Rock Solid Workmanship, Investing in Employees and Superior Customer Service Lead to Success for Missouri Contractor
Customers who have the foresight to call Hoffmann Brothers for service enjoy the results of superior workmanship and an added bonus. Hot, oven-baked cookies delivered during the follow-up visit after installation.
Checking to ensure that customers are 100 percent satisfied is indicative of the level of technical detail and topnotch customer service that is the hallmark of the St. Louis, MO provider of HVAC, plumbing and electrical services. Run by brothers Chris and Joe Hoffmann, and their father, Robert, who bought the business in 1988, Hoffmann Brothers employs 130 fulltime employees. They’re headquartered in a company-owned, 30-thousand-square-foot building featuring offices and a sheet metal shop.
Quality Always a Distinguishing Factor
Hoffmann Brothers was founded in 1988 when Robert Hoffmann and his brother decided to leave their day jobs as mechanical engineers and purchase a business.
“A small HVAC company with a couple of service trucks and a handful of employees was on sale the day my dad went to buy a business,” said Chris Hoffmann, who recently took over as president of the company, while his father became CEO.
“Dad was 29 at the time and had four kids,” said Chris. “After purchasing the business, he went back to school to ensure he had all of the necessary training to deliver high-quality service to customers. He received an associate’s degree in HVAC and then earned his journeyman license in St. Louis.”
Quality has always been the distinguishing factor at Hoffmann Brothers, said Chris. “We’re definitely not the least expensive, but ever since my dad opened the doors, when customers call, qualified technicians show up with solutions.”
The Hoffmann brothers spent a great deal of time at the offices as kids. As a matter of fact, they worked in the sheet metal shop during school breaks, and even apprenticed with employees who are still at the company today.
In 2010, Robert bought out his brother’s half of the business and ran it solo until three years ago when Joe came on as director of sales. Chris, who served in the Marine Corps right out of college and has an MBA, joined the team as vice president of operations in 2016.
Change of Focus Spurred Exponential Growth
The Hoffmann Brothers business consists of 70 percent residential and 30 percent commercial. The company focuses exclusively on the service and retrofit market, working with the end user. Up until a few years ago, they just did HVAC.
“We decided to expand our offerings, because satisfied customers kept asking if we did plumbing and electrical work,” said Chris. “At the time, we were also spending a lot of money to hire electrical subcontractors for special jobs. We determined that we could hire two to three electricians for the same amount of money and expand the business. In 2011, we added a plumbing division and in 2015 an electrical division.”
Over the last few years, they have also put many improved processes in place to help ensure that the business achieves operational excellence. This includes procedures surrounding service, sales and estimating. The new processes, expanded company offerings and an emphasis on high-quality, well-placed employees have led to exponential growth in revenue.
“We have the right people in the right seats, and everyone is pulling in the same direction, which has resulted in smooth, granular, healthy and profitable growth,” said Chris. “The trajectory of our sales shows this. In 2018, we had $24 million in revenue. That was up from 2017, which was $17.8 million, and we pulled in $13.5 million in 2016.”
Employees a Key to Success
At Hoffmann brothers, Chris and his brother and father realize that the secret to any company’s success is the employees. For that reason, they have made tremendous investments in human capital.
“Our strategy for investing in our employees sets us apart in the industry,” said Chris. “A company tagline we used in a commercial several years ago sums things up well: exceptional people, exceptional service. Quality employees enable a successful customer service experience. My dad embraced that philosophy from the outset and that has resulted in high caliber employees dedicated to doing their absolute best.”
Joe agrees. “What sets our business apart is our ability to get the right people in the right seats so they can contribute with talents suited to their positions,” he said. “We also have great leaders at the helm. This all leads to superior teamwork and a positive company culture.”
Hoffmann Brothers spares no expense ensuring that the company’s employees are well compensated and trained. In addition to competitive pay and extensive investments in training, the company offers incredible benefits. These include 100 percent health insurance that only costs an entire family $50 per month for deductibles and co-pays. They also have a 401(k) plan that features an 8 percent company contribution for tradesmen and 4 percent company contribution for all other employees. In addition, they pay 100 percent of vision and dental insurance.
“The benefits we offer are unheard of,” said Chris. “The company is absorbing an increase for 2019 in health insurance costs of $10,000 per month. Our total investment in the employees’ health insurance coverage will be more than $1,000,000 this year. Medical is our second biggest expense under wages. We value our employees and what they do for the company that much.”
Not surprisingly, Hoffmann Brothers is a highly desirable place to work. Employee retention is excellent, and they have their pick of applicants when new positions open. “For each one position, we get on average 75 applicants,” said Chris. “We also have several family members working here. That is a testament in itself. How many people work at companies where they would refer friends and family?”
Superior Customer Service the Company’s Cornerstone
The Hoffmanns know that just as a business can’t run successfully without superior employees, the same holds true for customers. That means that excellent customer service is and has always been the foundation of Hoffmann Brothers.
“Today you see many new companies viewing relationships with customers as transactional. Our viewpoint is different,” said Chris. “We want to serve our customers for a lifetime. When they see that we value honesty and integrity and are interested in making the service experience the best it can be for them, they tend to come back again and again.”
Angela Caputa is marketing director at Hoffmann Brothers and has worked at the company since 2008. She agrees that superior customer service is the key to the company’s success.
“We realize that when a customer has to call our company for service, it isn’t always an easy call to make,” she said. “There is a lot of anxiety, including wondering how much it’s going to cost, how fast we can get there and if they can trust the person who will arrive. We strive to provide the best customer experience from the moment we answer the phone, to the time our tech arrives at the door, to the follow up.”
In order to ensure that customers get superior service every time, the Hoffmanns have a customer service coach. This employee works fulltime to train and coach employees on superior customer service techniques. He does this through weekly classes and by going on service calls with technicians in order to provide feedback and suggestions.
“Having a fulltime customer service coach has been extremely impactful for the business and positively affected our customer service ratings,” said Chris. “When we started the program three years ago, we had about 200 Google reviews with a 4.7-4.8 rating. Today we have more than 1,200 Google reviews with an average 4.9 rating.”
While some of the customer service instructions seem like no-brainers and common sense to some, to other employees it may not be so obvious. “Not every new employee knows, for instance, to step back from the door after ringing or knocking, so as not to appear intimidating,” said Chris. “We also teach them to ask homeowners if where they parked is okay and to always wear shoe covers before walking indoors.”
Looking to the Future
At Hoffmann Brothers, they intend to continue to offer up the same superior service. To this end, they bought a second 30,000-square-foot building on an adjacent lot that will allow them to expand in the future.
“Total, we’ve invested $6 million in facilities,” said Chris. “We plan to develop a state-of-the-art technical training facility so that we can continue to grow and develop our technical talent. We’re really excited about that.”
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