When you are from Texas and you have the words “Jon Wayne” in your name — even with a bit of a spelling twist — you had better make a big impression. Such is the case with Jon Wayne Heating and Air of San Antonio, which was chosen by The NEWS as this year’s “Best Contractor to Work for” in the South.
Founder and owner, Don Rackler, is a fan of actor John Wayne. He even named his middle son Jonathan Wayne Rackler. So, when he founded the company in 2001, he decided to reference the movie star’s name — changing the spelling a bit to jive with the name of his middle son.
“I think it is a great name with a lot of character and it is something that everyone can remember,” Rackler told the San Antonio Business Journal a few years ago.
Size is not an issue with Jon Wayne Heating and Air, which is labeled as the largest residential heating and air conditioning repair service company in the San Antonio area with 110 employees and 62 service technicians and installers, and a territory that encompasses a 75-mile radius.
Growing that large was never Rackler’s original intention.
He started in the industry fresh out of high school in 1974, first working as a member of the plumbing and pipefitter’s local, then running his own San Antonio Air Conditioning business, which he founded in 1986. The company grew to 28 employees before it was sold to a consolidator in 1999.
After some dissatisfaction with the way the company was being run, Rackler left the business less than a year later. After waiting out a one-year “no-competition” clause, he set his sights on starting anew.
The initial plan for Jon Wayne Heating and Air, he said, was to stay small at about $2 million to $3 million a year. However, his sons, Brandon and Jake, had other plans and the company has grown immensely, boasting $15 million in sales in 2011.
“We never thought we’d be as big as we became,” said Rackler. “But my sons convinced me that we should commit to growth, and so we did.”
But with growth comes the challenge of finding good people to employ. “We can advertise and get customers. But we have to have the right people in place to take care of those customers,” Rackler said.
To find the necessary techs, the company keeps in contact with local trade schools and holds job fairs, among other approaches. In 2008, the company created the Jon Wayne Academy, which provides ongoing training for employees and introductory courses for individuals interested in entering the HVAC field.
Regarding the ongoing training, installer Brian Simpson said, “We offer training through our own academy that consists of a training room and a lab to test fully operational systems. Jon Wayne provides any and all necessary training needed to ensure we are the best we can be.”
Jake McBee, company vice president, said the curriculum is accessible to everyone.
“The academy is available to people from outside of the industry to come in and train in a classroom and lab with the opportunity to also go in the field on real calls and installations,” he said.
Day by Day
Beyond the training, Rackler strives to create a positive environment that encourages the retention of quality employees. To accomplish this, he offers rotating schedules, paid time off, medical and dental insurance, and a guaranteed steady workload year-round thanks to several thousand service agreements. The company’s pay-increase policy is clearly defined and technicians are rewarded for each additional certification earned. In fact, Rackler is fully committed to the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program, with more than 80 percent of his service technicians carrying various types of NATE certifications, which the company pays for.
Among other incentives, McBee said, “Every employee’s birthday is recognized with an optional day off along with a gift card to a local eatery. The company also recognizes every employee’s employment anniversary and wedding anniversary with optional time off and gift cards.”
He also noted the company provides tickets to sporting events, a Veterans Day lunch, a picnic day, and a company Christmas party.
“I believe I work for the biggest and the best air conditioning company in San Antonio,” said Simpson. “We have a constant flow of work brought by word of mouth, advertising, and repeat business. When we have a mild workload we find jobs within the company and Mr. Rackler pays us to complete those jobs.”
It also should be noted that for The NEWS’ contest, Jon Wayne Heating and Air received multiple nominations — not only from within the company, but from several suppliers as well as its graphics firm.
The NEWS’ Best Contractor to Work for honor is one of many the company boasts, including the 2012 Bryant Dealer of the Year. The company is also active in its community through the San Antonio Mi Casa Home Improvement program, the Bills Elves program for Christmas gifts and school supplies, through the donation of equipment and installation services to the needy, and more. In December, the company appeared in an episode of the ABC network’s “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.”
An overriding concern of Recklersis honesty, which he credits for much of the company’s success, both with customers and employees. In true, straight Texas talk, he said, “We do not cheat, lie, or steal from our customers, which is not always the case with some unethical HVAC companies. We do not tell a customer that they need to upgrade their equipment if it is not needed.”
That extends to the company being used by a local television station when reporters do a follow-up on alleged deceptive or poor quality HVAC installation and service work by other contractors. This level of integrity sits well with employees.
“This place is amazing,” said Simpson. “I have never worked for a company where the management and owners treat everyone as equals. I have been here almost seven years and would not trade it for the world.”
Just the Facts: Jon Wayne Heating and Air
Contractor: Jon Wayne Heating and Air
Owner & President: Don Rackler
Location: San Antonio
Years in Business: 12 years
Bulk of Market: Residential aftermarket
Total Sales for 2011: $15 million
Total Employees: 110
Total Service Technicians and Installers: 62
Average Hours Employees Spend In Training: 41
Benefits Beyond Medical/Dental Insurance: Paid North American Technician Excellence (NATE) training, vacations, birthday absences, and an on-site training academy.
Industry Association & Contractor Group Members: NATE
The NEWS Selected This Contractor Because: Its ability to attract and retain technicians, its on-site training academy, and its focus on honesty in dealing with customers.
Publication date: 1/28/2013