In June, employees at C&C Heating and Air Conditioning in Roseville, Michigan, did something they hadn’t done for more than a year. They gathered together in person for an all-staff, off-site breakfast meeting. Much had changed in that time. General manager Dayna Hottle was now the mother of two small children, ages 18 and three months. Her husband, Chad, had joined the company full time as operations manager after working summers for more than a decade while teaching school.
The meeting was an opportunity to catch up on all these changes and to re-establish the team atmosphere of the 73-year-old company. It was also a chance to believe the pandemic would reach an end, even if that seems a little further now than it did in June.
“It felt somewhat back to normal,” Dayna Hottle said.
C&C has weathered a lot since its founding in 1948. Owner Jim Corrion said the biggest challenge used to be the cycles of the auto industry that dominate the Detroit market. Corrion took over at one of the most difficult times in the company’s history. It was 1977 and his father had just died. His uncle, the company’s co-founder, had retired. The entire staff was down to Corrion’s brother, mother, and one other employee. All this during a time of skyrocketing prices and economic uncertainty.
Corrion’s father never wanted him to join the family business, and he had spent his time since college working for a Carrier distributor. Now he was needed at C&C. Corrion and his wife, Donna, had no children at the time, so they stepped in and did the work needed to save the company.
“It was very difficult,” Corrion said. “And we were just a small business at that time. But we got through it.
“I thought I was going to come back and help for a little bit, but here I am.”
After that came three daughters, with Dayna the youngest. The other two opted for careers in medicine, but the summer before her senior year, Dayna Hottle starting thinking about joining the firm permanently. She attended an HVAC conference and that set her decision.
“I saw the success a lot of contractors were having,” she said.
Chad came along with Dayna. He worked at C&C during the summer while continuing to teach and then serving as athletic director for a local school district. After the birth of their second child, Chad Hottle decided to come on full-time.
The decision by Dayna’s two older sisters to go into medicine rather than HVAC helped a lot during the pandemic. C&C took all the steps it could to protect its employees and its customers. Unfortunately, that meant very little live interaction between the staff. There were plenty of emails, texts, and video conferencing. But the firm invests a lot in creating a team atmosphere.
One-Year Money Back Guarantee
C&C employees get together for these large meetings three times a year. Then they attend a family event at an apple orchard in the fall. Dayna Hottle said that is on the schedule for this year. For next summer, senior management plans for a couples cruise on the Detroit River.
The way C&C treats its employees is also the way it treats its customers. The company boasts a 4.9 Google rating. That’s thanks in part to its one-year money back guarantee. Dayna Hottle said the firm usually winds up refunding about one customer a year.
“We don’t want to get to that point,” she said. “That’s why we put people in place who can nip it in the bud when those things happen.”
That includes service manager Brittany King and installation manager Jordan MacIntosh. Chad Hottle said if these two can’t solve the customer’s problem on the phone, they hop in their trucks and head to the job. Corrion said the firm’s reputation helps attract the kind of employees who also place value on that, creating a virtuous circle.
Growing Building for Growing Business
The offices for C&C sit on the same property where Corrion’s father and uncle started. At the time, they only did furnaces and sheet metal. It wasn’t until the ‘70s that they added air conditioning. Corrion said there are still a couple of walls from the original office, but there have been many additions over the years.
One of the most recent is a training room located in a converted trailer behind the main building. Corrion had leased the space to a towing company and when they moved out, he bought the trailer. He said it helps people better focus when they get out of the office for training.
In the back of the main building is the sheet metal shop and warehouse. Corrion said the firm has been carrying extra inventory lately to avoid any shortages. Each day, C&C staff put together as many supplies for the next day’s jobs as they can. Maximizing efficiency is another way to combat rising costs for everything from gasoline to refrigerant.
C&C covers a large service area today, so saving on fuel is crucial. Corrion said the firm has grown big enough to where it can advertise on television. This helps target a higher-income demographic, decreasing some of the volatility brought by being tied to the fortunes of the auto industry.