20 Questions with Mark Evans, President and Owner, Burton A/C, Heating, Plumbing and More, Omaha, NE.

Originally published: 05.01.13 by Terry Tanker

HVACR Business Publisher Terry Tanker recently met with Mark Evans, owner and president of Burton A/C, Heating, Plumbing and More. The two discussed future growth, employee training, employee motivation and things to do on rainy golf vacations.

1. I’ve interrupted your annual golf vacation for this interview. How are your scores?
Depends if you’re talking scores or quotas! I actually don’t golf very much, but I’ve been golfing with this group of friends for 13 years. It’s a great trip. And, I’m doing pretty well on our “quota system”.

2. What’s the backup plan when the weather doesn’t cooperate?
Well, like most golfers who get rained out, we visit the 19th hole.

3. You’ve obviously left the company in good hands – would you like to tell them anything?
They are really the greatest. I have a super GM and he has a great support team he can count on. It’s really a blessing to have such a team!

4. How did you get your start in the HVAC business?
The business was originally started in June of 1989 by Burton Friesz. I joined Burton in July of 1995 as GM to build the service division.

5. What were you doing prior to joining Burton?
I was a salesman for Wolverine Brass. I became interested in the service business after meeting many business owners in my travels. Burton and I became friends. We enjoyed discussing the flat rate process many of my customers were using. I was interested in a career change to be home more often with my newborn daughter. Burton and I decided to team up. We joined Contactors 2000 and became the first flat rate company in the Omaha, Council Bluffs area.

6. How did that partnership work out?
It was great. However, we decided to sell the company to Blue Dot, a national consolidator, in February of 1999. Burton left the company and I became the President. As you know, Blue Dot had financial troubles and, in March of 2003,
I purchased the company from them.

7. How was the slogan “Just Call Burton” developed?
Originally, we were a plumbing company. The slogan was, “When the Plumbin’s hurtin’…Just call Burton.” As we started expanding into HVAC, electrical, and other areas, we wanted to change the slogan to adapt to the businesses we were expanding into.

8. What is your business philosophy?
Customers make paydays possible, so take care of them! And by customers, I mean our employees. Our management team and I focus on this daily. In turn, our employees will take care of the end customer, who ultimately pays the bills.

9. What is your business size, mix and projected growth rate?
In 2012 we closed our books at approximately $10.3 million. Our mix is 61% plumbing, 38% HVAC and 1% electrical. Our projected annual growth rate the next three years is 20%.

10. What are the largest challenges to realizing that growth?
The biggest challenge is getting the right people on the bus. Our company is only as good as the team we put together.

11. What type of training and education do you offer employees?
We have weekly meetings with each division and we are training one day per week. Three of those meetings are Nexstar Service System training and the fourth training day of the month is technical training. This is usually done in house by one of our managers or vendors. Additionally, we reimburse our employees for half of any education as long as it is bettering their career with Burton.

12. Currently you have eleven open positions (listed on your website). What’s the most important attribute you look for when hiring?
First and foremost, a Great Attitude! From there, we can teach almost anything else.

13. What do you enjoy most about managing your company?
The employees. It’s fun watching the growth. Giving everyone the chance to grow and then watching them develop and advance their careers.

14. What management advice has served you well and can you share it with others?
You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with, so hire people smarter than you are. If you have to make the choice between an employee and a customer, the choice should be easy! A customer is worth about $30K in a lifetime; an employee is worth much more than that!

15. What type of marketing do you do and how large is your budget as a percentage of overall sales?
We focus on branding. It is hard to create an impulse buy in our business. So, when a need arises and they think, “Who should I call?” we want to be top of mind. We spend 7-9% on advertising as a percentage of sales.

16. What do you enjoy most about being in a leadership role?
I enjoy designing the strategy that gives us the opportunity to grow and laying out the framework I think will help us grow and gives us the best chance for success.

17. What do you find motivates your employees the most?
Trusting them to hit the goals we’ve set. Thanking them for their efforts and inspiring them to achieve more.

18. Do you have a good customer service story you can share?
We replaced a sewer main and our salesman told the customer, “You’ll never have sewer main problems again.” To her, this meant “no sewer problems.” Later, there were problems inside the home – but not with the sewer main. We ended up replacing all the drains in the basement, which included tearing out all of the concrete. This was a great learning experience for our salesmen on what customers hear and think!

19. Do your service techs wear company uniforms?
Yes, we wear white shirts and blue pants. They have our logo, an American flag and a C1 logo. This means “Customer 1st”, which is part of “Customers Make Paydays Possible’.

20. Can you tell me a bit about your service fleet?
We have just over 50 vehicles and run mostly Mercedes Sprinter vans. We buy them and use a local dealership for maintenance. And we wrap all of them: it’s a great marketing tool.

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