20 Questions With Larry Janesky, Owner and Founder of Basement Systems Inc.
Originally published: 08.01.11 by Terry Tanker
Recently, Publisher Terry Tanker met with Larry Janesky, owner and founder of Basement Systems Inc., which has more than 300 dealers in six countries. He is also author of eight books and holds 27 patents. His latest venture, Dr. Energy Saver, is a network of energy-conservation contractors who specialize in energy and comfort assessment, a perfect add-on business for most HVACR contractors. Tanker and Janesky discussed motocross, saving energy in homes and buildings, and franchise opportunities.
1. Do you have an interesting hobby?
I am a passionate motocross racer, and I jump freestyle ramps and do tricks on a dirt bike.
2. Do you have another talent?
I publish two daily Internet-based motivational and challenging messages called Think Daily and Think Daily for Businesspeople. They are free, and over 7,000 people subscribe. There's also an iPhone app for each.
3. What is your business background?
Right out of high school, I started my own carpentry business. I built my first house at 18 and was spec building at 20. In 1987 the market collapsed, and I couldn't build anymore, so I started waterproofing basements because a home I had built had a leaking wall crack. I had a lot of ideas and began recruiting dealers who I thought could benefit from them. Today Basement Systems Inc. is the largest in our industry. We did the same thing in crawl spaces (CleanSpace), finishing (Total Basement Finishing) and structural repair (Foundation Supportworks). Today we're doing it with Dr. Energy Saver.
4. How did you become involved with Dr. Energy Saver?
I bought a very large home and was shocked at my first electric bill. I fixed the house and got my electric bill down 65% and my propane bill down by 45%; and my house was way more comfortable. I knew the world needed this and set out to build a business that could deliver it.
5. Whole-building performance via energy evaluations is becoming very popular. What?s the driving force behind this?
I've seen a "hype curve" in businesses over the years — radon, asbestos, mold, basement finishing, and others. Now it's energy. It's the IN thing right now. The reality is, you have to figure out how to make it into a profitable and repeatable business. In the end, it's still a business, and it all comes down to work and applying effective business principles.
6. What types of tests are conducted during an energy evaluation?
A blower-door test and many others, depending on what kind of service the contractor is providing.
7. How is energy consumed in a typical home?
Heating and cooling is over 50%, and that's what people can feel, so that's our focus. We have found that most homes need basic structural upgrades in order to improve comfort, such as windows and doors.
8. As a percentage, how much energy is wasted in an average home?
9. How much does it typically cost homeowners to stop this waste?
In the energy world, the answer to most questions is ?it depends.? But we do jobs from $1,500 to $100,000.
10. What types of firms specialize in this business?
It's a new business, and there's a lot of talk, but I don't think anybody has the model figured out completely yet. Anybody can do it with focused effort and great business skills.
11. Are HVACR contractors well positioned to add these services to their businesses?
It's right up their alley! But they will have to learn new things and get out of the box. The interesting thing we are seeing is that customers who are looking to save energy are very receptive to high-efficiency replacement systems, even if their current systems are working. These are higher margin sales.
12. How much additional revenue could a contractor expect adding these services to their existing business?
It depends (laughs). As I teach in my book and seminars, the business is not the critical variable. You are. There must be a limit to the market potential for energy conservation, but right now I can't see it. The challenge is finding the best ways to access it.
13. Are there federal tax credits associated with an energy audit?
Small ones. But quite frankly, I wish the government would stay out of it.
14. Do repairs have to be made or does the audit simply need to take place?
Audits don't save any energy. You have to do something. In order to do something, you have to sell something. In order for you to sell something, someone has to buy something because they see it's in their interests to do so.
15. What is the best way to market the service?
Brand it well, figure out what your message is, and get it out to the world. Work your existing customers through print, direct mail, radio, T.V., Internet, etc.
16. How can contractors learn more about providing energy services?
Funny you asked! Dr. Energy Saver is offering very affordable low-risk, high-value franchises. We have a 40,000-square-foot energy-conservation training center. We'd be very happy to talk to anyone who is interested and explain the business opportunity.
17. What is the footprint of your local business in Connecticut?
We have 33 trucks on the road each day. We do $22 million in local installations and $80 million for all of our businesses combined. We've won many awards.
18. You have a book called The Highest Calling. What's it about?
There are many programs and books on how to be successful, but none that connected to a contractor. The Highest Calling is more than a book. It's a powerful business-building course. The business goes as the owner thinks. When you get it right, by owning a successful business, you can make the world a better place for customers and employees — there is no higher calling.
19. How's The Highest Calling been received?
It won Best Business Book of 2010 at the New England Book Festival and Indie Book awards, and from an influential small business website called Small Biz Trends.com. I have stacks of letters from people who say it made a huge difference in their business and personal lives.
20. How would you sum up your business philosophy?
Business is no accident. Once you master it, you understand you can put a purposeful input into the "machine," and get a desirable output. It takes a long time to learn, but it feels great once you have it — and we do.