Bill Howe Plumbing: Becoming an Iconic Local Service Business | Coronavirus Update June 3rd

Bill Howe Plumbing: Becoming an Iconic Local Service Business | Coronavirus Update June 3rd

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Posted by Ian H., President

June 4, 2020

June 3, 2020 update quick update


Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard

is reporting 6,392,319 confirmed global cases, 383,298 deaths and 2,786,525 recovered.

1.84 million US cases and 107,093 deaths 479,258 recovered as of 3:33pm on June 3.

The United States could potentially surpass 2 million cases in the next 10-14 days. 

Several states continue to exhibit concerning trends following efforts to relax social distancing measures.


has reported testing reports that potentially indicate a relative increase in community transmission and that the testing capacity may not be sufficient. Alabama is reporting a slight increase in hospitalized COVID-19 cases since mid-to-late April as well.


is also exhibiting a steady increase in COVID-19 incidence.


is in the process of relaxing social distancing measures on a local/regional basis, but as a whole, the state continues to report increasing COVID-19 incidence. 



The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and CDC


a report outlining the toll of COVID-19 on nursing homes in the United States. According to the report, more than 25,000 nursing home residents and 400 staff have died so far as a result of the US COVID-19 epidemic.  



Protests against racial and social injustice

, including police brutality directed at Black Americans, continue across the United States, and US protesters have been joined by thousands of others around the world. Many photos show protesters wearing face masks and taking efforts to protect themselves; however, no

mass gathering

is without risk of increased SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams

expressed concern about the risk of increased transmission following the protests, due to how the disease spreads. In Atlanta, state health officials are working to establish

pop-up testing sites

for protesters to show that individuals should not have to choose between fighting for justice and protecting their health.  



The development, production, and distribution of SARS-CoV-2 remains a global priority in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Multiple vaccines are currently in various stages of development, and there is

“cautious optimism”

that some will be determined to be safe and effective. Notably, Dr. Anthony Fauci commented that clinical trials could potentially yield results by this fall. Dr. Fauci noted, however, that a

vaccine may not confer long-term immunity

, if SARS-CoV-2 behaves like other coronaviruses. This could translate into needing multiple doses of the vaccine or periodic boosters to ensure lasting immunity. 



A study published in

Emerging Infectious Diseases

demonstrated that transmission of SARS-CoV-2 prior to the onset of symptoms is, indeed, possible; however, it appears to be less effective than by individuals exhibiting symptoms.

June 3 Topic: HOWE to become an iconic local brand and go to service business 

Special Guests: Tina Howe and Jaime Howe Stolis 

  • Tina came to the U.S. from England when she was 18-years-old and worked hard to establish a career. She has been integral to the company’s growth in an industry that is significantly male-dominated. She recently served as President of the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association in 2012-2013, where she was instrumental in the establishment of the HVAC Apprenticeship Program and currently serves on the PHCC Academy Board. She continues to be an inspiration to women who are establishing careers in this industry, specifically within the Bill Howe Family of companies

  • Jaime Stolis is the oldest Howe daughter and first to join the family business. In 2015, she helped the Bill Howe Family of Companies celebrate their 35th anniversary in San Diego, and also gave birth to her second child, Hadley with husband, Brendan. She attended Cal State Fullerton and joined the Bill Howe Family of Companies after graduation. She began at the entry level learning her family business from the ground up.

Can you please introduce yourself and talk a bit about your company’s journey and your current roles?

  • Tina joined in 1982 as a secretary and is a jack of all trades, master of none working in all aspects of the business.

  • Jaime joined in 2008, not thinking it would be permanent, as a dispatcher, and has worked through most departments so that she can provide service and support to employees. She is currently Operations Manager but helps out wherever needed

As San Diego locals, you can’t walk down the street without seeing a Bill Howe Plumbing truck. You truly are an iconic brand and go to service provider in our community. Can you share your thoughts on this and how you got to be one of the most well known and loved service companies in San Diego?

  • They value always being honest and transparent and believe in giving customers the red carpet experience without red carpet prices

  • We are all human and we all make mistakes. They make sure to always make it right, even if it wasn't their fault. 

  • 87% of business is repeat business, this comes from building trust with customers. 

How many trucks do you have on the road?

  • They have about 200 employees, about 120 vehicles across different divisions

How did your company initially handle the coronavirus pandemic and how have you pivoted your company during this time?

  • It was a shock, but they had a lot of team members thinking strategically 

  • They furloughed a few employees but have been able to bring them back thankfully

  • Transitioned to a remote work environment and some remote positions will stay such as CSR and billable

  • More contactless operation with virtual estimates, PPE gear, spraying down disinfectant, and social distancing with employees and customers

  • Convenience factor with customer has been the most important to make it as easy for the customer as possible

Speaking of Virtual estimates, I see the commercials all the time, why are they important? Do you see this staying around or going away?

  • It will be something that will continue because it is so convenient for both customers and technicians, saving both time and multiple trips

  • You have to ask customers questions in different ways so that you can communicate with customers in a way they understand what you are asking them

Let’s chat about operations - what is the most important operational system or strategy you’ve put into place in your business?

  • Accountability is a huge word at Bill Howe to make sure people reach customers and goals

  • Metrics to track growth to see if missing margins or call counts and setting goals for them to reach harder with friendly competition

  • Outside company listens to calls and then coaches the CSR coaching

  • Site visit from manager twice per month to ensure brand is represented 

    • It’s a surprise visit where they ask the customer to see how it is going and then check in on technician and vehicle to make sure clean and organized

Let’s chat about marketing - What marketing strategies have worked for you the best?

  • First 20 years was filled with a lot of door knocking, sending out coupons, and repeat

  • 20 years ago they hired an ad agency for tv and radio and developed a jingle and cemented their branding

  • Now, the world has changed and its digital, so they focus on keywords, email marketing, and social media

  • Google local services has been incredible online, so has Google Guarantee

  • They shied away from email marketing because they didn’t want to spam customers but had incredible open rates with $82 drains and have incorporated memberships to have customers be customers across departments. 

  • Live chat on the website- very hesitant but it worked! Anything that is convenient for the customer is good. People want convenience. 

You started out as a plumbing company. Can you give some advice to our listeners who are considering adding on new services and industries into their company? 

  • Technicians were being asked about doing HVAC and they were referring out to other providers that didn’t have the same level of customer service 

  • Customers held them accountable since they referred and decided in 2006 to open HVAC division. It was a natural evolution driven by customer needs.

Like our audience, you are a family-owned and operated company. What was the biggest learning moment for you in this aspect and how do you not let business get in the way of family dynamics?

  • Open communication is very important. They have learned that they all have different communication styles and learning how to better communicate with each other has been a challenge but they get better and better.

  • Address tension immediately so that it doesn’t spill over into family life outside of the business.

As successful women in a male dominated industry and female leaders of a majority male company, what advice would you give to our Lady Pros? (

- check out what lady pros are here)

  • Have vast goals for yourself and your business- these are 15 years out. Then work backwards from there to determine what will make an impact on the business each year, month, week, day.

  • If you are passionate, it will shine through

  • Honesty, transparency, and consistency- do what you know and do it well

  • Lean on those with knowledge and expertise to grow your own knowledge

  • Own your mistakes and constantly pivoting and making changes to try again

Questions from the Audience

  • You are everywhere around town, how do you structure your marketing and how do you measure effectiveness?

    • Every call that CSRs take, if they are a repeat customer they are in the system, if not they try to figure out where the customer came from. It's difficult because its often times multiple channels

    • Marketing spend stays consistent so that it never goes away and is geared toward new customer acquisition

    • In house, they do outbounding to repeat customers

  • What are the benefits of having a large company? Is it the fact that you can support a whole family or you’re putting more money into the savings accounts then you would as a small company? Or since you have a manager you can take off on vacation and the company will still run?

    • Its harder to run a company today than it was when they started in the 1970s but it has turned into a legacy for multi generations

    • They are very proud and grateful for building a trusted company 

    • Flexibility comes later on as children taking on more

  • You look like you are having a lot of fun, what is it about your culture that creates this and how do you get employees bought into that culture

They care. they had very humble upbringings and anyone can talk to Tina and Bill at any time.

    • Take care of your employees and they will take care of you

    • It's a family atmosphere, but rules and accountability like corporations would have but we are always there for them

    • Great staff parties to celebrate

  • Do you have any employee incentive programs?

    • Once a month, 5 awards are given during a company meeting. There are 5 categories and technicians can be awarded these awards

    • Bonus system as well to meet goals to earn 1-3% on bonus

    • Bill Howe Bucks- earn bucks then get to “buy” a prize 

  • As a large organization what do you do to help your community?

    • They give time and money

    • Once a month with employees they volunteer at the local food bank and participate in the American Heart Association fundraiser walk

    • Tina is on the board for San Diego Boys and Girls Club

    • They also support the Warrior Foundation and Humane Society

    • They support employees when their children need little league sponsorships, they step in to sponsor

  • How can Pros start giving back to their community?

    • Volunteer time with something you are passionate about. Rotary clubs or Chamber of Commerce are a good place to start or smaller local organizations you are passionate about so that it isn’t a chore

  • What is one thing our Pros should do tomorrow?

    • Always make sure you have an ironclad handbook for employees, reviewed by a a labor law attorney 

    • Check in with employees each day to see how they are doing and how your customers are doing. They are the face and voice of your company to your customers. Help them through their concerns. 

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Network with other professionals in your area and receive a $15 Grub Hub gift card, just for participating. Register today! 

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Legal disclaimer

Housecall Pro is offering the Coronavirus Evening Update for Home Service Businesses for informational purposes only and to foster thoughtful communication and discussion regarding the COVID-19 pandemic; Housecall Pro is not offering advisory services or otherwise advising or representing any members of the group invited to participate.  Housecall Pro is not offering legal, medical or other professional advice in the Coronavirus Evening Update and makes no representations or warranties regarding the content of the Coronavirus Evening Update.  Participants should obtain independent advice relating to their businesses and their particular circumstances.


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