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Florida company bolsters presence here with Dial One: Heating, cooling and plumbing contractor expects to see staff grow thanks to new ownership

June 5, 2006

Dial One added a new owner, a fresh look and a third word to its name when a Florida company bought the venerable Indianapolis heating, cooling and plumbing contractor late last month.

Sarasota-based Clockwork Home Services Inc. also plans to add 30 field technicians and about 10 office employees over the next three years to the newly renamed Dial One Hour, which has roots in Indianapolis dating back to 1908.

Now, Dial One Hour employs 189.

"We have no plans other than to grow," said Rebecca Cassel, Clockwork's president of franchise operations. "No layoffs are going on."

Clockwork announced the purchase May 25 and said it planned to integrate the company into its subsidiary franchise, One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, which pulls in more than $350 million in annual sales. Hence the name change.

Clockwork already operates in central Indiana through One Hour and its Benjamin Franklin Plumbing franchise.

Neither Cassel nor John Marod, one of Dial One's former owners, would disclose the sale price.

Dial One racked up about $27.3 million in 2005 and is on track to reach $28 million this year, said Marod, who co-owned the franchise with Tom Wells before the Clockwork deal. He declined to share profit figures.

It attracted its larger suitor with impressive growth over the past few years and a business plan that fits within Clockwork's goals, Cassel said. The company provides residential heating, cooling and plumbing services over a broad swath of Indiana. It covers Anderson, Columbus, Kokomo and Seymour, among other cities, according to its Web site.

Wells and Marod bought the franchise rights to the name from Dial One Property Services in 1998. They built their business around five satellite operations. Cassel said her company was impressed by the projected sales for 2006.

"In our industry, that's phenomenal growth," she said. "There are very, very few heating and air-conditioning contractors that focus on residential services that grow to be over $10 million."

Dial One also boasts name recognition beyond Indiana. It has franchises in California and Toronto, for which Wells and Marod served as business consultants. Those operations will keep their names, but the Dial One franchise will be shut down, Marod said.

Clockwork will acquire the Indianapolis business, which includes an active customer base of more than 35,000 and runs 60,000 service calls annually, Marod said. Dial One also has 16,000 customers under maintenance agreements that involve two annual home visits for inspections.

Marod said Dial One's owners talked with Clockwork for about a year before finalizing the deal. They pulled the trigger because the buyer made a lucrative offer "and it was a perfect match with the philosophy of their company and our company," he added.

Dial One's same-day service guarantee and its solid warrantees fit within the Clockwork business plan, Cassel said. As Dial One Hour, the company also will adopt Clockwork's "always on time or you don't pay a dime" promise. That means if the service technician misses his or her time window for arrival, the repair is free.

Aside from maintenance and installation, Clockwork's businesses also do indoor air quality work. The Dial One technicians will expand their offerings to accommodate some of that.

They also will drive around in freshly repainted trucks. Clockwork introduced a yellow paint scheme to replace the white that covered Dial One's vehicles.

Other than those changes, Clockwork aims to make the transition between owners "as seamlessly as possible," Cassel said. Her company also has no plans to slow its push to establish a national brand.

"Our industry's very fragmented, and our focus is to be the McDonald's of the home-services industry," she said.




Dial One Hour at a glance

Headquarters: 1551 S. Franklin Road Business: residential heating, cooling and plumbing contractors Employees: 189 2006 sales (projected): $28 million New owner: Florida-based Clockwork Home Services Inc.

Sources: Dial One, Clockwork Home Services Inc.
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