Just over a year ago, Air Quality Dunrite, Concord, Ontario, Canada, was a struggling company, experiencing recurring revenue losses and an uncertain future.

Today, under the direction of new ownership, the company is thriving — emerging with a 7 percent net profit in 2012, and anticipated double-digit gains in 2013.

This sudden turnaround, and numerous other attributes, is why The NEWS selected the company as Canada’s “Best Contractor to Work for.”

New Leadership

Air Quality Dunrite first opened its doors in 1989. Since then, the company has endured several up-and-down years, numerous leadership changes, and an inconclusive future. Following a few promising years, the business was purchased by a large corporation. Utilizing the corporate model, the business tanked, was divested, and eventually was put up for sale.

After learning of the businesses misfortunes, Darrel Yashinsky, an HVACR contractor with 34 years experience, cashed in, purchasing the contracting business in November 2011.

Following the implementation of a completely new, “team-first” business model, the company reversed its decline and is now recognized as one of Canada’s fastest-growing residential contractors, boasting $2.4 million in sales.

“Before I arrived, the company was doing some decent volume, however, I felt like it wasn’t performing as well as it could,” said Yashinsky. “The opportunity to purchase the company was too good to pass up and in less than a year we transformed a company that was losing money into a very profitable outfit.”

Path to Prosperity

Yashinsky, 53, first showed interest in HVACR in his early teens. His parents owned a small Canadian sandwich shop and he commonly found himself filling in wherever he was needed. As he finished high school, he found himself at a career crossroads, wondering, “Should I go to university or attend a trade school?”

While laboring at the sandwich shop, he vividly remembered two technicians who regularly visited to repair and maintain his parent’s stock and display coolers.

“They always charged $150 — no matter how much work was done,” said Yashinsky. “That kind of work intrigued me and it seemed like a guaranteed paycheck. I was pretty good at working with my hands, so I elected not to pay the high cost of university tuition, and enrolled in a trade school.”

A few years later, Yashinksy earned certifications from George Brown College and set out to earn a living as a field technician. While on the job, he soon learned perhaps he wasn’t as handy as he thought.

“On a job site, I fell, broke both my wrists, and tore both my shoulders out,” he said. “This is a very demanding industry and sometimes one wrong move can cost you your career.”

The ever-observant Yashinsky began to notice the industry’s bone-breaking affect on others, as well. He specifically recalls one coworker’s misfortune, claiming that it helped direct him down a much more fortunate path.

“One of our team members was around 35 years old. His knees were terrible and he was always complaining about his back. I started thinking, ‘Do I really want to be that broken when I’m 35?” said Yashinsky.

“So, I approached my boss and asked him, ‘not today, not tomorrow, but is there an opportunity for me to progress in the company?’ He said, no, we need you as a mechanic.”

The conversation motivated Yashinsky, who yearned for greener pastures, to begin seeking an alternate career. The birth of his first child a few months later encouraged him even further.

“It was October 1989 and I needed to make a move,” he said. “Thus, I decided to start a company of my own. And, I didn’t know a darn thing about operating a business, but, I’m a bit of a risk taker, so I went for it.”

Everything went smoothly for a while, but, eventually the company grew larger than his novice business skills could handle, and everything came crashing down.

Hinging on bankruptcy, Yashinsky claims The NEWS as his saving grace. In December 1994, while perusing a copy of The NEWS, he discovered an advertisement courtesy of Contractor Success Group that was interested in expanding into Canada.

“I called the number and said, ‘You know, your advertisement is a bit of an oxymoron as, in my experience, contractors simply are not successful,’” he said. “The woman on the other line laughed, and asked me to come down to St. Louis. So, I did, and from then on, things just seemed to click.”

Yashinsky left St. Louis as a member of the organization and used the group’s proven methods to change his company’s business model. In less than three years, he sold the company for $1.2 million.

“Looking back at that first transaction, once you factor in all the add backs and incentives, the package that the buyer put on the table was very attractive,” he said. “It was an offer I couldn’t refuse that really worked out for the best.”

He elected to further his newfound knowledge by expanding Success Group International, an organization designed to improve business success through collaboration, into Canada. Yashinsky now serves as the Canadian president of the group, helping other contractors build their businesses using the same people-first principles he’s used to enhance Air Quality Dunrite. “Without a doubt, Contractor Sucess Group and Success Group International helped get me to where I am today,” he said.

A Team Effort

When Yashinsky took the wheel, the company employed 17 individuals. Of the original 17, he retained 14 of them, showing that the company’s plummet stemmed from a lack of leadership, and not from a weak staff.

“I believe in people. If you’ve got the right people in place, and you give them the correct tools and opportunity to succeed, they will,” he said. “The company’s previous model simply lacked management. The employees weren’t given the right opportunities. Empowering our people through weekly training and celebrating their achievements was the single largest thing I could have done to help turn the company around.”

The team at Air Quality Dunrite was very receptive to Yashinsky’s team-first model, and is pleased with the company’s current direction.

“Air Quality Dunrite is a great place to work as it is one of the few HVAC companies that puts customer care ahead of profit,” said Veronica Hynes, office manager. “This company wants to make sure that customers are given every opportunity to get the newest in HVAC products that help them breathe easy. I’ve been in the HVAC industry for 16 years and I could not think of a better place to work.”

Mehdi Khayrizadeh, service manager, said the company’s greatest trait is its commitment to its customers. “We offer 100-percent customer satisfaction, or they get their money back. We do this because we build pride into our craftsmanship and installations,” said Khayrizadeh. “We’re confident we can fix problems right the first time and care about our customers’ comfort and service in hours, rather than days.”

Yashinsky said he’s flattered to be recognized by The NEWS as his country’s Best Contractor to Work for.

“This is an honor and a privilege that really belongs to our team,” he said. “When I purchased the company one year ago, the staff was dejected and almost forgotten. Now, they are focused, on target, and operating as a team. This team has been through a lot and they are very deserving of this award.”

Just The Facts: Air Quality Dunrite

BCTWF AQ Dunrite HeadshotContractor: Air Quality Dunrite

Owner & President: Darrel Yashinsky

Location: Toronto

Years in Business: 23 years

Bulk of Market: Residential service and replacement

Total Sales for 2011: $2.4 million

Total Employees: 17

Total Service Technicians and Installers: 12

Average Hours Employees Spend In Training: 70

Benefits Beyond Medical/Dental Insurance: Weekly bonuses; special spiffs, such as double-lead bonus; monthly bonuses; team recognition at events; company outings such as paintballing; and more.

Industry Association & Contractor Group Members: HRAI (Heating, Refrigeration, & Air Conditioning Institute), Vaughan Chamber of Commerce, RSES, ASHRAE, and Airtime 500

The NEWS Selected This Contractor Because: Ability to turn a failing company into a thriving business, fantastic customer-service record, and usage of industry associations to bolster business.

Publication date: 1/28/2013