Applewood hits 100th truck milestone

May 11, 2017
This is the first time there have been 100 of the company’s distinctive, bright-orange service vehicles on the road at one time. The fleet has necessarily diversified along with the company, with specialty trucks equipped for plumbing, HVAC and electrical service, and special parts-runner trucks. There are also three fully-stocked trucks ready to roll in the event of a break-down. 
DENVER — Plenty of trucks have come and gone since Applewood Plumbing, Heating & Electric was founded in 1973, but now is the first time there have been 100 of the company’s distinctive, bright-orange service vehicles on the road at one time.

Add to that, the Denver Post just named the company one of the area’s Top Work Places for the fifth year in a row. All the more reason to celebrate the present, take stock of the past and plan for the future. 

Built piece by piece

“We did 20 years of new construction before we ever started doing service work,” company Founder and President John Ward said. “For 20 years we did plumbing and heating, but it was only boiler heating/hydronic heating.”

Once Applewood started doing service work they never looked back. The company is now 100 percent service, and they have adapted their business model to meet customer demand; from plumbing, water heaters and boilers, then adding forced-air furnaces, air conditioners and finally electrical.

“Eventually there was so much demand from the HVAC side,” John Ward explained, “we had to bring in our own electricians just to do our own work.” The company is now in its 10th year of doing electrical service work.

The fleet has necessarily diversified along with the company, with specialty trucks equipped for plumbing, HVAC and electrical service. In addition, there are special parts-runner trucks the company keeps ready to move at a moment’s notice.

“Say we have a technician out on an all-day job,” Josh Ward, Applewood’s vice president said, “and say he needs a water heater that he doesn’t have on his truck, then we would have it delivered out to him. The technician can focus on the job instead of driving around town to round up parts.”

There are also three fully-stocked trucks ready to roll in the event of a break-down. The technician simply calls in, transfers his tools to the new vehicle and is back on the job with minimum delay.

The people make it happen

But all those trucks wouldn’t be much good without the people to drive them. What started as a one-man company now employs more than 120 people as technicians, dispatchers, customer service professionals and warehouse staff.

“Our number one priority is hiring clean-cut, drug-free, licensed people,” John Ward said. “We have to interview about 75 people before we hire anybody.” In the current economic and construction boom the Denver area is experiencing, Applewood has to go the extra mile to attract and retain those high-quality employees.

“We have more work than we can do and our guys make a wonderful living,” Paula Washenberger, director of marketing for Applewood said. “We recruit nationally. We treat our recruiting effort a lot like a high-tech company would an executive search.” The company will fly people out to their Denver headquarters for an in-person interview. To smooth the hiring process they will even help with moving expenses.

Applewood also gives back to try and grow the skilled trades talent pool. They have partnered with Red Rock Community College to create the Applewood Scholarship. One scholarship is offered each semester in each trade (plumbing, HVAC and electrical).

In addition the company is a big supporter of the Troops to Trades program,, of the Nexstar Legacy Foundation, a non-profit that provides scholarships, training and contacts for former military service personnel seeking careers in the skilled trades.

Applewood offers some vocational training to its employees, mostly to keep up on the latest technology. The company also offers a limited apprenticeship program. However, the focus of their hiring efforts is to bring in people who are already trained to a very high level of technical skill.

“The people we hire are already a licensed Master Plumber or Master Electrician, that type of thing,” Josh Ward explained. “They have the technical skills to do the job, so most of the training we do is on the people skills side of it.”

The Uber-ization of service

That level of technical knowhow is an important part of how the company markets itself, and a huge factor in their level of customer satisfaction (more than 60 percent of their customers are repeat customers). They are the only service company that guarantees a licensed technician with each visit, and it’s a big part of building trust between the company and its customers.

“Before every appointment we send our customers, via e-mail, a lot of information about the technician that is coming to their homes,” Paula Washenberger explained. “They get a photo, a list of credentials, his Colorado license number, and even a little bit about his personal life, so they know exactly who is coming to their home.”

Within a few minutes of the appointment finishing, the customer gets a call to ensure that everything went well and that they’re satisfied with their service. If the customer isn’t, they deal with it immediately. E-mail surveys and customer reply cards help complete the feedback loop.

“We are trying to hit them again and again,” Washenberger said, “to make sure they’re satisfied. And if there’s anything we can do, we’re on it right away. It’s not something we let sit.”

Looking ahead

Applewood Plumbing Heating

This year Applewood Plumbing, Heating & Electrical is on track to make 32 million in sales. John Ward’s goal for the company? 50 million.

Keeping the organization on track towards its goals is a code of ethics taken directly from the Nexstar Network that spells out clearly the company’s responsibilities to its customers, its employees, its profession and to the greater community.

“We’re very fortunate to be long-time members of Nexstar,” John Ward said. “George Brazille, Frank Blau, Jack Tester, all those founding members. As Jack Tester says, we get to stand on the shoulders of giants. There’s a whole ton of people who have helped us come this far.”

Next for the company: deciding who gets to drive that shiny new 100th truck!

“We’re going to have the technicians nominate their MVP,” Washenberger said, “because we want to give this truck to someone as an honor.” Votes should be tallied by the time this article is in print.

The ceremonial awarding of the keys will be held at a party commemorating not only the 100th truck, but also the Best Place to Work Award. To cater the event Applewood is – appropriately – bringing in several local food trucks.

To see a video of Applewood’s 100th truck getting its decals, go to:

To see a 360-degree interior view of one of Applewood’s service trucks, go to:

About the Author

Steve Spaulding | Editor-inChief - CONTRACTOR

Steve Spaulding is Editor-in-Chief for CONTRACTOR Magazine. He has been with the magazine since 1996, and has contributed to Radiant Living, NATE Magazine, and other Endeavor Media properties.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Contractor, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations