HVAC Residential Market / Zoning

HVAC Contractor Zones in on Profits

Getting Out of New Construction Made Big Impact

October 28, 2013

Three years ago, Marty Gildemeyer decided he’d had enough. After being burned one too many times in the new construction business, Gildemeyer elected to change the culture of his Atlanta-based company, ProTech Mechanical Inc. With new construction tumbling with the economy, he placed a new focus on service, replacement, and maintenance agreement work. Additionally, Gildemeyer discovered a new niche — zoning.

Entering the Red Zone

Marty Gildemeyer shows off the ProTech Comfort Zones, an online app which he has put as a wrap on several of his company’s trucks. He said he’s recently sold three zoning systems based solely on people seeing the trucks.
Marty Gildemeyer shows off the ProTech Comfort Zones, an online app which he has put as a wrap on several of his company’s trucks. He said he’s recently sold three zoning systems based solely on people seeing the trucks.

A natural fit, Gildemeyer utilized zoning in ways few contractors have, creating an interactive Web app feature: ProTech Comfort Zones, which allows users to learn exactly how zoning efficiently operates a residence.

“Everything we do is centered on how air is distributed in a home,” Gildemeyer said. “Manufacturers were offering simple things you could look at, like color-coded floors and rooms, but nothing really dynamic was available that could turn somebody’s head and make them realize the problems they were experiencing.

“So, we invested in just that and found a company that could take our vision and make something simple that everyone could do.”

The app has greatly helped the company explain zoning in a way everybody could understand. Gildemeyer has publicized the app by placing wraps on his trucks. He said he’s already sold at least three zoning systems, just from people seeing the wrap.

The app, which launched 18 months ago, has not yet met its return on investment, but Gildemeyer is so pleased with it that a second version is in the works.

“Since its inception, I would say the app has been part of all closings, whether it’s been an iPad presentation, a website tour, or even the view on the rear of our service trucks,” Gildemeyer said. “It is a main focus and cornerstone of our sales process.”

Zoning gained Gildemeyer’s interest because of all of the different things in a home that are more or less zoned. He mentioned plumbing and electrical as just two aspects, yet heating and air are, in the majority of instances, on the outside looking in.

“Air is even being zoned in cars. You have SUVs that have eight zones in them, yet your home only has one zone,” Gildemeyer said. “What really tipped my hand is that even sprinkler systems are zoned. Why is it that the mechanical unit that costs the most to operate is the least-desirably designed thing in the home?

“Our lead generation is designed around our maintenance plan, with an emphasis on our zoning systems. We have a way to generate a conversation with every single one of our current and past customers on air distribution.”

Learning zoning principles took time and Gildemeyer credits great support from Honeywell instructors — and a sizable dose of self-teaching — as his primary learning tools. Since acquiring the necessary knowledge, zoning has been a major factor in Gildemeyer turning ProTech around, so much so that he describes the technology as life-changing to new customers. He believes so strongly in its effectiveness that he offers to even come back, remove the system, and grant a full refund if the system’s not meeting all of a customer’s wishes.

“No one has ever took me up on it,” Gildemeyer said. “It’s a game-changer for us. It’s basically going to launch what we do marketing-wise. All of us are able to promote an air conditioner and furnace. We’ve been doing that forever.”

A Little Help from My Friends

Up until 2010, Gildemeyer said ProTech existed reactively, performing new installation and service work on both residential and commercial jobs. Now, Gildemeyer said the company has developed a more proactive process.

ProTech’s turnaround was helped by the hiring of David Fullem as general manager. Fullem came to the company with experience in construction and commercial HVAC and provided the help Gildemeyer needed to get over the hump.

“When I joined Marty, he was looking to grow his business,” Fullem said. “I certainly didn’t have all the answers, but together we read a lot, learned a lot, studied a lot, and researched a lot. We talked to industry professionals and put together some processes that have worked for us in growing the business.”

Together, Gildemeyer, Fullem, and the company’s 12 employees eventually pointed ProTech in the right direction. Gildemeyer said getting out of new construction played a big role in that. He noted he wanted to put out a better product but couldn’t because of the realities of the new construction market, where builders sought quantity over quality.

“We were constantly being bid against, and we would lose by a very minimal amount of money — I’m talking $50 or $100,” Gildemeyer said. “The last time we got burned, I lost well over $100,000, and I got tired of fighting that battle.

“David came in with a great business-operating mind. We looked at what we were doing, how we were doing it, and decided we wanted to be the best service and replacement company we could be. We knew we would be providing a service that’s already out there, but we wanted to do it better than anybody else. We turned around our service company because we had 100 percent dedication, and 100 percent buy-in, and then we decided on our niche — something that separated us from everyone else. Learning and doing automated zoning systems allowed us to be as good, if not better, than our competition.”

Gildemeyer also contacted Jackie Rainwater, formerly of Peachtree Heating & Air in Atlanta, and now an HVAC industry consultant with his own firm, Rainwater & Associates, for assistance. Rainwater, a 52-year industry veteran, provided Gildemeyer consulting for two consecutive years and remains on call for the company.

“In my opinion, he’s a born leader,” Rainwater said of Gildemeyer. “He’s very enthusiastic and a good visionary. He has a passion for taking care of customers. He puts that culture in place in his company so everyone shares the same vision of premier customer service.

“He’s done a very good job growing his company and customer base, but one of the things he’s focused on is zoning. He’s become, in my opinion, Atlanta’s premier company as far as zoning knowledge goes. That’s one of the strongest attributes about his service organization — their ability to problem solve.”

Bryan Shaver, president of Duluth, Ga.-based Mitec, a company that provides fire and property protection services, is a customer of Gildemeyer’s. He first met Gildemeyer when ProTech performed work on Mitec’s corporate offices. When Shaver wanted to update the HVAC system in his home, he said he met with every major HVAC player in Atlanta, who all mostly proposed the same thing — until Gildemeyer showed up.

“Marty came in and actually listened to what I wanted to accomplish, educated me on his opinions, and provided an incredible solution,” Shaver said. “His unique approach is filled with passion. His conviction to HVAC zoning tells a compelling story. Coupled with his integrity and honesty, this creates a lasting relationship. That uniqueness is what compels me to take the time to recommend him to others because he offers a solution that provides comfortable work/living space and real value.”

Gildemeyer is looking forward to what the future holds for himself and ProTech.

“Our future is incredible. The sky’s the limit,” Gildemeyer said. “We’re not just going out there and selling a box anymore. We’re selling a solution that nearly everyone could benefit from.”

Publication date: 10/28/2013 

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