Air Comfort Heating & Cooling empowers its employees to succeed and serves its community through quality work and charitable giving. The company, based in Fremont, Nebraska, is co-owned by Bart Bosco and Steve Simmons, and their management strategy — a strategy that makes the company such a tremendous place to work — revolves around creating opportunities for employee success.
“It’s incredible the amount of talent and brainpower that all of us are surrounded with that we fail to use,” Simmons said. “Taking that lid off and encouraging growth both on an individual level and as a team is really exciting.”
At Air Comfort, Bosco and Simmons recognize that sometimes the most limiting factor to an employee’s success can be management itself. If leadership believes an employee is only capable of a certain amount, then that employee may start believing that, too. So Bosco and Simmons work to empower others.
The strategy has paid off. Air Comfort has constructed a team of 14 people, including nine technicians, that prides itself in each member’s diverse individuality and accomplishments.
THE BEST CONTRACTOR’S TEAM: Air Comfort’s employees stand in front of their office and fleet. The company uses strategies like a rotating schedule to avoid overworking its staff. COURTESY OF AIR COMFORT
“I remind everybody as often as I can that they need to be proud of what they do,” said Simmons. “We’re just as important to our society as any doctor, lawyer, or policeman. We’re professionals.” His favorite aspect of management is watching his employees develop a pride in their quality of work as they understand its value to society.
Ian Gilmour, an HVAC technician at Air Comfort, is one of the beneficiaries of that management, and he has stayed at Air Comfort because of its balance between work and leisure. His priority is his children, so he cannot afford to work at a company that strips him of any time that he has with them.
“The two owners and then our general manager have an open door policy,” he said. “So if you ever need anything, they’re more than happy to talk to you.”
Air Comfort management demonstrates its thankfulness for its employees in other ways, too, including summer get-togethers and Christmas parties (pre-pandemic, of course). The company has also donated to some of its employees’ families when unexpected tragedies struck.
Chris Landgrebe, general manager of Air Comfort, confirmed that the company’s two owners want nothing more than for the team to succeed, both on a company and a personal level. Technicians are offered vast opportunities for training, almost always either paid for or reimbursed by the company. Wages and expenses are also paid for during training time, even if travel is required.
And word has spread. Air Comfort has built a dedicated training room and live lab with operating equipment on its property, which allows them to impress clients. Some manufacturers have even sent technicians out to Air Comfort to do training at the shop.
Non-technically, the company has offered opportunities for employees to develop personally through specialized training on topics such as financial management or parenting.
TRAINING TECHS: Opportunities for training are almost always either paid for or reimbursed by the company. COURTESY OF AIR COMFORT
“The owners want us to better ourselves, which in theory — and what we have found to be in practice — betters the company as well,” Landgrebe said.
Bosco is still a technician at heart, and he leads Air Comfort as the service manager, working to better the skills of his employees.
“Looking back over the last 40 years, what I enjoyed most was figuring out how to install tough jobs,” said Bosco. “I liked having coworkers learn from me, and then seeing them go and put that knowledge to use.”
The company is also careful to not overwork its technicians, using strategies like rewards and a rotating schedule. In 2020, management introduced a new on-call program to handle late nights. After 8 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends, emergency calls roll to management, and they decide how to best handle the problem. In an emergency, technicians have stepped up to the help the team, and management will even run a call in the rare instance that no tech is available.
Air Comfort also started the “Pro Tech of the Year” award in December 2020, which will recognize a technician who made an especially significant contribution to the company. It is the highest award a technician can receive in the company, and it comes with a cash reward.
In any company, tough management decisions need to be made, and each member of leadership brings a unique set of skills. Simmons and Bosco have over 40 years of experience in the HVAC industry, and general manager Landgrebe brings over two decades of corporate management experience. When a challenge to the business comes up, the three of them will sit down and bounce ideas off one another, studying the impact of options on both employees and customers.
They like to consult others, too. If the challenge involves field work, technicians will be asked to share their opinions on how a company challenge/problem can be addressed, and office staff are involved when a challenges involves a procedural issue.
“It’s great to have so many resources available,” Simmons said. “Once you learn how to include others, it takes a huge weight off your shoulders, since you don’t have to figure it all out for yourself.”
Giving To The Community
Air Comfort employees also value the contribution that their company provides to the surrounding community. Air Comfort has locations in both Fremont and Columbus, Nebraska, both of which are towns of around 24,000.
“Leadership is always looking at ways to either give back to the community or their people here that work for them,” said Gilmour. The company is involved in St. Jude’s Partner in Hope, Toys for Tots, a pet sponsorship program, Run for Warriors, and more.
GIFT OF HEAT: Chris Landgrebe (above) said that one of the annual highlights at Air Comfort One is the Gift of Heat giveaway. COURTESY OF AIR COMFORT
One of the highlights is the company’s annual Gift of Heat giveaway. Air Comfort collects nominations for deserving families that need a new HVAC system that they cannot afford, whether it be a heating, cooling, or indoor air quality system.
“It’s really starting to gain traction,” said Landgrebe. “We’ve got 15 or 20 nominations this year. Our message is getting wider, and this is a rough year for a lot of people. We get to give back and we get to help out.”
Air Comfort is also working to get other local contractors to participate in the program so that even more deserving families can receive a needed HVAC system, free of charge.
Plans For The Future
Air Comfort leadership is planning on growing the company in more locations and adding additional trades. The goal is to hit $5 million in revenue by 2025, which is both an achievable and an ambitious goal for a contractor that specializes in serving communities of only 24,000 people.
“Even though Bart and I are in our 60s, it’s still exciting to be on this team and to have confidence to conquer the future,” said Simmons. “And I don’t feel my age at all. In my mind, I’m in my 20s.”
Air Comfort Heating & Cooling
OWNER: Bart Bosco (left) and Steve Simmons (right)
LOCATION: Columbus and Fremont, Nebraska
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 38
BULK OF MARKET: Residential
TOTAL SALES FOR 2020: $2 million
TOTAL EMPLOYEES: 14
TOTAL SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND INSTALLERS: 9
AVERAGE HOURS EMPLOYEES SPEND IN TRAINING: 41+ per year
BENEFITS BEYOND MEDICAL/DENTAL INSURANCE: PTO on birthday, company-provided phone, Pro Tech of the Year award, company outings, company training.
INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION & CONTRACTOR GROUP MEMBERS: Service Roundtable, Service Nation Alliance, EGIA, Go Time Success Group
THE ACHR NEWS SELECTED THIS CONTRACTOR BECAUSE: Air Comfort Heating & Cooling management works avidly to empower and encourage their employees, working to get the most out of each employee while building a family-like community. The company is involved in its community, offers training opportunities, and ensures its workers have a good work/life balance.