Building a Winning Home Service Business: Focus on a Niche Market
We profile Jobber customers and industry experts for #thedailyhustle to learn how they build and operate successful businesses.
When Van Wu started building his HVAC home services company, Trust Home Comfort, it was with one thing in mind. “We wanted to create a company that was easy to do business with. We liked a model like Costco where, if you’re not happy, you can get a refund. We wanted to do the same thing in the service industry.”
Having lived and worked in the Edmonton, Canada area for years, Van was well aware of the struggles of the Chinese community there to find tradespersons that communicated and delivered services in a way that was approachable for the community.
“We found there was almost no competition in the Chinese market,” says Van. “The tradespersons that are out there are just one man companies promoting themselves. We wanted to have a very professional setup by comparison.” To this end, the company took time during the startup phase to find out exactly what was important to the Chinese market and build a strong online presence to engage them.
Build your customer base: Go where your customers are
To target its niche directly, Trust Home Comfort decided to leverage WeChat, a messaging app extremely popular throughout Asia Pacific and the Chinese community in North America.
“People rely on WeChat to stay connected with each other and there are good groups in the app communicating in Cantonese and Mandarin,” explains Van. “We use it for lead generation. I chat with customers and make appointments, and one of the in-app groups we sponsor shares our flyer twice a day. That accounts for about 50 per cent of our revenue. The rest comes from Yelp, Facebook, Google, and our website.”
Wu says the Chinese community in Edmonton is very close knit but, sometimes due to language barriers, has difficulty asking the right questions to find home service contractors they feel are trustworthy. “We found a lot of people didn’t know who to call, or who to trust, when they needed help with their HVAC,” he explains. “They felt it was risky if they just randomly picked a contractor. I heard lots of horrible stories.”
The foundation for getting referrals is to do a good job. You treat them with respect, they have a great experience, then they are happy to refer.
A home service business built on strong relationships
To fill the gap in the market, Van and his then partner formed Trust Home Comfort in late 2014 and launched home services in the spring of 2015. In that time, revenues increased from less than $300,000 in 2015 to an expected $500,000 in 2017.
Van credits the growth to their ability to build a good reputation in the local community and nurture relationships with top suppliers, like Lennox, thereby ensuring a steady supply of quality parts and attractive business terms.
“95% of our business is from residential customers in the Chinese community. It’s all retrofit. We don’t touch new builds,” he says. “We have a lot of students and young families. Our challenge is just getting the word out and making people aware that there is a company out there that speaks the same language as them, offers a superior service quality, and cares about our customers.”
The company’s deep dedication to customer service has paid dividends in terms of great online reviews and regular referrals to friends and family. “The foundation for getting referrals is to do a good job,” Wu stresses. “You treat them with respect, they have a great experience, then they are happy to refer.
Choose your team wisely
Asked about the most essential equipment to run his HVAC business day to day, Van pauses for a moment before politely replying. “That’s hard to say. To me, people are more important than tools.
“A good technician, they’re not just good because they have good skills, but because they are good with people,” he says. “Tools you can always buy. People, even if you have money, you don’t always know where to find them. So I think they are much more important.” Van says he has been fortunate in this regard.
A good technician, they’re not just good because they have good skills, but because they are good with people. Tools you can always buy. People, even if you have money, you don’t always know where to find them.
“I met my original business partner through playing volleyball, so I already knew he was a good teammate and communicator. When he left, he referred me to another guy, also from the community, who was a mature guy with lots of experience who had owned his own business before and had great technical skills,” Van says. “So, I knew I could trust that he would be very good with customers, too. I am pretty lucky.”
Lightning round with Trust Home Comfort!
How do you unwind after a long day?
I play volleyball two or three times a week and have lots of friends. We always like to try different things, like hiking, camping, or rock-climbing. I am always trying to learn something new and have fun.
What would you be doing if you didn’t run your home service business Trust Home Comfort?
I would start another business in the sales and service industry as a solopreneur. That is my next goal. I don’t want a job. I like to be able to get rewards based on how much I put in.
Your favorite Jobber feature?
The main dashboard on Jobber is always open, so I can chat with my customers, make invoices, and such.