Brothers Tony, left, and Brad Krause often hire and train military veterans for Service Professor jobs, since many of them already have desirable customer-service skills. Photo by Michael Buck
A local heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing services company has outgrown its current workforce.
Service Professor, at 4770 50th St. SE in Grand Rapids near the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, currently has a workforce of 40 and is looking to hire 10-15 technicians in 2017.
“We literally could use five to six employees yesterday,” CEO Brad Krause said.
Krause said the company is on track to finish 2016 with revenue of $6 million, up from $5.1 million in 2015. He noted Service Professor aims for revenue of $20 million in its 10-year plan by expanding the markets in which it serves.
It currently has a seven-county service region: Kent, Montcalm, Ionia, Muskegon, Ottawa, Allegan and Barry counties.
Service Professor was founded in Greenville in 1978 by partners David Krause — Brad Krause’s father — and Glen Smejkal.
“When my father was president, we were electrical only and primarily an electrical construction company known as G&D Electric,” Krause said. “In 2004, I transitioned the company to a service company, which included a new brand. We launched plumbing in 2012 and HVAC in 2013. As of today, electrical is already our smallest department.”
Krause said the company has evolved over the past several years, especially as it relates to a customer service-driven mindset.
“I think we’ve finally put the level of importance on the customer service experience that it deserves,” he said. “We broke the mold of how people expect to be treated. Once we realized that was the key, it really took off for us. We live, eat and breathe the customer service experience. Every bit of overhead put into the company is backed by the thought of, ‘How will this improve our customer service experience?’”
Industry-wide, Krause said, this is not always the case.
“I don’t think anyone who hires a plumber expects to be wowed with a high service level. We really saw a gap in our market with that, and we’ve taken it head-on to make sure we perform. We have to be great at our craft, of course, but I think our reviews show that we’re doing great in our service.”
Part of that service philosophy, Krause said, is the fact that timeliness is paramount.
“We want to serve (customers) when they need it and not when it’s convenient for us,” he said.
Krause said one of the biggest challenges facing Service Professor, and the industry as a whole, is the fact there aren’t enough skilled workers stepping into the positions vacated by retiring baby boomers.
“I see the issue being that everybody at the high school education level is saying college, college, college, when the reality is not everyone is right for college,” Krause said. “There’s no vocational side to our high schools anymore; they’re not pushing the trades anymore at the high school level. So, as the baby boomers retire, our talent pool is shrinking.”
One way to fill this gap, Krause said, is for companies to train and hire veterans who already have the customer-service skills needed for the job.
“I am on the board of an organization called Troops to Trades, which helps to place and give scholarships to veterans, as they come home and inject them in jobs around the country,” he said. “I get to meet technicians weekly who get placed in trade. They already have the soft skills for customer service; they just need the technical side.”
Krause said Service Professor employs a number of veterans, including a recent hire who is an HVAC technician.
He said his workforce runs the gamut of job descriptions, from plumbers to HVAC technicians to what they call “comfort advisors” (essentially the sales/customer relations team) to dispatch technicians, on all the way up to Krause and his brother, Tony Krause, who is vice president of the company.
Looking ahead, Krause said his company aims to stay in growth mode.
“We have plans to expand into different markets,” he said. “We can foresee additional services being offered to our existing client base.”
Wherever things end up, one thing Krause knows will remain strong is the commitment to great service.
“In our mission statement, it literally states our obsession with customer service,” he said. “The attention we put on our customers’ experience and how we’re treating them to make raving fans out of (them) are contributing to that success.”