SGI recently launched our own Podcast: The Successful Contractor. It is available to both members and the podcast-listening world through every major player, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and Pandora.
We have new episodes dropping every week! You can listen to our podcast with Carmine Iapaluccio from Carmine’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning in Danbury, Connecticut or check it out in written format below. This podcast is created for residential contractors across HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, and Roofing.
- Carmine, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you, can you share with everyone your name, your company name, and how you got wrapped up with SGI a very, very long time ago.
Okay, it’s Carmine Iapaluccio from Carmine’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning in Danbury, Connecticut. I go a long way back, from 1990 with Jim [Abrams] and John [Young] on the startup of Contractors Success Group. Yeah, so I started way back then, was one of the consolidators of Service Experts. And then after my noncompete ran out, in 2002, I started back up in my own business again. And here we are today. I’ve always been with this group—it’s always been a great group.
- How big is your operation just so people can get a scope?
We’re hoping to be about $3.8 million.
- You’re about an hour or so from New York, which has proven to be the center of the pandemic in the US. Can you share with everyone how it’s impacting the community? How many positive community members are there?
Quite a few. Because we’re an hour outside the city, a lot of people are coming from the city, coming to our county here in droves—renting houses, buying houses, everything here. And there are a lot of people in our county that actually work in New York City, too. So just as of yesterday, we had over 600 positive testings. We’re one of the hotspots in the country because of this. They’ve got the Guard up by the hospital setting up and everything else. It’s kind of a little crazy. Everybody is concerned about it because it’s very close to us. We’ve had some people die recently right in the area. And they’ve got an old folks’ home with 20 people that have it right now, so that’s not going to be too good in the future.
- What have you done to help calm your team’s fears or try and help them kind of grapple with the situation?
Well, I tell you what, I was on vacation last week, I came in Saturday night. And while I was on vacation in Aruba, we were working with our SEO people to try to get things setup and whatnot on our website. And when I came in Sunday, we had three of our guys, along with someone who does filming, and we made a film to put on our website showing our community. The film was meant to show people this is what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, that our guys are wearing the booties, wearing the gloves, wearing the masks. We have wipes and we have spray bottles with Clorox in them and everything. So, we showed them how we’re wiping the tools after each job, all our tools get wiped down. So, the video is on our website. And we’ve started with that.
When our guys came in that Monday, we turned around, talked to them all and said, “Okay, we’re going to tackle this. We’re not going to let this sit back, and we’re not going to stick our heads in the sand. We’re going to fight this thing and keep going. It’s our job to keep everybody going so we don’t have to lay off anybody. And we keep working past this thing.
Then, we went over scripts with them. We went over everything with the CSRs here. We made sure they were asking people before our guys go out: “Is everybody healthy, before we send our guys out?” And it’s tough on the guys because they never know what they’re walking into.
We also started videos on Facebook. And we’re doing one or two videos and putting them on Facebook every day. Just talking to our customers. We have a couple of radio scripts on two different radio stations. And that’s playing all the time. And in our local newspaper, which is no big deal, but we have stuff in there also. So, we’re kind of attacking it from all sides to let the people know, “Hey, we’re open, we’re safe, and we’re ready for you.”
The big thing is just letting the people know you’re open. Because people think we’re closed or that we’ll never get to them, or whatever. And with a lot of people being home, there’s going to be a lot more plumbing problems, heating and air-conditioning problems. We’ve been doing our AC tune-ups a lot lately. It’s been a battle because of people cancelling and whatnot, so we’re trying to overcome them with different scripts and everything.
We’ve been pretty fortunate so far to keep everybody going. I think it comes from the top down. You’ve got to be positive. You’ve got to keep your people on the roll. We’re telling everyone, we’re not sticking our head in the sand. We’re trying to be as positive as possible to make things happen. People still need our services.
- You mentioned you’re doing some things on the phone. How has the call count looked so far? Have you kept a full board?
Yes. We’ve kept a full board, so far. Overall, we’ve been pretty fortunate. And if we don’t have a full board, we can go in to one of our commercial accounts that are open and take care of them. So, we’re spreading it all around to try to keep everybody busy, which has been good, but right now, the boards are full.
The service calls coming in, we’re taking care of and the maintenance guys are still running them. Our installs are still good. So overall everybody’s doing good. We just got to keep it up.
- Are you doing much outbound calling?
The outbound calling that we’re doing is really just for our contract customers. Arranging their tune-ups. Yeah.
- Do you get any pushback?
Oh, yeah, we get pushback. We get people saying, I don’t want anyone in the house and whatnot. And we tell them, “Okay, well, Miss Jones, I can understand that, but while everyone’s home, you want to be breathing some clean air and everything else and you don’t want to be breathing dirty air, clogged filters, everything else while everybody’s home. So, then we go over what our guys do, how clean they are, the precautions we’re taking and everything else.” And you win some over and some you’re just not going to move. And that’s okay. We tell them, “We’ll call you in the future.”
- So, your call-takers have been pretty quick to respond and adapt their script it sounds like.
We went over that from day one—hey, look, this is what we’ve got to do, people. We’ve got to keep these guys rolling or we’re all out of a job, you know? So, it incentivizes them, if they want to work. But they’ve all been good. They’ve all been very good, jumping in, doing what they’ve got to do and trying to get customers onboard.
- In your training, have you worked on their mindset much? Have you talked to them about the fact that they may not be getting as many opportunities?
Yes, we basically see them every morning, and we let them know what we’re doing so they can realize that we’re not just sitting in the office here. We’re working really hard on a lot of different things, getting a lot of things for them, everything. And like trying to get a mask around here is almost impossible. And then we’ve been fortunate enough to find some. So, we tell them every day different things. We’ll show them videos. We want them to know we’re doing everything possible to keep them working and keep them positive.
- Do you mention anything else in your meetings?
We’ve been talking about air scrubbers and whatnot. We can’t really advertise that right now because we’d probably get a lot of backlash, but when the guys are in the house, they can talk to the people.
- What are your competitors doing? Are they closing up? Or is everyone pretty much just running as usual?
Around here, well a lot of the competitors don’t have a lot of service contracts, so they’re kind of dead in the water. I mean some are running here and there. The ones that are doing just install only, and they don’t have service, they’re trying to run some service calls here and there. But it doesn’t happen overnight.
We see some of them burying their head in the sand saying, “poor me, poor me,” and keep blaming it on the virus. And I say, “No, that’s not your problem. The virus is not your problem. We’ve got to overcome the virus, 9/11, all this stuff, dips in the economy, and everything else.” Those are just things we’ve got to do every day. The virus is just an excuse you can use.
- It’s interesting you mention that because being in business for as long as you have, in the area you are, you’ve seen a lot with 9/11, with the recession, and you’ve managed to always bounce back.
Yeah, we were very close to 9/11 because we knew a lot of people that died in 9/11 around here. And it hit hard right here. But you know what? Every time we’ve had a recession, we’ve been able to respond very quickly, and we were always stronger in a sense. I mean we’ve always been busier during those times and able to grow even then. So, you’ve really just got to not use it as an excuse.
- People still want good service. I mean that doesn’t go away, no matter what is going on.
- Is there anything you do to keep that positive mindset every day? There is a lot of outside noise that can affect anyone.
Oh, yeah, listening to the news will drive you nuts. It’s all gloom and doom. No, you know what? Honestly, when stuff like this happens, it gets me out of the norm and gets my juices flowing again to say, “Okay, it’s a challenge.” I mean, to me it’s a challenge. Not that I want this challenge like this, but it’s a challenge. And say, “Okay, this is what’s going on. How do we overcome it? How do we get our people positive? How do we get our people to overcome it?” And with everything that we’ve learned over the years, all the marketing and management stuff and the sales, you’ve really got to kick it in and keep it going. And to me, that’s when I really kick in and get going fast. It’s a challenge.
- Have you thought much about the long-term, after this is over, or are you more focused on the day-to-day at this point?
Well I think that the first thing is to focus day-to-day, stay in your plan, and whatnot. But I think long-term this is going to change everything we do from here on. Okay, I think a lot more people are going to be a lot more receptive to hearing us talk about indoor-air quality. They’re going to be more receptive, “Geez, tell me about it,” instead of saying, “Nah, I don’t need it, I don’t need it.”
I think it’s just going to change the way people all over the world do things. And they’re going to be more receptive to a lot of different things and it’s definitely going to change everybody. So, I think there’s opportunities for our business for indoor-air quality in the future. I think everyone will look at it a little harder.
- Carmine, you’ve been in business a long time. Do you have any additional wisdom to share to get through times such as these?
Well, I think you just can’t take your eye off the ball here. You’ve got to keep going. Keep your prices going. And you’ve really got to keep your eye on the ball to keep everybody going. And whatever it takes to try to keep everybody going in these times, you’ve really got to, and it’s not easy. But we’ll get through it.