Tom Casey’s Griffin Service was sought after and sold because it became famous and stood for something. Do the work and treat people well.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts |  Google Podcasts |  Amazon Music |  Blubrry |  RSS |  More

 

Stephen Semple:
Hey, It’s Stephen Semple here, and we’ve given Dave another week off because we’re doing part two of the interview with Tom Casey from Griffin Home Services in Jacksonville, Florida. If you haven’t listened to the first part, you’re really going to want to go back and listen to that. There were some amazing marketing stories, especially about getting the business going and out the gate and getting it growing. In this part, we’re going to go through the explosive growth stage, the stage that took Tom to building a business that he sold for a pretty tidy sum. It’s a great story, and I know you’re going to really enjoy it.

Tom Casey:
Direct mail, there’s so much it can do, so much it can’t do. It’s a awesome, but it’s not the end-all be-all. You need to have a full balanced portfolio of marketing. So our digital assets had to get better, and then we reached out and we had a conversation with Jeff Sexton. He came and visited us, and we jumped on board and started a radio campaign. And that thing was like the crystallization of everything we had done up to that point, because Jeff and Gary and Joe gave us a voice. I voice all my own ads. They came to me. They can tell I was a brash guy from New York City area. I’m in a market where there’s just a lot of not-so-great stuff happening. And they were like, “Are you okay calling out stuff?” And we were already doing it, so I’m like, “We already do it, guys.”

Stephen Semple:
Yeah. My favorite is your cease and desist one. That’s my favorite.

Tom Casey:
So we started doing those ads. That made us famous in a way where I personally have gone to a drive through at McDonald’s, and they see my Griffin shirt and they go, “Griffinservice.com.” When the cashier at McDonald’s is telling you the sound bite from your radio commercial … I was another job where people are walking by our trucks in the neighborhood, and they’re like, “Oh, those are the turd bucket guys.” Because we call the other work turd bucket work.

Stephen Semple:
Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. That’s a great one as well.

Tom Casey:
All these things started to happen, and we’re like, “Okay.” I don’t know. That whole mass media campaign crystallized that and allowed a lot more growth move even faster, because now people were calling up and saying, “I want the thing you talked about on the radio.” You what we never did on the radio? We never gave a price ever once in all these years, and we never gave a phone number one time.

Stephen Semple:
So for background, Jeff Sexton, Joe Hamilton, Gary Bernier are partners of mine at the Wizard of Ads, and they took Tom’s business and put this campaign together. But here’s the really interesting thing that you also said, and I think it’s something that people don’t realize. When you do really good messaging that’s entertaining and not about price and it’s about you and sharing your personality — it’s that thing you said where somebody calls and they’re not calling thinking about hiring you. They’re calling already sort of going, “I’m hiring these guys.” Right?

Tom Casey:
100%. We record all of our calls. We listen to the calls, and they would say flat out, “Heard you on the radio, and I want that Florida radio thing. I heard you on the radio. I want that Refresherize. I heard you on the radio and I want …” And we didn’t tell a price of it on the radio. They weren’t saying, “How much does the Refresherize cost?” They were saying, “I want one.” Then we would always make sure they knew. “Okay, great, you’re all set. That’s going to be X dollars technician.” And it was just like, “Okay, cool. We’re good.”

Stephen Semple:
Right.

Tom Casey:
So in direct mail, you do more often say, “Hey, this is the thing, and this is what it costs,” because trying to get them to … There’s no entertainment as much in direct mail. There’s not as much engagement. It’s very like those couple of fractions of a second, they have to like, “Yes,” or, “No.” And direct mail is to kind of condition them when they have a need, like, “I’ve seen these guys.”

We know they don’t remember who Griffin is when they go online. When they need a plumber, they don’t go, “Let’s call Griffin.” They go, “Oh, crap. Plumber.” They go, “Plumber near me.” Then they see Griffin, they go, “Oh, those are the guys that I get mail from every month. We see their trucks in our neighborhood. We hear them on the radio.” All that recall is helped or boosted by what we do, as long as the brand is consistent, the messaging is consistent, and we’re not randomly like saying, “Buy one get one free,” or some crazy thing.

But the radio was … Those guys will probably tell you, I got excited about it. I’m like, “I’m all in.” We have ads. We bleep words. I’m like, “We’re in.” They’re like, “Let’s go. Let’s really challenge this.” I got a call one time. I don’t know if they shared with you, but the local trade association, which I don’t belong to actually.

Stephen Semple:
This is a great story. I’m glad you’re sharing this one.

Tom Casey:
We had a radio ad. It was pretty controversial, and it was because we were basically calling out turd-bucket work, you know?

Stephen Semple:
Right.

Tom Casey:
Turd-bucket contractors, turd-bucket work. The duct works. Like, “Everything’s wrong. If you’re tired of turd buckets, give us a call.” So I get this call one day. I’m driving down the road, and somebody I know who’s president of the association, he goes, “Hey, listen. Got a minute?” I was like, “Yeah.” He goes, “Hey, we were talking about you and Griffin last night.” I’m like, “Oh, boy. Good or bad?” He goes, “Well, not good.” I’m like, “So what’s going on?” He goes, “Well, we were talking about your radio ads. While we like them, they’re very entertaining, we’re hoping that we can convince you to stop running them.” And I’m like, “Interesting. Why do you want to stop running them?” And he is like, “Well, because you keep calling out this bad work. You’re using things like turd bucket. You’re talking about how everything’s done wrong in this market. We just don’t think it’s professional.”

So I said, “Let me ask you a question. Is there anything I’m saying that’s not true in the ad? If I am, I don’t want to say anything that’s untrue. But, in fact, X, Y, Z. Are all those things true?” And he goes, “No, no, we get it. You’re right.” And I said, “Well, let me think about it. Change the radio ads? You know what I’ll do? Here’s what we should do. Why don’t you guys get f****** better? Because by the way, I charge more money than all of you. I’m higher cost than all of you. You’re complaining, but you could charge more money and do a better job. So I have my answer for the board. No, we’re not.”

And then we actually ran a radio ad about it saying we got this call asking us not to do it. That infuriated me more. We just kept calling out the market transparently like, “This is really what’s happening, listener. You don’t know it, but all these guys were all conspiring against you to somehow make crappy work acceptable. That’s not Griffin. We’re the anti of that.”

So yeah, we had a lot of fun with it. I’m sure we’ve wrinkled a lot of feathers, but what we did find out is our customer who we really wanted, they were sick of spending money and not getting what they wanted.

Stephen Semple:
They actually wanted somebody to call it out. Good marketing, especially the mass media and radio and things like that, it requires bravery. You have to be ready to do something really different to stand out and stick your neck out a little bit and get those complaints. That’s one of the things you got to be ready to do. Because if you do vanilla, down the middle, I don’t want to ruffle anybody’s feathers, you’re just another me too.

Tom Casey:
First radio ad we ran, we got complaints.

Stephen Semple:
Oh, right on the first one? Wow.

Tom Casey:
We’d always roll our ads out to our team. Of course, you’ve got to tell the team, “Here’s the ads we’re running so when you’re answering phone calls, going to jobs, you know what’s happening.” Call center’s like, “Oh, my God. We had this lady call.” And then I go listen to the call, and I have to go in the call center. Generally, the company got a complaint. So in our world, a complaint is like, “Stop the presses, let’s solve the complaint.” But that would be if it’s a work complaint like we got mud on the carpet or the AC didn’t work. We’re going to dive on that thing. Jump on a live grenade, we’re going to fix it. But this wasn’t that. This was a random person taking the time. Keep in mind, Stephen, we didn’t give them a phone number.

Stephen Semple:
Right.

Tom Casey:
They had to take their time to go online, find our company, call in to complain that “I am offended by the word turd bucket.” So I took the first one, and I called back. I had a little fun with them, and I was like, “So Steven, I understand. Thanks for calling us. We really appreciate it. We’re sorry that you didn’t like the ad. Can I ask what was wrong with the ad?” And they were like, “I don’t think it’s necessary to use vulgarities like turd bucket.” And I said, “Can I ask you a question?” They’re like, “Yeah.” I’m like, “Is it the word turd or the word bucket that’s offending you?” And the person said to me, “Fuck you.” I’m like, “We’re talking about a non curse word, and you just told me to F off. This is the most bizarre thing ever.”

And so it turned into a thing that then the phones were ringing and people were signing up. People were asking for the thing. So literally now, whenever we run any ad, our whole team on our team’s channel will be like, “Got our first complaint. The ads are working.” Because it’s not a complaint of workmanship, it’s a complaint of controversy.

Stephen Semple:
Right.

Tom Casey:
So my CSRs look. Now when we get the complaint, they’re literally high-fiving each in the call center like, “This is great news. Stephen is upset with the ad.”

Stephen Semple:
The part that always amazes me is the length and the time that somebody takes to do the complaint. And the other part is, they will often freak out the business owner by saying, “I would’ve bought from you, and I’ve now decided not to because of your ad.”

We have a roofing company, and we have a character in the ad called Bill Crooked from Crooked Roofing. And our client got an email from somebody saying, “Because of these ads, I would never buy from you.” I decided to run a bit of a test. I said to them, “Email them back that you will give them a discount, that you’re sorry you offended them. You’ll take $1,000 off the job, and you’ll take it out of the ad writer’s pocket because they wrote such a terrible ad.” And the response we got from the person was like, “Thank you for the offer, but I live in a condo. So I have no need, so I don’t buy the roof.” And I was like, “Oh, so your first email that you sent was basically a lie. You were never going to be a customer after.”

After period of time, you develop that skin that the cost of being remarkable and having raving fans who love the turd bucket is you’re going to tick a few people off. If you try to go down that middle, you lose both sides.

Tom Casey:
100%. I’ll tell you, we did something similar you talked about with Bill Crookeder, the roofing company. I said we created this thing called Golden Ticket, like Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. Basically, it allows any of our associates, coworkers to give away a free safety inspection. You pick. You want AC, heating, plumbing, electrical. Whatever you want. It’s just like, “Here’s a Golden Ticket to do whatever you want to do.” So I said, “Start offering those people. Let’s do a little social experiment. People who are like, they say those exact words, ‘I would never use your company because of your ads.’ Okay, let’s put it to the test.”

So I’d have my call center start telling them that you apologize. We’re going to give you a free Golden Ticket that you can pick any of these four services absolutely free. Over 80% of those complainers take the free service.

Stephen Semple:
So they will take the service?

Tom Casey:
They will take the free service. Ours isn’t like a roof and a condo. You have a water heater. You have a plumber.

Stephen Semple:
Right.

Tom Casey:
Then we go in there, and you know what their response is to the technicians? “Wow, I really had you guys all wrong.” That word is more of your baggage than our baggage. And if you did meet us, we’re nice guys. And the reality of it is, if that word offends you and our straightforwardness offends you, you will not like our company. So let’s do us both a favor. You deserve to be happy. You’re a great human. We deserve to be happy. We’re good humans.

We’ll actually refer them to people. We’re the company that literally when you get upset with us, we’re like, “Would it be all right if I tell you a couple companies I think could be happier with?” And we have done. We know of competitors that are price oriented, or this oriented or that oriented. Just at least, even though they’re mad at us or whatever, just serve them. Just be nice. They’re having a bad day, whatever is going on. “Just call X, Y, Z. Here’s their phone number.”

I have competitors now saying, “Hey, thanks for all the referrals.” Every time we get … This is a little underhanded, but whenever we get a price call or a price complaint, I refer them to my biggest competitor, because I don’t want to deal with the price complaint. So I’m like, “Yeah, if you’re just looking for a price-based decision, we’re not your guys. But can I tell you who is? Call over and ask for Stephen Semple. He specializes in doing low prices.” And so you’re calling, clogging up my competitor’s phone lines, and then some of those guys are like, “Hey, thanks for all the referrals.”

Stephen Semple:
They’re running discounts. They’re happy just for whatever the calls.

Hey, Tom, I’ve taken a lot of your time. This has been awesome, but the one thing I just want to just take a couple of minutes to talk about. When the business sold, were you out shopping the business at that point, or did an offer come in that you weren’t seeking?

Tom Casey:
It’s kind of both. So I had sold my Hilton Head company to my partner, and not for those crazy money. We were partners. He was a good dude. I got my money out of it, and I got a return on my investment. And so that one was already gone. I still owned Connecticut with my dad. My dad was already retired for a long time, and I kind of grew weary. My passions were clearly on Florida and Griffin. I was also running Connecticut, but I just wasn’t into it the same way, and I knew. I love my team there, and I’m like, “It’s not fair for them to be sort of not … that I’m not all the way bought in the same as I was.”

So I started shopping that company. We had a lot of interest in it right away. Established company, three generations, blah, blah, blah. During that process, I was the owner. They would always kind of say, “Well, what are you going to do?” And when they talked to me, most of the platforms would be like, “Hey, we want you to do this. We want you to do that.” And I’m like, “This is a mic drop, exit stage left moment. I’m not hanging around. I’m selling the business. For the last six, seven years I’ve lived in Florida running it remotely. The leadership team there is in place. You don’t need me. You can actually take my salary and what I take out of it and add it. We’re going to add that back. You don’t need me.”

And so they got curious as to what I was doing. Then they started to discover I had this other business, and that started to get the phone call saying, “what about that business?” And I said, “It’s not for sale.” They kept pushing and pushing and pushing, and then it’s one of those things that everything’s for sale. It wasn’t for sale because I felt like our trajectory was so steep. We’re not there yet. I don’t want to sell. And so I literally said to the broker we were using and the potential suitor is like, “Listen, I’m going to be straightforward with you. Whatever we’re thinking about Connecticut, that’s like a straight-up deal. But Florida, you’re going to have to make me an offer I can’t refuse. I’m just being honest. I’m not being a jerk. I love it. I’m into it. I’m excited about it. It’s where my attention is. I’m not selling it.”

The example I gave was, if you knock on my house and said, “We’ve checked Zillow. We’ve had an appraisal on your house. It’s worth $900,000. Here’s a check for $900,000. We need you out by end of the week.” You paid me what it’s worth, but I’m not selling my house.

Stephen Semple:
Right.

Tom Casey:
That’s how I feel about my business.

Stephen Semple:
If I came along to your house and I said, “Here’s two million bucks …”

Tom Casey:
We’re moving. So that’s kind of how it happened. And so that’s the exact example I gave to the people who were talking, and that did quite frankly … I remember it was leading up to Christmastime that year, and the LOI started to come in. The first one came in, and I was literally like, “This number, it’s more than I was thinking. Holy crap.”

Stephen Semple:
Wow.

Tom Casey:
So I called my wife and I said, “Check the email.” And she was like, “Where do we sign?” And then the broker called back and said, “Don’t do anything. I got more coming.”

Stephen Semple:
Wow.

Tom Casey:
And all of a sudden they’re going …

Stephen Semple:
How’d it feel having these people competing now to buy this business? How’d that feel in that moment?

Tom Casey:
It was multiple emotions. From a personal kind of pride satisfaction level, you’re like, “Wow, we really did do something good here.”

Stephen Semple:
Cool.

Tom Casey:
In the five years that we did this, we really did something amazing in a short period of time. Legitimatized all the risks and all the effort, and all the sweat and tears and blood through all these decades of working on the other businesses. It helped us realize that maybe we didn’t value ourselves enough. Who would’ve thought this little five-year-old AC company is worth this money? But that was a self thing, maybe. We just looked at ourselves as contractors and plumbers or whatever, not a valuable business.

And it was nervous. This is your baby. This is your work family. What’s going to happen? Are they going to treat them as good as we do? It’s a little different psychologically, because it’s your baby you built. I built this thing. You birthed it. You created it, you birthed it, you grazed it. Now, you do have a different little emotional heartstring on there, so there’s a lot going on.

We got all these offers. We ended up saying verbally to one of them, which was phenomenal. I called the broker and said, “Hey, let’s go with B.” And he was like, “Cool, I’ll let everyone else know.” Then he calls me back like 15 minutes later, “No, no, no, don’t do anything. Don’t sign anything. A is coming back to the table.”

Stephen Semple:
Wow.

Tom Casey:
And so A came back to the table and was like, “Here’s our best and final, but you got to take it.” Now, at this point, literally, man, it’s like December 22nd or 23rd. We’re a big holiday household. All the kids are … Everyone’s going to be home and everything. And my wife and I, it sounds crazy, but we were so stressed out with this decision, even though it’s like we have a lottery ticket. It’s all your dreams coming true, but we weren’t ready for it, how the psychological …

So we tossed and turned that night we had those final offers in. We got up in the morning and we were both like, “I don’t care what we do, we just got to do something. We can go through Christmas thinking about this.” And so we made our decision and signed our LOI on December 23rd. Whew, all the relief of having done that, but it was quite an interesting experience.

And it wasn’t that way with Connecticut. Also, we did the same exact time. Connecticut was much more like a cut and dry business deal.

Stephen Semple:
It was much more like selling a stock than what Griffin was.

Tom Casey:
And Griffin was like, “We don’t want to sell it,” and then they’re making offers, and they’re competing with each other, and they’re bidding each other up. I will say this, and I think I said this on a podcast or a class we did with you and Gary. We did not take the highest offer, because that wasn’t about … It was already in the number range. Like, “We’re not greedy. Let’s make the best deal we think we can make, like the right fit of an offer.”

Stephen Semple:
The whole sale story, if anybody wants to learn about it, reach out to me. Fire me an email, and I’ll send you a link to the interview that Tom shared about the sale and how he picked which one, and even some of the interesting twists and turns that happened between the time of signing the offer and closing. I think we could go on for an hour talking about that. Anyone who’s interested, I can send them a link to that.

The last thing. I just want to end it on this, Tom. This has been awesome. Thank you very, very much for doing this. We could go on. I know we can go on for another hour.

Tom Casey:
Over a recurring show every couple weeks.

Stephen Semple:
Yeah, maybe. Maybe. That would be awesome. Are you doing any consulting these days, any industries or specifically to the heating and air conditioning business? Are you doing any of that right now?

Tom Casey:
I am. I do consulting. Right now, I mostly do more corporate level, and typically it’s for sales techniques. Not doing the marketing, like writing or whatever, but more like you said, laying out all the brochures on the table going, “Which one’s you?”

Stephen Semple:
Right.

Tom Casey:
My end is more like, “If you say this in your marketing, show me where you’re doing it. Show me how it translates to the customer.” Because everybody has this cool marketing idea, but they don’t ever implement. So I think you’re lying to the customer. You say you are the greatest, and you don’t do the greatest things. You’re lying, and then you will not keep them as a customer.

Sales process, also. Whether it’s in-home sales for contractors or whatever, but also for any industry, because sales process is sales process. It’s a people-to-people process. B2B too, but B2C more so. I do that as I’m transitioning in my own ownership of the business.

Stephen Semple:
Perfect. So if somebody wants to reach out to you and they say, “Hey, I want to pursue talking to Tom about potentially having Tom come in and help us with some sales processes and some of these things we’ve talked about,” how do they reach you, Tom?

Tom Casey:
Email is the best way, and my email is real simple. It’s T-O-M, my name, [email protected][email protected]. Ask me a question, I’ll get back to you. Give me a couple days. My inbox gets pretty full. And then once we connect, I can share more information with people on text and messaging, and how to stay in touch, whatever. But happy to help anybody out we can.

Stephen Semple:
Cool. Awesome. Tom, thank you very much, and the story of Griffin is awesome. Thank you for taking the time today.

Tom Casey:
I appreciate the invite, Stephen.

Dave Young:
Thanks for listening to the podcast. Please share us. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app and leave us a big fat juicy five-star rating in review. And if you have any questions about this or any other podcast episode, email to [email protected].