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Founded in 1998 by Bruce Wiseman and Barry Burnett, Business Development Resources, a business training and coaching provider to HVAC, plumbing and electrical contractors and distributors, has helped thousands of contractors build sustainable companies.
We talked to Wiseman, CEO, and President Kim Archer to discuss the company’s 25th anniversary, how the industry has changed since BDR was founded, and the future of home services.
PHC News: Where did the idea for BDR come from?
Bruce Wiseman: I was approached by Barry Burnett when he was the Trane equipment manager at Gensco Supply in the Pacific Northwest. He oversaw increasing Trane equipment sales for Gensco.
One of his first projects was approaching the dealer base to see their forecasts for the next year. The average net growth forecast was 1 to 2 percent. Barry called me that week and asked if I wanted to help Trane dealers in the Northwest grow and develop their businesses.
The initial company was named Northwest Management Group and started in 1995. Kim joined me in 1996 or 1997. After several successful years of Trane’s sales growth, Barry left Gensco. I called him that day, and so did the current president of Trane. Three weeks later, Barry and I met with eight Trane independent wholesale distributors in Northern California. From there, things took off quickly.
PHC News: How did the company get off the ground?
BW: Barry and the team at Gensco had spent the past several years delivering huge equipment sales growth numbers. I had been working with many of these dealers in both a training and coaching capacity — helping them structure for scaling, working on pricing, setting up sales teams, converting to flat rate, business planning, etc.
We took these practices and principles and worked on developing the coaching platform and training materials to roll them out across the country.
PHC News: What were the first coaching and training products you offered?
BW: Our earliest training products were labor management, structuring for profit and growth, residential new construction, business planning, managing and growing a profitable service department, and the Trane Comfort Specialist Manual.
Initially, we took on a coaching consultant role, focusing on business planning and workforce optimization. Kim and I would spend substantial time on the road, immersing ourselves in dealers’ businesses several days a month. Then, in 2002, we launched Profit Coach.
PHC News: Can you name one or two early success stories?
BW: I can name more than that! We developed training journeys with many distributors, including Gensco — an early adopter and still prominent in high-efficiency equipment sales. Others are Apex Distributing, G.A. Larson and Co., many of the district sales offices for Trane, including Dallas DSO (Frank Garcia), Phoenix DSO (Dean Oakley), Charlotte DSO (Jon White) and Heartland.
We worked with their star dealers on annual training journeys to improve profits, reduce inefficiencies, reduce callbacks, raise prices, and establish sales personnel with proper company-controlled pricing.
Kim Archer: In coaching, we’ve helped many companies turn their focus to profit and growth. We’ve helped them understand the importance of organizational excellence, leadership and management development, and workforce optimization.
The list of BDR’s coaching success stories includes Jacobs Heating and Air Conditioning, Specialty Heating and Cooling and Columbia NW Heating and Air Conditioning in Oregon; Universal Mechanical Service Co. and Bel-Red Energy Solutions in Washington; Stout Heating and Air Conditioning in North Carolina; Answer Heating and Cooling in Michigan; Diamond Heating and AirTemp in Alaska; Knueve and Sons in Ohio; Anchor Heating and Air in Atlanta; and Advent Air Conditioning in Dallas.
BW: And there’s been continuity with that success. Many of these companies are still with BDR today, with the next generation of family or business leaders at the helm. We’ve had more than 125 clients successfully exit in the past six years, and to this day, our clients are some of the top nationally recognized dealers and distributors.
PHC News: How has the home services industry changed since 1998?
KA: Most companies include a flat-rate pricing structure. We’ve seen a lot of consolidation, and marketing and sales are more sophisticated than they’ve ever been. Of course, technology has had a considerable impact and that continues today, especially with the current focus on energy efficiency. Today’s systems are better designed.
BW: Overall, there’s a lot of excitement about the industry. The public at large is giving it more attention, and people are more interested in how the industry affects their lives and comfort.
Many of what we call “lifestyle contractors” are still around, those who got into the industry so they could set their schedules and have no interest in growing. However, the industry overall is focused on growth and scaling. Business owners recognize the opportunities unique to this field.
PHC News: Have owners in the industry become more business-savvy in that time?
KA: Absolutely! They’re focused on scaling their businesses. They run professional businesses based on profitability and growth.
They understand marketing and sales systems. They’ve responded well to how social media has elevated the importance of the customer experience.
PHC News: Have business conditions become more complicated?
KA: Yes. Many challenges exist today that didn’t in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. Consolidation and private equity firms’ entry into the industry has raised the stakes.
Every business feels the pressure to become the preferred workplace in its market. The public increasingly expects companies they do business with to support community organizations. Social media and online reviews drive businesses to improve and always deliver excellent customer service.
The regulatory environment is much more complex than it used to be. Local, state and federal regulations serve as an obstacle to growth. Everyone in the industry must stay current on the latest regulations, and the costs associated with compliance add to overhead. More generally, employment law related to scheduling, paid leave and other issues has changed dramatically over the last 25 years.
Finally, the field has become more sophisticated. Equipment is more complex, which will only increase as smart technology, energy efficiency and artificial intelligence advance. There are also many more solutions and accessories available now. It’s more important than ever for business owners to know about the latest options and ensure their teams educate clients and customers on those benefits.
PHC News: How have those changes affected what BDR does and the products you offer?
BW: We’ve dramatically expanded the range of products and the formats they’re offered in. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we expanded our virtual training courses and coaching, and we’re continuing to make those options an essential part of what we do. Our business planning workshop, Profit Launch, is now offered virtually, so more of our client’s team members can attend and participate in the planning process.
We also offer integration services connecting our training and coaching with the top software platforms in the industry, including ServiceTitan.
PHC News: Have BDR’s methods of coaching and training changed? How?
BW: From a training perspective, a lot has evolved. Our original focus was on training owners of HVAC contracting companies. Through the years, we expanded our program to reach deeper into contracting organizations. We now have classes for any job role in an HVAC contracting business. We have gone from seven or eight original courses to well over 50.
We’ve expanded our original focus on HVAC contractors. We now provide training for plumbing contractors as well as HVAC and plumbing distributors. This has been a natural outgrowth of one of BDR’s core beliefs — our training is a tool that should provide benefits to every level in the channel, including manufacturers, distributors and contractors.
KA: BDR has also expanded how we deliver training to meet our customers’ needs. When we started, we offered one- and two-day in-person courses. Today, we have courses as long as five days and as short as two hours. We also offer courses in various formats: in-person, live virtual and self-paced online.
Our roster of trainers has grown dramatically through the years, too. We began with our two owners as trainers. Today, we have 14 different trainers with a range of specialties.
PHC News: Do you think contractors will still have the same concerns and challenges in 25 years?
BW: The energy sector will continue to evolve, bringing with it more complexity. Ultimately, contractors will still succeed by delivering a great experience for the customer. Equipment may be able to diagnose and even fix itself.
However, the most successful companies will still thrive by communicating well, offering a range of product choices, fulfilling their promises, and ensuring the customer is 100 percent satisfied — the same as they do today.
PHC News: How will BDR continue to meet the industry’s needs?
BW: We’ll continue to evolve and adapt to new realities, from artificial intelligence and financial technology to ever-changing trends in our industry.
We’ll continue to do what we have from day one: take care of our clients in a way that fosters trust. Then, we can help them become the very best businesses in their area while achieving personal freedom and elevating their team. And we’ll continue supporting the growth of our BDR team members so they can help our clients become elite business professionals.
Our training will continue to evolve and grow to meet the demands of our markets. We’re working on ways to deliver more immediate training resources that users can consult on an as-needed basis. We’ll continue to develop our self-paced online courses.
Younger generations are accustomed to seeking out their training via YouTube, etc. We see that trend continuing. We’ll grow our offerings for plumbing contractors as well as for HVAC and plumbing distributors. We’ll use new delivery methods to ensure we provide the training our clients need in the best way that works for them.
Looking back over the last 25 years, seeing how far our clients, team and the industry have come is exciting. However, we’re only getting started. So much opportunity is out there —and BDR will continue to be at the forefront to drive profit and growth.