Amanda Zink, president of Air Control Home Services in Lake Havasu, Arizona, talks about company culture, what it’s like to work with family, and what it’s like to be a woman in the HVAC industry.
Zink’s parents, Jim and Alice Jensen, started Air Control Home Services in January 1990. In 2004, Zink graduated with an accounting degree from Northern Arizona University and her dad asked her to come back for the summer. She made him swear that he wouldn’t make her stay any longer than three months. Fifteen years later, her parents are mostly retired and she co-owns the company with her younger brother, Jamie Jensen, who serves as vice president.
ACHR News: What is the focus of your business?
Zink: We’re mainly residential. We do some commercial work. We have a contract with the city and we do their buildings, including the aquatic center. We do some new construction, mainly custom homes. We offer maintenance, installation, plumbing, duct sealing, and air sealing. We added plumbing and installation in the last few years. We started offering Aeroseal about seven years ago.
We’re really big into ductless units. A lot of the garages in this area are RV garages. We started adding ductless units to those and then expanded to craft rooms, man caves, and even laundry rooms. For six years in a row, we’ve been the largest seller of Trane ductless units in the entire country.
ACHR News: What is your market like?
Zink: Lake Havasu is one of the hottest places in the country. The hottest day on record here was 128 degrees. People always think that makes it a great place to have an air conditioning company. It is, but there is really only one season. We do a lot of maintenance work. We have what we call Comfort Club agreements. That’s been a big push for us in the last couple of years. That keeps our service techs busy during the slower time. The ductless units provide year-round work for our sales and installation teams.
ACHR News: What do you do to keep your technicians safe in the heat?
Zink: That is definitely a challenge. We always preach safety first to our guys, so if they start feeling lightheaded, we make sure they let us know. They do acclimate somewhat, but many times they’ll come into the office and cool down for 20 or 30 minutes. This last year, we bought them all large Hydro Flasks so they could keep their water nice and cool. We are largely package units, so a lot of the units are on the roof, but if we know they have to go into an attic, we try to start that as early as we possibly can.
ACHR News: What else do you do to keep your employees happy?
Zink: We have a really big family culture here. Any of our employees will tell you that their family is important to us and that the company family is important to us. We always support them in anything they need to do. If they have an awards assembly for their kids, it’s no questions asked that they can go.
We have a company book club. It’s voluntary, but over 50 percent of our staff participate. It’s a great tem builder. We recently read “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek and we’re getting to read [Goettl Air Conditioning & Plumbing CEO] Ken Goodrich’s book.
My brother and I meet with each employee once a month. It’s a “start-stop-continue” meeting. We ask them what we should start doing, what we should stop doing, and what we should continue doing. We also have quarterly social events that celebrate what the company has done. This last quarter we took the entire company to the local escape room. We completed it in shifts. It was an absolute success. The team building and comradery that came out of it was way more than I could have expected.
ACHR News: What’s it like working with your brother?
Zink: People ask us about that fairly regularly. We really are pretty similar. Every other week, we have a family meeting where anything that could be a potential issue is brought to the table. We resolve anything before it festers and becomes a problem.
My brother has been here 15 years and I’ve been here 16 years. When we first came to work for my parents, all of us lived together and worked together. That was a little challenging. But if we could get through it then, we can get through it now.
ACHR NEWS: What are you doing to attract employees?
Zink: That’s definitely a challenge, especially since we’re in a rural part of Arizona. Our reputation helps. We just brought on a plumber that we had been trying to hire for six months. He said one of the reasons he took the job was reading the company’s reviews. We have something like 275 five-star reviews right now. We just hired a young man who is just out of the military and who moved here from Georgia. We’ll train him to do some maintenance tech. He was the same way. He said he went online and decided we were the company he wanted to work for in the area.
We sit down with anybody we’re trying to hire and go over the company values. We let them talk to our employees as well. The employees that work here sell the company. Even with that, it’s hard to hire skilled people.
ACHR NEWS: Do you look more for technical skills or attitude when you are hiring?
Zink: A few years ago, we were looking for technical skills. If you had the right technical skills, we would hire you. And we were running into issues with that because they weren’t a culture fit. Today, we pretty much hire based solely on how they fit into the company culture. It has made a huge difference. Everybody believes in the culture and it becomes self-policing.
ACHR News: Did 2019 meet your expectations?
Zink: It did. We had budgeted for 20 percent growth and we hit that number. We were recognized on the Inc. 5000 list. We’re aiming for 20 percent growth again this year. It’s a push for us, but we’re not growing too fast and missing the important things.
ACHR News: What kind of marketing do you do?
Zink: We really started email campaigns for our current customers. We do all the traditional advertising. We do home shows and have a Facebook page. We have a younger staff that is very active in the community. We sponsor baseball teams and soccer teams. We support the local Christian school.
ACHR News: Are you active with the local trade or technical schools?
Zink: We have a local community college here that has a pretty great heating and air conditioning program. We have had three or four employees who came from that program. We recently sat down with the head of the program and discussed areas where they could improve and where they could improve. We’re going to speak at the school about how the trades aren’t just about technical skills.
ACHR News: As a female business owner, do you find any challenges working in a male-dominated field?
Zink: Yes and no. There is always a challenge. There are times when customers want to hear from a man. I don’t let that affect me. I don’t have a strong technical background, so it doesn’t bother me when I hear that. We have a really great lead field technician who is always available to answer questions.
Any of the guys who work here have no problem with a female business owner. They know that I respect their opinion and they respect mine.