Paul Sammataro’s native Boston accent has slowly given way to a Texas twang since moving south more than 20 years ago.
“I have this half-Boston, half-Texas accent, and people wonder where I’m from all the time,” he said. “We ended up in Texas because of opportunity. My brother-in-law lived down here for years, and back in 1992, I had a young family. He had asked us to come down and was sending me newspapers with help wanted ads. My wife agreed it was a good opportunity for our family, and if we didn’t like it, we could head back to Boston.”
Sammataro received a job offer from a heating and cooling company he interviewed with and stayed with them until he decided to start his own business. Samm’s Heating & Air Conditioning, located in Plano, Texas, celebrated its 11th anniversary last year.
“There were a lot of reasons for starting my own business — mainly because I felt I could provide something to customers and hopefully future employees that I didn’t see happening in the company I was working with,” Sammataro said. “I felt like I could improve on what the company was doing, and I began thinking of how I’d do things myself while I was working for them.”
Samm’s is a primarily residential service, retrofit, and replacement contractor serving Dallas, Collin County, and the North Texas area. “In Plano, there are more than 200,000 people in this city here,” Sammataro said. “There is a lot of opportunity in this county. This is where I’ve been since I moved to Texas in 1992, and it’s been constantly growing ever since.”
Samm’s started with just one employee – Sammataro. The company has now grown to 12 employees and eight vehicles. Since opening its doors, Samm’s has grown 20-30 percent every year, except in 2014.
“That was the first year we did not continue to grow,” Sammataro said. “I hate to blame the weather, but it was not a hot summer in Texas. While disappointing, it allowed us to focus in on what we needed to do to become a stronger, better company for both ourselves and our customers.”
The company hit the $2.7 million revenue mark in 2015, something Sammataro was excited about because it was the best year in business to date. “We did $1.8 million in 2014.”
Rose Marie Hoeung, dispatch coordinator for Samm’s, has worked for the company for two years. Prior to that, she worked for a company that did contract work in different states on foreclosed homes. Hoeung was actually referred to Sammataro by another employee.
“It took me a year before I was hired here, and it fit perfectly,” she said. “I was pregnant and went on leave. Paul called me, and I said, ‘Well I’m having a baby.’ So I quit my job and came here after my leave.
“I love the fact that the work is flexible,” she continued. “I have four kids, so that’s important. And everybody here is really open. It’s really a family atmosphere. You can voice your opinions and how you feel. Some places, you can’t really say much, so you keep everything inside and, eventually, you get angry. But here, communication is really key, and that goes for everybody. I love it.”
Sammataro attributes his success to hard work and training.
“Whether it’s for myself or my employees, I’m big on training internally and externally,” he said. “Whenever I can gain knowledge and stay on top of codes and technology, I want to provide that to my employees and myself, obviously. I’m always learning, too. I’m constantly talking to my people about growth — not just for the business, but personally, as well.”
Sammataro holds weekly meetings where employees discuss what they discovered in the field and what types of training would help them in the future.
“We pair guys up in the field for training and hold customer service training here on everything from where to park and how to approach the customer’s home to greeting customers and protecting their walls and floors. We even ask customers where they want us to stage an installation. A lot of times, I’ve driven down a street and there’s stuff all over the yard because somebody’s in there doing a job. Now, customers might have approved throwing half the HVAC system and ductwork all over their front yard, but more than likely, most people don’t want their lawns covered in debris while you’re in there for eight hours. And this is something we’ve learned as we’ve grown.”
PUTTING THE CUSTOMER FIRST
Customer service is a top priority for Sammataro.
“We’re not perfect, but we won’t take shortcuts,” he said. “I know everybody says they’re the best and they provide top customer service, but we mean what we say. The thing that separates us from everybody else is we just blow our customers away by over-exceeding their expectations. Everybody says they want to satisfy or exceed expectations, but we go one further. We truly preach that here. We want to leave customers knowing they just had the best possible contractor in their homes.”
Samm’s also has a system in place where the company follows up with customers after every installation the next day. The follow-up call ensures everything was done to their satisfaction and that they have no further questions. It also allows the company to gather feedback on areas they could improve upon, Sammataro noted.
“We’re constantly trying to improve our service and the way we do that is through customer feedback,” he said. “We now use foot covers when entering a home and we provide cleaning service after an installation — we actually subcontract another company for that service. We also offer a lifetime warranty on workmanship. If I didn’t feel we were exceeding expectations, we couldn’t offer that. We would go out of business. We’re constantly trying to improve and be the best.”
Samm’s level of customer service has not gone unnoticed among its customers. One customer even answered Sammataro’s call for testimonial videos, posting his recommendation to YouTube.
“You may not know this, but we all have a case of HVAC,” said Kim Klieger of Allen, Texas. “Ours used to take big gulps out of our checking account every month in our electric bill. And then, every few months, it would take another big bite in repair costs. We had hot rooms and cold rooms, and we could always hear when the unit kicked on. The noise would wake us up sometimes. That was until we found the great folks at Samm’s.”
Klieger goes on to explain how Samm’s thoroughly explained what was wrong as well as all of the available options, which was one of the reasons he felt most comfortable trusting the company with his business.
“It was a great day when the team showed up to do the job in the hot part of the summer,” he said. “The crew was really professional, efficient, and, actually, amazing. Getting those old units out of the attic, they did all that with care and speed. Honestly, I don’t know how they did it. The place was spotless when they were done. They really showed dedication to making sure everything was perfect. We’ve always felt like we’re as important to them as they are to us. We trust them and they care — they’re honest, professional, friendly, knowledgeable, and they’re reasonable. They’re very competitive. We watch our bucks pretty closely and always scrutinize value. And we feel, with Samm’s, we get a good value. We’ve referred them to several of our friends. If your HVAC is giving your checkbook a whack, give Samm’s a call and then be comfortable and take a vacation with the extra cash.”
“It makes me proud because it’s what we train to do,” Sammataro said. “I almost feel like this was a paid actor advertisement of what we are about. And, I am so thankful that my guys are actually delivering the quality we talk about here. That’s what every owner wants to see from the company’s employees. I’m thankful for having the people I have.”
CHALLENGES, GOALS, AND HURDLES
Over the years, Sammataro has seen quite a few changes in the industry, including a decline in quality and workmanship as well as the difficulty in recruiting the younger generation into the trades.
“Not to say anything negative about today’s workers, but I just don’t see the pride in quality in the trade,” he said. “It’s not everywhere, but it’s out there. I don’t see people taking pride in their trade. I see people doing it for a paycheck. They don’t have the loyalty to the company or respect for the customer to deliver what they’re paying for. It’s really disappointing because it gives the industry a bad name.
“Also, there are not that many in the younger generation wanting to come in and make a career out of HVAC — it’s all about going to college, which is great, but it’s not for everybody,” he continued. “I don’t know that the younger generation realizes the opportunity and the career they can have in this business.”
In fact, hiring is one of the biggest hurdles Sammataro is facing currently and one he expects to continue in the future. “Being able to maintain and grow with young talent coming into the industry is a continuing struggle. When I started the business, I knew that was going to be a hurdle, and it still is.”
In spite of that, Sammataro retains a goal of increasing his market share and growing his company to reach $10 million in revenue within the next 10 years.
“I think the future is bright for the industry. There will always be a need for boots on the ground,” he said. “You’re not going to automate home service. You might reduce the need, but at some point, somebody will have to knock on the door and greet a customer. And the market here right now is all about efficiency. More people are looking to save their dollars, especially in Texas, because of the high utility bills. So the future is bright, provided the industry gets the word out that this is a good career and you can have a good life doing this. And it’s not all about money. I got into this industry because I like to solve problems and help people. I’m just really thankful. I tell my employees that what we are developing here wouldn’t happen without them. I’m really thankful for the good people I have working with me.”
Publication date: 8/1/2016