When Jeff Bartos was hired to launch the US operation of Mark Group, a 1,500-employee British firm that provides high-quality, professionally installed insulation and air-sealing measures to homeowners and businesses, he worked from his kitchen table. Today, Mark Group’s US arm has 52 employees serving Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, and it continues to expand. But Bartos, CEO, says the company’s success is more basic than one might imagine. “You don’t hear much about businesses that have started with old-fashioned values—a quality product or service, a desire to provide jobs and give people transferable skills, a commitment to customer service—but we’re evidence that these businesses can grow and thrive in the current market,” he says. Below, Bartos speaks directly on the keys to Mark Group’s success.
Satisfy supply and demand. National government policies drive a lot of the demand for our services. In the United Kingdom, there are ongoing three-year rolling targets to reduce carbon emissions for utilities, and those targets drive a lot of people to need to insulate their homes and office buildings. That’s created demand, and we’re unique in that we’ve grown to the point that we have the logistical capability to meet the demand. We can deploy 900 trucks six days a week across the United Kingdom, serving approximately 6,000 customers weekly. Not many businesses in our industry can do that.
Create a dedicated workforce. We directly employ our workforce, which means the crew that comes out to your home to install insulation and seal gaps and cracks in your home’s exterior has been hired and trained by Mark Group. We aim to create career positions for our associates. We provide good wages, good benefits, and a place where you can grow. That makes all the difference in terms of delivering quality work and service to our customers.
Provide training for everything. We’ve built a training academy at our headquarters and have a full-time director of training. We start with the basics, training on the soft skills: the importance of wearing a clean uniform, making sure your truck is clean, knocking on the door and greeting the customer appropriately, putting down drop cloths, wearing protective shoe coverings. We then move on to the hard skills: how you insulate a wall, an attic, or a basement; how you properly install air-sealing measures; how you measure the effectiveness of your work. We then go the extra step by ensuring all our technicians are certified by the Building Performance Institute [BPI]. And before a technician is authorized to go out on his or her own, we provide field training.
Market green by highlighting quality. One of my colleagues in the United Kingdom is fond of saying we’ve been in the green economy for almost 40 years; we just didn’t know it was called the green economy. That pretty much explains how we view and market our business here in the United States. It’s most important to me to communicate to customers that we hire, train, and employ our own teams, and [that] air sealing and insulation offer by far the biggest return on investment in terms of money spent to make a home energy-efficient.
Build a culture that sustains itself. All good businesses are based on a quality product or service; talented, motivated employees; and a commitment to core values. And once you’ve built a culture that emphasizes the importance of those values—in our case, delivering excellent work to customers every day—it becomes self-sustaining. Crew leaders make sure the newest crew members understand we’re only going to do the best work, and if they see work that’s not to the level we expect, they instantly correct it.