Lance Landrum (left) is pictured with Larry Pearson, the man from whom he purchased LPAC at a time when Pearson was moving more into indoor air quality work and wanted to step away from his residential air conditioning business. (Feature photos by Brian Blanco.)
BRADENTON, Fla. - What do free haircuts, a song by Sheryl Crow, and the TV series Band of Brothers have in common? They all are components of a successful contracting company, LPAC, in Bradenton, Fla.
Encouraging a clean-cut look when dealing with customers is one reason for the monthly free haircuts by a professional stylist. Passing out business-size cards showing singer Crow’s image with the words to the song, “A Change Can Do You Good,” helps in seeking out good technicians from other companies looking to make a change. A sense of unity with a common objective is emphasized with references and ideas drawn from the World War II mini-series Band of Brothers
These are just some of the innovations used at the 17-person, $5 million a year residential air conditioning company headquartered just a few blocks from the Manatee River as it flows into Tampa Bay.
Add to that a top-of the-line pay scale, along with monetary incentives for the tech having the sharpest uniform and most organized truck each week, for passing a North American Technician Excellence (NATE) exam the first time (the cost of the test is paid for), and for signing up customers to preventive maintenance contracts (called Priority Clubs), and you have just a few more reasons LPAC was chosen as Best Contractor to Work For in the South region in the annual contest sponsored by The NEWS
To owner Lance Landrum, image and technical expertise are both important, especially among his six service technicians and five installers who meet with customers and potential customers every day.
A POLISHED IMAGE
“Every Monday is image day,” he said. “We have a mobile fleet wash every vehicle in the parking lot. While the trucks are being washed, any technician that needs a professional haircut can go to our in-house barber shop for a trim for free.”
The emphasis on finding good techs includes seeking them out in other contracting companies and other industries.
“It seems like technicians who are unemployed are unemployed for a reason,” Landrum said. “It is the really good techs that have active careers that we want to talk to.
“We don’t hire on experience either,” he said. “Some of our most successful people have come from other industries if they are eager and willing to learn and have excellent attitudes.”
Once on board, training is emphasized for techs, adding up to 280 hours year. In addition to internal training, techs also take programs and seminars offered through the National Air Duct Cleaning Association (NADCA), NATE, and vendors, with expenses covered by the LPAC. The company has also hired a proctor to administer the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) certification exam for refrigerant handling.
“Training every morning is a real big help keeping our brains refreshed,” said tech Adam Wiles.
One task techs don’t have to do at LPAC is washing their service vans. An outside fleet washing service hired by the company does it for them.
BAND OF TECHS
Then there is the Band of Brothers theme. According to Landrum, “When technicians perform their tasks above the call of duty, their peers will ask for them to be inducted into the special group, the ‘Band of Brothers.’ The members who persistently perform above and beyond the call of duty are recognized by their dog tags that are proudly worn with their uniforms.”
A monthly, catered breakfast is combined with a general meeting to recognize outstanding achievements of employees, and to outline upcoming plans.
Extra social events also emphasize company unity, such as an annual paint ball tournament. There are family functions as well, such as a Valentine’s Day dance and a dinner cruise. “We enjoy recognizing and celebrating our technicians’ success in front of their families,” Landrum said.
With the pay, perks, and training come expectations beyond doing top-quality work at each jobsite. Among those are generating a new lead for every 10 calls each tech runs, and for enrolling customers in LPAC’s Priority Club Program. “Providing annual maintenance contracts allows us to smooth out the seasonal swings,” Landrum said.
Free haircuts are part of LPAC’s efforts to encourage techs to look their best on service calls.
Techs are also provided digital cameras and required to take photos of installations. Beside the practical aspect of documenting a project, those pictures are printed out and techs can vote on the best installation each week. Rewards such as cash, iPods, gas grilles, movie tickets, and gift certificates are offered.
Having well-groomed, motivated techs all on the same page is a plus that Landrum wants to promote as he seeks to continually grow the company’s customer base. A full-time graphic artist, Manuel Medina, develops promotional materials, and Comfort Advisor James McClow devotes time to tweaking the company’s presence on the Internet so that searches for services offered by LPAC will allow the company’s name to pop up high on a search engine. Once at the company’s Website (www.lpacair.com), an option includes entering into a live chat. Whenever that happens, a doorbell rings at the company’s headquarters to let them know about the online contact.
“Our company closely tracks its marketing response,” said Landrum. “We operate from a preplanned marketing plan that invests heavily in direct mail offers for tune-ups. We pride ourselves on the quality of our tune up and on average we take 60 to 90 minutes to properly clean and restore an air conditioning system.”
Getting those techs into the trucks and to the jobsites is part of the responsibilities of Jason Merritt, LPAC’s operations manager.
Scott Weeden of LPAC on a service call. The company stresses being well-groomed with button-up shirts and black pants-and having ID badges which are shown to customers.
Today’s LPAC traces its beginnings in 1987 to Larry Pearson Air Conditioning, whose namesake founder was himself active in the industry but was looking to start a company with a much stronger focus on customer service than he was seeing around him.
Over the years, Pearson found himself more and more involved in the indoor air quality issue to the point in 2007 of forming Larry Pearson Air Quality and selling the residential air conditioning business to Landrum.
Landrum himself had been in the HVAC business for more than 20 years and was serving as a general manager for another company when the opportunities arose to purchase the residential business from Pearson.
Don Feliciano, of Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions, provides on-site training for LPAC techs, part of some 250 hours of training techs receive each year.
In making the move, Landrum brought with him several persons who had worked for him at the previous company as a testimony to the ‘A Change Can Do You Good’ approach. One such person making the move was Billy Meismer, who had worked with Landrum for three years and liked a lot of ideas Landrum brought to LPAC.
“We are dressed in clean, pressed, white button-up shirts and black pants and ID badges,” he said. “We wear shoe covers before entering a client’s house. We drive brand-new trucks that get washed every week. LPAC likes to hold events to show appreciation for us, the employees. We are treated as family, and all of the techs are friends with each other. LPAC provides the latest technology tools for us techs to use on our jobs.
“Working for LPAC is unlike any other company I have ever worked for.”
Even the owner and his wife are part of the image building and promoting of LPAC. Each Saturday morning, Lance and Shannon Landrum host a one-hour call-in radio program on a couple of local radio stations, called The Air Show featuring the Air Guy and Air Gal.
JUST THE FACTS:CONTRACTOR:
Lance Landrum LOCATION:
Bradenton, Fla. YEARS IN BUSINESS:
20 BULK OF MARKET:
100 percent residential; 80 percent service, 20 percent new installation TOTAL SALES FOR 2007:
$5 million TOTAL EMPLOYEES:
17 TOTAL SERVICE TECHS AND INSTALLERS:
11 AVERAGE HOURS EMPLOYEES SPEND IN TRAINING:
23 hours a month BENEFITS BEYOND MEDICAL/DENTAL INSURANCE:
Contributions to prepaid Florida college tuition program, commissions based on percentage of sales and enrolling customers in service contract program, variety of cash incentives for having most organized truck, sharpest uniform, and best looking installation. INDUSTRY ASSOCIATIONS AND CONTRACTOR GROUP MEMBERSHIP:
Manatee Air Conditioning Contractors of America. THE NEWS SELECTED THE CONTRACTOR BECAUSE:
Its innovative approach to building its customer base helps ensure year-round work for its technicians; its creative approaches to camaraderie among employees motivates them to do top-quality work for customers. Publication date: