Contractor Leverages Military Skills to Build Successful Business
Passion, Discipline, and Integrity Guide North Dakota HVAC Contractor
Steve Hutcherson, president and owner of Elite Heating & Air Inc., Wahpeton, N.D., savors the opportunity to make a difference.
|An Air Force veteran, Steve Hutcherson said his goal is to do everything he can to help his customers and employees.|
“I feel, with heating and air conditioning, we have a unique advantage to help customers save money, and improve their homes, lives, health, and well-being,” he said. “By providing improved IAQ and offering green solutions, we’re ultimately helping them save money.”
Hutcherson, 44, is a 40 percent disabled veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years, where he was able to bypass most of basic training because he held an HVAC certificate. “They had me take a bypass test, and I made it about halfway through basic training before they put me to work fixing heating and air conditioning equipment, which is what I did — all over the planet — for the next 10 years,” he said.
During the Gulf War era, Hutcherson sustained a right shoulder injury that required the removal of a half-inch of his collarbone. “Even though it was that long ago, it’s still fresh in my mind,” he said. “Would I go back and do it again? You bet I would. We are the freest country in this world. I’m so proud to have served, so proud to be an American. I have red, white, and blue eagles in my office.”
Integrity and Passion
After his service career was complete, he spent seven years working for a large HVACR manufacturer. Eight years ago, he stepped out on his own, opening Elite Heating & Air Inc., where he carries on the principles he learned in the Air Force.
“I’ve got to bring integrity back to this market, to this career field,” he said. “I’m determined to teach people the trade, how to fix things, how to improve lives, and how to be honest.”
Hutcherson strives to maintain a one-on-one relationship with every member of his staff.
“It isn’t just air conditioning, it’s the entire-person concept. When people work for me, they become part of the family. I help them with finances if they need it, with life skills, with whatever they need. I want to bring that back to society. I want to give back to the people.
“When you work for these big corporations or big companies, you’re a number and your customers are just numbers; you get in, get the job done, and get out. I’d rather have a smaller customer base and a smaller percentage of income, and have all my customers extremely happy. At the end of the day, it’s important to know that we didn’t cheat, we were dependable, and we were affordable.”
That integrity and passion wasn’t lost on Lee Froemke, mechanical engineer, sales, SVL Fargo, Fargo, N.D., who met Hutcherson on a job site several years back. “Steve’s primary goal, above all else, is to provide the right service and do it correctly,” he said. “Whether Steve is coating a unit or replacing a heat pump, he has trained his group and works closely with them to sincerely meet the owners’ needs. The main priority is providing the customer with a good product.”
That sentiment was echoed by Don Anderson, president, RHI Supply, Fargo, N.D. “Steve runs a great business with his progressive nature and liking of new products,” Anderson said. “He is very personable and, if you are his customer you will be taken care of.”
Looking to broaden his multitude of services, Hutcherson recently started offering the Comfort RX program, which helps with air-sealing problem spots in the house. Hutcherson said the foaming system has been helpful to his company because it is small and portable, which helps nail down target areas, and it’s not something that has to be mounted to the back of a truck.
“This allows us to offer something no one else up here does,” Hutcherson said. “It sets my company apart from others, and that’s a huge benefit for us. It actually does what it says it will, it improves the home and saves a homeowner money. Word of mouth gets around and helps my company.”
Hutcherson references his youth when sharing how he became interested in the HVACR industry.
“I remember when I was in high school and my folks had a refrigerator that broke, and this was back in the day when people actually fixed them instead of just going out and buying a new one,” Hutcherson said. “My mom was talking about how expensive it was going to be, but we needed it, so they came in and fixed it and away we went. And at that time, I realized until the day this world is done, we’re going to need heating and air conditioning. That’s what really prompted me to get into the field.”
Even though he is constantly looking out for the well-being of others, Hutcherson said he has been his biggest obstacle thus far.
“I would have to be honest and say myself,” he said. “I have had to change and learn how to run a business and work with people more, which has not always been easy.”
Though Hutcherson still has plenty in front of him, he said he’s happy with what he’s accomplished thus far. “We’re making homes greener and saving people money. It sounds cliché, but that’s what we do here. We improve the lives of the people we work with and the people we work for,” he said. “Honestly, looking back at what I’ve done, the goals I’ve set, and how I’ve achieved them, I believe I’ve done well,” he said. “And, when I say ‘I,’ I’m quick to attribute the credit to the people around me that helped me to get here. There is no I in team.”
Publication date: 7/8/2013