The AHR Expo is in Dallas for the week, but Kahn Mechanical Contractors has always made this city its home. The company was purchased in 1974 by Fred and Ann Kahn; and in 1989 the latter took over the nearly bankrupt company as president. Mechanical has since moved back into the black and is reaching new levels as a commercial contractor.

Kahn Mechanical In-Body
Kahn Mechanical’s management team.

No week is typical as the company services everything from small rooftop units on retail stores to chillers in central plants. In the past several years, Kahn Mechanical has taken on more public work and worship facilities — two areas Ann Kahn noted they wouldn’t have even considered in the company’s early history, but has since acknowledged that both were well worth the effort.

“We provide comfort to church congregants and storage cooling for beer,” Ann noted. “We even ensure that aircraft is cooled when docked at a hot airport gate and that flowers remain fresh for your next occasion.”

According to Ann Kahn, the economy in Dallas has remained fairly stable throughout the recent span of uncertainty. She did note, however, that wary spenders seemed slow to resume business in the HVAC market.

“Flexibility and creativity are the keys to making your way through times like these. Being able to change course and develop opportunities when necessary are key elements in this process,” Ann Kahn explained. “As the economy improves, we look forward to moving back into design-build projects.”

Training the Team

Training is a key component to Kahn Mechanical’s success, and one that Ann Kahn takes seriously. The company has an active continuing-education committee that schedules in-house and outside-training classes to help facilitate attendance. Each employee also completes a yearly commitment form stating how many hours of training they hope to accomplish in the coming year.

“Our 2012 completion totals exceeded our annual commitments by almost 40 percent,” said Ann Kahn. “Along with technical classes, we have leadership, teamwork, and other lifestyle classes such as financial planning and CPR.”

The lifestyle classes are offered not only to employees, but to spouses and significant others as well.

Company Values

Kahn Mechanical is run with a strong focus on values. When it comes to customer service, the company’s philosophy is one of honesty and fairness. The customer is always right is not just a bumper-sticker statement, according to Ann Kahn.

“As our mission clearly states, we make every effort to see that the customers get what they pay for and deserve,” she explained. “Everyone here buys into this way of doing business.” 

When it comes to challenges the company must face, Ann Kahn said her team, “works through challenges sticking to our values and doing the right thing, regardless of pain or cost.”

These values are for customers, employees, and company challenges alike.

“My personal philosophy is based on the values I hold out for our company to uphold,” she said. “Several years ago my son suggested that we write our values down. Having done so, he told me that these weren’t the company’s, they were mine. Actually, they were the values my parents taught me and I simply passed them on to my children and business.”

Another part of Kahn Mechanical’s company philosophy is to learn from others and to pass on that knowledge. According to Ann Kahn, many of the company’s processes are a result of asking and learning from her peers.

Measuring Success

Success can be defined in multiple ways, but for this company president, success is summed up in three categories — personal life, business life, and community life.

In her personal life, Kahn has raised two children, who she considers to be the greatest successes in her life. Each is independent, skilled, professional, and willing to take time from their busy schedules to be of service to others.

“Personal success comes from reaching a point in one’s life where you understand, respect, and love yourself, family, friends, co-workers, clients, and competitors,” she said.

Kahn considers her greatest business success to be bringing her almost bankrupt company back to a viable and thriving business. As for continuing in business success, she offered a few tips.

“Financial success comes from working through lean years and operating conservatively,” she advised. “Sales success comes from treating customers honestly and fairly.”

As for the community, she has encouraged and mentored young people to strive for a better life at a local middle school, as well as endeavors to improve the living conditions of those less fortunate. One of her community activities, North Texas Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s Heat the Town has become Heat the Country.

Going the Distance

Kahn is a busy woman; one you will find running a business, volunteering, even baking cakes for staff members’ birthdays. One thing you won’t find her doing is sweating the small stuff.

“If I’ve learned anything in all these years, it’s that things usually turn out OK,” she said. “The good thing is that as the years pass, we seem to work through the challenges that come our way with patience and thoughtfulness. After 38 years, with a fabulous team of dedicated people, who have made the company what it is today, my job is one of training others to do what I have always done — to prepare them for the day, hopefully in the very distant future, when I finally retire.”

Publication date: 1/28/2013