Pink might not be a color you would associate with plumbers, but for Mary Jean Anderson, it’s a hallmark of her success. Anderson is owner and president of Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air in San Diego, one of the fastest-growing female-owned plumbing and HVAC companies in the country.
Anderson never planned to run an HVAC company. A nurse by training, she was raising young children by day and helping her husband manage his fledging plumbing business at night. When the couple split up, she bought out his share of the company.
“I was a nurse at the time, and nurses are fixers,” she says. “It was a $4.6 million company with 30 employees.” That was in 2006. Today, Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air is a $28 million business with 160 employees and growing.
One of Anderson’s first tasks was clarifying the company mission. “I sat down with our employees and said, ‘Let’s write a mission statement.'” Anderson says. “We came up with, ‘Nobody wows clients like we do.’ We wanted to be the best. We didn’t care about being the biggest, just the best.”
And when you’re the best, growth follows.
“Word of mouth is very powerful,” she says. “We give over-the-top service, and we have a reputation manager who follows up with every customer to ensure they are happy.”
Profiling the Perfect Customer Service Techs
Good communication is also essential,” Anderson says. Technicians are given a personality profile before they are hired and trained in customer service. Anderson’s techs are not allowed to park in the customer’s driveway, and they must wear booties. Another secret: Technicians don’t ring the doorbell upon arrival in case there’s a sleeping baby in the house.
I was a nurse at the time, and nurses are fixers. — Mary Jean Anderson, owner, Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air
“We also teach them to give the customer options. Do they want to repair the problem? Do they want to replace it? Maybe they can’t afford to replace what’s broken so we patch it. When they know we can patch it until they can afford to replace it, they are customers for life.”
Anderson says being a female-owned company has helped with her success. “In the early 1980s men wouldn’t talk to me because I was a woman. Now the tide has shifted and it’s an advantage.”
Anderson employs seven full-time female technicians, and she says customers often request their expertise. “We have comfort advisers [salespeople], and our top producers are women. Our highest paid technician is a woman.” Industry-wide, women make up just 1.4 percent of the HVAC workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Breaking the Glass HVAC Ceiling
Anderson also attributes her success to rebranding the company. “We chose pink for our logo because it hadn’t been used, and we liked that it was loud and bright.” The company’s pink logo is displayed on billboards and work trucks.
Technology also has been integral to her success. Anderson has leveraged fleet management for more than a decade. The company uses it to improve scheduling, billing, driver safety and productivity.
With fleet management, Anderson knows the location of every technician and can easily reroute a tech to a priority job if, say, the original tech is delayed.
Similarly, she has equipped workers with iPads so they can electronically send paperwork. “We had a full-time person scanning invoices. Now everything is automatic.”
Anderson’s commitment to excellence has paid off as evidenced by the company’s growth and industry recognition. The company is a three-time winner of the prestigious Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics in the San Diego area, and it has been named a finalist eight times.
But there are challenges. Anderson says the labor shortage has been tough, which is why she is starting an HVAC and plumbing school to recruit female technicians and veterans.
Through it all, her values never change: ethics, honesty and quality work. And ‘wow’ power. For Anderson, that power includes pink.