When Ken Goodrich purchased Goettl Good Guys Air Conditioning Repairmen in December 2012, the company lacked a vision, its employees lacked confidence, and competitors were threatening state attorney general actions against them.

Fast forward 18 months, and, after sweeping changes, Goodrich has Goettl on track to earn $20 million in revenue in 2014, a drastic increase from the $11 million the company secured in 2012.

“I’ve bought, sold, and fixed 20-some HVAC companies in my career, and this one was a little different,” Goodrich said. “It wasn’t so much about the business fundamentals, or pricing and marketing; this one was a different animal.”

Gotta Start Somewhere

“We created a vision for everybody, stirred up some excitement, and stressed that no one should be afraid to transact business. When I got here, competitors were attacking us vigorously. Any customer complaints froze the entire organization because leadership didn’t know what to do. Criticism is a part of any business, but it’s how you deal with it that matters.”

Prior to Goodrich’s arrival, the company was stunted by rapid growth, which caused the management team to lose its say, said Goodrich. As a result, the Arizona state attorney general accused the company of deceptive marketing and sales practices, leading to the departure of 40 employees — approximately one-third of the company’s 120-member workforce.

“The case never materialized, but it crippled the entire organization,” Goodrich said. “The company lost its culture, some key people left, the competitors grabbed on to it, and Goettl kind of got stuck in the mud. It needed someone to come in to cut through all that and bring the company back to its former position in the community.”

Reestablishing a Reputation

Goodrich’s arrival led to a few additional firings as he assembled a new management team, which led to the termination of the company’s president, general manager, service manager, and operations manager, along with “17 of their cronies,” he said. The company now staffs 84 employees and boasts a fleet of 58 vehicles.

To really hammer home his focus on customer service and quality installs, Goodrich and crew returned to more than 300 recently completed installations to perform quality control checks, which carried a pricetag of several hundred thousand dollars, Goodrich said. Old or new, under Goodrich’s tutelage, a Goettl job was going to meet a certain set of quality checkmarks.

The new installation procedures are making a difference. The quality control process now includes installers taking pictures of the job, which are sent to management. Goodrich personally examines and approves every job before it is marked complete.

“I try to share remarks on everything I see — anything from cleaning the dirty fingerprint off the wall to praising them for a job well done,” he said.

This new installation process has the staff buzzing, said operations manager Andy Ridgefield.

“This one process has literally transformed the morale of our technicians and quality of our installations from just OK to second-to-none,” he said. “Nobody wants to get an email from Ken instructing corrective action on a job, and everybody feels good when he says everything looks perfect. We are rapidly becoming experts and perfectionists in our field.”

The company also overhauled its back end, as well. Company CEO and former owner Dan Burke, who Goodrich retained to help stabilize the transition, said the transition’s biggest challenge was adapting to changes across departments such as information technology (IT), human resources, treasury, insurance, fleet, finance, and accounting, while documenting and implementing new and revised systems, installing software and hardware, and reestablishing best practices and new processes.

“We were taking care of clients’ heating and air conditioning needs the day after Goodrich took the helm,” Burke said. “At the same time, we were addressing the changes in the myriad of systems that required revision and replacement. The cooperation and support of our vendors, key trade partners, and the extraordinary effort of our employees enabled us to overcome these challenges.”

Ridgefield said, as the company celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is no longer in survival mode and is more focused on continued, long-term success. “That’s a heritage worth protecting and enduring,” Ridgefield said. “I have been in HVAC for more than 25 years and have never worked with someone with the technical expertise and business mind that Ken Goodrich has. He is leading the transformation of Goettl and challenges us daily to think bigger, better, faster, and smarter.”

The Name Game

Not all has been perfect, though.

The company’s new name, Goettl Good Guys Air Conditioning Repairmen was dictated by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Goodrich said. Under previous ownership, the company was plagued with an F rating.

“To be honest with you, we’re actually going to go back to the old name. We let the Better Business Bureau make a business decision for us. They told us they wouldn’t change the rating to reflect the new ownership unless we had some sort of modification of the name. At the end of the day, I don’t think that was a good decision, and we’re working on that. I shouldn’t have let the BBB make my decisions.”

For Goodrich, who has established prominence out of buying and selling dozens of companies, Goettl has a bit more sentimental value. As a child, he helped his father repair a Goettl heat pump, so holding onto the company and making it one of his “crown jewels” could certainly be in the cards.

This year’s theme at Goettl is “solid as a rock.” With the changes made, the foundation at Goettl is only growing stronger.

“You’re your own worst critic,” Goodrich said. “In this case, I’ve made a couple of decisions that I don’t like, such as the name change, that maybe I wouldn’t have made previously, but I do feel, on this particular go-around, I’ve surrounded myself with a high caliber of management that, in the long run, is going to help me grow this company bigger, better, and faster than any of the other businesses I’ve had combined.”

Publication date: 7/7/2014

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