Living Up To a Name

January 25, 2010
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Doctor Cool & Professor Heat founder and owner James (Jim) Barry is flanked by his son, James (Jimmy) and wife Cathy. (Feature photos by Sharon Steinmann)

When you name your company “Doctor Cool & Professor Heat,” you know you are drawing attention to yourself and raising expectations. Owner James (Jim) Barry knows that. “Right from the beginning we strived to keep a clean, spotless reputation because with a name like ours, a bad reputation would spread quickly,” he said.

Then add in the company motto, which focuses on success: Win. Win. Win.

The Customer Wins + The Employee Wins = The Company Wins.

But it is more than a name, a concern for reputation, and a motto that has earned Doctor Cool & Professor Heat of League City, Texas, honors as The NEWS Best Contractor to Work For in the South region.

It is continual technician training; an open-door policy to share concerns; medical, dental, optical, and 401(k) benefits; awards for the sale of extended service agreements, fewest callbacks, and most improved tech; commissions on equipment sales; trips for employees; and even massages for the women in the office.

And then there are those intangibles, such as the one cited by office manager Debbie Flowers, who submitted the BCTWF entry.

“Here in Galveston County there were a couple of employees that were affected badly during Hurricane Ike (in 2008). Jim and Cathy Barry, being the kind and generous folks that they are, gave the employees time off with pay. Not to mention the food that they prepared and delivered. I know because I was one of the employees that was treated so kindly.”

NEW JERSEY ROOTS

The roots of the company go back to 1976 in New Jersey where Jim Barry was running a small air conditioning, heating, and appliance business. Things were getting tight for a family of five. Barry heard from a brother-in-law about opportunities in Texas, so he headed to the Houston area and took a position as a service technician while his wife ran the family business in New Jersey. She and the three children followed Jim six months later.

The next step for Jim Barry was operations manager for a large new construction air conditioning company and then as a Sears installing contractor. In 1979, that business became Allied Technical Service. Then after about three years “I introduced the name that I had held in my mind for many years, Doctor Cool & Professor Heat,” Barry said. “I recognized the marketing benefit of the name.”

In the beginning there was one employee - Jim Barry. And in one instance he even called his wife to come out between shifts as a school bus driver to help him replace an old cast iron furnace in an attic. “She’s a very petite mother of three but somehow the two of us got the old furnace down and the new one up in the attic,” he recalled.

Luke Althoff oversees operations in the warehouse.

THESE DAYS

Today, Cathy Barry doesn’t have to take on such tasks, for the company has grown to 18 employees including 10 service technicians and installers.

Jim Barry said the company is “now one of the larger residential, light commercial, retrofit contractors in this area. Our joining an ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America)-sponsored MIX Group has been influential in our growth.” Territory now encompasses 30 miles.

According to Barry, the top priority in hiring perspective technicians is honesty. “We look for responsibility, reliability, people skills, and ability to learn. We set a timetable, depending on their experience, to become Environmental Protection Agency Section 608 certified and/or NATE (North American Technician Excellence) certified.

“So we are looking for great people, number one. Everything else can be learned.”



Service trucks are getting organized at the start of the day.

He added, “We are long-time members of National Comfort Institute, Rob Falkes’ training organization. Then there are manufacturers’ seminars, ACCA-sponsored training, and our once a week in-house NATE training by our NATE-certified trainer and operations manager Larry Woods.”

Service technician supervisor Bao Nguyen echoed that. “We are trained all of the time. We have company meetings every week. I’ve been able to go to Charlie Greer Profit Booster conferences, NCI conferences, and Trane service meetings in Houston.”

Nguyen is also an example of the company looking beyond the industry for techs. In fact, he was working 10 to 13 hours a day on his family’s shrimp boat and “applying at many different companies” when he interviewed with Doctor Cool & Professor Heat. “I had a certificate from United Technical Institute, but no a/c work experience. Jim and I talked and he hired me as an installer helper.” Besides the technical training, Nguyen said “the company has taught me how to be a better person in life, not just for Doctor Cool.”

Debbie Flowers noted, “We are a close knit workplace. So we are able to notice if something just does not appear to be right with an employee. Many times Jim has asked an employee to take time out of their schedule to come into his office or meet him somewhere close to the jobsite and talk things over with him. A pat on the back goes a long way when a person is feeling burnout. It does everyone good to hear those magic words, ‘You’re doing a good job.’”

The offices of Doctor Cool & Professor Heat in League City, Texas.

BEYOND TRAINING

To keep techs busy during slow times, the company promotes its Cool Club, a maintenance agreement that currently has about 2,000 participants. Other aspects of benefits include monthly breakfasts where job performances are rewarded, a friends and family discount on replacement equipment, and company vehicles provided to techs, installers, sales personnel, and the office manager that can be driven home each evening. Annual evaluations for pay raises are based on performance, attendance and attitude, according to Flowers.

“Our strongest aspect is our team,” said Barry. Among those he cited in addition to Flowers, Woods, and Nguyen, were installation coordinator Luke Althoff and general manager James M. (Jimmy) Berry, the latter of whom is 2010 president of the ACCA Greater Houston Chapter.

There is yet one other person Jim Barry puts on his thank-you list. “Ron Smith is a very influential trainer brought to Houston by our Trane distributor, Houston Distribution.”

And then he adds with tongue somewhat in cheek, “He taught me many helpful things, one of which was to hire people smarter than me.”

Just the Facts: Best Contractor To Work For

CONTRACTOR: Doctor Cool & Professor Heat

OWNER: James D. Barry

LOCATION: League City, Texas

YEARS IN BUSINESS: 30

BULK OF MARKET: Residential Retrofit

TOTAL EMPLOYEES: 18

TOTAL SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND INSTALLERS: 10

AVERAGE HOURS EMPLOYEES SPEND IN TRAINING: 100+ over the past 12 months.

BENEFITS BEYOND MEDICAL/DENTAL: Optical, 401(k) with company match, sales incentives, commissions, trips.

INDUSTRY ASSOCIATIONS & CONTRACTOR GROUP MEMBERS: ACCA, NCI

THE NEWS SELECTED THIS CONTRACTOR BECAUSE: The company provides continual technician training; vehicles that can be taken home by management and service techs, trips for employees; and intangibles, such as the owner and his wife preparing food and delivering to employees adversely affected by a hurricane, as well as giving them paid time off.

Publication date: 01/25/2010

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