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When it came time for the contractor group to advertise its recent Legends of Success series, there was Comerford laughing on the front of more than a few print ads. AirTime 500 was not embarrassed to point out that here is a contractor who followed its program and is now making a decent living near San Ramon, Calif. In fact, the owner of Service Champions of Northern California pulled in nearly $5 million overall in the residential market in the company's second full year of operation in 2004.
"Kevin was able to differentiate Service Champions from the competition and create a rookie season that could make even Michael Jordan green with envy," is how AirTime 500 labeled Comerford on its Web site, www.successstorieshvac.com.
While his numbers were just over $2.5 million in the residential replacement/add-on market for the last nine months of 2003, Comerford came back with a total of $4.8 million in replacement/add-on sales for 2004, his first complete calendar year in business. His numbers are even more remarkable so far this year, with the company on pace to do over $7.5 million in total sales. In addition, Comerford and his team are tracking at more than 15 percent pretax profit.
When it comes to residential replacement/add-on, Comerford believes the key is staying focused.
"I am always keeping my eye on the ball, and I am very cautious about distractions," he said. "Second, I focus on holding key people accountable for results, performance, dress, etc. Third, we spend a great deal of time training our team members - service department, sales staff - and we are constantly working on marketing and recruiting for our company."
It's All About ServiceWithout a doubt, Comerford has created some unique guarantees for a residential contracting firm. Its lowest-price guarantee is the company's promise to the customer that "you cannot find a comparable installation for less." If so, Service Champions will pay a customer a $50 bonus over the difference. It also offers its "24-hour-fix-it-or-a-hotel" guarantee. Yes, it guarantees that it will have a homeowner's system up and running within 24 hours of its arrival or the company will put the homeowner up in the local Embassy Suites for the night.
It is not a gimmick, either. It's all about providing service, per Comerford. "We make a difference in our clients' lives by providing them optimum comfort and safety in their home," he said.
Comerford believes in being on time. Period. It's another of the company's selling points.
"We stand behind this promise with our money-back guarantee in both our service and sales department. Our written guarantee in service is, â€˜We'll arrive when we say, or you don't pay.'"
In its sales department, Service Champions offers its "$250-on-time" guarantee.
"Our comfort advisors will show up on or before the exact time we scheduled with you, or we will give you $250 off our best price," said Comerford.
In his estimation, heating and A/C is for clients; it's not for the profits. "The profits will follow," he said. "If we remember that, the profits have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered that, the larger the profits have been."
Its fine attention to the details of service earned Service Champions the prestigious Diamond Certified status last year. A third-party firm came to Service Champions, called 400 of its clients, and asked each questions regarding the company's service.
"We had to score above a 91 percent in order to gain this prestigious honor of Diamond certification," said Comerford. "There are only three other companies in the entire Bay Area that have achieved this honor in our industry."
Does he say this with pride? Absolutely. "I would also say that surrounding myself with terrific people who believe in the vision and believe in me makes all of the difference," he said. "These are people who have a â€˜make-it-happen, no-excuses' attitude."
Dropkicks SportsIronically and originally, Comerford had eyes on being a sports agent. His parents owned a contracting business when he was growing up, but he had no interest in becoming part of it. Instead, after graduating from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, he worked for the Los Angeles Raiders for two seasons.
"I came to realize that there was more opportunity for me in HVAC than professional sports," he said. "I came back and along with my current general manager, Ray Dias, grew my parents' business to $9.3 million."
Eventually, the business was purchased by Lennox. Comerford worked for the corporation for a few years before deciding to get back to, as he put it, "a local, down-home business, like that which my parents started in 1972."
He remembered the initial thrust. "When we started this business, I gathered all of our staff of about 15 people within the first 30 days, and I asked them, â€˜What do we want to be known as in the community? Sure, we want to make money so we prosper and the business grows, but on a larger scale, what is our purpose for existing as a company?' The team created four core values and defined each."
To this day, at all of the company's weekly meetings, held each Tuesday, three team members get up and recite the core values.
"I believe that having a vision for the company that I am continuously talking about, and executing, is what has created the rapid growth we have been so fortunate to have," said Comerford.
OK, taking in some of AirTime 500's systems has not hurt, either.
Sidebar: Get Involved In The Community, TooService Champions stays actively involved in the communities that it serves. It's another reason why it has gained attention and growth. However, owner Kevin Comerford does it because he wants to, not for the exposure. "As for why I do it, all I can say is when I see people sacrificing for the good of other human beings, I'm immediately intrigued and want to find out more," he said. "I have been given so much, and I have the ability to give back, which I find such an honor. I truly feel it's the reason God wanted me to start this business."
In just the last six months, the contracting firm has been there to help out two needy area families.
Through the grapevine, Comerford learned about Jackson White, a boy who has degenerative Crabbe disease. White's parents had to move the family into an apartment near the campus of Duke University, the only place where treatment for this disease is administered in the world.
"I caught wind of the situation through Jackson's grandfather, who is a friend of mine from church, who shared with me that the only way Jackson could come home - once he had success with his treatment - was if he had hospital-like conditions in his home, which was without air conditioning at the time," said Comerford. "I was so touched by the sacrifice his parents had made that I felt the least I could do was to provide them with a brand-new HVAC system, air filtration system, duct cleaning, and duct seal, which totaled over $13,000 worth of work."
Jackson has since made significant progress at Duke University, and he has been able to come and live in the home renovated, in part, by Service Champions. "We're all holding out hope that a cure for Crabbe is found and that Jackson can once again live the life any normal, healthy boy would want."
After a local paper wrote about White's condition, several other contractors in the area were also moved by the story and have donated new windows, floors, nonchemical paint, a new handicap access, a new porch, and new landscaping.
Publication date: 09/12/2005