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Baker admits that he is not only new to EAI but new to the HVAC industry, too. He spent 31 years with Fifth Third Bank before retiring in 2005. He held a variety of senior positions in technology, operations, and consumer banking. Before his retirement, Baker held the position of executive vice president of operations and consumer banking.
With that resume, he probably could have chosen a lot of things to do - or just stayed retired.
"I wanted to keep working," he said. "And I've always had an interest in the small business environment. All I ever knew was the large corporate world.
"I was looking around to purchase a business that I could grow and have fun with."
Baker said that the opportunity to purchase EAI came "out of the blue." He became acquainted with EAI through his participation in a local Cincinnati investment group. He got to know former CEO Don Schmidt and liked what he saw.
"I spent time with Don and his staff," Baker said. "I saw that this was an interesting service sector and I was also intrigued by the national aspect of the organization."
EAI's current membership includes approximately 120 contractors across the United States.
"There seems to be a lot of opportunity to grow. I like what EAI was built on and its purpose. I went back to see why EAI was formed - to protect the independent contractors from the consolidation movement."
He also knows that EAI's existence today is not for the same reasons, but that being independent means there are a lot of pressures to succeed. A business owner has to be more than a technician to survive and grow. That's why he wants to expand on EAI's original purpose and offer business development and business solutions for HVAC contractors.
Baker concedes that one of the big successes of EAI is the strength of its membership, which includes some very well-known names in the HVAC contracting trade.
"We have some premier names like Cropp Metcalf, Oliver Heating & Cooling, and Jerry Kelly Heating & Cooling, to name a few," he said. "The interaction between the members is great. They all want to share good ideas."
Baker said that meetings and idea exchanges have centered on topics like well-trained employees and how to retain them.
THE FUTURE OF EAIBaker is still in the fact-finding and information gathering stages. He is ready to lay out some plans for EAI's future but he wants to make sure he has his t's crossed and i's dotted.
"I haven't completed a plan yet for EAI," he said.
"I don't believe in big numbers, nor do I expect to double or triple our membership. That would be a nice goal, especially if all new members were quality contractors. But numbers aren't important."
Baker said the focus would be on the following:
"We have to show our members that EAI is alive and well," Baker continued.
"We want to bring the organization back to a level it has operated at in the past. We want to rejuvenate and be top-of-mind among contractors."
Coming out of the Virginia Beach meeting, Baker would like to move forward with implementing changes. He will show patience, but he will be determined.
"We are going to change in a methodical fashion," he said. "We want to make sure that everything adds value."
Baker said that EAI will continue to serve both residential and commercial HVAC contractors, noting the uniqueness of the member mix. He hopes to shorten the time it takes for members from both markets to implement EAI programs into their businesses after they join the organization.
Finally, he noted that EAI has a definite place in the HVAC industry and he and his staff have "set out on a stage to prove ourselves. It will be a team effort."
Baker also wants his members to know his commitment to making them a success.
"Being able to help contractors build their business intrigues me," he said.
For more information, visit www.eainet.net.
Publication date: 05/29/2006