2015 Top 40 Under 40 HVACR Professionals
Next generation of HVAC professionals will lead the industry into the future
Most everyone in the HVAC industry has heard the stats about the “graying” of the industry and the lack of younger individuals choosing HVAC as a career.
It’s a real issue, and one that is continuously being addressed by those in the industry.
However, it’s sometimes easy to forget there are a lot of younger individuals doing a lot of great things in the HVAC industry. You can’t go to an industry meeting without seeing some of the younger generation soaking up the HVAC knowledge.
From the young contractor running his first business to the vice president at a distributor, the industry has a lot of young talent on all levels of the industry. The NEWS wanted to highlight these individuals with a list of 40 HVAC professionals under 40 years of age who are accomplishing great things in their respective positions. We asked our readers to nominate the best of the best and, indeed, they did. We received 125 entries, and picking the top 40 was incredibly difficult.
We opened up the contest to all aspects of the HVAC industry, and we received a diverse group of nominations. All areas of the industry are represented, including contractors, distributors, educators, engineers, service techs, and any other position you can think of in the industry.
Inside, there are brief write-ups on each person who made the list. And, while the stories of how they reached the HVAC industry vary greatly, the common denominator is that they love the field and their careers. The members of this list all work hard, think about the big picture, and have the ability to challenge the way things have always been done.
“I realize I am partial, but I think this is a great list. It really highlights some of the best and the brightest coming up in the HVAC industry,” said Kyle Gargaro, editor-in-chief, The NEWS. “Sometimes we forget just how much young talent the HVAC industry has in it.”
While certainly hundreds could have been highlighted, we needed to choose 40. Continue scrolling down see who made this year’s list and who will be leading the trade into the future.
TOP 40 UNDER 40 LIST
Company: Anderson Mechanical Services
Tim Anderson is president and co-owner of Anderson Mechanical Services. Under his leadership, the company has doubled its revenue over the last three years. Anderson has reorganized the 50-man field structure to become more efficient, and the company now has the ability to complete additional work loads. The commercial contractor also implemented new software to streamline the company’s systems.
Anderson is passionate about changing the way skilled trades are viewed.
“I’ve read statistics that for every two people entering skilled trades careers, there are five baby boomers retiring,” Anderson said. “I think part of the problem is that high school students, this day and age, are considered failures if they don’t attend and graduate from a four-year school. I’d like skilled trade jobs/training to be considered a viable option for more than just those who can’t get into college.”
Anderson is looking to set up programs with local school districts that emphasize these ideals.
Title: Vice president
Stephen Bagby strives to provide top-notch service to the members of his North Carolina community. He’s been in the HVAC industry since 2000, when he received his first job with Greensboro Refrigeration Services Inc. He started his own business when he was only 25.
Bagby balances the demands of running an HVAC business with the challenges of heading up a family of seven. He hopes to one day turn the business over to his two sons. Of course, that’s a long way off at this point, but he’s already teaching his 11-year-old son the ways of Freon. When he retires, Bagby would like to work as an instructor at a local technical college in hopes of educating the next generation of HVACR technicians.
“As strange as it sounds, I like being followed around by my clients and being asked questions while I diagnose their units,” Bagby said. “I feel like a lot of them have been kept in the dark about how their HVAC systems work.”
Company: Ingersoll Rand
Title: Portfolio leader, air conditioners, furnaces, and coils
With a mechanical engineering background, Matt Barga has made a quite a name for himself at Ingersoll Rand. The portfolio leader’s had his hand in numerous areas of the business. Barga led the team that helped commercialize 18- and 20-SEER variable-speed heating and cooling systems. He is particularly proud of his connection to variable speed because of its value to consumers.
Barga feels one of his biggest accomplishments was leading the residential business through the 2015 regional efficiency standards. A few of his short-term goals are to take leadership roles on HVAC boards and participate in industry forums. The 39-year-old wants to be even more of a leader in the HVAC community.
“The HVAC industry produces a product you can see and touch that everybody needs,” he said. “There’s something commendable about that. I’m proud to be part of that.”
Company: LG Electronics USA
Title: Director of engineering
Although Bogdan is under 40, he’s one of the industry’s experts on variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology. As a pioneer member of the group that developed the testing standard for VRF technology — AHRI 1230 — Bogdan played a critical role in defining and determining the standard for
In 2008, Bogdan joined LG Electronics’ HVAC division as the only applications engineer. He’s played an integral role in launching LG VRF products, led by the Multi V series, into the U.S. market.
“My favorite part of the job is building our field’s knowledge to drive the application of LG VRF technology. I work to create solutions to not only drive LG’s business, but to also help position LG as one of the leaders in the HVAC industry,” Bogdan said. “My main goal is to continue to expand the VRF story. Whether it’s through education or application, I want to continue to work with my engineering team to create solutions and products that solve problems for customers.”
Brian Bovio has been involved with the family business since his early teens. After college, he was the company’s operations manager before purchasing the company from his father and becoming president and CEO.
Bovio changed the company from an HVAC-only shop to a home-performance-based company by implementing energy auditing, insulation, and plumbing departments while growing the company significantly over the past several years.
Bovio has taken an active role in advancing energy efficiency by participating in the New Jersey Home Performance with Energy Star program as well
as other clean-energy programs in the state. He was one of five business owners who met with President Barack Obama due to his successful involvement in
“My favorite part of the job is when we hear from clients who’ve had comfort issues in their homes for years and are comfortable for the very first time in their homes after implementation of a whole-home-performance upgrade to address their comfort and energy needs,” Bovio said.
Company: Allied Air Enterprises
Title: District sales manager
Hilary Carlin has only been in the HVAC industry for five years, but she’s hit the ground running. After a stint at Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Carlin got a job at the distributor Midway Supply as a territory manager. She came into that job with no HVAC knowledge.
“It was daunting. They said you’re comfortable selling, so I can teach you the product,” Carlin said. “I spent 10 weeks in the branches learning the products, doing online training, and making flashcards to learn all the information.”
Carlin successfully made the transition from distribution to manufacturing. After working for Mitsubishi Electric, she currently serves as the district sales manager for Allied Air Enterprises.
“My career goals in HVAC are to be in an executive role within manufacturing. I’m looking to empower females as leaders in an industry that’s unique to females,” she said. “I also want to continue to challenge the traditional thought process surrounding going to market in partnership with dealers and distribution.”
Company: Samm’s Heating and Air Conditioning
The HVAC industry may lack good, young talent, but one such quality individual is Victor Castro. The Samm’s Heating and Air Conditioning technician graduated at the top of his class in 2014. As with any good, young employee, Castro is always trying to grow and improve.
“My goals in the HVAC industry are to become a good technician and educate all my customers. I want to provide them the best service they’ll ever receive and make them feel comfortable with the service I provide. Most customers don’t know or understand what they’re paying for because a lot of technicians won’t take the time to explain to them what they replaced and what each part does to help the system run,” Castro said. “I’m also working on getting my NATE [North American Technician Excellence] certification.”
Castro’s customers have been known to provide the company with unsolicited rave reviews.
Title: Installation manager
Eric Clauss manages eight installers as the HVAC installation manager at Schneller Heating, Air Conditioning, and Plumbing. Since taking the position in 2014, Clauss has completely revamped the entire department. He’s taken gross margins from 27 percent to 45 percent in one year’s time. One of his accomplishments is the creation of a restocking plan where the installers order items through their smartphones, which helps the company keep inventory low in its warehouse.
“Both programs have helped me tremendously in becoming the effective leader I am today,” he said. “There is always room for growth and improvement, which I intend on doing.”
Clauss puts in 60-70 hours a week making sure everything at the company is running efficiently and smoothly.
Title: General manager
Derek Cole has been in the HVAC industry for 14 years and has been the general manager of One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning in Fayetteville, North Carolina, since 2009. During that time, the company has tripled its top-line sales while increasing gross margins and new profit. The company has also grown by 10 employees.
“My goal is to have us become the largest home service company in the area,” Cole said.
He was recently awarded the Patriot Award for the company’s commitment to hiring and retaining members of the National Guard. This involves working with their National Guard schedules to be sure that they can stay employed.
Prior to One Hour, Cole worked in multiple positions, including warehouse manager, office manager, and operations manager, for Simmons Heating & Air Conditioning.
Company: Detmer and Sons Inc.
Eric Detmer is a third-generation president of Detmer and Sons Inc. — a responsibility he takes very seriously.
“If I’ve been told once, I’ve been told 100 times that the third-generation family business owner is the most likely to fail. My goal from day one has been to prove that wrong,” Detmer said. “I’m going to continue the tradition my grandfather and father started back in 1978 of leading a growing and prosperous family-owned and operated business into the next generation.”
He is doing a great job. Detmer has taken a 20-employee business and turned it into a company with two locations and 65 employees. He’s brought the entire company forward with updated technology and software for accounting, payroll, GPS, flat rate pricing, etc. He’s currently serving on the board of directors of the local contracting group.
Title: General manager
Danetta Drew is in the process of taking over her father’s business — Dean’s Shop Heating and Air. Drew joined the business about five years ago in an entry-level position. Two years ago, she took over as business manager in what her father characterized as “inheriting a mess.” Drew turned the operation around, and the 73-year-old company has never been in a better place, according to the owner.
“My main goal in our family-owned and operated business is to foster its growth by ensuring our company and its employees represent the highest level of honesty, integrity, and reliability to every customer,” said Drew. “I’d also like to continue developing lasting relationships with our customers by not over or underselling, but providing what our customer wants and/or needs. I’m continually looking for ways to grow our team’s knowledge base to prepare for a future in this industry.”
Company: Rapid Recovery
Title: President and co-owner
Adam Dykstra is the president and co-owner of Rapid Recovery — a refrigerant recovery service business. Dykstra started in HVAC at the age of 14, turning wrenches at his uncle’s HVAC business.
“I did a lot of things there. One was refrigerant recovery. That is where I first saw the need,” Dykstra said.
In 2002, he started Rapid Recovery. He’d witnessed that a lot of contractors with typical recovery equipment were not able to keep up with the need on bigger projects, so he decided to offer it as a service. He built the business into a national company that now has 40 locations.
“It’s been a lot of fun, but a lot more work than I originally thought. We’re in a relationship-based business. People want to do business with those they know and trust. Over the last 10 years, we’ve worked really hard to do that and provide the service our customers demand. Our customer is our competitor. They can do what we do. We need to provide value every single time by doing it more cost-effectively.”
Company: Building Controls Group
Title: Controls support specialist
Mike Elledge is the controls support specialist for wholesaler Building Controls Group. Elledge went to a tech school in Minneapolis for a two-year degree, but it was in electronics, not HVAC.
“A local distributor hired me for my computer background and taught me the HVAC part,” Elledge said.
When the head of controls at that company started his own business, Elledge went along with him. As the controls support specialist, he helps educate contractors on solutions for all types of industry control applications from process to office building automation.
“Anybody who wants to do controls, we set them up and get them going,” Elledge said. “Controls are a tough business. It takes a lot to learn, so that’s our main focus. The best part of the job is going on job sites and helping these guys out. I learn something from them, and they learn something from me.”
Company: Ovation Heating and Air
Kyle Fuhrmann has a strong history of improving the companies he works for. This first example occured at Design Mechanical Inc., which was his first job out of college. It was there that Fuhrmann climbed the ladder from service technician to senior vice president, helping the company achieve 30 percent growth annually over a five-year span, starting in 2005.
After having that great success, Fuhrmann accepted a CEO position at Ovation Heating and Air. During a relatively short time, he doubled the company’s revenues and profitability.
He has lofty goals for expanding the company.
“As an NCCER [National Center for Construction Education and Research] trainer, I would like to create a four-year apprentice training program at Ovation designed to create competent and qualified craftsmen for our workforce,” Fuhrmann said.
Title: Director of new product development
Right out of college, Ryan Hardesty joined Weil-McLain as a designer in the engineering department. In a short amount of time, Hardesty has been promoted up the ranks and is now the director of new product development.
He is heavily involved in shaping the industry’s policies in regards to efficiency levels, equipment testing procedures, and system design and control with parties that include Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
“This position appealed to me because it was a great design job,” said Hardesty. “You get to own a product all the way from conception and are faced with developing the product’s needs based on a customer’s needs. You then use creativity to address those needs. You get to follow the product all along and eventually watch the first one come off the line. It’s great to have ownership of the entire process.”
Title: Founder and CEO
Will Housh is the founder and CEO of HVAC.com, a website dedicated to heating and air conditioning articles, videos, buying guides, and additional information. The site was launched in 2006.
Housh grew up in a third-generation heating and cooling business called Monroe Mechanical Inc. He also founded Housh — The Home Energy Experts in 2009 to focus on enhancing home energy performance through energy audits and improvements to the building envelope and mechanical systems.
HVAC.com has a unique company mission to channel its business success to “transform the lives of orphans and widows around the world.” They carry out this mission by taking volunteers from their team on international orphan care mission trips to Mexico and Haiti each year.
Housh has been featured in Forbes and published many times in Mashable, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Small Business Advisor, The NEWS, and others.
Company: Lennox Intl. Inc.
Title: Commercial sales engineer, VRF
Christina Hunt has worked in nearly every part of the HVAC
channel. As the daughter of an HVAC contractor, Hunt grew up in the business. She worked at her dad’s business doing both installation/service and business operations before moving to the distribution field, accepting a sales and marketing manager at Johnstone Supply in Chicago.
“That was great because I was able to work with so many different manufacturers and learn a lot about product,” Hunt said.
She finally settled into the manufacturing end of the business — first with Mitsubishi Electric and now with Lennox, where she serves as the variable refrigerant flow (VRF) commercial sales engineer.
“Being able to be a part of all the different aspects of the HVACR industry has really helped me to be able to satisfy the different needs of everyone involved,” Hunt said. “That background definitely helps me in my current job.”
Company: Hunter Heat and Air
Chris Hunter has built a team that has turned a part-time business into a $4 million company. Hunter began in the industry working for AT&T, keeping their equipment cool. On weekends, he was doing some residential work — mostly for family and friends.
“In 2009, I hit my breaking point. I was basically working two full-time jobs, so I decided to go full time with Hunter Heat and Air.”
Hunter makes it a point to make sure his employees are accomplishing their goals.
“You build a team, and, if enough of them are successful, that sets you free to your highest calling. My calling is pouring back into my community and church,” Hunter said.
The business now has 20 employees and three locations across Oklahoma.
“It’s been a fun ride,” Hunter said. “If you build a culture, the people will come. We don’t even need to go search for people. I’m constantly getting people coming to us for a job.”
Company: Comfort Systems USA – ColonialWebb
Title: Sheet metal fabrication supervisor
Greg Johnson is a sheet metal fabrication supervisor for Comfort Systems USA – Colonial Webb. After a little push from his mom to learn the trade, Johnson started working at Howell’s Heating and Air at the age of 18.
The company’s training included switching departments every six months as you learned all aspects of the trade.
“I always liked the fabrication side,” Johnson said. “Taking a blank piece of metal and making something out of it is great.”
At ColonialWebb, Johnson implemented a production change after noticing how spread out the shop was and how many steps everyone was taking to complete a project. This system lowered costs by 5.9 percent. He also helped develop a skills matrix that grades each employee numerically to determine the company’s top performers. Johnson emphasizes producing high-quality products and ensuring workers in the field receive what they need.
Company: The New Flat Rate
Title: Vice president
Matt Koop has risen through the ranks, from apprentice to service technician to vice president of The New Flat Rate. He’s now the technical developer of The New Flat Rate’s menu pricing system and has been instrumental in field testing this new pricing innovation.
“Building a true craftsmanship mindset has allowed me to help develop a system that helps 80 percent of service technicians who struggle with communication. This helps them bridge the gap with their customers and truly become superstars,” Koop said.
Koop has the ability to change the perception of techs and owners alike. He stresses that by pulling back and making no attempt to sell in the home and applying menu system techniques, technicians can double their sales.
“My favorite part of the job is working with service technicians and helping them achieve levels of success that I have and then some,” Koop said.
Company: Wolff Mechanical Inc.
Title: General manager
Despite not knowing anything about HVAC, Chicago, or dispatching, Paul Kuiper started at Four Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning in Chicago as a dispatcher. After a few other stops along the way, Kuiper is now general manager at Wolff Mechanical in Phoenix. Over the years, he’s held the position of service manager, sales manager, dispatcher, and installation manager.
Kuiper has brought fresh initiatives and ideas to Wolff Mechanical to increase revenue and profits while developing department managers.
Kuiper is looking forward to the rest of his HVAC career.
“My career HVAC goals are to become a partner at Wolff Mechanical, start and develop secondary and satellite branches, and be involved in the acquisitions and development of profitable and growing HVAC companies in different markets. In the long term, I hope to eventually acquire and maintain ownership of branches while consulting with businesses across the country,” Kuiper said.
Company: Packard Inc.
Title: Vice president of sales and marketing
After spending some time in the Detroit Tigers minor league system, Dan Lauterhahn has settled in nicely to the HVAC industry. He’s currently the vice president of sales and marketing for the master distributor Packard. His hard work has driven his team to increase annual sales by 300 percent over the last seven years.
Lauterhahn also spends a lot of time trying to get the younger generation into the HVAC industry and is a co-chair of the Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) Emerging Leaders Task Force.
“There is a tremendous opportunity right now for some younger folks to get into the industry,” Lauterhahn said. “It might not be one of the glamour jobs coming out of college, but our businesses need engineers, bright marketing people, and good leaders. People might be thinking about finance or joining a Fortune 500 company, but there is a great opportunity at a lot of HVAC businesses.”
Company: Day and Night HVAC
Title: Service technician
Anthony Leeds-Malley is a highly motivated service technician at Day and Night HVAC. He started with the company in a part-time position while going to college, but it soon became a career.
“I started as an install helper, but felt like I could do more,” Leeds-Malley said. “I asked to ride with the service techs. I wouldn’t get paid for it, though I just wanted the knowledge.”
The tech is U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified and also holds numerous North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certifications. He continues to pursue knowledge and attends classes to further his HVAC career. He also conducts training sessions for other service techs and installers on proper startup and commissioning procedures.
“My career goal is to help Day and Night branch out to multiple locations and manage a territory,” Leeds-Malley said.
Company: Kohler Ronan Consulting Engineers
Steve Lembo has worked his way up from mechanical engineer to partner at Kohler Ronan Consulting Engineers. Since 2007, Lembo’s taken the opportunity to work on a number of unique projects both close to home and across the country.
He’s excited about his future at Kohler Ronan.
“Leading an office of more than 20 employees, I want to continue to grow our practice and market share in New York City,” Lembo said. “While doing this, I think it’s important to continue to seek out sustainable solutions on all projects and to develop energy-efficient methods for satisfying our clients’ needs.”
Lembo is a member of the ASHRAE organization and appreciates that it helps him to keep abreast of the latest design trends. Plus, it’s just another excuse to read about HVAC, he said.
Company: Lyons A/C & Heating
Johnny Lyons has been in the HVAC business since he was 16 and currently owns Lyons A/C & Heating in Rockwall, Texas. Lyons and his company have won numerous awards, including being voted the No. 1 HVAC company by Living Magazine in 2013 and 2015.
“It’s great to know the customers I serve and treat like family are happy enough with our service to take the time to tell others about us,” Lyons said.
His long-term career goal is to make his company the No. 1 source for honest, quality HVAC work in the Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, areas.
Lyons serves on the Rockwall Planning and Zoning Commission and recently donated his services to the local Meals on Wheels by re-ducting the facility at no charge. He enjoys teaching customers about the industry and giving them options.
Company: HVAC Technical Institute
Title: Student services/FA officer
Pete Magallanes works hard trying to make sure more quality people are choosing the HVAC industry. While he started at the HVAC Technical Institute creating newsletters, he sought a bigger role and began taking HVAC classes so he could speak intelligently with students.
His goal is to make the HVAC field more appealing to the younger generation, and he reaches out to them at high school job/career fairs.
“I want every potential or current student who walks through our doors to feel as if they are a new addition to the family. I want our new members to receive a sense of acceptance and not just a folder that gets filed away after training,” Magallanes said.
The school has an 86 percent job placement rate. His dedication to the students does not stop after his 10-hour shift. Magallanes has been known to create company logos and Facebook pages, free of charge, for students who are looking to start their own businesses.
Company: CPS Products
Title: General manager
Marjorie McAllister’s dad founded the manufacturer CPS Products in 1975, allowing McAllister to grow up working in the front office during the summers. She joined CPS Products in a full-time position in 2003. She currently serves as general manager and as a member of the senior management team. Her expertise in new business development helps her thrive in this position.
McAllister is very involved with the industry by being active in Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) and ASHRAE. She also currently holds the position of vice president of the Women in HVACR organization and will be the president in 2016.
“Being involved in Women in HVACR has been such a rewarding aspect of my career. The support and mentorship I have from those connections have been great. I really look forward to growing the organization and expanding its reach,” McAllister said.
Company: EarthLinked Technologies
Jeff Miller is extremely passionate about his job at EarthLinked Technologies. As president and CEO, he’s reshaping the way the company thinks about its products and how it serves its customers.
“I love working for an employee-owned company that has such an incredible drive and collective passion for growing our business only because our dealers have grown theirs. The best part of running an HVAC equipment manufacturing company is knowing that a contractor has chosen to offer their customers our products. It’s a humbling honor and an incredible responsibility to serve our contractors and stand behind our products. It’s comforting to know that EarthLinked has been doing it this way for more than 35 years,” Miller said.
One of his biggest accomplishments has been introducing new talent to the industry through an intern program.
Company: Modern Mechanical
Title: President and CEO
Shawn Mitchell founded Modern Mechanical in 2010 and has since grown the company to $5 million in revenue. Modern Mechanical has won small business of the year awards and was named one of the Washington Business Journal’s Best Places to Work. Mitchell is the president and CEO and leads his team just like he led troops when he was a member of the U.S. Army.
Despite the fast growth, Mitchell’s set the bar even higher.
“My vision is to grow Modern Mechanical to a leader in the northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., markets. I also want to develop a sustainable workforce development program where the next generation of HVAC employees has the ability to learn the trade, be employed while doing so, and not be strapped with staggering student debit at such a young age,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell provides 150 hours of training for every employee.
John Moore is second-generation HVAC leader and the president of Building Mechanical & Energy Services. His father started the business on the side as a hobby and taught John and his brother the trade at a young age. The University of Cincinnati graduate worked in commercial construction and facilities management before assuming the role of president in 2012.
“I saw the market opportunity and wanted to build something that had a legacy,” Moore said. “Being in an urban environment, I wanted to provide good-paying jobs so people could have a good life. A lot of people in the area didn’t know what a great career HVAC could be.”
Under his leadership, the company has seen annual growth of 15 percent each year. Their clients include the Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati and Macy’s Corporate Services. He also spends a great deal of time giving back to the local community.
Company: Greenstar Mechanical
David Morris is only 29, but he’s been working nonstop ever since he started his own lawn mowing business at age 9. Morris is currently the president of Greenstar Mechanical. He earned his master’s license in 2008, and, in just six years, he’s built the company into one of the premier commercial/industrial HVAC companies.
“I love what I do,” Morris said. “I enjoy tackling complicated problems, as I feel I’m an excellent problem solver. Learning new things about the advancements in the HVACR field is always exciting.”
Morris was recently appointed to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors Advisory Board.
And the company recently partnered with its local Lowe’s home improvement store for a project at the River City Youth Foundation in south Austin. Participants completely redesigned a tiny kitchen into a full-size commercial kitchen. Underprivileged kids who come to the foundation every day rely on meals that are made on-site.
Company: JT Dunn Heating and Cooling
While a lot of the young guns took over the family business, Brett Nejmanowski built his indoor home services business from scratch at the age of 23. He had a premonition from the very young age of 7 that he was going to open up his very own HVAC business. Today, that company is profitable and has 25-plus employees.
“My goal is to help increase the number of technicians entering the HVAC service field by educating high school students about the benefits of a career in HVAC and to help increase install quality by educating industry professionals of the benefits of taking a whole-home approach and fully utilizing Manuals J, D, and S,” Nejmanowski said.
The company offers heating, cooling, home energy performance, IAQ, and home automation. It’s currently the service provider for seven area Home Depot stores.
Title: CEO and cofounder
Dipul Patel is the CEO and cofounder of Ecovent smart vent system. He came up with the idea for the company one winter while closing air vents in his home to lower energy bills. He officially launched the product in 2013 at the age of 32.
It’s been a quick ascent as the business announced it’s closed a $6.9 million Series A funding round led by Emerson Climate Technologies Inc.
“Today’s cars allow passengers and drivers to set individual temperatures, yet most homes have only one adjustable zone, and it’s time to change that,” said Patel. “We developed the Ecovent system to give people room-by-room temperature control in any home, automatically. It’s incredibly exciting to have the support of an industry titan like Emerson to help us bring Ecovent to a larger audience as we change the way homeowners experience comfort in their homes.”
Company: Corken Steel Products
Title: Commercial sales
Mike Powers is Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-certified and also has extensive knowledge about hydronics, boilers, air handlers, rooftop equipment, and just about any other HVAC product one could think of. The commercial salesperson for Corken Steel Products spends hours researching all the information available to make sure he gets his customers answers on how to solve a problem or the best way to proceed in any given situation. Multiple engineers continue to call on Powers because he comes up with answers along with submittals for the engineers on a timely basis.
“I like to utilize my talents to help Corken Steel Products bridge the gap between engineers, architects, mechanical contractors, and other industry professionals,” Powers said. “By doing this, I hope to help design, install, and service quality HVAC systems in our market.”
Company: Lennox Intl. Inc.
Title: Commercial sales engineer
Tony Ring was born into the HVAC industry, growing up on the service side of his father’s residential contracting business. After his father sold the business, Ring worked for a distributor before eventually finding a home at Lennox Intl. Inc. His plan when he was attending the University of Missouri was always to get into mechanical design.
Ring is responsible for the development of the Lennox variable refrigerant flow (VRF) product line throughout the central region.
“I’m dedicated to bridging the gap between all those who interact on a project to ensure a successful and cohesive long-term partnership,” Ring said. “I strive to have an integral role in the development of my customers’ needs and to ensure they have the most dynamic experience I can offer.”
Ring believes the VRF technology will become a major force in the industry in the near future.
Company: cfm Distributors Inc.
Title: Vice president
Lauren Roberts is a third-generation family member at cfm Distributors and has been helping out the company since she was a teenager. Currently, she holds the position of vice president of customer experience. It’s her job to make sure customers have a great experience with cfm.
Roberts also spends a lot of time trying to improve the industry outside cfm Distributors’ walls. She is the chair of the Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) Marketing Committee and is also an active voice on the HARDI Emerging Leaders Task Force.
“HARDI is a first-class trade association. My father was involved since its inception, and I saw how much of a competitive advantage we were gaining by being a part of the organization,” Roberts said. “I’ve grown up around the business, and I’m passionate about staying on the cutting-edge and maintaining the two-step distribution model.”
Company: Care Heating and Cooling
Title: Vice president and CEO
Dennis Sullivan had no intention of working in the HVAC industry, but he couldn’t be happier where he ended up. He started off as the human resources manager at Care Heating and Cooling — his father-in-law’s business — and his responsibilities grew from there. He is currently vice president and is responsible for the company’s strategic initiatives.
“I’m pure overhead,” Sullivan joked. “This is a really great field to work in. There is so much opportunity in HVAC.”
In his five years at the company, the number of employees has grown from 18 to 33. The company has also made great progress in revenue and process management. Sullivan and his brother-in-law are in the process of getting the business transferred to them.
“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish here. Before, we just considered ourselves an HVAC contractor; today, we see ourselves as a customer service company that happens to do heating and air conditioning,” Sullivan said.
Company: Consolidated Refrigerant Solutions
Jim Sweetman was a light commercial service tech in the early 2000s, and he was frustrated by the time and expense involved in recovering refrigerant. Where there was a problem, Sweetman saw an opportunity, and, in 2006, he started Consolidated Refrigerant Solutions. Instead of going through the distributor, the business deals directly with the contractor.
“I was a mechanic out in the field and it was a nuisance,” Sweetman said. “We’re a refrigerant reclamation facility, but I look at us as a service company. We only work with contractors. We swap out their recovery cylinders on-site.”
Sweetman is also responsible for developing the Reclamation Data Management System proprietary software that is available online for the company’s contractor clients.
“My personal goal, and that of our staff, is to build a truly enduring company with unique perspectives and ideas that will be recognized for their one-of-a-kind solutions and services,” Sweetman said.
Company: National Design Build Services
Benjamin Vacca and his partner founded National Design Build Services with a unique business model after realizing that markets around the St. Louis area were unfamiliar with the design-build concept. Despite starting it in October 2007, right before the economy tanked, the initial two-man operation now has 14 employees. And, while they did about $1 million worth of business in year one, their revenue rose to $22 million last year.
Vacca is planning on buying out his partner, who is nearing retirement age.
“I want to continue to build the business by delivering exceptional customer service. Growth of the business will result from our repeat business and customer satisfaction. Company growth isn’t necessarily a direct goal but merely an indirect result of our customer-first emphasis. I want National Design Build Services to be a top place to work with employees who are excited to come to work,” Vacca said.
Ben Young always knew the HVAC field was for him. He started in the family business at a young age, was chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-certified at age 15, and was running service calls in his own truck at age 16.
After helping to grow the family business, he branched out and formed Hybrid Air at age 27. He eventually purchased the family business and combined the two companies. Today, the company is generating a 30 percent net profit and has a state-of-the-art facility employing 17 people.
“The key is professionalism,” Young said. “We’re finding and retaining good people. We pay them well and give them clean trucks. I don’t care about my competition. We just concentrate on ourselves and make sure we are the upmost professionals. We have the most five-star reviews online.”
The company has continued its growth by recently acquiring a nearby 30-year-old contracting business.
Publication date: 8/17/2015