2019 Top 40 Under 40 HVACR Professionals
The NEWS’ Top 40 Under 40 List
I am sure you have heard the phrase that the HVAC industry is graying. Of course, that is just a polite way of saying the industry is getting old.
Granted, it is all relative. Some of those “graying” individuals are still pretty darn strong in the industry. For example, talk to contractor-turned-consultant Larry Taylor for five minutes and it becomes abundantly clear that he has more energy and original ideas than someone half his age.
Still, everyone knows that HVAC needs an influx of young talent. The simple fact is that people are retiring from this industry faster than others are joining the industry.
However, that does not mean that the industry does not also have dynamic younger people preparing to take the reins. In fact, a lot of these younger folks are already in leadership positions. As with any organization or industry, young talent needs to be coming through the ranks in order to secure a positive future.
The NEWS wants to do its part. And since we buy ink by the barrel, we thought it was our duty to highlight these young individuals. The goal is two-fold. First, we want to provide some much-needed congratulations to the hardworking younger generation transforming this industry. Also, we want to raise awareness about what a great industry HVAC is for people, and that is the goal of our Top 40 Under 40 list.
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.
It is easy to forget how many young people are doing truly great things for the industry. This list really highlights some of the best and the brightest coming up in the HVAC industry.
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.
While hundreds could certainly have been highlighted, we were tasked with choosing the top 40. Check out the list to see who made this year’s list and get to know the individuals who are already leading the trade into the future.
Company: Infinity Texas Air
Trapper Barnes started Infinity Texas Air 10 years ago as a one-man operation, leaving a secure, lucrative position to pursue his own path to success as an entrepreneur. When he started out, he handled everything from sales calls to full system installations to running maintenance and demand calls. Today, he employs over a dozen individuals and is continuously growing his Infinity team. Infinity Texas Air has adopted his forward-thinking business mentality. Barnes offers weekly training sessions with all of his employees, including the office staff. He has a live training laboratory set up inside the shop for technicians and installers to simulate difficult maintenance/install jobs and to train how to best approach them. All of his employees are encouraged to seek outside training opportunities whenever available. In addition, Barnes encourages his staff to improve themselves, both personally and professionally, so that each can fully succeed at life.
“I aspire to make a difference every day in my team: to give them the confidence to not give up on their dreams and passion,” Barnes said. “I hope that I make an impact in their life. My vision is to create a family-like environment of teammates, working together, to give customers an unforgettable experience in customer service.”
In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, Barnes is also a success coach with Go Time Success Group and an advisory board mentor with Service Nation Alliance.
Company: IceBound HVAC & Refrigeration
Tersh Blissett joined the HVAC industry in 2004 as a 21-year-old rookie. Since then, he has worked as a service technician and service manager for a few HVAC contractors in Georgia before starting his own business in the Savannah, Georgia, area in 2010.
In 2017, Blissett began hosting a podcast as part of the www.bluecollarroots.com media network. His podcast, Service Business Mastery, focuses on ways to help business owners and technicians who are thinking about starting their own businesses. Through his weekly shows, he shares his successes and failures with listeners, and interviews experts in the field to help listeners improve their business and their life.
In 2018, Blissett started his second HVACR business at the ripe old age of 35: IceBound HVAC & Refrigeration in Pooler, Georgia, a suburb of Savannah. His goal is to provide the highest quality residential and commercial HVAC services with a “people over profits” attitude.
“My goal is to help educate others in our industry and bring awareness to the public about the benefits of our trade,” Blissett said.
Blissett takes advantage of the latest technologies, employing them throughout his business. From digital/wireless test instruments to paperless dispatching and invoicing to a responsive website and strong social media presence, technology is one way that he and his team differentiate themselves from the competition.
Company: Grundfos Americas
Title: Vice President of Sales, Commercial Building Services
Greg Bretz is the vice president of commercial building sales for Grundfos Americas. Since starting at Grundfos in 2003, Bretz has served in a variety of roles, including sales, business development, key account management, and product management. His experience spans several markets including industry, water treatment, commercial buildings, and OEM, specializing in HVAC. In all segments and roles, he has been instrumental in driving initiatives of bringing new and innovative products to the market that push the boundaries of efficiency.
Bretz is big on education; he holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from The University of Toledo and a master’s in business administration from DePaul University. He has also participated in programs like Six Sigma Green Belt Certification from Villanova University and the Harvard Business School’s High Potential Leadership Program.
Bretz’s career in the HVAC market has coincided with the market transformation from fixed-speed, cast iron pumps to integrated variable-speed drives, a shift he has helped bring about. In his product management and development role in 2012, he led the launch of the MAGNA3 to the North American HVAC market.
In his current role, Bretz leads a team of over 20 members, plus a wide distributor network. He manages a large market position and has consistently grown market share year over year.
“If I look back at the end of my career and can say that I helped contribute in some way to moving the HVAC pumping industry into the 21st century, I think I’ll have something to be proud of,” Bretz said.
Company: Dry Air Systems Inc.
Title: Vice President
Chuck Brunelle officially started in the HVAC industry at the age of 14. He worked summers in the sheet metal fabrication shop and in the field, assisting installations. Even before that time, he can recall many days he spent time helping out around the office and stocking shelves.
“I have had the opportunity to watch our family business grow from a young age, which allows me to appreciate how far the company has come,” Brunelle said.
When he graduated from high school, Brunelle joined Dry Air Systems full time as purchasing agent. Over the last 12 years, he has held various roles in the company including assistant estimator, project manager, chief estimator, and his current role, vice president. He holds an Unrestricted Journeyman Sheet Metal License, Universal EPA Certification, Diamond Designer Certification for Mitsubishi, and is ACCA QIV certified.
Brunelle believes his success in the industry is proof that a career in the trades is as rewarding as the more commonly chosen path — a four-year degree. He has brought many other young individuals into the industry, and they have built great careers for themselves under his guidance. Brunelle now leads a team of multiple project managers, estimators, service manager, warehouse personnel, and office staff to ensure his team provides excellent execution in all aspects of HVAC. Since he joined the team full time in 2007, Dry Air Systems has tripled in size and currently employs over 75 people.
Company: Sav Mor Mechanical Services
Title: Service Field Supervisor
Patrick Butler is both a field supervisor for Sav Mor Mechanical Services and an HVAC instructor. He has been with the company for 14 years.
“Every job and hobby I have had in my life has led me to HVAC commercial service,” he said.
Butler started out as an apprentice in 2005 and graduated as a Master Journeyman in 2010. In 2012, Butler started teaching at that same school he had attended — the Joint Apprenticeship Training Center for USWU Local 355. At the end of his first year, he was named Teacher of the Year. It was the first time the school has ever given the award to a rookie teacher. He has now won the award a total of five times.
“My goal is to see all of my students succeed in their careers and become leaders in the industry. And also to teach as many people I can about the trade I have dedicated my life to: HVAC,” Butler said.
His co-workers have taken to calling him “the professor,” while customers have dubbed him “Sherlock” for his ability to figure out a problem.
“Our customers really appreciate my honesty and how I go the extra mile for them,” Butler said. “When I got married and when my children were born, I had customers sending us cards and gifts. It’s very touching when they take the time to do that for the guy who fixes their air conditioning. That’s how you know you’ve made an impact.”
Company: Canady’s Heating, Air, and Plumbing
Title: General Manager, Vice President, Sales Manager
Kyle Canady has worked his way up the ladder at Canady’s Heating, Air, and Plumbing since starting there six years ago. He was born into an HVAC family, as his father had started the business just before Kyle was born.
“I grew up running duct, and working in both our installation and service departments,” Canady said. “The culture at our business years ago was not terrible, but typical. It wasn’t necessarily a fun place to be, and I had a hard time seeing a future in it.”
He went on to college and graduated with a degree in nursing.
“I worked in critical care for a year or so, and was not fulfilled in what I was doing,” he continued. “I am an implementer by personality type, and my hands were tied in that field. At a critical decision point of going back to graduate school, my dad offered a job to me with the opportunity of growing in the company — with hard work, as always. I came back as an installation technician and worked my way up through the company over the last seven years. I have now found an avenue to create, implement, and make a difference in not only our employees’ lives, but in the lives of those in our community.”
The company was one of Rheem’s top performers and made the Top 20 Pro Partner list for 2018. Since taking over operations in 2017, Canady has helped the business grow 100 percent and increase net profit twofold.
Company: Madison & East Mechanical
Title: Founder and President
A lot of HVAC contractors get their start in HVAC from a family member. Not many venture out and start their own competing business. But Michael DeRitis, founder and president of Madison & East Mechanical, did just that.
“I have a couple of family members who are in the HVAC industry and I was pulled in right from college,” DeRitis said. “My uncle, who owns his company, took me under his wing at a young age to learn the industry inside and out. I’m not so sure he is happy about that today, considering we are competitors.”
In just five short years, DeRitis has grown that brand-new company into a multimillion dollar success and has started a sister company in Florida. He no longer runs the business out of his home, but has a principal office location, nine vans, and a staff of 14 — plus an office mascot named Bullet.
“My biggest accomplishment is taking the leap of faith and starting Madison & East,” DeRitis said. “I remember the day I decided to go out on my own. I made sure I had the best support group behind me and made sure my work ethic was second to none. At 25 years old, the young gun on the job site, I had to fight for respect due to my age and had to overcome that age gap.”
Company: High Efficiency Solutions
Dustin Ebersole founded High Efficiency Solutions after completing an internship and working at another local HVAC company. His company is now three techs strong. He has made it a priority to hire young, green employees and train them from the ground up. This inherently means slower growth, but he hopes it leads to a low turnover rate and high quality work. So far, it has.
“My goal for High Efficiency Solutions is to build our company to 8-12 full time technicians over the next six years while maintaining a healthy level of profitability,” Ebersole said.
Ebersole is a Fujitsu Elite dealer. His two favorite sectors are ductless and hydronics, although he does “all things HVAC,” as his company tagline reads. He is a member of ASHRAE and RSES and a licensed proctor for the EPA section 608 exam. Ebersole also teaches an EPA 608 certification course twice a year at the local tech school.
“Goals for myself consist of becoming a better businessman,” he said. “I was a technician first who started an HVAC contracting company. I’d like to focus more on the business side of the industry and perhaps take some business classes, ultimately helping High Efficiency Solutions thrive.”
High Efficiency Solutions won the local Building Industry Association’s Remodeling Showcase award for Energy Efficiency in 2018 and 2019 for two systems that Ebersole designed and the company installed.
Company: Air Equipment Co.
Title: VRF Specialist
Brandon Fisher was looking to start a career after serving in the Marine Corps, and soon found Air Equipment Co. Despite joining the company with only a basic knowledge of variable refrigeration systems, he has since totally immersed himself in the technology and has set himself apart as an expert in the local industry. He serves as VRF specialist for Air Equipment Co.
“I showed up with my hand tools and a lunchbox, ready to work,” he said. “I consumed every book, podcast, YouTube video I could find on HVAC, ductwork, code, and eventually VRV and VRF. My passion for the technology, interest in BAS/ BMS, willingness to learn a new technology, and the support of my wife and three sons has gotten me to where I am today.”
Fisher continues to be a great example for his co-workers.
“I assist selecting the right equipment to meet the specifications of our design engineering customers, and either directly implement or assist our mechanical contracting customers with the implementation of the design,” he said. “I am also the front line of technical assistance to our customers and end users.”
He also wants to give back and help others.
“I hope that I can use my experience, the network I have developed, and the resources we have available to promote technical education in our public education institutions, as well as promoting vocational mission through our local Christian ministries,” Fisher said.
Company: Goettl Air Conditioning and Plumbing
Title: Sales Manager
Stephen Gamst started in the HVAC field at the early age of 13, cutting his teeth by riding along with his dad, who just so happened to be on the cutting edge of the HVAC industry. Gamst inherited the knowledge, and to this day, he says HVAC is in his DNA.
Gamst HVAC, which later turned into Las Vegas Air, started in 1969 as a small one-man operation. Since his father’s passing, Gamst and his brother have built that company into a full-scale heating, refrigeration, air conditioning, and maintenance company: Las Vegas Air Conditioning Inc. The brothers still run calls today because, as they say, “the only way to ensure our company is doing the right thing is to be there.”
At the point of acquiring Las Vegas Air in 2013, it was just Stephen Gamst, his brother, and one technician. Over the next two years, he grew the company to five times the size with 11 technicians, two salesmen, and eight installers.
He orchestrated a successful merger with Paradise Air, streamlining the companies accounting and marketing efforts. Soon after in 2017, Gamst forged a partnership with longtime HVAC leader Ken Goodrich of Goettl Air Conditioning and Plumbing. The merger between Las Vegas Air and Paradise Air meant providing their combined customer base with expanded HVAC services in the residential and light commercial sector.
The partnership propelled Gamst’s already booming business, with 20 employees and more than 15 trucks, into an $11 million/year business with exponential year-over-year growth. This year, they are shooting for $42 million.
Company: Navac Inc.
Title: Northern U.S. Regional Manager
Andrew Greaves is involved in the HVAC industry in two different roles. He is involved in the manufacturer/distribution side of the business as the Northern U.S. Regional Manager for Navac. He is currently working to expand the northern United States distribution channels and representative network for the tool manufacturer.
“I want to achieve this goal by tirelessly promoting and teaching proper contractor practices with these tools through training to guarantee the greatest possible returns on their investments in our products,” Greaves said.
In addition to his day job, Greaves is an HVACR influencer and podcaster. His AK HVAC YouTube page has nearly 30,000 subscribers. The channel provides tips, tricks, reviews, and general discussions for HVAC professionals. Greaves guides tradespeople in the right direction with videos and discussions. He also participates in the HVAC Shoptalk podcast that has over 5,000 weekly downloads.
“My goals are to continue to create high quality, entertaining content to inspire and motivate the next younger generation of potential technicians to stop wondering and dive headfirst into the trade,” Greaves said. “What started out two years ago as a tech with a camera at work became just shy of a 30,000 community of technicians and young people considering the trade. Receiving messages from new or soon-to-be technicians, expressing how they made the decision to enroll in school or start an apprenticeship after viewing the content, is a humbling experience. It has been a pleasure and validation that the channel has been my most important contribution to the industry.”
Company: Comfort Supply Inc.
Title: Vice President
Brendan Heckler is a third-generation owner of Comfort Supply Inc., a wholesale distributor located in Western Pennsylvania specializing in American Standard, Mitsubishi, City Multi, and other HVAC product lines.
Under Heckler’s tutelage, the company has doubled in size and gone from one location to three over the past five years. Despite having grown up in the business, Heckler has helped to bring a fresh perspective to what was previously an old-school business model.
Nearly a decade ago, Heckler was one of the early ones in the industry to recognize the importance of social media in business and was responsible for setting up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for the company. He also began to emphasize to contractors the importance of using social media to reach a younger demographic. At the time, the idea seemed far-fetched and radical, but as social media has evolved over the past 10 years, it has become the norm. In 2018, Heckler also saw another opportunity to reach the customer base and beyond with the creation of the industry podcast titled Full of Hot (and Cold) Air, which he co-hosts alongside his wife.
“My goal is to continue to operate and fine-tune Comfort Supply … carrying on our family’s tradition of pushing the standard conventions of how HVAC distributors do business: expansion, growth, and success through the leveraging of our team culture,” Heckler said.
Company: Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical
Title: Chief Operating Officer
Jimmy Hiller Jr. is the chief operating officer at Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical. During his tenure, Hiller has increased bottom line revenue across multiple departments and organizations. Hiller’s expansive industry experience has fostered a unique ability to unify and motivate teams and develop comprehensive growth strategies stems.
After joining the Hiller team full-time in 2010, he has been an integral player in the company’s rapid annual growth and resulting success. Hiller quickly became the top salesperson across the business within his first year, achieving great results. Hiller then served as the general manager and brand ambassador for new locations as the business expanded through strategic acquisitions. His responsibilities included implementing processes, providing initial training to guarantee consistent quality, establishing ongoing talent development programs, and developing long-term strategies for revenue growth.
During his tenure at the Murfreesboro location, he tripled the branch’s annual revenue, making it the most profitable of seven locations in under two years. In 2014, Hiller overhauled an acquisition in Columbia, Tennessee, transforming it from the least profitable location to the most profitable within the same year.
“In my new role as COO, I would like to continue to improve our leadership development and recruitment pipelines,” he said. “At Hiller, we focus heavily on ongoing personal development for all of our team members. Establishing pathways to upward mobility, leadership succession planning, and uniform training processes of our team are a priority of mine.”
Company: Lee’s Air
Tom Howard got his start in the industry as a teenager, cleaning tools for a refrigeration owner/operator in New Hampshire. After learning some of the fundamentals, he moved out to California to go to school. While attending college full-time, he got a job at Lee’s Air doing sales and assisting the owner with operations. From there, he received a scholarship to attend business school at Brigham Young University — where he once again familiarized himself with a full-time school and work schedule. While going to school, he worked for a heating and air company in Utah.
After graduation, Howard tried his hand as an analyst at a large financial institution in Utah, as well as a manager at a law firm in Alaska. As fate would have it, he found his way back into the HVAC industry as president of Lee’s Air. A few months later, he purchased the company and began the transformation. In the last seven years, he has grown the top line revenue by over 500 percent while maintaining a healthy bottom line.
Every year, he provides a personal financial and a leadership class training people on how to invest in themselves and in others. His effect is far-reaching, as he currently owns companies in HVAC contracting, engineering and fire protection, pest control, business consulting, and eCommerce. They all have grown significantly and provided growth opportunities for many individuals. His consulting company provides ongoing education and training for home service companies throughout North America, and many individuals have been touched by his influence.
Company: Jackson Comfort Systems
Title: Operations Manager
Doug Jackson is a long-time technician who moved into management over the past few years at Jackson Comfort Systems. In the past year, Jackson has seen 13 percent growth in a market saturated with many other HVAC companies. Through technological improvements and many long hours, Doug Jackson has been able to recognize new ways to improve the company’s customer service both over the phone and on the website.
By implementing new systems (both physical and procedural), Jackson has increased the quality of service and public image of Jackson Comfort Systems without increasing customer pricing. He has transitioned well into leadership. Knowing what it is like to be in the field, Jackson has been able to encourage and teach technicians how to properly interact with customers and provide excellent service. As a solutions based manager, he always looks for the best way to solve problems and equip others throughout the process.
“My goal is to run a company focused on bettering the comfort and ultimately the lives of our team members and customers,” Jackson said. “My biggest accomplishment was the redesign of company marketing from the ground up. This included truck design, website, and customer notifications, as well as online and print advertising.”
Company: Online Access Inc.
Title: Sales and Marketing Director
Colleen Keyworth is the director of sales and marketing for Online-Access, an HVAC web marketing company located in Michigan. The company has been part of the HVAC industry since 2000. Keyworth regularly teaches and trains contractors around the country about how to better use the web to generate business. She has also been on the board of Women in HVAC for the last five years — updating and maintaining their web presence as well as their marketing and event planning.
During her time serving on the board, the organization has grown from 100 members to over 500. Keyworth also serves on the board of Southeast Michigan Air Conditioning Contractors Association.
“My goal is to continue to grow Online Access by providing new, innovative online and offline marketing solutions for our customers and to ultimately make an impact on the industry through involvement and support of Women in HVACR,” she said. “I love meeting new people and the synergy and friendships that result. I think people are the most powerful part of our industry and so I definitely plan to get out there and connect.”
In her spare time, Keyworth manages the social media for her family’s 62-year-old HVAC contracting business, Vincent’s Heating & Plumbing.
“I love working with our customers and get pretty passionate about coming up with new products and solutions to help them succeed,” Keyworth said.
Company: Tiger Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrical Services Inc.
Title: Managing Partner
Since choosing to join forces with Tiger Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning Services Inc. in 2013, Todd Kiefer has helped this local residential service company grow to be one of the most reputable and recognizable service providers in the St. Louis Metro-East. As general manager and part owner, Kiefer is responsible for an operation that has an average revenue growth of 19 percent over the past four years and is on pace to generate $10.5 million in revenue for 2019. The company employs 70 people.
In 2015, Kiefer was a driving force in the establishment of an electrical division within the company. Since then, the electrical division has grown by 55 percent in annual revenue and is now Tiger Electrical Services — its own unique company within the Tiger brand.
To broaden the Tiger brand, Kiefer is currently working to expand the company to Springfield, Illinois, and is eager to create jobs by implementing the Tiger Academy, an on-site training facility, to give people firsthand experience and training in the trades.
“My goal is to continue to grow all three businesses, continue to bring in top talent, continue to provide an amazing culture where employees are excited to work, and continue to provide a strong platform to serve our wonderful customers,” Kiefer said.
Company: Butler Heating & Air Conditioning
Title: Principal/Vice President
Nick Lamb has built a first-class HVAC organization in the form of Butler Heating & Air Conditioning. Once he became a part of the HVAC industry, Lamb immediately knew it was something special.
“I began working in the industry as a design engineering intern with Lau, a fan and blower manufacturer in Dayton,” he said. “I realized quickly that the industry is a good one! The need for heating and cooling products would only grow as new homes were built and people added HVAC systems to existing homes. Central air had transformed from a luxury to a necessity in the eyes of homeowners. I knew that the industry would offer many opportunities, and it did.”
Lamb transitioned from intern to engineer to product manager, then into sales and now ownership, all within the industry. This is the same message he provides to tech school students considering an HVAC career.
His entire staff of technicians are NATE certified. Lamb supplies factory training for aspiring installation and service technicians. Butler Heating & Air Conditioning also operates an in-house sheet metal shop that allows them to accommodate unique projects and scenarios that their team may encounter while providing a showroom for customers to walk in and receive customer service and sales.
The business obtained the People’s Choice Award as the best heating and air conditioning company in their local community.
Company: All Makes Heating & Air Conditioning Corp. (AMHAC)
Title: General Manager
Natalie Lloyd has been shaking up AMHAC from the moment she arrived 10 years ago at the age of 25. She graduated summa cum laude from Rutgers Business School with a marketing degree. Lloyd had a short-lived sales career as a life insurance sales manager. As many family business ventures often end, so did Lloyd’s first job, leading her into an entirely new career in the HVAC industry in 2009.
Lloyd started at AMHAC as a CSR/dispatcher. She also worked as office manager, head of human resources, and hiring manager. She also served as director of marketing before becoming general manager. Lloyd is the youngest among her associates but is trusted as the team’s leader due to her fresh ideas and momentous sales growth record.
“I came in at a time of transition,” Lloyd said. “The road to my success was a bumpy one, as change is almost always met with resistance. We lost some competent people along the way, but the new direction paid off.”
Lloyd made a huge push in marketing and was able to include the entire company in all the efforts — television advertising, internet, social media, etc. It ignited company pride, and started their new slogan: “AMHAC STRONG.”
“I give credit to AMHAC’s brand recognition from years in the industry, but our new marketing efforts created a buzz in the market,” she said. “It also helped our recruiting, hiring, and training process, as applicants began to pursue us.”
Company: Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning
Title: Commercial Installation Manager
Wesley Marchand started with Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning in his teenage years and was soon working summers as a commercial installation assistant while he attended college for his engineering degree.
Upon graduation from the University of Buffalo, Marchand began working as a junior salesperson before being promoted to department manager. Under his leadership, the commercial installation team has increased sales by 200 percent in just three and a half years, from where they were after decades of operation. Not only have sales increased, but so have productivity, efficiency, and morale. Marchand has created an engaged, capable, and fully functioning team that continues to get better daily while expanding into areas such as Pittsburgh and Nashville.
Marchand has transformed a commercial group model — one that had always relied on a salesman to handle their own projects from beginning to end, including design, estimating, layout, and oversight — into a scalable team that allows each member to flourish. Marchand has the vision of what it will take to grow his team to the next level, and he is taking the steps to get there.
“My dream for my career is to develop and lead a HVAC commercial/construction team that produces over $100 million per year in revenue,” he said. “With a lot of hard work and a little luck, I believe this to be an achievable goal, especially with the team that we are developing at Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning.”
Company: Moncrief Heating and Air Conditioning
Title: Vice President of Technical Service
As part of the fifth generation in his family to work in the HVAC industry, Phil Mutz literally brings a lifetime of experience to his work.
“I remember coming to work with my father and getting to hold the flashlight,” Mutz said. “It was always an adventure.”
That adventure became official in 2003, when Mutz joined Moncrief Heating and Air Conditioning. For the first 10 years, Mutz learned every aspect of the business by working his way up the ladder — beginning as an apprentice service technician. Along the way, he completed a degree in refrigeration sciences from Chattahoochee Technical College and obtained his State of Georgia Non-Restricted Conditioned Air License, his State of Georgia Master Plumber License, and his NATE certification.
In 2018, he was promoted to vice president of technical service, where he leads regular in-house technical training and assists the company’s 45 service and installation technicians with troubleshooting.
“I still run service calls and really enjoy the hands-on work with our team,” he said.
As part of executive management, he also supports new business development and marketing efforts.
In addition to his duties with Moncrief, Mutz is a technical advisor and management consultant to seven HVAC businesses and startups through Unique Indoor Comfort (UIC), a management and consulting firm founded by his grandfather to help small business operators grow and develop their companies. Mutz supports the UIC family of companies, performing technical training sessions and one-on-one coaching for technicians in the field.
Company: Charlie’s Tropic Heating & Air Conditioning
Title: General Manager
Amy O’Grady has worn many hats for the company her father started — Charlie’s Tropic Heating & Air Conditioning. Most recently, she got her Class A contractor license, but over the years, she has done everything from answering phones to new product development.
“Being a licensed woman in the HVAC industry has empowered me to push beyond what I thought I might be capable of and take on a new direction in the trades that I might not have planned for myself. I want to help ensure that this industry is able to attract and engage the strongest talent back into the trades. My start was not in the trades, and as a result, I would love to be a resource to other women looking to join HVAC industry,” O’Grady said.
She has learned the business from her dad and takes extreme pride in the more than 20 years of service they have provided to the Jacksonville community. O’Grady spends time looking at the overall changes in the industry and takes a new-school approach to implementing winning strategies to grow the business.
“My goal is to continue to bring new and innovative HVAC solutions to our company. The industry is changing so rapidly due to the changes in digital and the changing expectations of customer experience. As we introduce new technology, I want our customers and technicians to understand and navigate these changes with ease,” O’Grady said.
Company: M&R Air Conditioning
Ricky Orta is a second-generation HVAC technician and contractor. He got his first taste of the business at age 5.
“My father would lay out all his duct board in our garage and draw lines for where I needed to cut. I would make all the cuts, not knowing at the time he just didn’t want to get itchy,” Orta said.
As time passed, he would spend weekends with his dad while he was on call, and began making calls with him during his teenage years. Upon graduation, it was straight to trade school for Orta. A mere six months later, he was hired at a large commercial company.
“I started as a pm tech at a high-rise downtown,” he said. “After a year, I was promoted to service tech. I immediately went on call and found that the high pressure situations I found myself in after-hours made me a better tech. So I then would take on-call weekends from senior techs to better my skills. Several years of doing this, and I was able to perfect my skills in many areas of the trade.”
A few years later, Orta and his father decided the time was right to quit their jobs and pursue the dream of being owners. Orta does all the company’s marketing, installs, sales, and service.
“Within the first couple months, we got so busy my younger brother also joined us full time,” Orta said. “With only three of us and a couple helpers, we were able to do just shy of $1 million in sales our first year. We are now expanding and are set to eclipse last year’s numbers.”
Company: Goodman Manufacturing Co.
Title: Vice President - Procurement
Supporting the purchasing demands of a massive, complex manufacturing campus — one of North America’s largest — Erica Paschal helped transform Daikin and Goodman Manufacturing’s Procurement group into a true value-added partner, a driving force with a seat at the decision-making table. Overseeing a team of 58 people, Paschal has full departmental responsibility for all direct and indirect purchases at Daikin Texas Technology Park: $1.5 billion in spending. A rising star, she’s demonstrated a proclivity to manage global supply chains, lead strategic transformation, and establish supply chain risk management.
Typically, procurement is purely a transactional arm of most businesses. But Paschal shifted course, helping procurement evolve into a team focused on end-to-end commodity management. She accomplished this by putting processes in place to help ensure that suppliers meet the highest quality standards so the brand’s customers — independent HVAC contractors and end users alike — can rely on products.
Facing the challenge of escalating commodities prices and tariff pressures, Paschal and her team focused on constructing a strategy to procure the highest quality materials available, while attempting to mitigate costs to keep Daikin/Goodman products competitive. They instituted best-in-class supply chain management practices to ensure proper material flow into the sprawling Daikin Texas Technology Park (DTTP). Supporting a mega factory the size of DTTP can be daunting; numerous production lines need an incredible assortment of parts to build products and keep the field stocked. Ensuring the right supplies arrive at the right time and place is critical.
“My team continues to look to secure components that will result in energy-efficient, sustainable products for our end users,” Paschal said.
Company: Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC
Title: Senior Product Manager, Residential
Mitul Patel is passionate about changing the HVACR landscape in the United States. His technical expertise and drive to promote energy efficiency and healthy indoor environments have served him well in market strategy and in creating the business case
for variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology.
In 2005, Patel moved to the United States from Zimbabwe to attend Georgia Institute of Technology. While there, he received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and was an active member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
After graduating in 2010, Patel got his start in the heating and cooling industry, gaining valuable experience at Bitzer US Inc. As an applications engineer working on commercial and industrial compressors, Patel was hands-on, involved with engineering support for component selection, system selection/design, and in-the-field troubleshooting. In 2013, he was promoted to project engineer, where he was involved with every piece of product management including design engineering, component selection, installation, marketing, and commissioning.
Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US (METUS) took notice of Patel’s passion and expertise and recruited him in 2015 to serve as a product manager for its residential channel. His responsibilities include developing and executing product-development strategies for each market segment and planning for product introductions and lifecycle management. Now a senior product manager, Patel is committed to introducing new products as well as informing engineers, HVAC contractors, and consumers about the benefits of VRF systems.
“I want to make an impactful difference in shifting the HVACR industry to utilize more efficient, environmentally-conscious products and controls,” Patel said.
Company: Rogers Heating & Cooling
Ever since he was a child, Joseph Rogers had a desire to run the family HVAC business.
“So much so, that I dedicated most of my life to learning the HVAC industry from the ground up,” he said. “Starting at the age of 12, I accompanied my dad on service calls on the weekends and decided to pursue a degree in air conditioning and refrigeration upon graduating high school in 2007.”
After graduating top of his class from Danville Community College, he began working for Trane’s commercial office as a service technician.
“With five years of commercial experience, I decided it was time to go back to my passion of residential HVAC, which led me to join the family business in 2015,” he said. “I learned the ins and outs of the business and officially became owner of Rogers Heating & Cooling in 2018.”
Since taking over ownership, Rogers has grown Rogers Heating & Cooling from three to 10 employees. He initiated and successfully rebranded the company with a fully wrapped fleet that won an honorable mention in the 2018 Tops in Trucks competition. The Rogers Heating & Cooling brand is now highly recognized throughout the community, attaining over 50 percent company growth since its release at the beginning of 2018.
At the end of 2018, Rogers purchased a 10,000-square-foot building to house Rogers Heating & Cooling. Renovations on the new building will start in the coming weeks, with an anticipated grand opening this fall.
Company: L.J. Rolls Refrigeration Co.
Title: Vice President of Operations
Karly Rolls joined the family business after graduating from the University of Michigan. She had previously worked as a truck driver and shop hand but had no clear career path. Three years later, she has made her mark on the business,
Rolls has completed her HVACR associate degree at Mott Community College with a 4.0 GPA and has been accepted into Ferris State University for HVACR engineering technology and energy management. She has completed two semesters of her MBA — analytics, technology, and innovation — at Clearly University. Rolls has completed all of this while working full-time as the lead service dispatcher/coordinator and financial manager for L.J. Rolls Refrigeration Co.
“I hope to graduate from Ferris University’s HVACR Engineering Technology and Energy Management program, where I hope to learn how to design large scale commercial/industrial HVACR systems,” she said. “Additionally, I hope to learn as much as possible from my father, who founded and is the president of our company. He has so much experience in the field, with business management, and designing systems.”
Rolls has upgraded the company’s accounting software and implemented mobile dispatching for all service technicians — involving dispatch software, digital work orders, and GPS. Additionally, she has put great effort in updating the company’s website and expanding its brand recognition.
As a young member of the national group Women in HVACR, Rolls has participated in many local and national trade seminars.
“I am blessed to have my father and other exceptionally skilled team members around me, and I hope to learn as much as I can from them,” Rolls said.
Company: George Cunningham Company Inc.
J.M. Salazar has been involved in the HVAC industry since 1992, when he started assisting his father and brothers with duct replacements.
After attending college, Salazar returned to the family business to assist in sales and marketing. In 2016, Salazar and his wife, Stephanie, were given the opportunity to purchase George Cunningham Company Inc. At the time, a mixture of bad decisions and lack of direction had produced a business with a $650,000 deficit. Salazar gave a careful review and decided to leave behind the commercial new construction bid work and emphasize the company’s strengths in the residential service add-on market.
By the end of year one, they were well on their way to closing the gap. Rounding out the second year in 2018, they were able to eliminate the deficit and finally close out the year with a 12 percent net profit. This year, the business is on track to have a healthy 15 percent increase in total sales.
“One of the biggest accomplishments is forming a team that complements each other,” Salazar said. “Hiring the right people and then putting them in the right positions has been one of the best thing we have done. Our team now has unity, a common direction, and pride. These traits could never be taught and are the key to our growth.”
Salazar has been able to scale his company to over 20 people and nine service techs in two years.
Title: Executive Vice President
HVAC distributors count on HARDI to help them navigate their business. HARDI counts on their executive vice president, Emily Saving.
In her time at HARDI, Saving has taken the conferences, education programs, and overall HARDI offering to the next level. She is responsible for converting HARDI from workbook-based educational programs to industry-leading, position-specific online training courses through the launch of HARDI’s LMS, HEAT.U, which has educated thousands of distributor employees since its launch. Saving was the driving force from the HARDI staff in the creation of the Emerging Leaders program, providing a three-year, industry-specific education program for the next generation of leaders in HARDI’s member companies. She also was responsible for launching the branch manager certification program, a tool to train current and up-and-coming branch managers throughout the industry. In recent years, Saving has risen through the HARDI ranks and has been responsible for hiring, coaching, and inspiring up-and-coming young leaders on the HARDI staff.
“I came to HARDI knowing nothing about the HVAC industry, but with a skillset (training and development, human resources) that the industry needed,” Saving said. “While I hope that I’ve imparted some of my knowledge onto the industry, I can confidently say that through the generosity of our members, I’ve learned so much more than I could ever teach.”
Company: Johnstone Supply - Sarasota, Florida
Title: Branch Manager
Jason Siroky began his career as an HVAC installer and service tech. He was brought into HVAC by a childhood friend’s father, who was looking for good people to hire.
After also doing some sales on the contracting side of the business, Siroky transitioned to the distribution market.
For the past eight years, he has been employed at Johnstone Supply. For the last two years, Siroky has been the branch manager at the Johnston Supply Sarasota, Florida distribution facility. He has also completed training for refrigeration and is an Emerson technical specialist.
“I’d like to continue my advancement in managing the distribution business for the HVACR industry,” Siroky said.
Siroky has been the branch manager for two years, and the business has achieved double-digit growth both years.
“That is a great accomplishment for my team and myself,” Siroky said.
Company: Mingledorff’s Inc.
Title: Marketing Manager
Having grown up working in the industry, Theo Stathakis has over 14 years of experience in everything HVAC. He started turning wrenches over the summer at the age of 16 for his father’s Carrier dealership, Air Systems Control Inc.
During his undergraduate years at Oglethorpe University, Stathakis continued to work for his father on weekends, eventually finishing his degree and taking a warehouse job with Mingledorff’s. After spending three years in full-time counter sales and finishing his MBA at night at Mercer University, Stathakis stepped into an outside sales role. A year later, he became the marketing manager at Mingledorff’s.
For the past four years, Stathakis has managed the marketing programs for Mingledorff’s, Inc. while also supporting over 50 territory managers in the southeast. Combining his education and knowledge of both distribution and contracting, Stathakis has the unique perspective to help over 600 program dealers and 120 advertising dealers effectively market their businesses and utilize value added programs provided by Mingledorff’s. He is helping HVAC dealers stay at the forefront of the digital advertising world and making sure they are choosing revenue-generating media to help grow their business. His focus is entirely on making sure their customers make smart business decisions to help grow their business and build for future success.
“My goal is to continue to create and grow marketing and incentive programs that help our dealers grow sustainably,” he said. “The focus of our programs is to enable our customers growth with efficient spending.”
Company: Schultheis Brothers Heating, Cooling & Roofing
Title: Controller/HVAC Install Manager
Nathan Steiner started off as a numbers guy but soon found a passion for HVAC.
“I originally did accounts receivable for the company after college, but after getting my CPA license and learning more about HVAC, I took a more active role,” Steiner said.
Steiner is responsible for helping the HVAC sales division grow by over $500,000 in 2018. He restructured the sales department and improved morale and efficiency on the installation side.
Steiner has his master’s in accounting and a CPA license, which has been a major benefit to the sales team. He created a new sales price structure, improved the labor warranties, and introduced a new sales plan to the team.
When the company was looking for a new way to attract customers, Steiner researched the market to find ways the business could improve its outreach via SEO marketing and social media. Under his guidance, they opened up a second location, which has quadrupled the sales in this area for 2018.
With all the improvements to help bring in new customers and maximize sales, the company was faced with the dilemma of finding enough employees to perform the work. Steiner stepped to the position of field laborer and learned from the employees how to install so that he could go out on his own. At the end of last summer, Steiner was installing five to six systems a week and still returning to the office to perform his office responsibilities. Steiner was able to juggle it all, making sure operations stayed on track while assisting the installation department to make sure the company did not fall behind.
Company: Gary’s Heating and Air Conditioning
Title: Install Manager and Co-owner
Mitchell Stevens has been with Gary’s Heating and Air Conditioning full time since March of 2006. He started as a “shop boy,” soon moving up quickly to install apprentice, lead installer, maintenance technician, and then service technician. He is currently the install manager at Gary’s and has signed papers to be a co-owner in the business.
“I, like many other high school graduates, went to college only to figure out it wasn’t for me,” Stevens said. “After that, I worked in several other places, only to find out I liked to help people and work with my hands.”
Mitchell has earned his own HVAC license and is NCI certified.
In 2009, Gary’s decided to discontinue new construction and focus on residential repair and replacement. After that decision, Gary’s was left with one install crew. With the leadership of Mitchell and Gary Ward, the business has grown every year and they are now running two to four crews each day.
Mitchell oversees two to four install crews each day, takes care of ordering supplies and inventory, attends manager’s meetings, oversees the front office, and trains employees. Mitchell strongly believes in hiring people based on attitude and work ethic. He takes these young individuals, trains them, and helps them move up the career ladder at Gary’s. Once they move up, another new person is hired, and Mitchell goes to work with training.
“My goals are to provide great customer service, create a workplace culture that values honesty and integrity, and to teach employees to do the same,” Stevens said.
Company: Parker Hannifin
Title: Business Development Manager
Drew Stock grew up in Brookfield, Illinois, just minutes away from where he would eventually join the Parker team. His family used to drive past the Parker facility, nestled in an industrial park in Broadview, on their way to the expressway.
“I remember seeing the facility and thinking about what they did and how boring industrial facilities looked,” Stock said. “Little did I know that these types of companies make the products and technologies that provide farm-to-table cold chain management solutions.”
Stock’s first position with Parker was as a product manager for the Refrigerating Specialties division out of Broadview. That division primarily serves the industrial refrigeration market with a focus on keeping the world’s food supply safe, using efficient and safe, natural refrigerants.
During his time as a product manager, Stock worked closely with the global customer base to find new ways to solve customers’ problems. The team was able to launch a new product line (P-Series) that met global standards and positioned the division for growth. It was Stock’s passion for working with customers and his ability to connect with the global customer base that led to his success and to his recent promotion to business development manager for the Refrigeration Business Unit of Sporlan.
“The new role is very challenging and exciting,” he said. “We are seeing a lot of trends in the industry: increased safety, efficiency, and movement towards refrigerants with less of an environmental impact. And all of this at a time when the world is becoming a smaller place and the pace of innovation is quickening.”
Company: Res-Com Heating & Air-Conditioning Inc.
Title: Senior Service Technician/Installation Mechanic
Paul Straface has been in love with the HVAC trade since he was a kid. Growing up, he would bring mechanical instructions, user manuals, and trade books to school with him to read during his free time. He would look forward to the weekends, when he could go help his dad at work and help him carry his tools around. Eventually, he was old enough to help with the repairs.
Fast forward 22 years, and Straface is the senior service technician/installation mechanic for Res-Con Heating & Air-Conditioning Inc. According to co-workers, he can diagnose almost any problem within 10 minutes and fix it as quickly as possible, with sheer efficiency that is not often found in the field.
Straface is self-taught. His passion for the trade and the family business is impressive. He has been known to work a 100-hour week, and truly loves what he does.
“I grew up with HVAC. It’s in my blood,” Straface said. “I enjoy troubleshooting and problem solving. I also enjoying keeping up with new technology.”
Straface is the one everyone calls with technical questions. He takes pride in everything he does and is constantly requested by the company’s clients.
His career goal is to one day take over and continue to grow the family business.
Company: Boyle Energy
Title: Service and Installation Technician
Wayne Thomas has been with Boyle Energy since he joined the organization in 2006, after graduating from Mercy Tech Vocational School.
He showed up early on that first day because he was learning completely new skills and he knew it was important.
His attitude toward his work and, more importantly, toward his co-workers is nothing short of exemplary. From the very beginning, Thomas got thrown into the deep end — helping rip out 1,000-pound boilers, cutting up and disposing of 50-year-old oil tanks, and trudging through knee-deep snow pulling an oil hose to help a driver deliver to homes and businesses. Not once did he complain; not once did he give his co-workers pushback about completing a task, and not once did a customer call and say his work was anything less than excellent.
Thomas has the skill set and the abilities to succeed at anything he puts his mind to.
“My career HVAC goals are to continue to learn and keep myself educated in HVAC knowledge and have a diverse understanding of different equipment,” he said. “I also want to help to develop new and beginner technicians. I would also like to acquire a CDL license.”
Company: BDL Heating & Cooling Inc.
Title: Director of Operations
Josh Wietecha started in the HVAC industry after his senior year of high school to make money to pay for college. He did not plan on making a career out of the HVAC industry.
“After a short time working at BDL Heating & Cooling, I realized how passionate I was about HVAC and what a great opportunity I had to join a developing company and a growing industry,” he said. “So, for the next three years, I structured my class schedule so I would be able to work full-time while attending college. During that time, I soaked up as much knowledge as possible through working in the field, independent study, and taking every class the supply houses offered.”
As he approached graduation, Wietecha sat with owner Brian Lithway and asked for an opportunity to help him develop his business. So he switched from the field to a management role and began to work on the back end of the business. After graduating from Worcester State University magna cum laude with a degree in business administration, he was able to devote all of his time to the company.
Wietecha has helped the business grow by more than 500 percent in the last five years while adding close to 30 new employees. He also helped the company open up a plumbing division and increase its maintenance contract program from around 100 to 1,000.
“My belief is that you don’t need to over-sell to be profitable,” he said. “If you price right and work efficiently, you can remain highly profitable while providing customers with the right solution for their home. This will keep them coming back to you — job after job — and referring you more business, allowing continued growth.”
Title: Director of Air Control Systems
Josiah Wiley started employment with Ruskin as an intern in 2005 and has worked his way up to become the director of air control systems.
“I joined the HVAC industry at the age of 21, wanting to work for an innovation-leading company, and joined Ruskin,” he said. “Tim Vogel, the OEM product manager, connected me into the industry as a product development engineer. I had the opportunity to work with many outstanding professionals within the HVAC industry and have stayed for my entire career.”
In 2015, Wiley opened an Engineering Innovation Center in Pune, India for Johnson Controls, supporting York, Hart and Cooley, Penn Barry, ENVIRO-TEC, Reliable, Titus, Krueger, LAU fan, Ruskin, Ruskin Air Management, Ruskin Rooftop Systems, Ruskin Titus Gulf, and Ruskin Titus India with professional engineering services. This division has grown to over several thousand employees in two office towers in Pune and Mumbai, India.
During this time, Wiley organized a global engineering council for air systems with offices located in China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, India, United Kingdom, South America, and North America. Wiley has obtained eight United States patents and seven corporate honors through innovation in high-powered laser systems, machine vision systems, advanced thermal heat transfer systems, energy harvesting self-powered wireless systems, smoke control systems, wireless control systems, energy recovery ventilation control systems, thermally-insulated mechanical dampers, structural hurricane performance products, and mechanical blast-resistant products. He has received corporate honors, including five innovation awards and two sales awards. In 2015, Wiley won the Johnson Controls Chairman award for the air distribution technologies integration into Johnson Controls.
Company: LG Air Conditioning Technologies
Title: Regional Sales Engineer and
Aran Winn began his career in the HVACR industry in 2003 after receiving his B.S. in mechanical engineering with a concentration in HVAC.
Currently a regional sales engineer and account manager at LG, Winn provides engineering and technical support to the sales channels for LG Commercial Variable Refrigerant Systems (VRF) in the Northern California and Northern Nevada area. In his role, Winn also assists LG Engineering in the development of new air conditioning solutions and regularly participates in VRF seminars on design, installation, and troubleshooting throughout North America.
Hailing from Alaska and spending the first half of his life there, he saw the adverse effects of climate change firsthand. This experience ultimately inspired his lifelong personal and professional environmental stewardship. Winn chose engineering within the HVACR field as his career path as a means to leave the largest and longest-lasting positive environmental impact.
“I have two kids and I’d like to do my part to help keep their world a great place to live. The work I do is important to me, and I take pride in it. HVACR doesn’t get a lot of attention in the news, but it impacts how we live our lives each day,” said Winn. “A large challenge for our industry right now is so much of our world’s energy consumption is used for heating and cooling and this is thought to be a major contributor to global climate change. This problem is only projected to grow as time goes on. We must push our current technology and develop new technologies to maximize the potential efficiencies of our HVAC systems.”
Among Winn’s most significant contributions to the HVACR field is his role in the introduction of VRF technology to North America in the early 2000s, and his continued work includes supporting the industry’s push towards de-carbonization in comfort heating and hot-water heating systems as well as product development and innovation at LG today.
Company: EWC Controls
Title: Technical Support Engineer
When Luis Yupanqui first started at EWC, he worked in the shipping department. He has also worked in the production department, assembled components, and built dampers.
While working his way up, Yupanqui attended evening classes in pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree. Soon after graduating, he got transferred to the engineering department.
“EWC Controls was my first job, and I am fortunate for that,” he said. “Since I have always been interested in learning as much as I can, EWC Controls has given me the opportunities to achieve my goals.”
In a short two years, Yupanqui has acquired a vast knowledge and skill level in both production and engineering. His co-workers now seek him out when they encounter a problem, and Yupanqui goes out of his way to help them.
“One of my goals is to become a leader in the HVAC industry,” he said. “I want to continue being involved in designing new HVAC products that improve comfort and save energy. Another goal I have is to become involved with industry groups that develop standards and test equipment for operation and safety.”
Yupanqui will obtain a certification in advanced manufacturing technology from Mercer College in the fall of 2019.
See more articles from this issue here!