Listen in as we interview Lucas Cellino from Cellino Plumbing & HVAC. They are a full-service Plumbing & HVAC company serving the greater Buffalo, NY area. Their operation has 23 trucks and is growing by over 35% year over year. Lucas shares some amazing insights on how they keep their phone ringing, trucks running & business booming.
One of my favorite quotes from this interview is "We run a Marketing Company that happens to do Plumbing". That is awesome!
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The plumbing and HVAC Internet Marketing Show, discover how to market your plumbing or HPC business online. From SEO and PPC to Google Maps reputation management and social media marketing. We share the ideas and strategies to get your phone ringing trucks running and business booming. Well hey, this is Josh Nelson and welcome to this episode of the plumbing and HVAC marketing profits podcast. Today I’m super excited. We’re going to be interviewing Lucas Selena. They run a full service plumbing HPC company based in the buffalo new york market. Amazing interview share some insights on how when he joined the company, he doubled down on internet marketing website SEO Pay Per Click social media. He’s seeing a 35% growth year over year in his business. One of the quotes I really love from this, you’ll hear it in the interview but he says he really considers your company to be a marketing company. That also does plumbing. Amazing insights here
Check it out.
Hi, everybody. Thank you for joining us today. My name is Allison. And I am interviewing Luke for our Engage newsletter in our webinar. And so Luke, you are the president over at Cellino Plumbing in Buffalo, New York. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Yeah, so uh, 20 years old. Cellino Plumbing. We’re located in Buffalo, New York. Born and raised.
Live in Buffalo. Yeah, like the Buffalo Bills. Were 30 minutes away from Canada. So big hockey fans here. I grew up playing hockey, lacrosse, football. I have a German Shepherd, he comes work with me every day. I guess hobbies… I guess my hobby is working early. That’s that’s my main hobby.
Okay. So how does a 28-year old who really loves sports end up owning a plumbing company?
So my father started the company 25 years ago. And I like to tell everybody that when we started my father, he started business when I was about two or three, and I grew up in the living room, instead of hitting Legos, we had plumbing fittings, so I would go and kind of put the on the black nipples and the different fittings and just kind of play around with them. And it really just evolved from there. So whenever you play hockey, it’s really involved. So it’d be you know, you’re on a couple teams, and I was a goalie myself, but we you know, practice at 6am then you’d have a game later, you know, 10am or something between. So my father being a small business owner, he would drive me to hockey practice. In between practices I would go to work with him.
So I would be holding the flashlight and all that. So I’ve always been involved. I always wanted to be a plumber. That’s always been my dream never want to do anything else. I always enjoyed fixing things.
Awesome. So you were walking in your father’s footsteps.
Yeah, the story really goes back to when my father get started. My father was a, if you’re from the area or even in New York, you would recognize the name, Cellino & Barnes. So Cellino is my uncle. And my grandfather actually started a law firm.
But my father when he was about 17, he had a bunch of older older brothers, they were all doctors, lawyers, everything else. My father was more hands on.
And certainly wasn’t as book smart as those guys. But he could fix anything, could solve any problem. And one day, his father complained about how much the plumber charged.
I think he was about 16 at that point, and he went to trade school, worked for another plumber for eight years, and got his licensing. And he started the company there.
Great. And so how many trucks are you guys currently running?
We have about 23-24 trucks right now. It’s a mix of plumbing. Heating, cooling is rather new to us and then we have a separate underground division.
Okay, and so when you became the co-owner with your dad was it already at 23 or did you help grow him to that size?
Um, yeah. So I pretty much took over as General Manager. And this is where the marketing really, really kicked in when I was about 20. So maybe about eight years ago.
What happened was we were just hurting financially. I think we had maybe seven employees all together at the time. We were getting rid of our office manager. And I was like, Okay, well, what duties does she do? What do I need to you know, what can I try and fill in and do? So the first duty was payroll. So I’m like, Okay, I’m pretty good at math pretty, pretty good with Excel, I can certainly figure out the payroll structure. The other two were one was the website, one was social media. Those are jobs that my father was taking over.
So eight years ago, the website was important. It certainly isn’t as important as it is today. But you know, I didn’t know anything about really know anything about SEO at this point. So I started off just redesigning the website and trying to keep up on it. That’s where I got really involved in SEO and pay per click.
Definitely. Well, since then that’s where you’ve seen that, you know, exponential growth, obviously.
Yeah, we’ve last three years are growing 35% revenue year over year so, so the last four or five years have been by far our heaviest growth stage.
When people ask, you know, what, what the truth is most to that I always tell them, you know, number one, the construction industry is booming anywhere you go. So, if you’re not growing right now, you’re doing something a little wrong. However, there is there are companies that that just aren’t with it and marketing – I always like to tell people we are a marketing company that also does plumbing.
So even though I’m the president of the whole company now, I’m also the leader in our strategic planning, which is our operations but also our marketing, which is a separate division. So we have a small marketing team, and assets.
Definitely. And so you know, being your account manager, I’ve worked with you for almost two years at this point, actually, probably a little over two years. And so I’ve worked with Allie, Olivia for a little while. So I know how important it is to work so closely with your staff when we’re, you know, talking about all of your marketing efforts. Can you maybe talk a little bit about how important it is to maybe even have a staff like that? Or when you know what, at what point the growth did you say, Okay, now I need to hire someone to help me not only externally, but I need to hire someone internally to help me with the external.
Yeah, so I mean, even as a small company, somebody is always playing the marketing functions, right? So even here, we’re seven employees. And it was our only job the ops manager was essentially doing our marketing somebody else in marketing.
So you’re always going to that person in house at least playing some sort of a role but I want to take it from there I did it for a few years. I never did any coding so I never did any actual SEO or so when I started subbing that out to smaller some smaller guys. You know I’d start on the web site, have someone design it, have a different guy code it. So that went on for a while.
Just the amount of people that started pushing SEO and started trying to get into pay per click, it became more evident that we needed somebody that does this all the time every day. So as far as when we started subbing out to Plumbing & HVAC SEO was like two and a half years ago. And that that’s made a big change as far as somebody on staff.
To do marketing correctly. I mean, I’d say everything’s marketing right. The technician pulling up to the house is marketing so so training those technicians to do the right thing, you know, stick to the water heaters and everything else is so valuable. So having somebody doing marketing, is such a broad term. How you define it can be really different and what that entails.
Definitely. And so, you just mentioned a little bit about training. Can you speak to maybe how you guys train your staff as well as your technicians and your office, your CSRs, and how important that is to even seek outside train organizations to help you.
Yeah, I mean first of all me as a 28 year old president of the company, I get a lot of help right there’s there’s tons. I have two business coaches I work with in particular and they just help guide me they’re they’re much more versed with different things. So me personally, I am a coach. As far as our system, we have a service manager for plumbing we have a service manager for cooling and service manager for underground, so everything kind of goes through there and they manage all the techs. What we do to this really unique when a new helper comes in and anybody that comes in our company reports the warehouse so the warehouse manager that’s, that’s just really good and, and they start off they train us service titan, they start offering service titan, we’re a Nexstar company, so you train some star and they get everybody just kind of affiliated with what this company is all about. So even if we are like a licensed plumber, they’ll go work on anything.
The warehouse manager for about two weeks before they go into a division, otherwise it was somebody brand new they work underneath the warehouse and the warehouse guy will still send them out on different jobs with different managers, he coordinates with a dispatcher to kind of see where people go. But having that those new guys come in and have just a direct contact that’s easy to get along with, easy to kind of figure out what’s going on that has a lot of capacity as always at the shop has made a huge difference for us bringing new talent getting them trained.
Awesome. That’s amazing. And so, I mean, what 23 trucks you guys are, I guess at that point training a lot and pretty often. What are your plans for the rest of the year? Do you see yourself growing into another truck? Maybe another two?
Yeah, I mean, right now we got a we have four presses starting later in this month. So we’re really moving along with those trucks. We are so undermanned, that’s it’s, it’s painful.
Haha but we are still definitely growing. So HVAC is newer to us. We’ve really only been doing it for about three to four months we’ve been we started about two years ago and took until we got the right guy being in that division before it started to take off. So HVAC we’re now doing about $100,000 in revenue each week. And that’s, I mean, that’s just phenomenal for being new.
We’re looking to bring on three installers for the winter here.
Wow. I know that we are currently in the process of actually rebranding the name all over the internet to Plumbing & HVAC so that’s exciting. And so with that growth, I mean, it obviously comes from a lot of hard work and a lot of dedicated staff. So is there anything that you guys do that you may think is a little bit special for people to stay with you long term?
Yeah, I think the one thing that we do is so we about four years ago went through a major culture change and what we what we did is we create a mission statement that’s real simple. Just three lines. We have everyone has mission statement, but unless you live by that mission statement, it’s useless, right? So we created a mission, and we created a five values.
The mission statement is, we want to be the company that customers want to refer, our employees want to work, and that makes a positive difference in the community. So what we do to ensure the region as we have metrics for each of those, those lines and that mission statement. So the first one our customers want to refer, you know, we use an NPS score, we check how many reviews we got, we do quality checks, we ensure that our quality is good and our customer service is good. Where customers love to work we use an app or a program called today’s mood is to just ask all our employees twice a week to fill out three simple questions. And it just ensures that there’s workplace happiness.
And then we’re thinking positive, it’s in the community. We have a really unique marketing plan that involves, you know, giving back to community. So we measure you know, what we’re doing the community pretty much with dollars donated. That’s the basic metrics. We have a few other metrics for all those, but those are our top ones.
That’s awesome. I mean, those are those are great integrations like you know, put into your into your business model the wings for hope that happened a year ago that was pretty cool. And for anybody listening what Cellino does, he actually does a giveaway and where you wrap the entire truck to match the community that the organization in the community that won. So how do you see that actually working as far as do you see a return investment or is that just really for community outreach?
Yeah, so you know, the hardest thing is always especially now with like pre roll and and all these other new ways of advertising is getting good metrics. Even pre roll you know, there’s YouTube and Facebook. They’re both pre roll, but they’re both a totally different metrics. You shouldn’t see the same view rate. There’s all just because of how you can skip it. So figuring out the good metrics to measure is always a key.
I always think that I’m I’m good at marketing because I’m process minded and I’m statistic minded in that I know what metrics I want I know what we need to find and then process you know, it’s less ideas and more process. But as far as a truck wrap. This was actually our second year doing it. So it came from a March Madness type of standpoint. I never watch basketball, but I watch them during March Madness, college basketball, I just like to bracket I like competition. I get pretty into that. Bracket and try and pick everything so you know, everybody kind of has this cool bracket thing. I was just thinking what can we do with that? We always donate I’ll promise but we never did anything big. Success to me is whatever amount of money we donate, justified that as an advertising expense.But what we ended up doing is the bracket. So originally we thought we’d do a 32 brackets and that we would have all these nonprofits in there and basically just open up voting to the community to pick one. And for one, that nonprofit, we wrapped the truck with their logo, their colors and we still have our logo and everything on there, but it’d mostly be for that nonprofit.
In turn, we would donate 5% of that truck’s revenue every month to that profit for one year. So the first year winner was wings of hope. Basically, they’ll fly kids anywhere around the country to different medical facilities. And the owner there what was almost was shocking to me I guess was he was more excited about his truck being wrapped going around town than actual money we were donating to him.
Yeah, I mean one check to them obviously is impactful but when you get a branding opportunity, and a free truck that drives around the entire city with their branding, I mean that of course that pays off in the long ru.
Sure. So as far as stats, we started off, you know, we thought we’d open up to 32 nonprofits hoping to be able to fill that bracket. We had, you know, over 1000 nonprofits nowadays. So we quickly hoping that in one year up to 64 brackets. And I don’t know the exact amount of votes offhand. But if when we look at our charts on our social media we’ll track, we ran everything through Facebook, one of our other goals was to increase our social media presence. Just trying to be intimate with customers nowadays is a little bit more difficult, unless you’re using social media correctly. So that was one of our goals as well.
So driving traffic to our Facebook page was was key. And we were able to do that with this again, I wish I had the stats, I would be happy to share it with you guys later.
After we did the first truck wrap, we seen so much success. So we said well, we need to carry on this momentum. So I’m just doing it once a year. So with an open up a nonprofit of the month, every month, and so there’s a voting on our page for the first few days, so starts off nominate whoever you want. That goes the top 10 you checkbox that and then winner is nominated.
What we do is there’s a local TV station that does an interview with them once once a month for the winner we donate $500, then we throw a happy hour for them. And then that bar, you know, donates back. Now what’s happened is this has turned into more than just a Cellino plumbing nonprofit month, we now have five other companies also contributing to the stuff.
That’s amazing. So you’re definitely impacting the community and you’re inspiring other people to join you. So that that just that helps you in the long run. That’s not a return investment that you see up front but that is a branded name that all of your neighbours will soon know if they don’t already know Cellino plumbing. So that’s, that’s fantastic. Congratulations.
So is there any you know little bit of information that you want to give to anybody who may be listening whether that’s a business owner, someone that’s taking over his father’s business, or anybody who may be just looking for any golden nuggets. I mean, everybody wants a business with 23 trucks. So how can you help them?
Yeah. I know, like we just discussed today is as you’re growing so quickly, once you get in this high growth stage, you really need people that are focused on processes and not necessarily ideas. And when you’re growing quickly, you need you need more process minded people. So if you’re always focused on the process thats gonna give you the end result, maybe it’s not the best, cleanest idea, but at least the processes that’s efficient, effective. That’ll certainly help especially if you’re in that that heavy growth stage. Anybody that wants to grow, I mean, I know, one of the big changes for us was getting involved with NexStar. I’ll be the first one to say that we don’t utilize them the way we should. But they have great ideas. There’s there’s tons of people out there that can help you, they have good events.
But getting our pricing in order was very first thing we needed to become profitable. Nextstar lives by the idea of the Big Five. So reviewing your financial statements and knowing where you stand. You got to know what your margins are, ya know what what percentage of your labor should be, what percentage of your material should be.
Definitely that that would be probably the best advice I give is know your margins, know where you stand financially and have a good vision before.
Awesome. Well, thank you for jumping on with us. I know that anybody listening, they got some great information from you. Congratulations on a growing account. I hope that we do get those additional trucks by the end of the year. And I can’t wait to see what happens once we really fully launch Cellino Plumbing & HVAC. So that’s exciting.
Yeah, thanks, again Alison. Definitely appreciate the help. And it’s been a pleasure working with you and Josh.
Awesome. Well, I hope you got amazing value from that interview. If you’d like more ideas, strategies and techniques on how to more effectively market your plumbing, HVAC or Home Services business online, go to plumbingmarketing.net there you’ll find interviews just like this and the opportunity to schedule a time with us to just kind of talk about your business and how we can help you implement similar strategies in your business. So plumbingmarketing.net – head over there now and I’ll talk to you soon.
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