2016 Top 40 Under 40 HVACR Professionals
Highlighting the best young HVAC professionals
It is no secret the HVACR industry is an older crowd. This is fairly evident when you attend any industry meeting. Of course, that is not all bad. The older generation has a lot to offer the industry in regards to knowledge, work ethic, and other similar skills.
However, as with any organization or industry, young talent needs to be coming through the ranks in order to secure a positive future. Sometimes it is easy to forget that the HVACR industry has a wealth of young talent, as well. Each year The NEWS attempts to remind our audience.
From the young contractor running his first business to the vice president at a distributor, HVAC 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. This is the second year we have asked our readers to nominate the best of the best and, indeed, they did. We received 140 entries, and picking the top 40 was incredibly difficult. Each and every nominee brings great skill and talent to the industry.
The individuals chosen represent every aspect of the industry, including the manufacturing, distribution, instructional, and contracting sectors. There are those who grew up in the industry and those who entered it in the most interesting of circumstances.
“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. “We feel that it is important to recognize these individuals. Sometimes we forget just how much young talent this industry has.”
Below, there are brief write-ups on each individual 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. After looking at this list, you should feel better about the future of the HVAC industry.
While certainly hundreds could have been highlighted, we needed to choose 40. Scroll down to see who made this year’s list and get to know the individuals who are already leading the trade into the future.
The NEWS' Top 40 Under 40
Company: Aire Serv of Las Vegas
Title: General Manager
Jeremy Anderson has been in the HVAC industry for 15 years and is currently serving as the general manager of Aire Serv of Las Vegas.
“I started in the office of Quality A/C & Heating in Las Vegas as a maintenance agreement administrator as a young dad trying to provide for my family,” Anderson said. “I found success and have been in the industry ever since.”
Anderson makes it a point to give back to the community by volunteering at the Las Vegas Ronald McDonald House and also serves on the Southern Nevada Air and Refrigeration Service Contractors Association (SNARSCA) board of directors.
Through his efforts at Aire Serv, Anderson has transformed a small, struggling company into one of the top performers in the Aire Serv franchise.
Anderson is eager to take the next step in his HVACR career. “I am currently working on obtaining my Nevada State Contractors license and have the goal to eventually own Aire Serv of Las Vegas,” he said. “I have a purchase agreement with our current owner to make that happen.”
Company: Sucess4Others LLC
Eric Andrews is a business consultant; HVAC specialist; and cofounder of Success4Others, an HVAC training resource for all business development, consulting, and training needs.
Andrews’ HVAC career began while he attended college. While he only intended on working temporarily as a part-time sales associate with a local HVAC company, his impressive ability to secure sales earned him a great deal of recognition from industry professionals. He then began teaching newly hired associates, gaining him not only recognition as a top-performing HVAC salesperson, but also as an effective trainer. He was instrumental in catapulting the company’s retrofit sales from $1 million to more than $10 million over his five years with the company.
In 2008, Andrews moved to Dallas and began training owners, managers, technicians, customer service representatives (CSRs), and retail sales professionals with Lennox Intl. Inc. and Carrier Corp. to help them meet their personal sales and growth goals. After several successful years of consulting and coaching for various firms, Andrews’ career took another turn as he cofounded his own HVAC business training and consultation company, Success4Others.
Company: Progressive Heating and Air
Title: Sales and Operations Manager
A few years back, Samantha Brazie applied for a part-time telemarketing position at an HVAC company as a second job while earning her degree. Now, she leads a team at Newnan, Georgia-based Progressive Heating and Air as the sales and operations manager, where she’s always on the lookout for innovative ways to market the business and engage her team.
Brazie began at Progressive in 2011 and shortly thereafter led a successful company rebranding overhaul. She works hard at bringing the company into the community by holding several local volunteer and leadership positions.
“I think my biggest accomplishment is communicating our message to the local community,” Brazie said. “It’s always challenging for people to realize that just because we know our company exists does not mean other people do. It’s a constant effort, but I know our reputation is strong, and our story should be told.”
Company: Lennox Intl. Inc.
Title: Commercial Sales Director
The HVAC industry is in Brelo’s blood, as his grandfather started an HVAC company in 1954. In eighth grade, he completed an assignment titled, “Mr. Furnace.” The story’s plot serves as a celebration of Mr. Furnace’s 1 millionth furnace sale in Northeast Ohio with, of course, a young Brelo pictured on the cover.
Straight out of college, Brelo began working at a local supply company selling HVAC parts and equipment. A few years later, he joined Lennox as a territory manager and later served as business development manager and regional district manager.
In his 12 years with Lennox, he’s been fortunate to work across the U.S. in multiple sales and management roles. He currently serves as the commercial sales director, where he continues to build strong teams and share his enthusiasm for the industry.
“I want to continue to learn the entire manufacturing process, engineering development, and logistical structure,” Brelo said. “I hope to one day have the opportunity to manage an entire HVAC sales organization.”
Brelo believes his biggest HVAC accomplishment was the opening of a new sales district in Washington, District of Columbia, for Lennox, where he helped add five new distribution points, several new team members, and countless customers.
Company: Carini Heating and Air Conditioning
Title: CEO and Founder
Gabriel Carini founded Carini Heating and Air Conditioning nearly 10 years ago and has grown the company into an industry leader in the San Diego HVAC market. He was an early adopter of digital, web-based marketing and helped pioneer search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, which granted the company an early competitive advantage.
Carini was also ahead of the game when it came to ductless mini-split technology, as he focused a large part of his marketing and engineering budgets on the technology, which positioned the company as a leader in the segment. The company has become one of the largest Mitsubishi mini-split contractors in the U.S.
“My goals are to continue building Carini Heating and Air Conditioning as a technology and thought leader in the San Diego area, to continue to grow the business as the leader in mini-split systems for residential and light commercial applications, and to stay on the cutting-edge of energy-efficient HVAC and related technologies,” Carini said.
Title: Senior Business Development Manager
Abel Christopher started on the ground floor of the HVAC industry but has quickly risen through the ranks. He began working at Ashburn, Virginia-based Modern Mechanical (this was before the company became One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning Ashburn), when the owner was still working out of his garage. Christopher was hired as an installer and within weeks was promoted to a crew leader.
He is currently the senior business development manager and has helped the company grow into the national award-winning company it is today. He started the company’s metal recycling program in 2013 and has managed to help keep more than 100 tons of metal and debris out of landfills annually.
At the age of 29, Christopher still has lofty goals.
“I would love to create a step-by-step heating and air conditioning installation process that can be used universally by any contractor in the industry,” Christopher said.
Company: The Furnace Guy Heating and Cooling
Toby Conquest was raised in and around his grandfather’s sheet metal fabrication shop. He worked there from high school until he began working for a heating company that did work on custom homes. From there, he was hooked and attended a trade school with a goal to learn as much as he could. Today, he is owner of The Furnace Guy Heating and Cooling in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
He started the business with just one other employee, and now the company staffs more than 20 and is still growing.
“My goal is to be a trendsetter in the HVAC field who’s known for quality work,” Conquest said. “I’m aiming to set the bar in our industry a little higher.”
Conquest will go above and beyond for his customers and is on call 24/7 if any problems should arise.
“My biggest accomplishment is building a great company by hand-picking an A team,” he said. “All of my guys are the alphas of their particular talents.”
Company: Manchester Community College
Title: Professor of HVAC and HVAC Department Chair
While Edward Curran began working in the HVAC industry right out of high school as a service technician, he’s since discovered his real passion is in HVAC education. Curran currently serves as the HVAC department chair and as a professor at Manchester Community College in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Curran has made quite a mark at the school by creating an advisory board at the state level to help determine what the next generation of students need to learn in order to work in the trade. Curran also revamped the curriculum and lab spaces at the school to match current industry needs. But perhaps his biggest accomplishment is developing a clear educational pathway for high school students to enter the HVAC program.
“The biggest obstacle facing our industry is recruiting qualified young people to replace the rapidly aging HVAC community,” Curran said. “Partnering and visiting high school students to explain HVAC and also enlighten them about the vast opportunities and benefits that exist within our industry is important.”
Company: Freedom Heating and Air Conditioning
After serving in the U.S. Navy, David Daher decided he wanted a career in a field that would always be needed in Minnesota. He settled on HVAC and enrolled in a tech school in 2001. Today, Daher is the owner of Freedom Heating and Air Conditioning in Minneapolis.
“My goal is to build an honest and dedicated business that both our employees and clients can rely on for years to come,” Daher said.
It seems to be working as the company was recently nominated to receive the Better Business Bureau’s Award for ethics.
Daher exemplifies what it means to work hard, and he has grown his business around 300 percent over the last few years. Freedom Heating and Air Conditioning has a great reputation in the community and donates a portion of its profits to charity.
Company: Ingersoll Rand
Title: Sales Director, Trane Independent Distribution
Bryan Davenport has been with Ingersoll Rand for 13 years after being recruited by Trane for a territory manager position from the Texas A&M industrial distribution program. He was recently responsible for planning the 2016 Trane Territory Manager’s Meeting, which welcomed more than 420 territory managers from the dealer’s sales offices and independent wholesale distribution channels. This group was brought together, for the first time in five years to embrace the “Bring Home the Bold” theme for 2016 and learn the company’s new market segmentation strategies to help their businesses grow. Davenport was responsible for multiple areas, including setting the agenda and topics, coordinating speakers, leading an independent distribution breakout session, and hosting distributor territory managers throughout the conference.
Davenport is still looking to grow in his job.
“I want to gain a better understanding of the other functional departments at Ingersoll Rand to understand the interconnectivity of all functions of the business to further improve the customer experience for our dealer and distributor partners,” he said.
Company: Lennox Intl. Inc.
Title: Senior Product Manager, Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) and Mini Splits
Pam Duffy is a nationally recognized advocate for variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology. In addition to her job at Lennox, Duffy’s served as an ACCA Manual S voting member; ASHRAE T.C. 8.7 corresponding member; and a regular reviewer of ASHRAE standards, guidelines, and addendums.
Duffy still feels she has plenty to accomplish in the HVAC industry.
“First and foremost, I plan to continue to establish myself as one of the leading U.S. experts on VRF and mini-split technology,” she said. “Secondly, I truly enjoy my work in the OEM side of the business and plan to continue my work in that arena. Ultimately I see myself holding the role of COO or CEO of an HVAC manufacturer. Along the way, I hope to continue to inspire women to pursue not just careers but positions of leadership at their respective companies within the HVAC industry. One day I hope to be sitting at the CEO roundtable for our industry, and I even more so hope that at least one other female will be sitting beside me.
Company: Eanes Heating and Air
Eanes Heating and Air Conditioning in High Point, North Carolina, has experienced explosive growth since 2010 when John Eanes stepped in to work for the family-owned business. After a brief career as a math teacher, Eanes has worked his way up to the position of president.
Initially focusing on technology, Eanes introduced iPads into the field and utilized technological advances to increase communication between the service department and the office. After 10 years of hovering around $3 million in revenue per year, the company has grown 20 percent each of the last five years.
“I want to continue to grow this company and make my coworkers and their families’ lives better,” Eanes said. “Generating work to help keep more than 50 families thriving is a big weight and responsibility.”
The company was recently awarded the Better Business Bureau Ethics Award and has won Angie’s List Super Service Award six years in a row.
“My biggest accomplishment is being able to halfway step into my father’s shoes. Being able to come in and help the company grow to more than twice the revenue is humbling. The company has grown 20 percent a year the last 5 years. I am blessed to be surrounded by great people,” Eanes said.
Company: Ellington Air Conditioning & Heat
Ellington Air Conditioning & Heat in Rockledge, Florida, has seen great growth under the leadership of Jason Ellington. As a first-generation business owner, he has helped the contracting business exceed $4.2 million in sales in its residential replacement market.
Ellington has been in the industry since he was 15 years old.
“I took a job as a helper and recognized the appreciation I felt assisting customers with their concerns and problems,” Ellington said.
He stays up-to-date with what is taking place in the HVAC industry and consistently implements the most innovative products and technologies available for his customers. He focuses on the daily struggles his clients face and adapts his business to overcome those obstacles. He has a keen eye for detail and is constantly working to reinvent his and his team’s knowledge of the industry. He prides himself on pioneering technologies as they hit the market rather than taking a wait-and-see approach.
“My goal is to own a niche air conditioning business that focuses primarily on residential customers who are detail-oriented,” Ellington said.
Company: Ellis Air Systems
Title: Chief Financial Officer
At the young age of 26, Mason Ellis has already made his mark on Killeen, Texas-based Ellis Air Systems. He began working full time at the company — which his dad has owned and operated for the last 28 years — in 2012 after graduating from Texas A&M.
Since he came onboard, the company increased its staff from 12 full-time employees to 50. When he started at the company, Ellis Air Systems had revenue of $1 million a year. Under his watch, the company earned $1 million in his first month and is on pace to exceed $7 million in 2016.
“I hope to continue to serve my community and give them years of old-fashioned, honest service — just like my dad has done since 1988,” Ellis said. “After graduating college, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”
Ellis’ innovative approach has led to great success in selling IAQ add-ons.
Title: HVAC Technician and Instructor
Nick Griewahn has the rare position of being both an HVAC technician and instructor. One has to wonder how he would do in his own class.
From May through mid-August, Griewahn works for his family business, Arnolds Refrigeration in Cheboygan, Michigan. When not working there, he teaches HVACR at Northern Michigan University.
Griewahn inspires his students and challenges them to learn and experience all they can to better prepare for successful HVACR careers. Having worked in the field for nearly 20 years, he knows how important it is to be able to think creatively and on your feet instead of just relying on what is printed in a book.
“Performing service work has always brought me great pride and fueled my motivation,” Griewahn said. “I took the job at NMU in 2006 at the request of the retiring professor, and it has been a great experience.”
Title: Strategic Marketing Director
At the age of 35, Jonathan Holloway is helping define growth strategies for Danfoss’ $500 million North American business. He joined Danfoss in 2009 as a member of its post-graduate program and proceeded to work on projects in the U.S., Denmark, China, and France while learning the global HVACR business.
Holloway is part of the team responsible for the establishment of the new Danfoss Engineering Tomorrow Application Development Center — a state-of-the-art HVACR equipment-testing laboratory being built in Tallahassee, Florida. He also plays a key role in developing the company’s strategy for working with and meeting the needs of wholesalers
“On a high level, globalization and digitalization are transforming the way our industry works,” Holloway said. “I’m excited to be a part of helping our industry successfully adapt by working with contractors, end users, and everyone in between to take advantage of these complex opportunities.”
Company: Lux Products Corp.
Title: Director of Product Management and Business Development
Gary Hsieh has been in the building and home controls market for his entire career. This path eventually led him to his current position at Lux Products.
“My goal is to develop products and services that are not only well-designed but make home comfort easy and affordable for homeowners,” said Hsieh, who holds an electrical engineering degree from Rutgers University.
Hsieh has led the development of products, systems, and solutions to meet market demand and innovation. He has been the driving influence in Lux’s product development group and, along with the Lux team, has helped create a pipeline of new products.
One of the secrets to Hsieh’s success is his ability to roll up his sleeves and get hands-on while learning from end users and HVAC contractors. He has a knack for evaluating and identifying the meaningful features that allow HVAC contractors to win bids.
Company: Klein Tools Inc.
The market brought Klein Tools and Mark Klein to the HVAC industry. After hearing from electricians who left that business to join the HVAC trade, he discovered they still wanted Klein Tools but could not find them at the local HVAC distributor.
Over the last 10 years, Mark Klein has developed and managed an entirely new HVAC sales force, strategy, distribution network, and customer base for Klein Tools. He originally developed 30 products specifically for the HVAC market and the company’s offering have grown since then.
Also under his direction, the company has supported HVAC training programs and invested in the education of tomorrow’s workforce. He works to provide students with access to the best tools so they are well equipped to handle any challenge in the field.
“My goal is to continue expanding our HVAC market and supplying solutions for the talented professionals in the HVAC industry,” Klein said.
Company: KE2 Therm Solutions Inc.
Title: Product Manager
A faulty nametag started Ryan Kliethermes on his HVAC career. At the Mizzou Engineering Career Fair, his name badge fell off in front of the Sporlan booth and before he knew it he was serving as a sales engineer with the company.
Kliethermes later joined KE2 Therm Solutions as an original team member when the company launched in 2009.
“KE2 Therm develops refrigeration controls that provide energy savings, remote monitoring, and control. These devices provide anyone with a walk-in unit the ability to upgrade their equipment to cutting-edge technology,” Kliethermes said. “And, because KE2 Therm is a small company, I’ve had the opportunity to directly interact with many of our customers as I have concurrently served as product manager, technical support, installation specialist, customer service, salesman, and videographer. This has provided valuable insight to influence product development and design and stretched me to understand the IT [information technology] side of the puzzle.”
Company: Applied Companies
Title: Senior Vice President
Joe Klinger has been working at Applied Companies — an OEM started by his father — since he was 12 years old. After attending Purdue University, he began his career as a sales engineer and after three years started working as a refrigeration engineer. Eventually, he was promoted to director of business development where he managed a sales team while also acting as an application engineer. In that position, Klinger traveled around the world, working with customers to develop a custom solution to meet their requirements. He currently serves as senior vice president and is charged with overseeing both the engineering department and the business development department. In 2015, Applied Companies was awarded the Defender of the Year Award for excellence in support of the Army’s Warrior Information Network Tactical program based on the performance of a small 3-ton unit installed on a Humvee-mounted shelter that operates on the move.
“As a family business, I hope to continue growing Applied Companies and expanding the industries we serve,” Klinger said.
Company: Professional HVACR Service Inc.
Title: Vice President and COO
Joe Kokinda learned the industry by going on service calls with his dad at only 6 years old. He has grown up in the industry and now works as vice president and COO of Professional HVACR Service Inc. in Avon Lake, Ohio. The company is a full-service refrigeration contractor that offers a wide range of commercial refrigeration installation services.
“I decided to get involved when my father started this business model here in Ohio,” Kokinda said. “I remember traveling with him as a youngster living in Boca Raton to do Haagen Dazs and Edy’s service work — transport refrigeration involving eutectic plates — during the summer. We owned a business there in the 1990s while I was in high school. I guess it was inevitable that I got involved with the trade, as my father is very passionate about what he teaches.”
The company’s website pinpoints every location the company has worked. “Not many do what we do,” Kokinda said.
Title: Senior Technician
Company: Mid-State Mechanical Contractors
As senior technician, Matt Kominske has gained the vast knowledge necessary to diagnose and repair systems accurately and efficiently. Though, admittedly, he hopes to eventually take the next step in his career and become a second-generation owner of Middletown, Connecticut-based Mid-State Mechanical Contractors.
“I think the best part of my job is the fact that I get to work with my parents every day, which, for some people, would be a nightmare, but we have a great working relationship,” he said. “My mother does the scheduling, and my father and I do all the service calls and installs together. I am very proud of what my parents have created. They started the business in 1989, and I plan to continue on for a second generation. I really enjoy doing this job. It’s something different every day. It’s very tiring and stressful at times, but the good most definitely outweighs the bad.”
Title: Regional Sales Trainer
Gustavo Luna has assumed may responsibilities during his time with Danfoss and has excelled at them all. Since joining the company 16 years ago, his roles have included production, junior design engineer, engineering manager, business development manager, and now regional sales trainer.
He is currently educating and training South Texas HVACR contractors in addition to partnering with local trade schools to prepare the HVACR workforce of tomorrow. Last year, Luna hosted approximately 80 training events and seminars throughout the region, working with contractors, distributors, and trade schools. He provides individuals the information and skills necessary for them to advance their businesses and careers. Being bilingual, he is able to provide training in both English and Spanish.
He says his biggest HVACR accomplishment was being part of the condensing units design team. “We created a complete line of refrigeration condensing units from scratch,” Luna said.
Company: AtlasCare Heating and Cooling
Title: Service Manager/Director of Customer Experience
Nimo Mansouri’s HVAC career began in a grocery store. He was on the phone with a friend, discussing job opportunities, when a gentleman overhead the conversation and said, “Cut your losses kid and go into a different field. Go into HVAC.”
That is what Mansouri did, and eight years later he is the service manager and director of customer experience for AtlasCare Heating and Cooling in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. His work has allowed the company to have many positive reviews online. He works with all the company’s service technicians and customer care staff to execute their mission of delivering a fantastic customer experience with every interaction.
“I want to continue to thrive and excel in my new position as service manager and also move further up at AtlasCare,” he said. “Of course, I want to do this while continuing to learn and expand my knowledge in the HVAC field,”
Company: Goettl Air Conditioning
Title: Director of Business Processes
Angela Miller is a true change agent in the HVAC industry. In her atypical career, she has partnered with several notable HVAC management teams such as One Hour Air Conditioning, ARS Rescue Rooter, and, most recently, Tempe, Arizona-based Goettl Air Conditioning, where she has become a vital asset with her unique skill of identifying, innovating, and implementing best business practices.
“I have been blessed with a career that has offered growth and the ability to continue to learn and work alongside people who are passionate about what they do,” Miller said. “Even though our industry isn’t often the first choice when people select their careers, it does provide an amazing opportunity to support families, help people, and if you do it right, build significant legacy.”
As the director of business process for Goettl, Miller has helped the company grow more than 400 percent over the past three years as it now operates in three states and services more than 50,000 customers a year.
Company: HVAC Technical Institute
Title: Director of Education
About 15 years ago, Jason Obrzut was laid off from a job working on a dock. At that point, he decided he needed a different path in life. He went to school to learn HVAC at the HVAC Technical Institute and, today, he is the director of education at that same school.
In that position, he leads six instructors in revising, updating, and writing curriculum. He has taught more than 1,000 technicians in Chicago and received certified master HVAC educator (CMHE) credentials from HVAC Excellence. Obrzut also won first place in the HVAC Excellence Teachers and Trainers competition.
His goals in HVAC center on education.
“I would love to become an accomplished HVAC educational author,” Obrzut said. “I have a passion for teaching and passing along knowledge that can put people in a position to start their careers as technicians. I would like to see more young people get into the trades.”
Title: Regional General Manager
Anthony Pascucci started his HVAC career on the contracting side of his family’s company. In 2015, he made the transition to the manufacturing side as a regional general manager at Johnson Controls/York unitary products group.
“My background has been imperative in helping me lead a truly contractor-focused organization,” Pascucci said. “To be an excellent partner, I believe you need to take care of contractors first. Our sales will grow from there.”
He is now using his knowledge to create opportunities in the Florida HVAC market for his York dealers to grow their businesses by engaging dealers in business and sales training.
In less than a year, he transitioned York from being sold by a third-party distributor to being factory-direct. Under his leadership, York has opened five new area branches in Florida with more being planned in the future.
Company: G.W. Berkheimer Co.
Title: Branch Manager
John Primmer started with G.W. Berkheimer in the spring of 2003. He was hired as summer help for the warehouse and worked his way up through the company from there.
Now, as branch manager, Primmer holds the reigns of a multimillion dollar branch in northern Indiana. He has built many strong relationships with contractors and maintained a high ethical standard. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment to the industry is turning out several well-trained employees who are advancing within G.W. Berkheimer and the local HVAC market. He is constantly stressing the importance of training and following local codes.
He views the successful opening of a new branch in Joliet, Illinois, as a monumental moment.
“I want to continue to develop strong relationships with our customers while providing them with the best customer service,” Primmer said. “A continued focus on development, training, and growth for our employees is essential for the growth of the company.”
Company: Carolina Comfort Air
Title: President of New Construction
Josh Reason is the president of new construction at Carolina Comfort Air in Clayton, North Carolina, and every year since he’s been employed, the company has experienced an increase in revenue. He started on the ground floor with the company and worked his way into his current position. He works with builders throughout four locations and maintains great relationships.
Reason was hired in March 2008 as a new construction helper. At that time, the company had 25 employees and they now have 300. Reason worked a lot of long days and nights to further the business and his career.
“My career HVAC goals are to further my licenses by obtaining an H2 [commercial license in North Carolina], further grow and develop our residential new construction department, and assist with advancing our company into the commercial new construction market, as well. We, as a team, look forward to growing into one of the largest residential commercial HVAC companies in the nation,” Reason said.
Company: Blackman Plumbing Supply Co.
Title: HVAC Division Manager
Starting at a young age, HVAC has been in Justin Renna’s blood. Growing up in the industry, he would spend days off from school working with his father at his grandfather’s HVAC company, DPD Heating & Cooling.
After college and a stint at the family business, he took a job with ABCO HVACR Supply & Solutions, where he was hired as a sales account manager. He handled a list of roughly 100 contractors with total sales volume in the $6 million to $7 million range. Through hard work and relationship building, he was able to drive the monetary size of his list to north of $13 million.
This past June, he joined Blackman Plumbing Supply as the HVAC division manager.
“This position allows me to own the HVAC portion of the company, implement more of my ideas, and grow professionally,” Renna said.
Company: Bill Howe Heating & Air Conditioning
Title: HVAC General Manager
Eric Sanchez had a quick rise at San Diego-based Bill Howe Heating & Air Conditioning. He became involved in the industry right out of high school after being influenced by an HVAC vocational teacher.
He started at Bill Howe Heating & Air Conditioning as a senior service technician and was quickly promoted to field supervisor. A few years after that, at age 36, he was named HVAC general manager. The HVAC department was struggling and Sanchez brought a well-thought-out business plan to the owners. They liked what they saw and put Sanchez and his plan to work. They have been rewarded with a profitable department.
Sanchez’s hard work, knowledge, and dedication has allowed him to climb the corporate ladder.
“My goal is to transform our HVAC division into the best HVAC company in San Diego, with revenues in the $15 million range every year.”
Company: Bayside Comfort Inc.
Andy Schlotterer is the second-generation owner of Bayside Comfort Inc. in Marblehead, Ohio. He was 28 years old when he purchased the family business from his parents. He had worked at the company as an installer during high school and college and continued into sales after graduation. In his six years as owner, the company, which specializes in residential and light commercial work, has doubled in size while remaining profitable.
“My goal is to be successful and profitable growing the business. There are a lot of companies I have seen grow fast and out of control, which leads to unhappy customers and employees. My plan, when I purchased the company, was to grow, but to grow with the same principles that had gotten us to where we stand. We have a great reputation in the area, but we’re just coasting along,” Schlotterer said.
Company: Homesense Heating and Cooling
Brian Schutt shows how small businesses can leverage low-cost communications and marketing to grow and position themselves as experts in the industry. In fact, the company has been featured in the New York Times and was named Dealer of the Year in 2013 by Carrier Corp. distributor Koch Air LLC.
Schutt was recently elected president of the Heating and Air Conditioning Alliance of Indiana, the state’s trade association. This is a quick rise for Schutt, who started Indianapolis-based Homesense Heating and Cooling in 2009 with business partner Jesse Cross with no previous technical experience.
“My goal is to fundamentally change the way homeowners view the HVAC industry,” Schutt said. “Unfortunately, for far too long, our industry has lived into the worst expectations that homeowners have of HVAC and home services, in general. Too many people think we’re dirty and dishonest. Since starting Homesense, the goal has been to add transparency to our process, clarity to our communication, and alignment between our company’s goals and our client goals.”
Company: Johnstone Supply, Eastern Michigan and Northwest Ohio
Title: Chief Operating Officer
Amber Sheehan-Jelinek operates one of the fastest-growing HVAC distributors, Johnstone Supply, Eastern Michigan and Northwest Ohio. Like many, she grew up in the business and her father and mentor encouraged her to get involved in all facets of the business.
“As a teenager, I discovered a true passion for HVACR distribution,” Sheehan-Jelinek said. “The opportunity to help solve contractors’ unique challenges on a daily basis inspired me.”
In 2016, her company was honored as one of Michigan’s 50 Companies to Watch by the Michigan Celebrates Small Business Organization — the first HVACR company to receive the award. Sheehan-Jelinek is involved with Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), serves as a board member of the Southeast Michigan ACCA, and is on the advisory board of Northwestern Technical Institute.
“My primary goal is to focus on our company’s short- and long-term core initiatives. In order for our team to reach these goals, we must continue to support our industry through education and stewardship,” said Sheehan-Jelinek.
Company: R.N. Smith Heating and Cooling
Title: Sales/Service Tech
Any business that is 94 years old needs some new blood now and then, and that is just what Brian Smith provided for Lancaster, Ohio-based R.N. Smith Heating and Cooling. He started working for the family business in high school and has not stopped. He is currently a sales/service tech with the company.
Smith graduated from Ferris State University with a degree in HVAC. At the company, he has been a stock boy, installer, service technician, salesman, and web designer.
“My goals are to run the company as a fourth-generation owner,” Smith said. “I would like to further educate myself on the changes throughout the industry and be a good leader for my employees.”
As a salesman, he has helped the company to the highest sales results in the history of R.N. Smith Heating and Cooling.
Company: Sky Heating & Air Conditioning
Travis Smith finalized the purchase of the family business from his father Bill in January 2013. Since then, he has transformed what was a new construction production shop into a company specializing in high-end retrofit sales featuring conventional unitary equipment as well as ductless mini splits and ground-source units.
Smith started at a young age and even has a note in a baby book showing his first day of work occurred when he was 6 months old.
“My ultimate goal is to grow a heating company with multiple locations to serve the Pacific Northwest,” Smith said. “I feel there are a lot of markets with heating contractors not taking good care of their customers, and we want to combine large company service with that small-company feel that meets our customers’ needs.”
Smith is an active member of the Home Builders Association, a member of the Home Performance Council, and was recognized as one of The NEWS’ Best Contractor To Work For earlier this year.
Title: Training Manager
Brett Sumpter started working in the HVAC industry in 2011 after a successful career in NASCAR. He was hired with no HVAC experience and became a maintenance technician after completing the company’s tech builder program. Sumpter learned the business from the ground up.
In 2015, his technical skills and strong work ethic were noticed and he was promoted to training manager at Morris-Jenkins Heating and Air Conditioning in Charlotte, North Carolina. He teaches the technical portions of the program and has helped more than 50 technicians graduate in the last 12 months, which bolsters the company’s continual growth.
“My goal is to design the most progressive, innovative, and hands-on training program for candidates interested in the HVAC industry,” Sumpter said.
Sumpter is also a member of the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) technical committee and helps write the questions on the exams for different certificates.
Company: Schneider’s Refrigeration
Title: Service Manager
Despite being only 37 years old, Greg Surma has spent 19 years in the HVAC industry. He started at Fredericksburg, Texas-based Schneider’s Refrigeration while finishing up high school. After graduation, he earned his associate’s degree in HVAC and returned to the company, where he started working as an install technician. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to service technician and now works as the company’s service manager.
“I was thinking about going to engineering school but decided against it, and the rest is history,” Surma said.
Surma has always been an advocate of keeping up with the ever-changing industry and growing the business. He has grown with the company, which included a name change and a change in ownership to his brother-in-law and sister. He aims to bring an open mind to the table, knowing what clients want, especially the younger generation, which prefers more wireless integration. He holds two weekly training sessions with his team — Wednesdays are reserved for client-relations training and Thursday is a technical training day.
“I like to help my techs learn the proper way to work and diagnose problems,” Surma said. “I like to think we solve problems that other companies can’t.”
Company: Koch Air LLC
Title: Marketing Manager
The reputation of the Koch family brought Amy Watson to the HVAC industry.
“When I saw a marketing position was open at Koch Air, I jumped at the opportunity,” Watson said. “I knew I had a solid foundation with my marketing knowledge and figured I would learn the nuances of the HVAC industry.”
She did just that. Watson has been instrumental in helping introduce and guide their dealer network through new media and marketing technologies. She has brought insightful leadership in social media, website design, and traditional marketing campaigns.
According to Watson, the key is to build a good team and never get comfortable.
“We want to continue building a world-class team of HVAC marketing professionals that evolves services to take advantage of current market opportunities and partners well with our dealer and vendor network to grow our HVAC business,” Watson said.
Company: Mahalo Heating & Air Conditioning
Title: Lead Service Technician
Right out of high school, Brandon Willis enlisted in the Air Force and served four years as an HVAC mechanic. Following his enlistment, he started a four-year HVAC apprenticeship and came to Roseburg, Oregon-based Mahalo Heating & Air Conditioning with a strong HVAC background.
He began with Mahalo shortly after the company opened in 2008. He works tirelessly to make sure each and every one of his customers is comfortable and satisfied with his service.
“My goal is to continue what I am doing,” Willis said. “I want to stay focused and motivated. I find it important to keep up on industry trends to provide my customers the best service possible.”
Coworkers still tell the story of when Willis called back to the office after a service call from a few miles away to see if the office had any chains. It seemed his service van would not make it up the hill to his next call in the snow, and he wanted to make sure he got there.
Publication date: 8/22/2016