Western Contractor of the Year for 2016-2017
Any Hour Services: Electric, Heating, Plumbing & Air in Orem, Utah
About 40 miles southeast of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, there’s another large body of water which sits and twinkles under the Western sun. About one-third the size of its more famous neighbor and containing fresh water instead of salt, Utah Lake sits just west of the city of Orem, the fifth largest city in the state with a 2010 population of nearly 90,000. Forbes magazine in 2010 rated the city the 5th best place in the country to raise a family and why not? Orem is proud to call itself “Family City U.S.A.”
A community of that size is going to have plumbing needs, as will the residents of the outlying area. That’s where Any Hour Electrical, Plumbing, Heating & Air comes in. Wyatt Hepworth, company president, says the management team consists of him, Samantha Hepworth, the CFO, and Jeremy Hansen, the general manager. The thing with Any Hour, though, is it’s a young company – it’s gone from nothing on the plumbing side to RJ Western Contractor of the Year in just eight short years.
A Cinderella story…
“I owned Hepworth Electric for 22 years and worked on job sites with a bunch of people. Eight years ago when the economy crashed, we realized that we needed to do more than just electrical and we realized we didn’t want to do new construction anymore,” Hepworth said. “I found some good friends that did heating and air that I worked next to. I found some friends that did plumbing that had their own businesses. I found a friend that did stone masonry and I found just the best people I could and brought all those people into my business and we grew from a $1.6 million service company to $25 million in 8 years.”
The company’s service area stretches from Ogden in the north to Tooele in the southwest to Park City in the east: “So we service along the whole Wasatch Front. It’s a 100-mile long by 30-mile wide area that covers 2.5 million people,” Hepworth said, adding the company currently employs 150 and fields about 120 trucks and techs. “We do 50,000 jobs a year. We’re closing 80% of our jobs, so technically we’re running 60,000 calls a year.”
Incentives are good
How does a plumbing, heating, air and electrical company come from virtually out of nowhere to become the Western Contractor of the Year in just eight years? What are the nuts and bolts of taking, apparently, many disparate elements and forging together into a dreadnaught of a company?
“Find the right people and keep them at all costs,” Hepworth says. ”That’s my philosophy. I’m going to find the right people and I’m going to keep them.”
Finding the right people for Any Hour is taken very seriously, right from the, “Come on in for an interview” stage. A candidate who expects to walk into Any Hour at 10 a.m. for an interview, and then walk into a new job with the company at 11 a.m. may have inaccurate expectations.
“They don’t get hired on the first interview. Ever. Even if they say, ‘I’ve got another job opportunity’, I say, ‘Well, if you’ve got to take it now, you go take it’,” Hepworth says, adding there may be as many as three interviews, one of which is going to get the applicant’s significant other involved.
“I have them bring their significant other or spouse, if they’re married, to the second interview so I can find out what’s important to them,” he says. “And no one comes into the business and no one gets let go without going through me, so not one manager can fire anybody out of here. They sure can have a say on if a guy needs to go, but no one’s just going to get kicked off a job because there was a run-in with a manager, you know what I mean? And I think that’s comforting for our guys to know: ‘Hey, Wyatt’s going to make sure he has good managers in place, but he’s also going to make sure I’m not just kicked off the job for saying what I truly think and being honest’.”
That kind of attitude goes a long way toward fostering employee retention. How that’s done at Any Hour sounds like a chapter straight out of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
Training, for example. It happens at Any Hour, but the techs who get to go don’t forfeit a day’s or week’s pay because they’re not handling calls. Techs get paid to go to the training and Hepworth will come along.
“They are getting at least their base pay, which is a fair market. Plumbers, electricians, heating-air guys, plumbers did not go into the trade to make commission. They went into the trade because they liked working with their hands,” Hepworth says, noting the philosophy of paying for results pays dividends. “We pay fair market value, but then we also pay a bonus based on efficiency so if they want to work harder, they’re going to make a bonus once a month based on their efficiency.”
Hepworth then notes a simple, but often overlooked, aspect of managing people. When they’re incentivized, they will work harder.
“Then, when they go to training, I’m going to go to that training with them. I could just pay a manager to go with them. I go to the training with them, I build a relationship with them. We eat together, we laugh together, and we get to know each other.”
Some companies today operate with a structure that could be called dumbbell-shaped. At one end there are plenty of senior management ownership and hired-gun MBA vice president types and plenty of low wage, unempowered, uninspired people doing the grunt work at the other end. In the middle there’s a vast wasteland. Middle managers who have put the years into the trenches and who actually know how the company works and who can motivate other workers by teaching them all the tricks of the trade they’ve picked up over the years are expensive to hire and maintain. So, they get laid off in the name of “restructuring,” and all of those good, livable middle-class wages instead drop to the bottom line. Bonuses for everybody who wears suits to work!
The industry observers who helped Any Hour achieve this year’s Contractor of the Year honors almost unanimously pointed to the company’s culture as one of its notable points. An important part of that culture is leadership in the middle. It’s kind of a big deal at Any Hour.
“Ninety percent of our managers have been in the field so they know what it’s like to be a tech and most of these managers were some of our top guys, so we lost a lot of revenue by pulling them in,” Hepworth says. “But now they’re teaching the guys how to go out, give good options to the customers and do a good job out there with the customer. And they’re people who people can look up to because they were successful out there in the field.”
Hepworth tells of Troy Miller, who was making a pretty good living as a tech working between 35 and 40 hours a week: “You meet him and he’s just a solid technician, just works his guts out,” he says. “And so now he’s a manager and he teaches these guys how to communicate options with a customer.”
Being able to communicate options to customers is a nice ability to have, especially in light of the ever-changing codes, he says.
“When we’re in a home that’s 20- or 30 years old, those houses are not to code. Usually they were plumbed by one of the cheaper contractors, so we’re in these homes and maybe they haven’t seen anybody for a while. We’re going to give them options to be able to bring their house up to code. Not make them feel like they have to, but just kinda share with them some of the things we can do to their house that are not going to be obtrusive.”
While it’s a lengthy process to get onto the Any Hour team, it’s a good place to be once a tech, for example, lands there. If you work out all right and you’re a good tech you’ll have a shot at moving into other jobs at the company to show your stuff. Other companies won’t promote their techs into management or supervisory roles because, they reason, revenue will be lost by taking a star tech off the playing field.
“If you saw our managers, you would say they could truly just go off and start their own businesses right now,” he says. “They’re that high a caliber of people. Plus our guys that are even technicians, people come into my business and they’re like, “Wow, these guys are the type of people you see that would run their own business.” They’re good guys. And so anyway, yeah, but we do teach them the cost of doing business. We do teach them everything to do to be able run a business.”
Hepworth points to a current technician, Shane Allred. He used to own his own business. “He interviewed with me three years in a row. I didn’t feel like he was really truly ready to shut his business down,” Hepworth says. “We asked for a five-year commitment verbally and after three years, he said he’d do it. He came into our business and he has just loved it because he has eight kids, he gets to work hard all day, he gets to go home, doesn’t have to worry about payroll, doesn’t worry about whether he has work the next day. He gets to take a week or two off for vacation, go enjoy his family and come back and he knows we have calls waiting for him when he gets back.”
It's a team thing
All of this is terrific but there’s going to be attrition. Older workers are going to retire and there has to be someone coming behind them to fill the gap. Any Hour has a program in which it brings in young people interested in a career in the trades.
“And they do go to school. We also have drain cleaners that are separate from our plumbing side where we apprentice those guys and we have those guys help out as plumbers. Plus we also have them as drain cleaners while they’re going to school,” he says. “We actually will not hire somebody, even in our parts department, unless they give us a five-year commitment. So if they’re on the fence about [school or the trades] we let them know we’re only looking for people that want to be in the trades. And even the guys in the parts department are coming in knowing when there’s an opening they’re going to be promoted into one of the company’s departments.”
Any Hour is involved with Nexstar Network training and he says he brings up to a dozen or so employees out to its training when it’s in the area. Hepworth says that benefits him because he gets to hear what employees are thinking and it benefits employees because it helps them understand how to succeed at Any Hour.
“So they come back and they don’t need to come back and get permission to do certain things. These guys will let me know what’s going on in the business and I can come back and actually clear out roadblocks in their way and I can make it so they can be successful by fixing things in my own business, things they let me know about. Help in the office, be more streamlined, help in the field, and take care of our customers at the top level we possibly can without things getting in the way.”
It doesn’t matter [to Any Hour] what all the other companies are doing or who’s saying that people aren’t coming into the trades. If we’re taking care of our people, then people will come into the trades. We have a recession-proof industry. We have recession-proof type of a company and there is so much opportunity if people could just go to a company where they truly get paid well and have a true future where they didn’t have to worry about a company not necessarily being in business very long or not appreciating them as an individual.”