Mingledorff's Inc.: Staying on the Leading Edge
Mingledorff's Inc. continues to build on its long history in the HVACR industry, evolving, growing, and innovating as the decades have passed.
Walter Lee Mingledorff Jr., the father of current chairman Bud Mingledorff, founded the company in 1939 in Savannah, Ga. Mingledorff's began as a franchised installation contractor for Carrier Corp. The company's first job was to install air conditioning in the home of Lee Mingledorff's father-in-law in Savannah. The company's territory covered the eastern lower half of the state of Georgia and part of the Florida Panhandle, including Tallahassee.
During World War II, Carrier built tank components for the U.S. Army. Mingledorff's temporarily ceased its HVAC operations and Lee Mingledorff went to work for Savannah Machine and Foundry, building mine sweepers for the Navy. After the war, the company was restarted as a direct contractor/distributor for Carrier. Mingledorff's diversified into the retail appliance business as well as inventing and installing shrimp boat refrigeration equipment.
In 1958, the company decided to consolidate. Carrier Atlanta (now Aircond, a subsidiary of EMCOR Group) acquired the contracting side of the business and Mingledorff's became a wholesale distributor only. In addition, the appliance business was sold and the shrimp boat refrigeration business closed.
During this time, the company also moved its headquarters operations to Atlanta. Since Lee Mingledorff was mayor of Savannah and did not want to move, Ed Eckles, then vice president, took over as president. Also in 1958, Mingledorff's hired the two wholesale salesmen who had been working for Carrier Atlanta. One of those salesmen was Bob Kesterton, who would become president in 1969 upon the retirement of Eckles. Bob Kesterton is the father of current president David Kesterson.
Bud Mingledorff joined the company in 1962 working part-time as its only parts department warehouseman. He became a room unit floor plan checker in 1965. After serving in the Army from 1968 to 1970, he returned as the company's pricing administrator. From there he moved up to sales administration manager, operations manager, general manager of Bryant Air, manager of the North Georgia Division, and vice president.
From 1969 to 1995, Bob Kesterton and his management team grew the company from $5 million to $97 million in total sales. In addition, Mingledorff's multi-branch expansion began with the opening of its first branch location in Marietta, Ga., in 1983. In 1985, the company moved its headquarters to Norcross, Ga.
David Kesterton joined the business in 1977 working in the warehouse at 16 years of age. He then moved to the parts department before heading to Auburn University and working in the parts department during the summers. Kesterton then moved to commercial support, became territory manager, sales manager, and general manager in 1995.
In November 1995, Bud Mingledorff took over as president and Bob Kesterton became chairman. Under Bud Mingledorff's leadership the company continued its expansion and diversification in the HVAC business.
In January 2008, David Kesterton took on the duties of president and Bud Mingledorff became chairman.
SIX STATES AND 35 BRANCHESMingledorff's now operates in six states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. It currently has 35 branch locations. "The newest are in Dothan, Ala., and Anniston, Ala.," said Kesterton.
The company supplies residential products from Carrier, Bryant, Payne, and Mitsubishi Electric. In north Alabama, it handles Heil, and in middle Tennessee, it supplies Tempstar. The company also offers aftermarket parts from Totaline.
On the commercial side, the brands it handles include Bard, Carrier, Data Aire, Florida Heat Pump, Mitsubishi Electric, Modine, Munters, and more.
To support engineers, contractors, and owners, Kesterton said, "The company trains extensively on application, installation, and service on both the residential and commercial sides of the business." He noted that Mingledorff's has "won the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification award for the last three years for the most NATE training and testing."
OTHER BUSINESS UNITSBesides being a major HVAC wholesale distributor, said Kesterton, Mingledorff's has four other business units that operate as subsidiaries. Holden & Associates is a fan and air distribution rep firm that was acquired in January 2000. The company handles the Greenheck, Titus, and Valent brands.
Contractor Financial Services, launched in 1997, is a business consulting firm providing accounting and other financial services for contractors. Danny Smith, CPA, runs the business. "He was a territory manager for 20 years before starting the business," Kesterton said.
Carrier Complete Systems in Atlanta, acquired in 2000, gave the company the large applied mechanical product line from Carrier. This unit is focused on the design and engineering of large commercial projects.
Commercial Controls of Georgia is focused on the building automation and controls business. It is a turnkey controls business, inaugurated in 2002, providing sales, support, and installation.
CULTURE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP"We have a rich history and culture of entrepreneurship in the company," Kesterton said. He encourages his general managers to make their own decisions "and be nimble and fast." The goal is to operate more like a smaller company and not get bogged down in bureaucracy. General managers, in turn, "encourage decision-making down through the ranks to the store level all the way to the counter."
It's important to "trust people to make the right decisions."
Rick Center, general manager, Gulf Coast, said it was a "breath of fresh air joining Mingledorff's and being able to run my segment of the business as I see fit and have my judgment trusted."
It is "very much a collaborative company."
Rob Massey, general manager, Southeast, agreed that the company does not micromanage people. He noted that counter sales people have ranges they work with. If they verify competitive pricing, they can step outside the range. "On generic parts they have a lot of autonomy."
Jim Spenello, LEED(r) AP, general manager, North Georgia, said each store "is set up almost like a mini-business." Part of the store manager's compensation is based on profitability.
One store manager came up with the idea of a Subway promotion card. If a customer buys five line items, he gets a $5 Subway discount card for lunch. When a store comes up with a successful idea like this, it can spread company-wide.
E-COMMERCE AND MOBILE APPDoing business electronically has grown at Mingledorff's. Kesterton noted that the company has been doing e-commerce for over 10 years, and it is about 20 percent of its business.
To further expand its digital capabilities, the company developed a mobile app that works on smartphones and the iPad, and provides price and availability along with a catalog search function. "Within months the app will have a shopping cart feature," said Kesterton.
For its residential customers, Mingledorff's developed a proposal program that was introduced last October and runs on the iPad. The contractor uses the program in front of the consumer, and it provides real-time pricing on equipment, parts, and supplies. It picks up the most current prices from Mingledorff's database for estimates. "This is a huge benefit for our dealers, and many are using the program to enhance their profitability," Kesterton said.
HELPING LEAD HARDIMingledorff's has not only been a leading company, Bud Mingledorff has also stepped up to help lead HARDI over the past year as president.
"I have really enjoyed my year as HARDI president," he said. "I found it invaluable to have the opportunity to meet and get to know distributors and other HARDI members from all different parts of the country and talk about our industry.
"Being active in HARDI has helped me and my business, and I urge all of our members to take an active role in our association."
As he gets ready to hand over the reins at the upcoming HARDI annual conference, Mingledorff said, "I end my term feeling good about the direction of HVACR distribution and HARDI."