Pompetti's Challenges ‘Graying' Theory

October 20, 2005
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Pompetti Heating & Air Conditioning completed this new construction project in January 2004. The company does quality residential service and installation work.
MEDIA, Pa. - Have you heard this one lately? "It's pretty funny when I keep hearing in the supply houses and reading in the trade magazines that there are not any young guys in the trade. Not only is the majority of our company below the age of 31, but these guys love what they do and do an awesome job!"

This isn't a made-up quote or wishful thinking - these are words from the mouth of Jamie Pompetti, president of Pompetti Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. of Media, Pa. Pompetti is the 30-year-old leader of the small family business which includes his father James, mother Janice, and brothers Jim and Chris Van Dyke. Two 23-year-old helpers, Nick Sacharok (a cousin) and Zach Stanton, round out the staff.

Not only does the family do quality residential service and installation work (photos of their jobs can be viewed at www.pompettihvac.com) but they also debunk the trend of the HVAC trade "graying."

Jamie said one of the first things young people should do is stop believing everything they hear from the older generation.

"Too many of the older guys in this trade tell us younger guys to get out of it," he said. "They constantly complain their aches and pains are not compensated by the pay.

"To reverse the graying of our trade will take education. Not only education at the trade school level, but education at the business level also."

Nick said uneducated people tend to bring down the reputation of the HVAC business, contributing to the aging process of the trade. "The industry needs to have better schooling with more standards and licensing to weed out all the people who make it harder for the knowledgeable people to make a living," he said. "We need younger generations to see that office jobs do not always bring big bucks and that the trades can provide a good living."

James L. Pompetti Sr.

Family Tradition Lives

Many small businesses got their start with a vision by a single member, which was passed down through future generations. It is not unusual to see HVAC companies run by third-, fourth-, or fifth-generation owners. There have to be reasons for longevity, e.g. pride in workmanship, love for the trade, or an obligation to carry on the family name. All of these are factors in the Pompetti business.

"It is important for us to keep this business alive not only because it helps us to provide for ourselves and our families, but also because it gives us a comfortable and self-fulfilling place to do so," said Nick.

Jamie Pompetti
Keeping the family business alive is also important to the extended families - the employees and the people who depend on them. "It is extremely important to keep the family business alive," said Jamie. "It is a lifeline to everyone in the company. It provides so much to so many families within the company. It pays all our bills and provides security to our lives.

"We certainly do uphold tradition in our company. The business plan set by my dad 17 years ago has proven to be a successful one."

Nicholas Sacharok
Tradition is important to business founder James Pompetti too, as long as tradition means quality workmanship. "If you consider upholding tradition as meaning to provide good service, a strong work ethic, and a training ground for the future technicians, it is more than enough," he said. "New tradition grows with new people, blending what they were given by those who trained them and what they will give to those they train."

But upholding the family tradition is not always the norm among small businesses across the United States. Sadly, according to Jamie, the tradition is disappearing.

Zachary Stanton
"I do think that the HVAC industry is losing family businesses in this day and age," he said. "It seems as if the HVAC industry is following the business plan of large corporate America. Family businesses all around us are being purchased by large companies and being dissolved into new corporate names - not to mention the big boxes now trying to get in on the action also."

It's All About Developing A Niche

How contractors approach their market and the quality of their work often are enough to set them apart from the competition, which can be very intense.

Pompetti Heating & Air Conditioning installed three Peerless 400,000 Btu boilers to maintain heat and hot water.
"We are in an area with an extreme amount of competition," said Nick. "I can only hope others provide the quality, knowledge, and confidence behind their work as we do. And if we have a kind of niche at all, I believe that is what it is."

Jamie added this about creating a niche. "In all honesty, everyone providing HVAC service is our competition, be it another company, the big box itself, or a homeowner going into the big box to purchase an HVAC product and doing it themselves," he noted. "We have geared our company towards using finer products to try and establish a difference from the next guy.

"The majority of our forced-air jobs (above 90 percent) are multi-stage heating and cooling equipment with many of the bells and whistles. For example: zoning, fresh air exchangers, humidification, and air quality control through high-efficiency filtration. We also have a strong focus on hydronic heating, particularly radiant and steam heating."

Pompetti Heating & Air Conditioning installed three 90-plus Peerless Pinnacle boilers in a 44-unit apartment building. The boilers provide all the domestic hot water for the building.
Uniqueness also creates a niche, according to James. "Our uniqueness is that we care about what we do," he said. "Each member of our team brings to the table skills, insights, and willingness to go the extra mile. This reflects in the end result."

The Future Of Pompetti

Will there be third and fourth generations to carry on the tradition started by James Pompetti 17 years ago?

"I have one son who is two-and-a-half years old and one daughter who is one," said Jamie. "It would be such an honor to work with one or both of my children someday. The family business experience for me has been great.

Pompetti Heating & Air Conditioning carries on the family tradition with projects like this, at a 60-unit apartment building in Pennsylvania.
"I have developed such a great relationship with my father through it, not to mention the countless hours I spend with my cousin. I have watched him grow from a scattered teenager into a very organized and talented young man. We also have another cousin (Nick's younger brother) who will be starting with us in the summer next year."

James can't help but beam with pride as he talks about the company today, hoping that it continues into future generations.

"Being the ‘dad' in the business, I have watched - with pride - how Jamie and Nick have grown over the years. They know their business and what it takes to produce a masterpiece."

Publication date: 10/24/2005

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