THE 3 MOUNTAINS STORY: How A Local Portland Plumbing Shop Grew Top Line Revenue by 76% in Twelve Months
When Bill Kerrigan, a self described ‘numbers guy,’ bought a small Portland, Oregon based plumbing shop on a whim, he knew he was taking a calculated risk. Well, these days, that risk has paid off in spades. Bill’s company, 3 Mountains Plumbing is thriving thanks to some savvy entrepreneurship on his part and a fortuitous relationship with The Service Coach founder, Steve Teneriello.
Bill was nice enough to find time in his busy schedule last week to sit down with us to discuss everything from how he got his start in the plumbing business to the ups and downs of his career to his game-changing decision to sign on with Steve and the team at The Service Coach.
One of the interesting things about Bill and his success in plumbing is that when he initially bought the company he knew next to nothing about the industry. All Bill knew was that he was fed up with his Massachusetts based financial career and was itching to do something entrepreneurial. So he did what many of us only fantasize about doing—he quit his job to pursue his true calling.
Soon after arriving in Oregon in 2005, Bill stumbled on a little plumbing and construction shop for sale in the suburbs outside Portland. To this day, he refers to that stumble as his “light bulb moment.” Although it was his first solo venture into business ownership, Bill’s background in finance gave him confidence that he had what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
Turns out, Bill snatched up that small shop at a time when the contracting industry (not to mention Portland itself) was primed for growth. Within a few months of purchase, business jumped significantly due to a construction boom and the young company’s revenue stream nearly tripled. When Bill took the reins, he had 4 plumbers and over the next several years he was able to double that number. But, one thing about Bill—he’s not the type to rest on his laurels. Despite the success and growth that defined those early years, Bill was never really satisfied with his business model, singling out his internal processes as “broken” and saying the business lacked a key element that would bring about “true profitability.”
Unfortunately, Bill wouldn’t get the chance to reform his business model, at least not yet. By this time, it was late 2008 and the financial crisis was about the rear its ugly head, sending the housing market crashing down and taking its HVAC and plumbing ancillaries along with it. In Bill’s words, it took the “melee of the financial crisis to realize that I had a broken business model. In the aftermath of that and the recession that followed was when I decided to take the company away from construction and focus on service—residential, in home plumbing service.” At that point, construction represented about 40% of 3 Mountains’ business. But, as we mentioned, Bill is nothing, if not a numbers guy and the numbers were on his side once again as his all-in gamble on the plumbing side of his business paid off. By time the market stabilized, 3 Mountains was one of the few left standing in a very different landscape. Although in the depths of the recession, Bill’s staff was cut in half to 2 plumbers, they were back up to 4 before too long.
Talking to Bill about his business, you’ll learn that he is emphatic about the role Nexstar played as a signpost on his road to success. As a member for more than 2 and ½ years, the more he learned about the organization’s take on customer service, flat-rate pricing and the rest, the more he came to believe Nexstar could help him unlock his business’ potential.
Although Bill is quick to give kudos to Nexstar for transforming his business in those years of uncertainty, he still felt 3 Mountains was underperforming. He describes those times as an “ongoing struggle to get the phone to ring for what we wanted it to ring for and to get our close percentages where we wanted them.” But help was just around the corner. According to Bill, “a big turning point in terms of getting a handle on those deliverables came when we signed on with The Service Coach.”
Bill had tried 3 different PPC vendors before hiring The Service Coach. He had been burned before and so was naturally skeptical when he first spoke with Steve, the CEO and founder. In fact, before signing on with Steve, 3 Mountains had been on a 9 month PPC sabbatical. “When we came to The Service Coach, I was still not convinced that PPC worked,” Bill says. “I had never seen it demonstrate any sort of return at all. But I was willing to give it one more shot.”
Bill’s problems with his previous PPC managers were pretty basic and all-too-common among small business owners. His biggest gripe was that he simply felt he was not seeing a return on the money being sunk into PPC campaigns. His second biggest gripe? Their attitude. According to Bill, the other guys “weren’t necessarily unresponsive, but they were never quick to respond and when we did speak, they talked down to me. They didn’t speak to my level, they didn’t acknowledge my concerns properly and certainly didn’t act to fix them quickly enough.” That lack of trust eventually got so bad that Bill had to pull in his Nexstar marketing coach to problem solve and manage his account because his PPC guys just weren’t picking up the slack. When it came right down to it, Bill says, “I just didn’t feel like I was getting the full story from my PPC guy. Finally, that marketing coach said, Bill, these guys are just not working for you. You gotta get rid of them. So I swore off PPC. Eight or nine months later was my first conversation with Steve.”
“Signing on with The Service Coach was a big leap of faith for us,” says Bill. “Especially because the standard package of rolling out a new website, rebuilding SEO strategy and all that—it’s an extremely aggressive move. But it was becoming clear that running a business in this day and age with no PPC strategy in place just wasn’t enough. 3 Mountains was wallowing—not dying, but certainly not thriving either. I knew we weren’t headed where I had envisioned when I started out. I knew I had to do something drastic to get us where we needed to be. That’s where Steve and The Service Coach came in.”
Bill might be a numbers guy, but that mathematical savvy never extended to PPC. PPC is truly a hidden science that few people who aren’t professionals have any sort of handle on. According to Bill, “I had no idea what was a good or appropriate amount to spend on AdWords. I knew what I could afford and that’s it. I had to just decide I was going to trust Steve and I haven’t looked back.”
3 Mountains Plumbing became a Service Coach client in early October 2012 when they were doing about 60k-70k worth of business a month. By November, their monthly revenue had grown almost 40%. By January, they were doing more than $100,000 a month. “It happened almost overnight,” says Bill. “Our new website went live the first week of November along with our AdWords campaigns. And I’ll admit in those first few weeks, I was skeptical. I said, ‘Steve, I can’t afford more than a couple grand a month on PPC, we need to take it slow! And Steve said ‘look, you need to trust me. We’re gonna open the firehose—you guys just have to be ready to respond.’ And we were. Over the next 30 days, our revenue leaped 40%!”
“This will blow your mind,” Bill laughs. “A year ago to the day, we are up 76% on our top line!” But just how did Bill and 3 Mountains get there? It may have felt like it happened overnight, but in truth it took a lot of hard work both on the part of Bill and his staff and Steve and his. From call tracking to content marketing to PPC management, The Service Coach has functioned as Bill’s in house marketing team. Although headquartered in the greater Boston area, a continent away from 3 Mountains’ Portland home, Bill declares, “the West coast-East coast thing has been no big deal. I’ll shoot an e-mail to Steve after I put my kids to bed and he’ll respond! I’ll be like, what time is out there? 1 in the morning? What are you even doing up? But that’s just the level of service you get with Steve. Even though he’s the owner of the company—he’s the one often getting back to me.”
The way things are going for Bill right now, he can basically pick and choose when and how he’s going to grow his business. Short term goals include adding another plumber or two, a few more trucks and possibly a drain cleaning or heating and cooling department down the road. And the prospect of those goals being met soon is very good indeed. Steve has abundant experience guiding clients through both of those industries.
It’s safe to say that Bill is no longer a PPC skeptic and feels his content marketing efforts are in good hands, as well. With the assist from Steve and the team at The Service Coach, Bill managed to grow his 400k a year shop into a market share gobbling beast that netted him $1.2 million in the last year alone. It doesn’t take a “numbers guy” to appreciate those numbers, but I bet it does make success taste all the more sweet. “All in all,” Bill says, “I couldn’t be happier!”