State of the Contractor: Most Improved

In 1918, a company formed with a clear mission: to provide communities in the Minneapolis Saint Paul area with the most reliable home-plumbing service. For nearly a century, that company maintained its commitment to serving its customers. Now, Minneapolis Saint Paul Plumbing, Heating & Air (MSP) is on a fast track to become one of the most dominant home-service providers in the Twin Cities.

A family business, MSP Plumbing, Heating & Air is owned by third-generation HVAC professional, David Smith. Like his predecessors, Smith emphasizes the company’s commitment to service and quality with specialized offerings in plumbing, heating and air conditioning.

But, a company with such longstanding tradition is not successful without growing pains. Less than five years ago, MSP was, according to current general manager, Andy Ryan, at a standstill.

Like most companies in the late 2000s, MSP was negatively affected by the recession – grappling with high employee turnover and poor online reviews. Even though the company maintained business, MSP began to lose touch with what made it so special. As it weathered the economic storm, MSP became more like other home-service providers, rather than the reliable home-plumbing business its founders strived to establish.

While MSP became complacent, Ryan had other ideas. Ryan grew up in a family-owned HVAC business. He wanted more, beyond working as a sales and service manager. He believed his vision to help MSP become the ultimate Twin Cities service provider would become reality. In 2013, Ryan became general manager of MSP.

“When I took the reigns as general manager, I knew MSP had the potential to move from good to great,” Ryan said. “The customer base was established to grow, but there was a fire that had been extinguished. My goal was to go in and maintain the legacy started in 1918, but push it to the next level.”

Ryan’s transition wasn’t without its challenges. In early 2013, MSP had approximately 30 employees. Shortly after the transition, more than half left or were let go by Ryan. Unshaken, he continued to develop new internal business and employee strategies with guidance from top HVAC professionals around the nation. He refused to hire technicians, CSRs, or any employees, for that matter, who didn’t want to be the best. Ryan implemented new training programs that helped his techs get a leg up on the competition. He instructed them to always go above and beyond, and never say “I don’t know.” At the end of 2014, MSP’s bottom line spoke for itself.

“In 2014, our revenue increased by 40 percent, we added nearly 20 new employees, and we more than doubled our average customer base – now serving more than 1,000 homeowners each month,” Ryan said.

Throughout the past year, Ryan worked with Smith to reinvest in MSP. The company’s fleet of service vehicles, some 30 vans strong, was mostly replaced with new, fuel-efficient models that lower MSP’s carbon footprint and save money. The investment ensures that customers receive service on time – ditching the reliability issues that previously plagued the fleet. Internal investments, such as introducing 401k contributions, profit sharing, long and short-term disability, and life insurance, helped with employee turnover and retention. Today, MSP employs nearly 50 men and women, many of whom are military veterans. By 2020, Ryan plans to triple his workforce.

Within the next five years, Ryan hopes to expand MSP to turn it into a premier home-service provider in the Twin Cities. The vision for this model includes at least 150 employees, and the biggest increase in annual revenue in the company’s history. With increasing HVAC and plumbing demands and a streamlined and determined vision, Ryan’s goals are aggressive yet achievable.

“We have a lot coming up in the next few months and throughout the year,” Ryan said. “For starters, we’re prepping for the upcoming law changes for water heater standards, helping our customers purchase and install units now before the April 16 change date. After that, our techs will regularly consult with homeowners about options for new water-heater installations and the potential remodel or relocation projections that come with that.”

Restarting a company is no easy task, but injecting new life into one that has been established longer than you’ve been alive is downright daunting. Despite this, Ryan restarted one of the most established businesses in the Twin Cities, and he did it with integrity. David Smith, current family owner of MSP, is pleased with the direction.

“My time with the company has been wonderful and a proud part of my history, but I’m looking forward to handing the keys over to Andy soon,” Smith said. “When I do, I know he’ll maintain the mission that was put in place by my family nearly 100 years ago.”

Ryan, too, is looking forward to solidifying the company’s legacy in the Twin Cities.

“I love this job,” Ryan said. “Just recently, we received a hand-written letter from one of our most valued customers – something that just doesn’t happen anymore. Every day, we aim to achieve this level of service for our customers. As we are fast approaching our 100-year anniversary, I know Minneapolis Saint Paul Plumbing, Heating & Air is well on its way to becoming a household name.”

Minneapolis Saint Paul Plumbing, Heating & Air is a Better Business Bureau accredited, A+ residential HVAC provider servicing the Twin Cities, Minn. area. For more information, call 651- 228-9200 or visit mspplumbingheatingair.com.

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