Jack decided to expand into the heating and air market during the crisis and it took off, taking Harding Plumbing and HVAC from a struggling company to the profitable powerhouse it is today!
Join me in this week’s #Business #Success Interview as I sit down with the innovative Jack Harding and learn how this family business was saved from disaster by a chance encounter.
What three words best describe you?
Energetic, motivated and down to earth.
What motivates you to succeed?
The fact that the business is a second generation business and I have my sons coming along to be the third. I am enjoying seeing the success of a family working together to make a business work.
What habits help keep you successful?
I have a strong work ethic. I get up, get to work and get the job done. If you do that every day it will have a successful effect on your business. I work hard and try to take care of people the rest takes care of itself.
How have you developed key partnerships?
By being there when someone needs you. Taking care of the customer by being fair and honest. I look at a customer as a long term investment. The parents use me and when the kids grow up they will use me and pass us along. If you are good enough you grow with the family. That is the long term relationship we work for.
Some times you think you know somebody until you start talking money.
What is one thing you find true in business that other people may disagree with?
Some times you think you know somebody until you start talking money. People will surprise you.
How did you make your first sale happen?
That’s a lot of thinking back, it’s been 33 years since I took over. I remember doing a big job and getting that first paycheck. It’s such a feeling of satisfaction. The jobs done, this is what we are here to do.
How do you make the big clients happen?
Do what you promised to do. There is no trick. We tell them what we can do, give them a fair and honest quote, then do the job.
What was the major turning point for your company where it became profitable?
Profits have gone up and down over the years. We tried to keep a low overhead. A few years ago we had to get over a hump, but we diversified and got into HVAC work. It helped give us a spread of work to keep everyone busy. It worked out good in the end.
You make it work by keeping at it.
How do you overcome the moments of doubt that stop most entrepreneurs from becoming successful?
When we went into doing HVAC we went with the expectations it was going to work. There is always a risk, but we tried to keep it at a low level. You have to go in with an idea that it is going to work. You make it work by keeping at it. We called past customers and let them know we were doing HVAC work.
How do you identify business opportunities and decide which ones are worth your time?
We see opportunities in buying a piece of equipment and try to look past the cost to see months or years of work it is going to generate. We make sure the investment will offset the cost. We take the long term look at things. We work hard for our money and want to invest it wisely.
How do you define success in business?
You tend to your business and do your best to make sure everyone is taken care of. You have to be committed to putting in the time to make it work. Just make sure you take care of everyone. If you put in the time it will succeed. Make sure everything runs smoothly.
How have you achieved it with your company?
Get in here and get the job done. Make sure everyone is where they need to be to get it done right. Have both your hands on the wheel of the ship.
To what do you most attribute your company’s success?
Having the drive to keep your employees motivated and keeping your customers happy. Between those two those things success follows. Try to be the best at what you are doing. If you are making your customers happy then they are going to keep coming back to you. Slow, steady and try to do the right thing.
Staying on top of things keeps you solving problems for customers.
What would you say are 3-5 key elements to running a successful business?
Get up early, work hard and stay steady. It’s always good to stay in the know about your industry too. Staying on top of things keeps you solving problems for customers. To make your business grown you have to learn new things.
What do you think contributes the most to a company’s long-term success?
My thought is the owner or managers having a vested interest in what’s going on between employees and customers. You have to keep customers happy and motivate employees.
We just had our first employee retire after 38 years and some have hit 40 years. Those kind of people you just can’t replace.
How important have your employees been to your success?
Unbelievably important. We just had our first employee retire after 38 years and some have hit 40 years. Those kind of people you just can’t replace. We do stay up with the new generation and bring them in and mold into the kind of employee we want them to be.
How do you find people to bring on as employees that care for the organization the way you do?
Sometimes you have to go through several to get that one that has their heart in the right place. It’s not for everybody. Most that have come through have been people who have been referred.
How do you motivate employees to stay with your company?
You have to make them part of the team. We know each other well enough to be able to see a job and know who would be the best fit for getting it done.
How do you go about marketing your company?
Several different ways. We do some billboards, newspaper, radio but mostly word of mouth. You know if you are lucky and make one person happy they may tell 1 or 2 of their neighbors about you. But it is a guarantee if you make one person unhappy, they will tell 10 or 20 people.
Tell me about a time when your marketing failed to meet your expectations.
There has been a few that have been a waste of time. Some of the gimmick ads have gotten us a couple of times. Unfortunately print has become a dinosaur lately.
What has your company growth been like for the past year?
The last year has been pretty steady for us we have done maybe 10% increase. We haven’t done anything really spectacular to make it grow. We pick up new customers when the county grows.
What has been your biggest business mistake?
Continuing to do new construction when we should have quit. We have seen the housing market shift before and figured we would bounce right back, but we got caught in it this time.
We had to pull our boot straps up and get by lean for a couple of years; that was tough.
How did you handle it and what did you learn?
We aren’t getting deep into the new construction as we did before. We keep a low overhead. We had to pull our boot straps up and get by lean for a couple of years; that was tough. When you learn things that way you don’t tend to forget them. I learned not to get too deep in that you cant pull back from it. Always have a way out or another plan to fall back on.
What has been your biggest success, and how did you contribute to it?.
HVAC was a hidden gem that we didn’t see. We lucked into a guy who got us involved in it. He came in to buy a part and fate happened; we started talking. HVAC now makes up about 40% of our business and it’s still growing.
What is something you want people to know about your company that they don’t already and cannot find out from your website?
That customers can call any time and speak directly to the owner of the company and I will spend as much time with them as they need. We are here for the customers.
If you could travel back to the first day of this company and have 15 minutes with your younger self, what advice would you want to give?
I could have been a little more cautious. Trust your gut a little and don’t just plow forward. You may think you need to do it because you think the money is there, but if you have the slightest feeling in your gut you need to listen to it. Don’t let the money sway you. I have never been the one to rush into things.
I appreciate Jack sitting down with me and doing this interview. For more information on Harding Plumbing and HVAC please visit their website: https://www.hardingplumbingandhvac.com/.