Bruce Hamende (standing), service manager for Wendland Air Conditioning and Heating, goes over a few pointers with techs (left to right, around the table) Joe Dominguez, Dennis Chavez, Joel McClanahan, Tim Franks, and Tony Pinones. Wendland believes in NATE certification.

The carrot is out there and that’s all Bruce Hamende needs. Hamende, service manager for Wendland Air Conditioning and Heating, is trying like heck for his Portland, Texas-based company to capture the Division III crown in the North American Technician Excellence’s (NATE’s) NATE Bowl. Among the entrants having 0-10 technicians, Wendland leads the pack, having 14 total points at the midway point in the competition, ahead of second-place Anderson Brothers, Kearney, Neb., by three points.

Through NATE Bowl, NATE is awarding a grand prize, all-expense-paid trip to Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa (February 2009). The five contractors with the most points from each of the three divisions will be entered into the grand prize drawing.

Points are earned for having NATE-certified and/or recertified techs, along with other credentials. The winner will be announced in early November of this year.

“Between myself and my lead man,” said Hamende, referring to Tim Franks, “we love to chase the carrot. Put a challenge in front of us, and if it is attainable, look out. We have a great group of guys that work very well together. They communicate and cover for each other. But, most importantly, they are top-level technicians for our area. We are never satisfied with the status quo. We are striving to be on top of the knowledge base. NATE is a measurement that allows our customers to be assured of trust in our service.”

Rick Rogers of Stevenson Service Experts is just as competitive. With 21 points to date, the Springfield, Ohio-based firm is tops in Division II (contractors with 11-20 techs), ahead by just one point over Peaden Air Conditioning, Panama City, Fla.

“Winning the NATE Bowl challenge is extremely important to our organization,” said Rogers. “We, like all Service Experts locations, pride ourselves on providing superior customer and technical service by NATE-certified employees.”

Front-runner in Division I (contractors with more than 20 techs) is International Building Service (IBS), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with 113 points, far ahead of second-place Cropp-Metcalfe, Beltsville, Md., which has 64 total points in the standings.


When asked what his company is doing in hopes of winning the NATE Bowl challenge, Hamende was ready with a quick response.

“That’s easy,” he answered. “Do what we do best. We are never satisfied with where we are. We always strive to be better.”

In his book, having NATE-certified techs is a step in the right direction.

“There are a number of companies out there that claim to be good at doing what we do, and we run into quite a lot of work that is substandard,” said Hamende. “There are pieces that have been seen on [the television show] “20/20” that chips away at our integrity and professionalism. Manufacturers are even requesting, or at least leveraging, to request a higher level of technician to protect themselves from improperly diagnosed part failures. NATE provides a measuring stick for our knowledge base.”

In Ohio, Rogers commented that Stevenson Service Experts has “stepped up its game” this year.

“We recently had our operations manager go through the process of becoming a NATE exam proctor,” said Rogers. “This gives us the flexibility of testing when it’s convenient for us. We intend on doing three to four testing sessions this year.”

He added, “We feel very strongly that all of our employees should be NATE certified. This industry is extremely competitive and having a large portion of our staff NATE certified gives us a huge advantage over our competition. We are confident that this has played an incremental role in allowing us to grow our residential service and replacement business by 31 percent year-to-date compared to last year. We strongly encourage our employees to gain as much NATE certification as possible.”

And like IBS in Division I, the leading firms in the lower two divisions believe NATE is good for the industry. IBS started in 1982 in Fort Lauderdale with one tech, but has since grown into 40 self-performing locations in 22 states.

“I believe that NATE can be good for all of the HVAC business,” offered Hamende. “But along with testing, advertising must be done, not just on the qualified companies, but by NATE in consumer-type magazines and other visible locations to help consumers understand what NATE is all about.”

Rogers could not have agreed more. “We do believe that NATE is good for the industry,” he said. “It sets a level of expectation in regards to what consumers should expect when hiring an HVAC contractor. It also allows technicians and installers to measure their aptitude to their peers within the industry.”

Hamende, who is proctor for the local Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ACCA) chapter and was its past president, was not sure if there would be a great deal of movement by others in the drive to be listed for NATE Bowl. However, he did add there was “still time left in the year.”


Both Hamende and Rogers know the value of having strong techs. In Hamende’s case, he pointed to Franks.

“He is my lead tech for good reason,” he emphasized. “He has an internal drive to do what he does as correctly as possible. He maintains customer relationships to a high level. He is a very honest person and is very charitable in his dealings with everyone he works with.”

Rogers gave praise to his top tech, Jim Booze, who was recently promoted to field supervisor and was winner of Service Experts’ 2007 SAM award. According to Rogers, Booze finished as the top tech in North America, out of 1,300 techs.

“Jim has an outstanding attitude and a wonderful personality,” said Rogers. “He really enjoys fixing things, yet can really communicate well with customers, making him a true asset.”

For more information, visit

Publication date:07/21/2008