South / Regional Reports

Growing the Service End Spurs Contractor's Success

January 11, 2001
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Rick True stands next to some plasma cutter art in Batchelor's shop area.


MOBILE, AL — Rick True can look out of his office and see the future. He knows that new construction will eventually slow down, and he doesn’t want to ride the roller coaster of an up-and-down economic wave. The general manager of Batchelor’s Mechani-cal Contractors, Inc./Comfort Systems USA knows which side his bread will be buttered on.

“We want to continue to grow our service business, because it isn’t affected by new construction and the related effects of the interest rates,” he said.

According to True, that’s a wise decision because the Mobile area does not have a lot of big industry to attract new workers and businesses. But that’s O.K. His community, his company, and the 250 employees that work there are a big part of his life. Batchelor’s is expected to do $20 to $25 million worth of business in 2000, which in a community of 300,000 people is quite an accomplishment.



A Little Background

Larry Batchelor and his father, Bruce, founded the company in 1967, specializing in residential new construction. True came on board in 1974, having been schooled in hvac by Trane’s Consumer Products Division. In 1980, Larry Batchelor, Dave Fannon, and True combined to form Batchelor’s Mechanical. The company’s roots in residential work laid the groundwork for the new venture into commercial new construction and service.

“In the late 80s we joined Service America,” True said. “We learned a lot from Ron Smith about residential service, and today we still do about 15 percent residential service and replacement. We have 2,500 residential service agreements and have one person to oversee the entire service agreement system.”

True said his company is in the process of increasing its commercial service business, and his geographical territory should give him a good starting point to build that business. Besides working in the Biloxi/Gulfport region of Mississippi to the west, Batchelor’s is working in the large condominium community of Destin, FL, to the east.

The company’s success drew the attention of “pretty much all of the consolidators” said True. He felt it was a good idea to listen to all sales pitches for a number of reasons.

“A lot of factors were involved,” True said of the decision to sell to a consolidator. “We had three owners from different families with no children involved in the business. This seemed like an appealing exit strategy, and we were impressed with Comfort Systems USA.

“Being involved with a national company offers career paths which gives our employees the opportunity to move and grow. They are the ones that helped build our business and we weren’t going to stick them with just any new owner.”

“We’ve also got a lot of good people who have been with us for a long time. We want to take care of them,” True said. “And we believe in being consistent in our pricing and our bidding, which is really no big secret to success.”

For more information, visit www.batchelors mech.com (website).

Publication date: 01/15/2001

Web date: 06/18/2001

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