Times and business strategies change, especially for the HVAC distributor. Jason and Michael (Anthony) Calverley II know this all too well. Their father, Michael Calverley I started Calverley Supply Co. in June of 1974. The Michigan-based company that now has seven locations spread across the state began in their father’s home in Royal Oak, Mich. The 38-year-old company is now run by the Calverley brothers and as they adapt to new business demands they don’t forget the then and now of Calverley Supply.

Roots of Success

Sales started out of the back of their father’s truck. He sold Honey-well thermostats and controls as well as service parts. According to the brothers, contractors bought because they liked him. He delivered product himself and then asked for new orders.

“As the company grew, he started stocking product in the basement and had semis delivering to the house,” said Jason. “Dad’s service consisted of having the right products, at the right price, and the right time.”

As the company grew, Michael Calverley invested in a building and continued to build his customer relationships. Jason and Anthony remember there being a lot of promotions wrapped around tent sales, football games, boat trips, and giveaways.

“The product was not so technical, so it was more a case of satisfying pricing and time frames,” noted Anthony. “The relationships were grown by lunches, dinners, and social events.”

The company’s early history was as a new construction parts and pieces wholesaler; not getting involved in equipment until the early 1990s. Calverley’s strategy was to have everything a contractor would need for a new construction home with regards to HVAC. Galvanized, registers, linesets, B-vent, pads, whips, disconnects, black pipe, humidifiers, air cleaners, etc. were the foundation of the distributor’s business.

Business Transition

Calverley continued successfully over the years and in the 1990s began to add equipment sales to their parts line-up. Another turning point came in the early 2000s when the company decided to become an equipment dealer-based wholesaler.

“We went from just selling furnaces and air conditioners to offering marketing programs and business support,” said Jason. “It turned out to be good timing because the new construction market took a huge hit in 2007 as we were getting better and better at being a dealer-based equipment house. As the equipment business continued to grow, we needed to become more technical and program oriented.”

Marketing and Technology

The marketing and technology of the past has evolved and as Calverley supply has grown, so has its strategies for reaching its customers and providing effective customer service. The company considers billboards, direct mailers, phone books, newspapers, TV, and radio, as it tries to determine what its overall marketing mix will contain. There has also been a push into different and more current marketing strategies including Facebook, LinkedIn, search engine marketing (SEM), a Calverley catalog, Calverley Supply website, and an online web store with pricing, availability, ordering, and account information.

Technology is playing a growing role in the company’s marketing reach as well as its customer service.

“Our territory managers use smartphones and laptops for program presentations and training. Soon iPads will be used regularly for presentations and service functions,” said Anthony. “From the dealer’s standpoint, they want to be able to order product, get availability, get pricing, look up warranty information, check parts breakdowns, and do any other computer function from their smartphone or iPad onsite at their customers’ residence. We have this capability now and continue to improve to make it easier and quicker.”

The brothers cautioned that technology in business requires a balance of quickness and accuracy. Calverley has experienced a greater demand for accurate and instant information as the role technology plays in daily life increases on a general basis.

“We are very conscious that the generation after us will be using the newest technology and will be more comfortable doing business with a wholesaler who communicates with them through their preferred medium,” said Jason. “This isn’t easy or cheap; however, it is a necessary investment in our future.”

Services Now Offered

Business and technical training for Calverley’s customers has always been important to the company. Over the years, the scope of assistance and programs have continued to grow. One of the more recent additions to the service offerings at Calverley is deciphering all of the government standards and possible rebates that are available. Anthony stressed the importance of communication.

“It has definitely been a challenge to communicate all of the changes that have occurred within the last seven years,” said Anthony. “We need to communicate what government programs are available for tax credits and also make sure that our dealers know which of our products qualify. Having the dealer informed helps them make the best decision for the homeowner and land a more profitable sale.”

Some Things Never Change

Jason and Anthony have worked at Calverley Supply for many years. They took over daily operations from their father in 1998 and later in 2000 took over ownership. With the passing of their father Michael in 2006, they continue to run the business with the principles he held then while simultaneously stretching to embrace new ideas and technology they face now.

“One thing we don’t believe has changed is that it is still very much a relationship business. How we communicate has changed, but not why,” the brothers agreed. “Employees and customers want to know that their concerns are going to be listened to. Whether or not you can solve every problem is not always the main issue. Do you honestly care about their problems and do you try to come to a fair resolution.”

Publication date: 10/1/2012