Finding the Right HVAC Contractor Group
|Gary Marowske has connected with several different contractor groups as owner of Flame Heating, Cooling, & Electrical.|
Gary Marowske is a familiar face in the pages of The NEWS. The owner of Flame Heating, Cooling & Electrical in Warren, Mich., has been featured in several articles, including being named The NEWS’ Best Contractor to Work For in the North Central region in 2007. His company is also one of the leading HVAC residential service and replacement businesses in Metro Detroit. Needless to say, he knows a thing or two about how to run a successful business.
Marowske credits a lot of his business success to the various contractor groups and associations he has joined over the years. In a way, he has been the Goldilocks of the HVAC contracting business, trying out a few groups before finding the one that fit just right. That association is the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), which he joined in 1992. His journey through other groups is an interesting story as well.
Marowske has had the unique experience of owning an HVAC contracting business, selling it to a local utility, and then buying it back again. He also toyed with the idea of selling his business in a package with other local contractors to consolidator American Residential Systems (ARS) back during the early days of the consolidation boom of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. “They were offering me a very good price, and I saw them as a better way to run my business,” Marowske said. But he pulled out of the deal — in the summer of 1997 — at the last minute because he had second thoughts — and he is glad he did.
Marowske felt that he needed to learn about how to run a successful HVAC business from all sides. His background in accounting was not quite adequate to understand the ins and outs of an HVAC service and replacement business.
He settled on a membership with Excellence Alliance (EAI), in part, because he wanted to learn about the HVAC world outside of his local community. “I wanted to know where all of the arrows were coming from and if any of them had poison,” he joked. “We really didn’t know what was happening outside of Metro Detroit.”
Marowske saw advantages in belonging to a group more than its link to information; he also saw it as a way to get valuable group discounts for equipment purchases — a common benefit of belonging to a group of businesses.
Flame was a member of EAI for two years before Marowske made the decision to sell his company to Michigan Consolidated Gas, which ended the membership. “Mich Con was not interested in being a part of any group,” he said.
As fate would have it, Marowske bought back the company 26 months later. And he was still looking for an HVAC group that could help him grow his business.
Marowkse has joined several organizations such as the Comfort Institute (to learn about building performance issues) and the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (for training in duct cleaning). He has always encouraged his staff to join local network groups and offered incentives for all of his service techs to become NATE certified. In a nutshell, he has done many of the things that have made Flame a leader in the local service and replacement market. But he was looking for another avenue to grow as a business professional.
He found that with ACCA, and in particular one of the benefits it offers: ACCA Mix Groups®. These splinter groups are comprised of a small number of HVAC contractors from across the country who interact on a regular basis to share best business practices. Group members are required to share financial records with each other in order to identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In essence, each contractor acts as a “board of director” and helps the others to become better businesspeople. There is continuous support electronically and via face-to-face meetings at each group member’s business.
“If I hadn’t joined a Mix Group I think I would have gone belly up,” Marowske said. “They have been so valuable to me, starting with the financial information sharing. And the group isn’t just for owners. Already, all of our human resources managers have gotten together, too.”
As an ACCA member, Marowske has taken advantage of the association’s role in the political landscape. He is in charge of government relations for ACCA. “Contractors need to know the importance of having a voice in Washington,” he said. “If contractors had more of a united voice, they could influence policies in Washington.”
Marowske has used his business knowledge to grow his company internally and externally, recently merging two other local businesses into Flame. He credits group membership in giving him the knowledge and confidence to do so. “And I am always looking to merge in other companies,” he said.
But whether it is membership in ACCA or any of the other HVAC contractor groups or associations, Marowkse is an advocate of learning from other contractors and gaining valuable business knowledge. “I strongly recommend joining a contractor group,” he said. “You need to get outside of your four walls if you want to grow your business.”
Publication date: 10/03/2011