100 Percent Growth in a Down Economy

October 27, 2008
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Joe Huck, owner, Williams Comfort Air

CARMEL, Ind. - An HVACR contractor has experienced 100 percent growth in the past year despite an economy in flux. While many businesses have struggled to stay above water and many others have drowned, Joe Huck of Williams Comfort Air, Carmel, Ind., has gone against the grain and experienced phenomenal growth from 2007 to 2008.

His story and that of Williams Comfort Air are good examples of how contactors can increase their bottom line profitability by adhering to a plan and not deviating from a goal. Huck, who spent seven years working for another contractor, purchased Williams Comfort Air in May 2007. He brought in his two sons and two other people as investors into the company, which had been in business since 1966. He immediately went to work to turn the $5.5 million business into a leader in the Indianapolis marketplace.

“My experienced operating partners, my two sons, and I immediately implemented our Green Initiative and built upon the already sound business one client at a time,” Huck said. “We implemented a consistent marketing plan and took whatever steps that were necessary to learn the client’s heating and cooling needs.”

Huck and his partners also acquired a small plumbing company in April 2008 and moved them into the same building. Huck said he found the “best plumbing manager in town” and begged him to join the business. He re-branded the plumbing division (Mr. Plumber) and started a consistent marketing plan. The two divisions have been cross-marketed ever since.

Williams Comfort Air aligned itself with Carrier as its major brand and became a Factory Authorized Dealer. Huck said he focused on the energy savings of the highest efficiency Carrier Infinity Hybrid heating systems with the best IAQ accessories his company could find. His employees recommend the Infinity Air Purifier for every system and do not assume what their clients need, the client does.

To go along with the green theme, the company bought Hybrid cars for all six of its comfort consultants so they could talk hybrid cars and talk about hybrid heating systems.



DEALING WITH THE ECONOMY

Huck’s philosophy about the down economy is simple - he chooses not to participate. “We figured that we could not afford to participate in a recession so we simply refused to allow ourselves to see the gloom,” he said.

“Our can-do attitude shows in every part of our growing organization. Every day great people from all across the city call to inquire about joining our organization here at Williams Comfort Air. We have the best team in town and have the best coaching staff to motivate and guide this great organization.”

That may be easier said than done, especially when almost everyone around them is spewing doom and gloom. “We refuse to listen to the people and the media that are trying to drag us down,” Huck said.

“We look for the good in every opportunity, not being complacent, and asking everyone on our team to be their absolute best at what they do. Others can have the same success by having the best comfort consultants in the industry and training them to have the highest closing rate at a great average order and, of course, by answering the phone immediately when it rings.

“Oh, and don’t forget to say thank you - every time. Oh, and don’t forget to say ‘I’m sorry’ and that you will fix the boo-boo’s real quick. Everyone should be in harmony.”

Huck has more advice for contractors who are struggling right now. “If things are bad, I would call a company meeting and confide in everyone as to how tough things are for the company,” he said. “I would be very upfront and honest with what our struggles are. I would ask everyone to do their part in being part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

Huck knows that tough decisions have to be made, but he would prefer to make them with people who have positive attitudes and who know how to make things better - people who are willing to do their part.
“If we can’t generate more business then we must lower our overhead and increase our margins,” he added. “I would immediately implement marketing that we can afford to do, and that marketing must work. I’m talking business cards, job signs, and leave-behinds. I would pay our team members and existing clients for referrals that sell. I would pay a commission to all field team members that sell stuff to our clients.”

Huck also said he would not do business with people who do not pay Williams Comfort Air upon completion of the work.

“I told my wife that I would only be working one-half day, every day on the business,” said Huck. “She didn’t know which 12 hours I was talking about. It’s really tough out there right now. Learn to work on the business, not in the business. And read all of the e-myth books.”



The service vans have a unique look that make them stand out.

NETWORKING AND COMMUNICATION

Huck knows he doesn’t have all of the answers and cannot succeed without the help of others. That’s why he puts a lot of stock in networking with his peers and communicating with his employees. “I meet twice a year with the presidents of six other companies that think like we do and most of them make me look like a rookie,” he said.

“Every company is different but it’s all about the people, not the business you have.

“We also joined Nexstar, a member organization that is truly for the benefit of the members. We have coaches and training like I have never seen before, and I have been in this business since 1974. If I was going to do only two things, one of them would be to join Nexstar right away.”

And communication? It is the one area that Huck wished he could have been better at when he bought the company.

“I would have communicated better with our team members from the beginning,” Huck said. “We now meet with every department every week.”

Today, the 2007 $5.5 million company is now doing $11 million. That’s doing a lot of things well.

Publication Date: 10/27/2008

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