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“A lot of the businesses in the community have been family-owned for years and years, and the community has come to accept that fact,” said Dougherty.
“Within the last few years, one of our competitors has moved here from a major metropolitan area and runs the business like a large metropolitan business. That’s okay for some people, but most people here feel more comfortable with a small, family-owned business.”
His company provides equipment and service in this western New York community of 17,000 residents. Dougherty said that most of the business’s customers are more than just customers because community involvement has allowed his family to develop close bonds with them.
“We've developed ties with them. They feel comfortable working with us when it comes to heating and cooling needs because they have worked with us on a school committee, in an athletic league, a civic project, or something like that.”
Some residents started doing business with the dealership because of word of mouth. “You have to be reliable and do your best work, then people will tell others and you have a good reputation,” he said.
Dougherty’s grandfather started the company, which became a true family business. Since then, most family members, including two brothers, spouses, and cousins have worked in the business. Even his six-year-old son, John, enjoys helping. “One day, out of the clear blue, he said, ‘Dad, someday, I'm gonna put in a furnace.’”
John isn’t the only child interested in the business. Co-owner Mark’s son, Christopher, also enjoys working with his father on occasion.
Dougherty remembers when he tagged along with his father, Bill, for service and installation jobs at about eight years of age. He also remembers that it was a treat to go to the factory in Syracuse, NY, to pick up equipment. He’s been at the company since those early years.
“I’ve always been a Lennox dealer. It’s been a major part of my life. There’s always been a Lennox truck parked in my driveway.”
His father is retired, but he loves the business so much, he can’t stay away. “My father says he’s retired, but he comes down every day and works away. It’s all he’s ever done for 60 years.”
These family ties are another key to the dealership’s success, according to Dougherty. “In a lot of cases, when we go to customers’ houses, they say, ‘I remember your grandfather. He did this for me.’ A lot of our customers go way back.”
The family tradition may continue when Dougherty’s two-and-a-half-year-old son is old enough to tag along, too.
Publication date: 10/29/2001