service. That's part of our whole process.

Josh: That's fantastic! Now we can drill down a little bit, into the media that you use to market yourself. There's a lot of different things you can do as a plumbing or HVAC company to get in front of your customers.Everything from direct mail to yellow pages to TV, radio, billboards, public relations, networking, and everything in between.

Tell me a little bit about what you guys do as a company and what your marketing mix looks like, as an organization.

Greg: My number one goal when I bought the business, part of my business plan, was to talk to somebody at the QSC meeting about online marketing, because we were struggling.We tried a couple of local avenues here that didn't work out. At the Baltimore Power Meeting last year, my main focus was to talk to some people about online marketing, who they were using, the conversation with you, Josh, and your partner, Dean.

August of last year is, I believe, when we kicked it off. [inaudible 07:03]

I have to point Jose. He's my pal; He has worked with me every step of the way even to this day, developing our site. That's a major part of my marketing plan that I believe, has worked tremendously. We also do...I don't know if you want me to move into...I could talk about billboards.

Josh: Please do. Thank you so much for that positive shout-out. I never solicit on these interviews, for those of you that are listening, direct feedback about us, but when I get it I appreciate it.Thank you very much. I know that will make Jose's day to get a public shout-out like that. Jose is one of our account managers and an integral part of our team here.

Greg: I highly recommend him to anybody. You have more customer service representatives, I'm sure, but I had to put a shout-out to my guy, Jose [inaudible 08:02] .Looking forward, billboards is something we started as well. We never did that before in the past. That's for some branding. We do that on some of the major highways, some bus shelters. We have three bus shelters around the Lehigh Valley. That's branding.

Josh: How many of those billboards would you say you have?

Greg: At the moment, I went back to vinyl. In the fall of last year, I tried some digital advertising, the new digital billboards. Quite frankly, billboards are tough to track, in my opinion. Somebody could help me with.My frustration was that you're sharing it with six other clients. We drove by and it seemed like a car dealership was up there. That was frustrating to me.

I got away from the digital boards. I started, back a month ago, on one of the busiest highways here in the Lehigh Valley in the downtown area, a vinyl board. I love it. We're getting great response. It's part of our new re-branding that we're doing which ties in with our new trucks that, we're wrapping.

We're in the process. We've got a couple more to go. We have 11 trucks that are totally re-wrapped and two salesmen's cars that we wrapped, as well. The bus shelters, the billboards, they're all tying in together at the same time here, which we're real excited about.

Josh: Your new wraps look beautiful. The idea there is that you've got the billboard on wheels.

Greg: That's exactly right. This was all coming out all at once. We hit them hard. Like I said, we're real excited about the wraps.As a matter of fact, we have so many comments, people saying, "Hey, I love the new trucks." Little do they know they're not new trucks, but they...


Josh: They look new. You say you get pretty good response from the billboards, but then at the same time you said it's hard to track and measure.Is that feedback, you feel the general sense, people say, "Hey, I saw your billboard. It looks good." How do you quantify that?"

Greg Joyce: What you said, we get a lot of feedback where people say, "Hey it's on your billboard or I am calling because I saw your billboard" and I try to do something unique with that whether I peer site or a billboard with a clock, switching back the temperature within a big commuting area, faced you am anytime, any weather.People are going to be looking at this clock and that's the feedback I heard is, "Yeah, I see the digital clock up there at the final board," and that is the feedback that we get.

Get to understand that that billboard is up only last month, but it has been very positive since it's been up.

Josh: We find there is a lot of synergy between offline and online. When you are doing billboards and any other type of branding and then they are looking online when they are at that moment, when they need the plumber or thinking about the remodeling.They go to Google, they type in a search, they see your company and they know they have seen you around. They recognize your brand and they see your trucks, the trust levels higher.

We find the cliff tour rates are higher which helps our ICL efforts, but it all works together to drive even better results as a whole.

Greg: Sure yeah, the part of you guys right away is soon as it will be re-branding with the billboards and if you have got a letter head or cards, never mind IT guys can write on it, changed our home page and each of our individual pages with our a new load of and we were happy. That was done right away too.The main consistency is the key in the branding, people see it, they see it outside, they see it on web site, see it everywhere and that is my goal here to get the re-branding done and all at once.

Josh: You have talked about Internet being a major source; we have talked about bill boards. Do you guys do any other marketing initiatives on the media side of the equation?

Greg: Sure. Get back to the online marketing; you guys handle my social media so we do it on Facebook page, which is handled by your firm. We do have a post every day and then on our web site to at the point, there is a blog.I believe weekly that is done there, as well and the number using it has been phenomenal. We have online reviews and we get steps to our technicians, as an incentive.

We have local programs that my service manager transporter, needs to regroup and they get stitches. We went each reviews where his name is mentioned.

Looking at other types of marketing, I tried to tease partnership this year for soft [inaudible 13:11] of human interesting and not Miami, what is report not a lead coming for the web site and got a few jobs. I keep paying for uniforms already, so pretty cool.

We do some with direct there, with another industry partner and I don't think I will mention the name.

Josh: Absolutely, no definitely.

Greg: Contracting by 2020 [inaudible 13:32] she does our direct mail force. Doing a fantastic job, direct mail works [inaudible 13:38] .We also do the neighbor program with them that was, kicked off. How that works is we send 25 jobs a week to them, and they send out five post cards to neighbors "Hey we worked for your neighbor."

That was kicking off and I mentioned the truck wraps, I mentioned the sales carbon wrap, we used up a local theatre advertising...


Josh: Local theatre, so you have got the ad in the theatre that rotates on the big screen?

Greg: Yeah, mm-hmm.

Josh: OK.

Greg: We get good response there as well and I am not going to talk on the track. The things like, I don't know what do you want to call donation marketing, getting yourself up in a proper garment, it's a golf outing or...[crosstalk]

Josh: The public relations or de-classified, that type of stuff.

Greg: Yeah sure. Wondering [inaudible 14:37] block center or cancer or what have you. We get very good responses from those as well.Other than that, we do some end up in street partners from USA, we started doing our private laboring, when our drain clean products or drain treatments that is exciting as well. You are doing private labeling for us that is another form of, marketing job.

Josh: Very interesting. Nice diverse next. One thing that you did mention that I know that at least in the past, you were having in was the yellow pages. Are you still in the yellow pages at some level?

Greg: We are, we are, we did that down this year. The contractors we did use. We are in the yellow book and the yellow pages.We are in yellow pages in double bubble shot at the forte pages, but we backed out on the different sections like what we use and what is the treatment, and so we are going to be tracking that a little closer.

We will pull and see ending a deck hopefully it doesn't have any negative effect, but more and more we get away try to back away because of one of my presence is so strong, they can navy to get some of that marketing running in another way.

The [inaudible 16:03] now drop it. They try to get it, because we did do some tracking with the newspaper and unfortunately that has not worked for us.

Before they knew it their mailer at it we did track that as well, and we did not see much return here either...

Josh: That's with regards to the mailer and I know they have got a print side of the division, and they have got an online side of the division, I know you have got lot of reviews on Angie's List. Do you have a premium listing on the Angie's List, or you go with the base program?

Greg: The base program at the moment like takes some of the mailer advertising, last year for coupons. Coupons are a great way of tracking and with coupons on our web site.That's our direct mailer track as well, but for the Angie's List, we didn't see much of a return on that so we dropped out of that. As far the Angie's List now all there. Its member driven for the most part, an hour reviews seem to be working quite well.

Josh: That's it that's a pretty diverse marketing mix you have in place, and it is the recipe for success.Very aggressive online marketing strategy, branding with billboards and theatre ads and other things like that. Aggressive with social media and online reviews. Doing some other team building, team sponsorships.

The direct mail heavily marketing back via print, to your existing customer base and then the neighborhood program is great. Aggressive branding with the trucks.

What the consistent theme of these interviews is you to have a diverse strategy that touches each one of these, areas.

When you do that right and there is some synergy between the different channels that you're using, that's when you start to see the maximum result in terms of marketing, and getting inbound leads and calls within your business.

To recap that, what would you say are the marketing efforts that drive the most new leads for you?

Greg: Well, hands down the marketing question a result of that our brand new website you guys developed for us, got kicked off in October last year. I want to point out, this fiscal year our sales alone are up 30 percent. I'm very proud of that.It's not the sales that are up, the profitability is there as well. We are extremely happy with the online marketing. It's something that we struggled with, I struggled with. I knew that was my one issue, I wanted to do this and I couldn't be happier with the results.

Josh: Now, we talked a little bit about some of the marketing efforts that you stopped and it sounded like, most of them you've kept, you've slowed down on the yellow pages a little bit, but you've also slowed down on the newspapers.

Greg: Yes

Josh: OK. Due to the fact that you didn't think it was generating the result that you could, by putting those dollars elsewhere?

Greg: Correct.

Josh: We've talked a little bit about some of those special initiatives that you guys have in place, tell me a little bit about, I know that I implement the review system that you guys have.Tell us a little bit about this and about that and about how you are incentivizing the guys to do the reviews, because those listening don't know the back story behind it.

Greg: It's a couple of things. It's twofold. We set up a cool thing I bought. We have had so many great reviews we sent to him, I don't know how it was done if it was scanned, but we have a bunch of written reviews on our website, but most importantly we have this easy link you can click on as a customer.When we're done, we leave a card behind asking them to post a review and get on the site, its handled by "bazaarify". Bazaarify is that correct?

Josh: Yeah, there's a tool behind that's aggregating you're reviews called bazaarify, and a system called "Nearby Now" which helps your technicians check-in, request reviews, consistently after every service call.

Greg: Right I was going to get into the Nearby Now.[crosstalk]

Greg: The first one was the one with the pay for reviews and the ease, you don't want your customers to have a cumbersome process to post a review, or else they are not going to do it, that's the bottom line. It's real easy with this new system that [inaudible 21:13] set up for us.They will be working real well for us, so all our reviews coming from goggle plus [inaudible 21:20] get posted on a real easy link, where you can view your reviews.

The third one Jack mentioned is Nearby Now, which is the guys have their mobile devices with them on the field they take their iPhones, they check-in.

This is something that we are building at the moment. I know Jose knows how important it is, because for ranking purposes that new content all the time. The tech takes a picture, says "Hey I have fixed this water heater, I'm at this address".

The customer can give some feedback, get the email address to send to them and then it gets posted right there on your home page, of your website. It's cool stuff. That is something we are working on.

My service manager Sean is working very hard on that, we have had some great results and great response on that as well

Josh: This is something that you're doing pretty good job with, I know that you feel there's room for improvement and that you can use the tool more often, but one of the main challenges that our other clients are having with this is getting your technicians to buy into the process, getting them to check-in, type the descriptions what were you able to do and it was Sean that took the lead on it.How were you able to get the technicians off the fence, and into actively leveraging the technology

Greg: Simply spits they get dollar, that's always a plus as we all know, and training. We are big on training.We train every Wednesday morning, we have an hour set aside, half hour set aside whatever it takes whether it's bringing local supply house in, or doing sales training. Sean our service manager did great job with the guys, that's the key.

You can't just expect a technician to go out there and start doing this without any training and Sean is working hard with the guys, even on a one-on-one basis to get them to do it even more, and again, its key to your rankings because Google needs to see that fresh content.

Is a great system you have new content every day, because your guys are checking in from where they're working

Josh: Yeah in that creating that consistent relevant hyper-local update, for the pages on the site.That's powerful, so doing the training, making sure they know how to use it, making sure they understand the value of it and incentivizing that with some sort of financial spiff, for doing the activity and so on.

That's your extremely valuable from an implementation perspective. Still in the marketing vain, but a bit more business general, what services do you find most profitable as a company, in today's market?

Greg: That's a great question. When we do our tracking on different job costing and tracker jobs, hands down our most profitable jobs are excavations or underground work, if that's the type of answer you're looking for?

Josh: That's excellent. I'm looking for whatever you find in your business, in your financials, there's no leaded, pointed answer that I'm looking for there

Greg: Hands down excavations seem to be, and we do quite a bit of that. We subcontract our excavations out to two excavators that we work with very closely, and work with almost every week. I find that to be the more profitable end of the business.In a lot of our commercial service, which we do the same thing. In general doing upfront pricing, and plumbing in general. We are a plumbing company that does hydronic heating as well, rating heat, and we also do bathroom [inaudible 25:41] showroom.

All-in-all it's been good. Been a good year. It's been a profitable year so far. We want to keep going.

Josh: Are there any new services, I know you guys have been around for quite some time, are there anything let's say in the last couple of years any that would be new services that you started to offer, that you've noticed are either in demand or highly profitable, for you as a company?

Greg: Yes. Our jetting services, up until three years ago we didn't have any jetting equipment [inaudible 26:21] certainly helped us out with that.Cameras, most of the trucks all have color cameras on now and that leaves us going back to excavation, because the people, your clients want to see what's going on and saying, "Hey we're going to dig up your front yard Mr. Jones".

Doesn't compare to having that tool in front of you, with a nice video color screen and saying "hey, here's the break, here's the belly in the lines, here's this [inaudible 26:55] ", that helps to bring around some nice jobs as for as excavations go and Jetting as well.

Because we can put out there that we are a serious provider.

Josh: That's great feedback. We want to make sure that we have as much value on these interviews as possible, and for those guys that are listening "What else should I be doing? What other services could I be providing?"It's helpful to know what you and what other successful guys are finding to be profitable, in today's market.

I know you have mentioned this one a couple of times, tell us about the organizations that you belong to, that have helped you along the way and you feel you formed your business philosophy, and success

Greg: Even as a plumber, I became a master plumber by joining the local HEC. Hands down, right away how much I learned was incredible from going to all these meetings.That's how when I saved some cash I knew I was going to be buying a business -- to say, "Hey I'm going to try this QHC organization, which has a lot of service contractors." Let me tell you, if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I am now.

They have been integral to the growth, and to my education in learning how to run a plumbing service. They have been phenomenal I have to mention my father as well, his experience. Its 40 years coming up in September, following in his footsteps as well.

The organization for a service contractor I can't stress enough. You know how great the power meetings are [inaudible 28:57] even working with other business owners is phenomenal. I would definitely recommend it to other business owners to get involved.

Josh: Since you've mentioned QSC so often throughout this interview, I feel it's made a major impact on your business, can you elaborate a little bit about what QSC is for you and how you engage with your membership, in QSC?

Greg: It all started where I went to my first power meeting back in 2012, so I'm a fairly new member [inaudible 29:36] .Talking to other people, I always think the key to business is to surround yourself with people that know more than you [inaudible 29:46] own business. Hiring people around that know more than you do, is key as well.

Learning and listening to people and yourself. Trusting, putting trust in yourself. QSC is an easy organization to trust people, trust is key, you're not going to hand over 14 dollars to somebody or whatever it may be, that you're getting equipment.

How to trust a person, that's what the QSC organization has, get a feel from all the other business owners if it's on my to do list, say hey they're having success so that means it's going to work for me.

I find that to be the most helpful thing again the people of the wonderful organization.

Josh: Just to consolidate so QSC, because I haven't been able to drill down on it with these interviews, is an organization, it's a subsection of...and correct me if I'm wrong. I'm an industry partner. I'm not a contracting member.It's an organization, subsection of PHCC that is mostly plumbing and HVAC contractors, or some electricians, in other allied industries. It's not a huge group. It's a network of highly successful plumbing and HVAC business owners that network, on a consistent basis.

There's an open Q-list where any of the members can ask a question, and the other members put their mastermind together and respond, and help each other out. There are ongoing trainings for the technicians and coaching available.

I guess it's a quarterly power meeting, where all the members come together for two to three days and share best practices, get new training on business, on pricing.

It seems it's a powerful way to grow your plumbing or HVAC business, by tapping into this great network of other successful business owners that are like-minded. Anything you want to add to that, or if I'm off...

Greg: That's well said. Couldn't say it better, except it is semi-annual, we meet twice a year, typically.

Josh: Two [inaudible 32:11] .

Greg: [inaudible 32:12] , but that's not a big deal. The business coaching alone is something I didn't bring up, and you touched on it. There are two business coaches, Beth [inaudible 32:21].The business coach is coming to our organization here in July. We look forward to that and doing some [inaudible 32:29] training.

Overall from what I hear, I haven't had her here yet, so I'm interested to see what she's going to say, but right there talking to other business owners in QSC, that the business coaching is an eye opener, too. I'm always looking for improvement.

We all are as business owners. We certainly want to improve and grow our businesses, so business coaching is another part of it that is going to be a big help for us here, to get an outside look. See what you're doing. Is there something we can improve upon?

Change this, or a little more training here, and it's the tech department, or what have you. It's the way we're handling our phone calls. I may do all kinds of training with CSRs, and how they handle the phone calls coming in. A lot of good stuff.

Josh: Great feedback there. In wrapping up, is there any other nuggets of wisdom or anything else you'd like to convey to that plumbing, or HVAC business owner that's listening to this and trying to take their company to the next level. Is there anything else that you'd like to convey?

Greg: I've touched on this before. Surround yourself with people, and listen to people that know more than you, because once you think you know it all, that's when you're going to fail in my opinion.Surrounding yourself with more knowledgeable people, if it's marketing, if it's on the technical side, or if it's anything.

If it's technology, computers, get better people around you. That philosophy seems to be working with my business, because I hired three new team members since I bought the business, and they've been instrumental in the growth of the business, because they're sharp people.

I always say this, they know more than me. They're going to help me out. That's basically what I've got to say as far as that goes.

Josh: Greg, this was an awesome interview. You shared some great information, some great insights that the listeners are going to get tremendous value from. Thank you for so graciously sharing your time, your experience, and I'm sure you'll be hearing from people thanking you on this.For those of you listening, thanks for joining us. I hope you get great value from these interviews. Please stay posted.

If you want to listen to other interviews that have been conducted in the past, or subscribe, so that you can be alerted as new interviews are posted. You can do that by going to

That's This is Josh Nelson. I'll look forward to talking with you again soon.

Josh Nelson is a marketing expert that specializes in helping Plumbing Business increase their sales & grow their business by more effectively MARKETING. He is a recognized speaker, author and regularly presents at PHCC, ACCA and Plumbing Contracting Associations. His articles have been published in Plumbing & Mechanical Magazine, Contractor Magazine and HVAC Insider. He is the author of The Complete Guide To Internet Marketing for Plumbing Contractors.

Plumbing Marketing Profits – who has written posts on Plumbing Marketing Tips, Ideas & Strategies for Plumbers | Plumber Marketing.

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