Unique Bond Gives New Life to Two Businesses
MOBILE, AL — Jane Harmon and Ronnie Head Sr. have a unique bond. They’re not related, but Harmon refers to Head as her “big brother.” Harmon, the owner of H.A.T. Services, speaks fondly of Head, the owner of Head’s Heating & Air Conditioning Service in the Mobile suburb of Theodore — and for good reason.
In 1999, Harmon decided to join forces with Head after closing the doors of her residential add-on and replacement business. She had been friends with Head for a few years and saw the move as an opportunity to finally “make some money” in the business after putting in many 12- to 15-hour days with little to show for it.
Harmon, who had been working as a secretary at H.A.T., bought out the original owner in 1996, but found herself struggling to make the company profitable. She explained her dilemma to Head, a competitor and friend, who said he’d do what he could to help her if she decided to clean the slate and let all of her employees go — which she did.
The same day she “purged her staff,” Head sent over a service technician to pick up Harmon’s service calls. The rest was history.
“At the time [in 1999], Ronnie was looking for a bookkeeper,” Harmon said. “So now I work for Ronnie, but I still own H.A.T. Services, and we still operate — but in a different way.”
Harmon said that her business, located ten miles away, still gets phone calls for service and she maintains a separate phone line, which she answers “Hat.” If that sounds confusing, it hasn’t been a problem for her customers.
“People haven’t questioned the H.A.T. changes,” said Harmon. “When it’s 100 degrees and they need service, it isn’t a problem. We have found that my customers are happier because they don’t have to wait as long. If there is a Head truck nearby, we just send him in. He [the technician] carries service tickets for both companies, meaning better, faster service.”
Harmon is a big part of the local hvacr community, too, serving as president-elect of the Mobile Chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (MACCA).
Head, who began out of the back of his truck 21 years ago, specializes in residential service and new construction, and some light commercial new construction. He employs 26 people.
A Familiar FaceHead is taking advantage of the population growth in his area by consistently running television promotions aimed at residential customers. He has used the motto “three Heads are better than one,” alluding to himself and his two sons, who also help run the business.
“When I first started doing the commercials, I couldn’t talk fast enough,” he said. “Then I couldn’t talk slow enough after a while.”
The TV spots have provided one benefit besides increasing business. “I got pulled over once by a cop who recognized my face and decided not to give me a ticket.”
Head said he runs the spots six months out of the year. He gets some extra financing through his supplier and the local utilities, which help with co-op advertising campaigns involving their heat pump programs.
But Head’s big push now goes beyond starring in commercials. He is now concentrating a lot of time and effort to build up his home energy-efficiency programs.
“We have to cut down on energy consumption in new homes,” Head said. “Cleaner IAQ should be built into home diagnostics, and should feature the following qualities: health, safety, longevity, and comfort. There are ways to build homes to have all of these qualities.”
Head is a strong believer in the MAD-AIR theory (Mechanical Air Distribution and Interacting Relationships), which is defined as an airflow created by a mechanically induced pressure difference, which can drastically affect indoor IAQ. He thinks that homes built to improve IAQ and energy efficiency will be beneficial to buyers and builders.
Solving ProblemsHead added that many a/c problems can be solved in the initial building stages.
“The [IAQ] problems may not always be attributed to the a/c system,” he said. “It may have started with the building design, which is not an intentional mistake by builders. Our industry needs to understand the logic of air pressure balancing and how it can affect a home’s IAQ.
“Hvac contractors should get involved in IAQ problems because I believe our future is in energy-efficient homes that are healthy, safe, and comfortable.”
Head also added, “Energy efficiency has an effect on home loans because a home with lower energy costs will be more affordable, based on lower utility bills. And builders can guarantee lower heating and cooling costs by constructing homes under the Energy Star program, which must be 30% or better energy-efficient than other homes.”
Head would prefer to spend more time doing consulting on energy efficiency.
“I’d rather add better quality than grow the business,” he said. “I want to keep up on the latest trends. Our company will grow just by doing quality work, putting customers first, and offering energy efficiency programs. Retaining customers by showing you care is what it’s all about.”
This report provides information for contractors living in the South/Southwest region of the United States. This includes Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. If you have information from this region, please contact John Hall at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); or firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).
Publication date: 01/15/2001
Web date: 06/18/2001