John Steele was working for a general contractor when a family friend, who worked for a heating and cooling supply company, contacted him and mentioned there was a manager-in-training career opportunity available.

During the two-year manager training program, he learned every area of the branch operations, including warehouse, delivery driver, warehouse manager, counter sales, inside sales, assistant manager, and more.

“After working in these areas, I was given a choice between branch manager or territory manager,” said Steele, 35. “I went for the territory manager position and found my drive to win served as a valuable skill.”

Steele served as a territory manager for six years, taking a $300,000 book of business to $10 million-plus. For four of those years, he earned territory manager of the year.

“I have tremendous respect for all the positions within the HVAC industry,” he said. “Without each role working well, everything falls apart. I’ve seen good teams, bad teams, and great teams. Teamwork is the most important part of a successful distributor. I’m grateful to be part of one of the best teams at CFM Equipment Distributors.”

Steele now serves as a sales and marketing manager for CFM, a position he cherishes due to his ability to help people succeed in life and busienss.

“I aspire to continue to learn and grow in the HVAC industry,” he said. “I seek to find new ways to inspire my team and become a force multiplier so that each member of the team learns how to win, providing industry-dominating value, and growth through teamwork and excellence. I have dozens of stories of coworkers (former and present) who’ve struggled to make it and by helping them grow as people, they are succeeding in life and business.”

Steele’s ability to do everything, from quote to delivery, for his customers earned him the nickname “the Man of Steel;” however a medical emergency caused him to hit the brakes.

“I spent years stressing out every time the company I represented couldn’t support my dealers' business,” Steele said. “Because of that, I had a mild heart attack at the age of 27.”

Steele said the HVAC industry is built on integrity.

“This industry is so small that it creates a family feel, where everybody knows everybody,” he said. “I don’t think you can last in this trade if you don’t work hard because word travels fast. When you know that you’re going to be in this industry for the next 30-plus years you recognize that doing things with excellence and integrity matters more than trying to make a buck.”

The up-and-coming generation struggles forming relationships, he said.

“The younger generation struggles to connect with the contracting world as a whole,” he said. “This is partly because the trade tends to be about 15 years in technology years behind society, and the newer generation is extremely addicted to technology.”

As products and services become more commoditized in today’s Amazon-driven world, Steele sees the value of partnerships disappearing.

“These relationships are extremely important for the success of both contractors and distributors,” he said. “We need each other to succeed.”

Steele is a graduate of HARDI’s emerging leaders program and is an ordained minister. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife of nine years and three daughters, playing piano, watching basketball, and working on classic cars.

Publication date: 12/26/18