Before Jake Vaughan had the title of ‘Owner’, he was an employee with Conservation Plus. After three years of learning the ins and outs of the home energy audit and inspection industry, he was presented with an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. The previous owner was ready to retire and Vaughan was the most logical successor.
“I was pretty much hired with the intention of taking over the business when the previous owner retired,” Vaughan said. “The owner was actually my youth group leader when I was a kid, so we’ve known each other for a while. I became the owner in January 2019. My decision was based on the potential of the business given the current market. I wanted to utilize my experience to grow the business into something big one day.”
Conservation Plus is an energy rating company that serves home builders throughout Central Florida. They perform guaranteed full-home energy ratings as well as code compliant Blower Door Testing and Duct Testing. They also perform a number of quality assurance inspections involved in the residential home building process. Through the use of a full-home energy rating, Vaughan and his team are able to determine the energy bill before a home is even occupied. Builders partner with Conservation Plus to determine how energy efficient their homes are.
Vaughan shared some of his early challenges and what it's like to be your own boss. "The previous owner and I agreed on a price that includes a three-year payoff. Determining the price was actually a pretty challenging process because, at the time of the negotiation, Conservation Plus was a rarity among the construction industry in Florida. Another challenge, which definitely increased over time, is competition. That brought some adversity and stress. At first, I thought buying the business was going to be great, then it's like, 'this is it, time to grind'. It's been a lot of work, but ultimately being in charge of the process and not having anyone in my way has been a blessing."
Since buying the business in January, Vaughan has become actively involved in the Citrus County Building Alliance, where he was recently nominated for 2nd Vice President, and the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce. He's going to as many events as possible and making connections with builders and realtors to increase his referral pipeline.
"We're not like the bigger home energy rating companies," Vaughan said. "We value our clients and take the time to give them the service they expect. If you feel like you're paying too much, we can find ways to help you reduce your bill. After an audit we'll explain that if you do these things, this is what your bill could be. We mostly work in Citrus and Marion County, but we've done jobs in Sumter, Hernando and Pasco."
Looking ahead, Vaughan's main goal is to build Conservation Plus into a company that consumers feel they need. He's strengthen partnerships with local builders and making more and more connections everyday. In terms of personnel, Vaughan plans to make another hire or two before the end of the year. Another goal is to grow a separate company that Vaughan recently launched called Southern Aerial Imagery. It's a drone imagery company that he's currently in the process of developing.
What advice does Vaughan have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “I would say most importantly is to not give up,” he said. “It sounds cliché and it's probably over used, but it’s the truth. I have been told multiple times that I'm not ready or it's too much to handle. These are all things that motivated me in the long run. I never took no for an answer and always found satisfaction when I proved people wrong and proved myself right.”