Apex Home Energy Savings helps homeowners get the most savings on their energy costs by reducing heating and cooling bills by specializing in heating & air conditioning design and installation, geothermal, solar panels, insulation, solar attic fans among other products and services. Their footprint has expanded over the years, and it now includes San Antonio, Austin, and the greater Dallas metro region.
We spoke with Bryan Shellenberger, President, to share how his experience and passion helped grow the business, and how working with Breakout helped support his business transition to an SBA Loan.
When was Apex started and what was the motivation to start your own business?
I started Apex in 1998 after having done a bit of everything throughout my life as a plumber, electrician and an HVAC technician. The companies that I worked for over the years have been great – I gained a lot of knowledge and experience in my profession and in learning the business. I’ve always been the one that would try to go above and beyond by taking on after-hour calls and working as much as I could to learn on my own. My employers appreciated my initiative and dedication but they simply didn’t have opportunities for upward mobility.
So I started my own business, wanting to provide more for my family on my terms. Working in air conditioning was great because it seemed the profit was faster and, being in Texas, there’s a big market and need. And as luck would have it, when I started the business in 1998, that spring was the hottest we’d had in a very long time, getting up to 110-112 degrees. That was a nice start!
Initially, Apex was solely an air conditioning business? How have you grown and expanded the business?
Yes, initially we started in air conditioning, but as the years went on and we started to grow, I brought on a master electrician to start doing work in new construction and repairs together. He was someone I had known for a long time and his own business was combined into Apex. For plumbing, I’d been doing it most of my life and had been a plumber’s helper years ago. I ended up hiring the master plumber I learned from to join the business. It turned out that my old boss was now working for me, and it’s worked out so well!
“I tell my kids, never burn bridges in your profession – whether or not you like working for a company, never leave on terms where someone would not hire you back. You never know when later in your career that relationship may be helpful to you.”
When you decided to seek funding, what were you hoping to accomplish with the additional capital?
When we started to look into a loan for capital, we had a lot of big jobs going on and some would pay in 10 days, some would pay in 45, some in 60. We had $800K – $1M on the books to get paid but were having a hard time with cash flow for payroll and materials. The loan helped us through that quite well.
What led you to Breakout Capital and how has your business benefited from working with us?
Well, this is the first business loan I had ever taken. After someone had mentioned Breakout I decided to look into a business loan for the first time. Through some due diligence and speaking with Steve at Breakout, I had all the information I needed to feel good about moving forward. In those conversations, Breakout asked me if I had tried to get an SBA loan. Truthfully, I hadn’t because it seemed like quite an undertaking and complicated process… Breakout let me know that they could help me later down the road with that process. After paying down the loan I had with Breakout, I asked about possibly moving to an SBA loan and sure enough, with the help of Steve and the Breakout team we were able to get approved. I wouldn’t have gone for an SBA loan on my own because of the difficulty it seemed to involve.
“It was certainly intimidating, but Breakout did a lot of work behind the scenes and made the process really smooth for us. It was just as simple and easy as promised.”
How did graduating from a Breakout Capital loan to an SBA loan help your business?
It’s certainly helped with cash flow, I’ve been able to lower all of my payments which immediately helped me hire a few more people, get a couple new vehicles for the business, and save money.
What kinds of challenges or bumps along the road have you faced over the years since the business inception?
There are the standard challenges of making payroll throughout the year, paying the taxes on payroll, as well as all the various regulations that we have to abide by on both local and federal levels. These can be very difficult. I went to college for law enforcement, so I didn’t exactly learn these things before starting my business which made it more challenging. You basically have to learn as you go.
But the biggest challenge we’ve had over the years has been getting the right employees. You’re dealing with the public and it is both a professional and technical career at the same time. Not all workers with the technical experience have the wherewithal to work with customers in a professional environment, and vice versa. I care very much about my customers, so it’s a challenge finding employees with that same passion sometimes. But, when someone comes in and wants to learn and grow within the company, I’m all for it. For example, my serviceman has been with me now for about 8 years, and he started out as a plumber’s helper. I’ve helped him along the way to grow in the company but it’s also been up to him to learn and grow his own career here. And now for about the last 3 years, he’s moved all the way up to the Air Conditioning Service Manager.
Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs that are also not necessarily familiar with some of the financial aspects of running a business?
My advice is to find a mentor or someone that has experience with accounting, and bookkeeping and learn how to do that on your own. What helped me was having a business partner whose parent owned a funeral home and having our office on the second floor of their building. Their team worked in accounting and knew QuickBooks. While getting started in QuickBooks, I would run in there all the time and ask questions. It’s critical to accurately track how much money you’re making and spending to truly understand what you need to do to grow your business. Whether that’s raising or lowering your prices or something else to improve your revenue, having a good accounting mentor that understands your market and your type of business is invaluable.
What are your goals for the next 3-5 years?
We’ve been around a long time, but our number one goal remains to stay in front of our clients by being proactive and staying on top of the latest and greatest in technology. We’re continuing to look at the market and adding new innovations in technology to offer to our clients.
We know owning and growing a business is very time consuming… when you do have down time, how do you like to spend it?
I love to work and am very passionate about Apex, always thinking about ways we can improve. But outside of work it’s my family. I have 3 sons, one is 27, one is 23 and one my youngest is getting ready to turn 21. They’re all successful in their varied careers and now my youngest is getting ready to have a baby girl. We’re looking forward to having a little girl in the family and being grandparents!
Congratulations to everyone at Apex on their continued success and a special thank you to Bryan for sharing how Breakout helped him secure an SBA loan. Just like Bryan, we are proud to make our customer’s first and will continue to challenge the market through technology and innovation!