September 28, 2021
Joining To The Point is a true industry legend. Terry Nicholson is Chief Success Officer for PRAXIS S-10, and success is a great title for Terry—he’s had a lot of it over the years!
Before he was in the home services industry, Terry started his career working for Tom Hopkins, the legendary sales trainer. In the 1980’s, Tom would travel from city to city and host giant sales training events. Behind the scenes, there were guys like Terry that would show up to each city a few months and host mini-training programs to drum up excitement and sell tickets.
Occasionally, people would get so excited at the events that they would want to hire Tom to come and train their businesses in person. Once they found out the price tag, they usually would ask if there was someone a bit less expensive in the organization. Terry was exactly that, and back in those days former To The Point guest Joe Cunningham was working for Carrier. Joe had a program for Carrier dealers and hired Terry to design a training program to implement for the dealers. This connection to Joe would pay off big for Terry down the road.
Terry was almost always on the road working for Tom Hopkins during his first few years, so much so that he didn’t even have an apartment. He would eventually move up to VP of Sales and Marketing, which allowed him to settle down a little. Still, he was still on the road plenty and with a wife at home pregnant with twins, he decided to resign and move back to St. Louis.
At this point, Terry didn’t quite know what he wanted to do with his career. He had been in hundreds of industries and seen countless training programs, and knew he loved training. So, he started his very own training company.
A few years later, Terry received a call from Joe, who was working for Future University out in Chesterfield and wanted to catch up. Joe was starting his own training team, and wanted to hire Terry as one of the trainers. Terry was enjoying doing his own thing, and politely declined. Joe was persistent, however, and eventually convinced Terry to come out and see things for himself. Joe pitched to Terry that he could work just one week out of the month, and so Terry would join Future University. Terry credits this path as where he really started to understand his value.
Future University was run by Jim Abrams, and in the early 90’s Terry had the opportunity to see Jim on stage speaking to hundreds of contractors. He was in awe, and recognized quickly that Jim was going to be building a national company. Terry was inspired and excited, and worked up the nerve to approach Jim during a break at the convention to tell him he wanted to be a part of what he was building. Jim told Terry that if he really wanted to be a part of the industry and what he was building, that he would need to learn things from the ground up.
The convention ended on a Saturday, and that very next Monday Terry was already in the office of Jim’s Chesterfield location. Terry walked right into the GM’s office and said he wanted to work selling HVAC equipment, but the GM turned him away. The GM simply wasn’t willing to take a risk giving Terry his $250 leads even though Terry was willing to work on commission. Terry asked who was in charge of Jim’s 3 locations, and before the GM could stop him Terry was already in that office getting hired. A few minutes later, Terry was back in the GM’s office saying “it looks like you and I are going to be working together!”
Terry went to work selling heating and air conditioning equipment, and had some success. While Terry didn’t know a lot about the systems, he understood what his customers wanted; that was comfort. It’s easy to get caught up in the technical stuff, but at the end of the day, people just want to be comfortable. Still, Terry had situations where he was dealing with lots of objections. Any salesperson can relate to the dilemma of needing to make a sale but not wanting to twist an arm to do so. What came out of this was Terry developing a repeatable process for his sales routine that included asking questions, finding out what people want, and leading them to just that.
This simple process was the foundation for Terry building out training programs to take timid people and teach them a friendly, non-combative process to eliminate objections before they ever came up! In these days, Terry established himself as a maker of million dollar salespeople, perhaps creating more of them than anyone else in the industry!
In the early 90’s, Jim was one of the earliest to start talking about indoor air quality products. He sourced IAQ products to sell, but he was getting heat even from manufacturers who were using terms such as “snake oil”. Some of his own companies wouldn’t even sell them. At the same time, Jim had announced that he was creating a publicly traded HVAC company, just as Terry had suspected. Terry saw this as an opportunity to get his foot further into the door, and sent Jim a proposal on how to introduce IAQ to every company. Terry detailed how it would generate success and profitability for the companies and dealers, and also help homeowners understand the products and enjoy the benefits of better air quality. Jim basically threw the proposal in the trash without a response.
Terry was training for Contractor Success Group at the time and running leads for the company. He went back to the same GM that didn’t want to hire him in the first place and told him he had good news and bad news. The bad news was that he wasn’t going to be running leads as a replacement salesperson anymore. The good news was that Terry was his new IAQ specialist! Of course, the GM had a long series of objections. Terry calmed him down by telling him he didn’t need any money—just a little flexibility and free access to the technicians, CSRs, and dispatchers.
Terry set up a system where the CSRs would take down names for IAQ leads, or just pick up the phone himself if he was nearby. He trained technicians and the CSRs about IAQ, and was using duct cleaning leads to convert his IAQ sales. Before Terry, the entire company was only selling about $36,000 in duct cleaning over the first three quarters of the year. After Terry took over as the IAQ specialist, he managed to sell over $40,000 in IAQ in just 30 days.
Once Jim Abrams took a look at his financials for that month, he noticed the big uptick in sales. Jim called the GM to figure out what was going on, and all the GM knew was that it somehow connected to Terry. Jim called Terry into his office right away. Suddenly, Jim had time for Terry!
Jim asked Terry what he was doing, and Terry responded that he was helping people that have allergies and asthma in their home get involved in solutions to help them breathe and live a healthier, happier life. Jim was really asking about the money, of course, and Terry knew that. Jim saw that Terry had knowledge he didn’t have, and a plan, and a process in place. That was Terry’s new leverage. Terry told Jim that he would tell him, but he would have to be the first national sales trainer of Jim’s new publicly traded HVAC company that would be launching soon.
Getting Terry involved wasn’t going to be simple, as Jim had promised the 13 members of Contractor Success Group that overhead would be kept low, and Terry’s ideas would definitely be a cost. These members had already signed their paperwork to sell their companies on the same day and join together to form the first publicly traded HVAC company, and the ball was already in motion.
Jim told Terry that there was one last meeting before the big launch day, and would allow him 10 minutes to make his pitch. Terry got his presentation ready, all set with why hiring him was going to be a good move. His closing remarks were about how much money he was going to bring in, and ended with “every extra 12 million dollars of profit helps!”. That was the start of Jim and Terry building something special together, and would continue for many years to come.
Terry became the national sales trainer for Service Experts, leading IAQ and continuing to build million-dollar salespeople. He was doing whatever it took to make businesses successful. Jim retired a few years later and rode off into the sunset, but it wouldn’t take long for him to get tired of being retired. Jim decided to start another business, Clockwork Home Services. This was going to be a plumbing organization, which Terry and Jim knew little about. While they didn’t know plumbing, they certainly knew how to run a business. Terry points out that no matter what the trade may be, running a contracting business is the same.
Over the next decade, Jim and Terry would successfully start and grow many ventures throughout two wars and a recession. They launched Plumbers Success International, Air Time 500, 1-Hour Air Conditioning and Heating, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, and Mr. Sparky Electric. They also created lots of other organizations and academies, and operated their own heating and cooling companies. Across the 11 service companies they had built for contractors and their own businesses, they were seeing $200,000,000 in residential service sales. By using Terry’s training and their established processes in their own companies to implement across the board, Jim and Terry saw incredible success despite the difficult economic times. At the end of 2009, Clockwork Home Services was sold for 183 million dollars and Jim would retire once again.
Terry stayed onboard as Chief Innovation Officer to handle the transition, but would leave after a few years. Jim was once again bored of being retired, and Terry was too young to retire himself, so they started searching for another opportunity once again! They landed on starting a physical therapy franchise, and created a new model for the health care industry using their tried and true methods for success. FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers quickly became the fastest growing business in the space with over 100 locations across the country. FYZICAL was acquired in 2017, giving Terry the opportunity to come home where he wanted to be—back in the home services industry.
From Ken Goodrich and Dave Geiger to Ken Haines and more, Terry has helped many of the most successful contractors grow their businesses. We’ll have Terry back on in the coming weeks to share even more about his incredible journey and what he’s used to find success time and time and again!