20 Questions with Dan Weltman owner of Weltman Home Services, Inc.
Originally published: 05.01.11 by Terry Tanker
Publisher Terry Tanker recently spoke with Dan Weltman, owner of Weltman Home Services, Inc. They spoke about classic cars, finding gems among professionals displaced by the recession, and the business case behind adding new types of services of a business.
1. As I did research for this interview, I learned that you are passionate about classic automobiles. Any particular kind?
Anything from the 1960s, especially Shelby Mustangs and other fine-performance vehicles. I buy, sell, and collect.
2. Do you ever have an opportunity to “legally” test their performance?
Yes! I participate in high-speed driving events several times a year.
3. Let’s transition from the track to business. How did you get your start?
My father is a plumber, my grandfather was a plumber, and I have been around the industry most of my life. When I graduated from high school in 1975, I started attending county college. While sitting in class one day, I asked myself, “What in the heck am I doing here?”
4. So, you left college and joined your father’s company?
Yes, but I also attended and completed trade school, and received my state license at age 22.
5. What was the best advice your father gave you about being in the business?
Treat people fairly (customers, employees, sub-contractors, and vendors); and always do more than people expect.
6. Did you have an industry mentor other than your father?
Yes. I was fortunate enough to meet Frank J. Blau, Jr., in 1992.
7. How did you meet?
I attended one of his Business of Contracting Seminars in Clark, N.J. At the time, I was one of those contractors who did not understand basic retail mark-up. Frank soon cured me of that. Attending that seminar and meeting Frank was the beginning of my career as a businessperson. He helped me to realize that falling in love with numbers was crucial to the continued growth and prosperity of my company.
8. Are your children involved in the business?
My daughter, Corinne, is our marketing manager. She attended Loyola University and worked here summers and semester breaks. Although she enjoys being part of the team, her education and passion are aimed at the fashion industry, and that’s ultimately where she will be. My son, Kyle, has been with the family business for six years after attending Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. Kyle has completed apprentice school and will be taking his New Jersey State Master Plumber’s exam this summer. His goal is to become a professional firefighter, working in the family business during his time off.
9. Several years ago, you added an electrical division to your company. Can you explain the decision-making process that went into that?
As our HVAC installations grew, we were selling electrical upgrades on over half of our installations. Our sub-contractor was very happy. But it made more sense for us to bring that business in house.
10. What kind of synergies have you seen because of this new business?
Offering a more complete home service to our clients is the most evident. Another is cross-training of certain service technicians.
11. Weltman Home Services offers more services than just about any contractor I’ve spoken with. Did you always intend to be a one-stop shop for customers?
No, I never intended to offer the larger variety of services. Although they are not the mainstay of our income, handyman and electrical are natural fits. With handyman, our plumbing technicians are always opening a wall to find a leak or to replace a tub faucet. Why would I want another contractor providing services that we can easily offer to our valued clients?
12. As percentages, what is the business breakdown?
Plumbing is 45%; HVACR is 40%; electrical is 8%; and handyman work is 7%.
13. How does your business philosophy drive the decisions you make for the business?
We strive daily to exceed expectations. Cost, efficiency and the like are not always our top priority.
14. Can you explain how you've taken advantage of the poor economy with regard to personnel?
As the economy slowed over the past several years, many of the large corporations in and around our market downsized for fiscal survival. This action forced a plethora of seasoned professionals into the job market. We have added a very experienced finance manager, customer-service representatives, dispatchers, warehouse employees, and service technicians.
15. What goals have you set for the company for the next three years?
Increase Internet marketing and electronic commerce presence and consistency; purchase an appliance-repair company and delve into that trade; grow our Service Partner Plan base to 5,000 clients; and return to pre-recession annual growth rate of 12% to 15%.
16. What percentage of sales do you allocate to your marketing/communications program?
We currently invest 10% of our gross revenues in marketing and customer retention.
In terms of return on investment, what seems to work best for your company?
Anything Internet based: SEO, electronic newsletters, e-mails, website.
If you had a “mulligan,” where would you have taken it?
I wish I would have attended a Frank Blau Business of Contracting seminar a dozen years earlier than I did. Although Frank was not teaching that far back, in retrospect, I was lacking knowledge in most basic business fundamentals.
Hearts and Heroes is a charitable-giving opportunity for customers and WHS. Can you explain how you developed it?
We receive many requests for charitable donations every week, and it would be fiscally impossible to support every one of them. As a member of the Nexstar Network, I looked to my peers for their solutions. There are at least a dozen of my Nexstar friends that offer a monthly charity donation such as ours.
What do you love about coming to work in the morning?
I love that I get to see my 85-year-old father every day. He works in our warehouse and arrives most days by 6 a.m. Pop sorts and recycles metals, trash, and cardboard. His KPI (key performance indicator) is how many boxes go out for recycling. If we have 17 or more, business is good. Ironically, his method is very accurate!