It is easy to forget how many young people are doing truly great things for the industry. This list highlights some of the best and the brightest coming up in the HVAC industry.
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.
The industry does not just need people. It needs smart, hardworking individuals that can build upon the foundation of the HVAC industry that has already been established. 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.
Rich Bardgett is the director of marketing with Nidec Motor Corp. He started with the company right out of college — although at that point, it was called Emerson Motors.
Bardgett worked his way onto the marketing team as an analyst. From there, he earned the position of market manager, working with OEMs such as Goodman, Rheem, Trane, Lennox, and Carrier. He was promoted to director of marketing last year.
Bardgett has a vast understanding of the HVAC business, customers, and applications. He has developed many relationships with key accounts supporting the industry’s transition to ECM motors as part of the 2019 FER standards and is currently leading many programs as part of the upcoming DOE 2023 standard changes.
“In July 2019, the Department of Energy’s FER rule went into effect, which forced the gas-fired furnace OEMs to migrate to a higher-efficiency motor technology in all furnaces that used induction motors,” Bardgett said. “It was an amazing team effort between Nidec and our OEM partners because we had to execute on several initiatives for a successful transition. Some of our OEM partners were launching new furnace platforms while others updated legacy products. In addition to ensuring we were ready for the greater demand of ECM products, we also could not lose sight of the possible obsolescence of induction product, post FER implementation. In the end, our OEM partners were successful with their FER transitions, obsolescence was avoided, and Nidec was able to grow our gas-fired furnace sales.”
Bardgett’s long-term HVAC goal is to be awarded a patent.
“Nidec prides itself on being an innovation leader. During my career, I just want one of my technical ideas to be unique enough to be patentable.”
Charlie Black has always been interested in energy efficiency and manufacturing, so when he got the opportunity to join Ruskin, he saw it as a perfect fit.
During his seven years at Ruskin, he has been promoted several times and now serves as the company’s director of air control solutions, sales, and marketing. In this role, he manages the Ruskin marketing team, which handles customer events, websites, literature creation, and Ruskin’s software tools. He also oversees the company’s inside and outside sales teams and the independent rep sales channel to deliver Ruskin louvers, dampers, air-measuring systems, and energy recovery ventilators to customers around North America.
“Adding value to customers is my focus, and I hope to do a lot of that in my career. I’m particularly interested in advancing the knowledge of high-performance air systems and indoor air quality as it relates to keeping people safe and comfortable,” Black said.
His work in the building air control industry doesn’t stop at Ruskin. Black was recently named to the Air Movement and Control Association (AMCA) International board of directors. Within the organization, he has served on committees that set test standards for dampers, airflow-measurement stations, and louver tests. He is also on the AMCA Air Code Action and Review Committee and North American Regional Steering Committee. While at Ruskin, he has earned multiple awards for successful projects, including nuclear-related, tunnel ventilation, and data center projects, and has been instrumental to Ruskin’s growth.
“Being elected to the AMCA Board of Directors is also an honor. I’m a huge believer in AMCA’s mission and am excited to help expand AMCA’s efforts around the world.”
Brandon Bolen and Live Oak Bank have lent millions of dollars to home service companies, specifically in the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical trades. Over the past two years, Bolen’s mission has been helping business owners identify growth opportunities where bank financing can play a role. He works to highlight the advantages of business acquisitions, commercial real estate expansions, working capital, and succession planning in order to transition the business to the next generation of owners.
“I’m excited to continue educating HVAC businesses on strategic growth. At Live Oak, we highlight how they can use bank financing to grow their companies in a profitable and responsible way,” Bolen said.
Beyond the educational component, Bolen aims to get capital into the hands of home service companies. Business acquisitions have become increasingly more relevant, so his expertise in SBA 7(a) and conventional loan opportunities has supported growth across the industry. Many of these companies have been able to acquire other companies, thus increasing their customer base, service area, and employees.
“One of my greatest accomplishments was supporting the industry during a time of great need by providing Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans during the pandemic. Luckily, as essential businesses, HVAC companies were able to continue to operate throughout, but the PPP loans provided valuable capital at a very uncertain time as it related to running a business,” Bolen said.
His team has closed $130 million in financing to the HVAC industry since mid-2018.
“I am proud to provide the capital that service contractors need to achieve their goals.”
Joanna Buglewicz started working in the family business in 2004. It was a part-time gig while attending college.
“At that time, I had no interest in making it a forever career because it wasn’t the glamorous career my young adult mind envisioned,” Buglewicz said.
Fast forward 17 years later, and she is the president and co-owner of that family business — Green Valley Cooling & Heating. In the last 10 years, the company has doubled revenues and more than tripled net profit.
“Our company accomplishments are great, but assembling a team of outstanding teammates to make success happen is the real achievement. I am humbled to work with such a fantastic team each day,” Buglewicz said.
In addition to running the business, Buglewicz spends time promoting the HVAC trade. She sat on the board of directors for the local Tucson NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction) chapter, as well as several other women-led boards and groups promoting women in business and women in the trades. She has continued to chair several groups, specifically those that help support WIC (Women in Construction) week and provide numerous scholarship opportunities for both men and women to continue their education in STEM- and construction- related fields. She has mentored several up-and-coming women who are pursuing their passions in HVAC.
“Women currently make up only 9% of our HVAC workforce, and with our current and future labor shortages, I feel we aren’t focusing our attention on women. We need to better our reputation and image of the trades to make this an appealing and welcoming profession for all genders,” she said.
She is currently pursuing her Ph.D.
HVAC distribution is in Greg Cohen’s blood. He has spent nearly 20 years with The Star Supply Co., including the last six years as president.
The Star Supply Co. is a third-generation, family-owned business founded in 1959 by Greg’s grandfather, Seymour Cohen. Greg’s father, Larry Cohen, turned the business into a nationally recognized HVAC industry leader, and Greg continues this momentum. He has extensive knowledge of the industry, a constructive leadership style, and vision for the future. These traits have enabled him to provide a thriving and positive work environment that fosters company growth and award-winning customer service.
Under his leadership, Star Supply has been awarded a Top Work Place in Connecticut for the past three years. The employees are beyond dedicated, with an average retention rate of 15 years.
“We are honored to be recognized as one of the best companies to work for in the area. The award is determined by anonymous surveys given to the employees by a third party to determine the culture, engagement, and overall sentiments of the staff. We view our employees as the difference makers between us and our competition,” Cohen said.
He continues to flourish as a leader in the industry. In 2021, Cohen was elected to the Board of Directors of Blue Hawk HVAC-R Distributor Co-op. He is looking forward to expanding The Star Supply Co. into multiple locations in the near future.
“Third-generation companies do not have the best success rate. However, I am extremely proud that over the past six years we have seen significant sustainable success in the business.”
The old saying “It’s not what you know but who you know” is often correct. For Josh Cole, it helped him settle into an HVAC career that now has him as the director of supply chain for Crescent Parts & Equipment Co.
“It was happenstance. A good friend of mine was telling me how great of a company Crescent Parts was, and he said they had an opening at a warehouse position. I applied — and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made,” Cole said.
Cole has been with the company 19 years and specifically handles the distribution center and manages the procurement team. He is not afraid to take on new, hard projects. The company is working on a significant distribution center redesign in an effort to maximize space, minimize steps, increase safety, and allow the company to continue to grow with the same amount of employees. This project is a multi-year undertaking. Cole is spearheading this effort with ease, efficiency, and in such a way that the employees want to follow him and get this project done right. He has also taken on the task of developing a vendor scorecard to use inside the purchasing department.
“My career goal is to continue to drive change and bring technology into HVAC. I’m passionate about supporting local companies and communities as well. I want to involve myself more into our high school technical programs and bring attention to young people on how rewarding a career in HVAC can be,” Cole said.
Kevin Compass is a supermarket energy commissioning technician by day and podcaster by night. Both gigs are helping the HVACR industry.
Compass grew up in an HVAC family.
“My whole family is involved one way or another in the trade. I started riding along on service calls with my dad when I was a kid and eventually started working afternoons at a shop though high school. I just kept progressing from there,” Compass said.
He started getting interested in refrigeration at age 20. He was able to get into Local 597, which eventually led him down the path of supermarket refrigeration.
“I have grown from an apprentice to becoming a lead tech/trainer for several different companies in the Chicago market. Currently, I am doing refrigeration startups and commissioning jobs all over the United States for major supermarket retailers,” Compass said.
And in a segment of the industry where training is sometime less available, Compass started a podcast that has grown rapidly and is teaching the supermarket side of the trade.
“It is great knowing that I have helped a lot of guys get into the trade. To help them learn and grow into becoming great technicians,” Compass said. “I want to be able to teach and grow the guys who work around me and have a positive impact on their careers.”
When Travis Criner was in high school, his father — who was an area maintenance mechanic for the post office — recommended he go to trade school for HVAC. While most high school students do not listen to their parents, Criner did and has a great HVAC career to show for it.
He started his career at Casto Technical Services as a technician. He was eventually promoted to managing the building automation department for the mechanical contractor.
“In that role, I was responsible for estimating work, designing retrofit and integration projects, managing projects, doing project sales, managing our technician and department employees, and providing support in whatever way was needed. I also helped guide our customers through the role that their HVAC systems played in creating healthy and habitable spaces during the pandemic,” Criner said.
In February of 2021, he left Casto Technical Services to become a program manager in the Workforce Development Group at CBRE.
“In my current role, I am responsible for creating and managing technical trades related training content for our staff. I also serve as an advisor on HVAC, BAS, and smart building topics when necessary. I spend most of my time developing e-learning content, teaching live classes, and advising on trade-specific topics.”
His training content reaches around 20,000 building maintenance professionals around the world.
“My current personal goals are to become a LEED AP and WELL AP. I would also like to leverage the reach of the position that I am in at CBRE to make as much of a positive impact on the trade as I can,” Criner said.
Four years ago at age 25, Jason Culberson started Billfish Air Conditioning as a one-man shop. He has worked in the HVAC field for 11 years. The company now has 23 full-time employees and is one of the fastest growing HVAC companies in Florida.
In the four years it has been in existence, the company has doubled in financial size. Most recently, he purchased an additional HVAC company to merge with his original company. In 2021, they are projected to grow over 100%.
“My career goals are to turn Billfish Air Conditioning into a corporation with multiple locations. I want to do business differently by being the first to try different things, invent new products and ways of repairing air conditioning to make it easier and more affordable. I also want to help my team be successful and let them grow with me,” Culberson said.
Culberson’s entire family has been in the HVAC business, so he is quick to say that he has been in air conditioning since he was 2 years old.
“The way it works always fascinated me,” Culberson said.
He builds great relationships with all the employees by doing company outings on company time.
Everyone in the HVAC industry knows that national, state, and local legislation can greatly affect how the industry does business. Chris Czarnecki, government relations manager for ACCA, spends all his time making sure legislators know how each of their votes will affect the HVAC industry and HVAC jobs.
Czarnecki’s responsibilities include advocacy and lobbying on behalf of ACCA members and also keeping members up to date on legislation, regulations, and other government related happenings that affect their businesses.
“Since coming to ACCA, I’ve learned a great deal about the work that our members do and how important it is to our way of life. HVAC affects so many aspects of modern society that most people never think about — from food storage to data processing to medicine (in addition to keeping us cool, comfortable, and safe in the heat and cold). I have great respect for the people that help make these things possible. My job is to be their voice and represent their best interests in Washington,” Czarnecki said.
One of Czarnecki’s biggest accomplishments was helping fight to get HVAC contractors and professionals designated as essential workers under the federal guidance during the early days of the COVID pandemic.
The 24-year-old also works the beltway to help increase and improve the HVAC workforce.
“Our members’ No. 1 issue is workforce. It’s not surprising, since there are hundreds of thousands of job openings in the HVAC industry,” Czarnecki said. “My No. 1 goal is to help close this gap. A big part of that includes making sure legislators, as well as the public, are aware of the opportunities a career in the HVAC industry can provide.”
For being under 40 years of age, Kelly Dexter has a lot of HVAC accomplishments. The president and co-owner of Air Quality Control Environmental Inc. is a respected contractor in the South Florida market and has been in the industry since 2007.
Her accomplishments include being the current president of the South Florida Air Conditioning Contractors and the National Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) annual committee chair.
Her father started the business in 1991.
“My brother moved overseas during a company transition. I trained with him and my father before my brother made the move for about six months. I learned everything from the ground up. My father spent a lot of time travelling during those years, and I had to learn a lot of things on my own. My choice was to sink or swim. Failure was not an option. In that time, I helped grow the company exponentially. I am fortunate to have had my father and brother as great mentors,” Dexter said.
Her father retired full time about five year ago, and Dexter now mostly works in the field performing commercial and residential inspections.
“But I also wear many different hats in the company’s day-to-day operations. I am very passionate and actively involved in this industry,” Dexter said.
Dexter also earned the Air Systems Cleaning Specialist Certification from NADCA and earned a position on the NADCA Top 30 Under 40 list.
“My goals are to keep learning and keep educating the public, as well as other companies, on the right and wrong way to fix indoor air quality related issues, specifically relating to the HVAC and duct work.”
Tim Fisher has only been in the HVAC industry for two years, but he has already made his mark as the team leader of market intelligence for the Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI).
“My arriving in the industry was really a happy accident. I previously led the government affairs work for another trade association, and I was interested in transitioning to a career with a heavier focus on economic research. HARDI offered me the opportunity to produce original research and commentary without losing all of the fun things that come with working for a trade association — regular travel, a great member community, and a small office environment. It’s been a great experience,” Fisher said.
Fisher played a pivotal role in the research, analysis, and production of HARDI’s 2020 State of the Channel report.
“Our industry is woefully understudied, and we hope that our 2020 report and subsequent editions begin to answer the many questions our members have about the HVACR industry,” Fisher said.
His research role was also especially helpful when COVID-19 first emerged as he helped HARDI study and share the quickly changing economic landscape with members.
Being new to the industry, Fisher’s HVAC goals are still evolving.
“I’m broadly interested in research and consulting work that puts me in a position to solve difficult problems, particularly those affecting economic growth and development. Working for HARDI has been great in this regard because we stand at the intersection of a litany of pressing challenges — climate change, vaccine distribution, workforce development, etc. — and in working through these challenges, we can deliver tangible benefits to our members.”
After 22 hours of nonstop work, Cyrus Gardner was able to isolate and repair a catastrophic failure in one of the largest hospitals in Buffalo after on-site construction took down the controls for two-thirds of the hospital. Not bad for an applicant who only knew that “HVAC makes air hot or cold” when interviewing for his first HVAC job with Siemens.
At Siemens, Gardner started off as a controls technician but quickly advanced and eventually became a field leader in HVAC, security access, and video surveillance controls.
“However, I never really got used to the cold, so when I was offered a chance to work with HVAC RepCo in my home state of Florida, I jumped in headfirst,” Gardner said. “In Florida, I grow relationships and sales through a relatively simple two-step process: communicate and educate. For the distributors that I serve, I provide assistance with everything from customer service to hosting counter days and open houses to raise brand awareness of the product lines that HVAC RepCo represents.”
Gardner won HVAC RepCo’s “Rookie of the Year” award in 2020.
“My primary career goal is to continue to grow the Florida territory for the brands that I represent and show rapid growth over the next decade. Secondly, I seek to continue to grow personally and professionally by interacting with and learning from the industry’s true leaders or others that I’ve had the privilege of meeting from the distributors, wholesalers, and manufacturers that I work with.”
As a manufacturing program manager for the Residential Ducted Systems division of Johnson Controls, Adam Hunter is an exceptional example of a driven and dynamic young leader. In his role, he’s dedicated to making processes better, faster, and more efficient for the betterment of his team, the products they launch, and ultimately the company’s customers.
Hunter’s love of manufacturing first came from his father, who runs a large machine shop in Wichita. He decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, and after receiving his degree, he worked as a machine operator at an aircraft interiors company. Hunter was so inspired by the design engineers that he came into work early and left late every day to teach himself engineering design programs. Shortly after, he was promoted to design engineer, which is where his career really took off.
Today at Johnson Controls, where he’s worked for the past five years, Hunter’s engineering background in design and operations gives him the fresh, rare skillset to bridge the gap between engineering and manufacturing. He effectively communicates the company’s vision to the manufacturing team while skillfully overseeing the new product implementation process, which includes everything from material management and program budgets to first article inspections.
“I strive to develop a diverse background and grow as a leader, so I can continue to having an increased role in the development and manufacturing of the next generation of HVAC products,” he said.
During his time at Johnson Controls, Hunter has overseen the on-time launch of the 21 SEER a/c and heat pump and the development of an autonomous maintenance process for the steel fabrication department.
Morgan Hutcheson has been a territory manager with Lennox since 2017, covering eastern Tennessee for the manufacturer.
“Working with and advising contractors small and large is without question my favorite part of the job. I try and make impactful connections with all levels of a dealership — owners, general managers, and sales managers — while also working individually with comfort advisers, technicians, and purchasing managers to really get a pulse of what makes that particular contractor successful,” Hutcheson said.
Hutcheson approaches sales with wisdom beyond his years.
“He is clearly in our corner wondering how Standard Air Conditioning is going to succeed by being a Lennox dealer. He has coached, informed, equipped, encouraged, and motivated us toward smashing the $1 million barrier this year,” contractor Bruce Randall said. “We could not have done it without him. It hurts me to buy or sell any other brand because I want him to succeed as well. He is a bright, young, enthusiastic star in our industry and needs to be recognized. He represents Lennox and our industry well by working hard to know both his product and his clients.”
Hutcheson is looking to eventually move to a different side of the HVAC industry.
“In the future, I hope I have the good fortune to transition to the contractors’ side of the business, so I try to soak up as much information as they are willing to share with me.”
Inventory management is more important than ever in the COVID-19 world. Brandon Goldstein’s job as general manager at Woodhill Supply has, in turn, taken on more importance.
Goldstein started out in HVAC but took a detour for about a decade trying different industries. He eventually put himself through graduate school to learn business and become an MBA.
“The skills and knowledge obtained have enabled me to serve the HVAC industry locally and beyond by developing the necessary relationships to build the best team, excellent product offerings and availability, as well as top-in-class customer service. Woodhill Supply Inc. breaks down barriers that were once thought to be out-of-range for a local supply house during the current economic climate. Since day one, I was bound by fate to serve the HVAC community,” Goldstein said.
Since joining Woodhill Supply, Goldstein has made numerous improvements to the company — both to the physical plant and business systems. Under his leadership, they have added high-efficiency LED lighting to the entire building. By using available rebates and tax credits, this cost Woodhill Supply pennies on the dollar. He also improved the flow of truck delivery traffic in and out of the building.
Goldstein has also implemented procedures to enable greater customer service via enhanced computer software, a fine-tuned product locator system, and reorganizing the placement of stock.
“I focus on the youth and next generation spreading knowledge and education about the fantastic opportunities within our industry and community. We are continually reminded, especially during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, that we must focus on the future, and it starts today.”
Robert Kemick has been in the HVAC field for the last 13 years. He has consistently grown his HVAC career and is now the CEO of Kemick Services Heating and Cooling in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The company covers both the residential and commercial markets.
Kemick started off as a commercial sheet metal mechanic.
“Craig Warren taught me how to make origami out of sheet metal … everything from scratch,” Kemick said.
Kemick then moved on to do commercial HVAC and plumbing before becoming a lead HVAC tech with a local contractor. Kemick just recently launched his company after spending more than a few years in the field, and the early returns are positive.
“I strive to build my business off of values — from relations, honesty, and hard work. All my work is performed by myself, so customers will never have to go through the run around for communication, nor wonder if the technician coming out is reliable. I strive to supply honest, personable, professional, and affordable quality work,” Kemick said.
He just received his master HVAC tradesman license last June.
“He has consistently attended our training seminars to stay at the top of his field,” Jessica Sabourin of Johnstone Supply said. “He is a very good HVAC tech running a very good HVAC business.”
Third-generation HVAC tradesman Thaddeus Liversedge started in the HVAC industry at birth. He began working at his family’s HVAC business as a young kid making s-locks and drives while taking out the trash and sweeping the shop. But in addition to working for the family business, he spent time at numerous other HVAC contractors in Arizona, covering everything from service to new construction.
This methodic career path allowed Liversedge to learn the HVAC industry from the ground up. Today, he is the proud owner of his own HVAC company — Phoenix Air Department. He owns and operates it with his partner Jacob Celis. The duo is entering their second year as owners after launching the HVAC company at the beginning of a worldwide health pandemic, to great success.
“I have certainly learned the trade through many years of failure and hard work,” Liversedge said. “Transitioning and learning the operations side of the business allowed me the freedom to operate our own business and grow our team.”
Liversedge has built an impressive digital footprint for his company and himself. He has built an Instagram page for HVAC techs that has over 19,000 followers. This community has allowed Liversedge to have a solid supply of workforce applicants whenever the company has an open position.
When Ara Mahdessian’s family arrived in the U.S. in the 1980s, they came alone, with minimal belongings and no prospects. That alone makes his success founding and leading software company ServiceTitan a remarkable achievement.
But the story behind ServiceTitan’s success is even more remarkable.
After graduating from Stanford, Mahdessian passed up lucrative opportunities in tech to help his father, a home service contractor. Mahdessian noticed that the trades had been effectively frozen in time — software and automation had not yet impacted the industry to the degree they could. Mahdessian and co-founder Vahe Kuzoyan developed ServiceTitan, which streamlines the management of plumbing, HVAC, electric, and other services businesses. Other local contractors noticed the difference this software was making, and soon ServiceTitan became a full-time business.
“We had both seen our fathers struggle to manage their home service businesses with outdated technology and were inspired to build something that would help make their jobs run more smoothly and drive their success,” Mahdessian said.
ServiceTitan now serves more than 7,500 contracting businesses that collectively employ more than 100,000 technicians and perform more than $20 billion worth of annual transactions across various verticals, including plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and more.
“Our No. 1 goal at ServiceTitan is to provide our customers with the tools and technology they need to achieve success and grow their business,” Mahdessian said. “Our industry expertise gives us the ability to intimately understand the business needs of HVAC companies and set them up for growth, increased efficiency, and improved customer service.”
Most recently, Mahdessian and ServiceTitan raised $500 million in a Series F financing, led by Tiger Global Management and Sequoia Capital Global Equities. The financing round was accompanied by an $8.3 billion valuation.
Technician to owner is a tricky transition, but Ben Merrifield was certainly able to pull it off.
Before being vice president and part owner of Meade’s Heating and Air, Merrifield was the top revenue-producing technician at a $10 million business. When that business was acquired by a larger corporation, Merrifield was given the choice to stay in service as a technician or go into a commission-based sales role.
He chose sales and started in mid-February 2019. By the end of 2019, he held all of the company records for sales: highest average sale, highest monthly sales, highest closing percentage, highest revenue producer in a calendar year.
“Needless to say, I did well and enjoyed my job, but something was missing. I missed being in the field and seeing a project from start to finish. I missed the interaction with the homeowners and being there for the work. I truly missed interacting with the installers and offering a helping hand to them when they needed it,” Merrifield said.
That is when Merrifield and David Snell began the joint venture of Meade’s.
“Ben is the main revenue driver for the business and also establishes installation and services processes that produce incredible results. Despite Meade’s being born at the start of an economic shutdown, Ben drove Meade’s to $1.3 million in its first full year and will look to guide it towards doubling that in 2021,” Snell said.
Merrifield is glad he made the change.
“I didn’t know the journey was going to take me where I am now, but I cannot complain. I have the best job in the world and it is something different every day,” Merrifield said.
Joseph Midkiff has learned the HVAC business from the ground up. After getting his start answering the phone in his uncle’s HVAC service business, he went on to manage the service department, warehouse, and internet presence in that business. A short stint building a lucrative HVAC e-commerce business ultimately opened the door for Midkiff to join Carrier Enterprise.
Excelling in this environment, he filled seven roles of progressive responsibility over the course of seven years. When the time came to take a next step, Midkiff had learned every aspect of the distribution business, including the knowledge that he gained as director of sales, director of pricing, and director of vendor management.
These years at the company produced much growth in numerous categories. In addition to spectacular numbers, Midkiff won awards including the “Big Fish” (Sales & e-commerce), CE Superstar (Leadership), A6 MVP (Op Improvements), and Top Sales Performer awards.
It was at that point that Midkiff joined with Ernie Pena to co-found Winsupply Rio Grand Valley.
“My immediate, specific goal is to build Winsupply RGV as a company that adheres to a core set of values — people (employees first, then customers, then ownership, then vendors), place (community impact), process, product, and profit, in that order,” Midkiff said. “Over the long term, I would like to build and inspire businesses that are both highly entrepreneurial and have a significant positive impact on their communities.”
Brian Mount, CEO of contractor Tempo Inc., was born to do HVAC work.
“When growing up, if there was something to do with HVAC, I would try and involve myself,” Mount said. “I think there really is no better feeling in the world than being in a 95°F house with a broken a/c and then being able to fix it and getting that cold air to blow out. I was always fascinated by HVAC and the science behind it.”
From ages 15-21, he was an assistant to his future father-in-law, who was responsible for the maintenance and replacements for multi-family unitary HVAC units. At the age of 27, he joined Tempo Inc. as an energy efficiency and green building consultant and project manager. US-EcoLogic is a division of Tempo Inc. that offers these services to new multifamily development and construction.
While at Tempo, he held the positions of account manager and general manager of Tempo Mechanical. He was then elected COO at the young age of 35 and followed that up by being elected CEO just one year later.
“I have been honored to lead a company that was able to keep everyone employed with no loss to income through the 2019-2020 COVID-19 pandemic,” Mount said.
Despite accomplishing much in his young career, Mount still sets his sights on career goals.
“I would like to develop the residential HVAC business into a sustainable professional corporation with revenues in excess of $200 million, while maintaining our culture of employee ownership and servant leadership,” Mount said.
Rory Olson started his HVAC career with contractor MacDonald-Miller soon after receiving his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Idaho. He started as a new construction project manager working on large construction projects in the Seattle area.
“I had studied lean manufacturing principles in college and was drawn to MacDonald-Miller due to their innovative approach to lean construction methods. I spent my time in project management gaining experience in all aspects of HVAC design, coordination, installation, and commissioning,” Olson said.
In 2010, he was given the opportunity to lead the company’s detailing group. In three years, he refocused a struggling department and implemented standard operating procedures that are still in place today. In 2014, Olson transitioned to service operations. As service operations manager, he was tasked with the continuous improvement of one of the largest commercial HVAC service crews on the West Coast. During his time in service operations, revenue went from $32 million to $46 million.
In 2020, Olson was promoted to vice president of service and took over the business development arm of service along with the operations team.
Education has always been a passion for Olson. He regularly teaches leadership, lean, and organization topics within MacDonald-Miller. He has been an instructor with the local Mechanical Contractors Association since 2014, developing and delivering a wide range of technical and leadership topics. In 2020, he became an affiliate instructor at the University of Washington teaching mechanical systems to construction management and architecture students for the College of the Built Environment.
Badri Patel has 13 plus years of experience in the HVAC industry, with exposure to various roles — design, construction, project management, commissioning, account management, and business development.
At Johnson Controls, he started with VRF design and application, assisted with training, and recently accepted a new role of commercial market account executive, focusing on commercial HVAC solutions in addition to VRF systems.
Prior to joining Johnson Controls, he managed sales and installation portfolio as deputy manager for commercial and applied equipment at Blue Star Limited, India, developing business across various vertical segments.
Being an ASHRAE member and actively engaged at ASHRAE Toronto Chapter, Patel has attended many ASHRAE events in North America. He is affiliated with International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), US Green Building Council (USGBC), and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI).
“I am a firm believer and promoter of energy efficiency, sustainability, and health and wellness in the built environment,” Patel said. “I have a passion to evolve my professional career while offering solutions that meet with the requirements of upcoming refrigerant transition to low-GWP options, building electrification, and advancing demand response capabilities.”
International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is a global movement to transform our buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive. Patel is one of the early WELL AP certification holders since 2016 and is now ‘WELL Faculty.’ He represented Johnson Controls and served as Air and Thermal Comfort advisor on the global panel for two consecutive years during 2018-2020.
Not many people get involved in the HVAC industry and the clothing business at the same time, but that is exactly what 39-year-old Ben Poole did. He is the founder of both Trusted Heating and Cooling and the HVAC Tactical clothing line.
Poole is third generation in the HVAC industry.
“I was raised in the trade,” Poole said. “I started by cleaning my grandfather’s shop. I then learned sheet metal fabrication before moving on to installation and then service. This was all done in the family HVAC business.”
Poole eventually left the family business to pursue other outside HVAC opportunities. This journey culminated in Poole starting his own company in 2009. After successfully building up and selling that company, Poole started up a second HVAC contracting company in 2013. Then, after finding a lack of quality HVAC clothing to wear in the field, Poole started HVAC Tactical brand in 2018.
“My goal is to build both the Trusted and Tactical brands,” Poole said. “I also want to push the HVAC industry to raise the bar on craftsmanship and professionalism. The HVAC industry needs to value themselves and their craft. Being a part of this industry is awesome.”
As if running a contracting and clothing business were not enough, Poole is also an HVAC consultant and has recently become a trainer for continuing education in Texas.
Although Aniruddh Roy is still under the age of 40, he has made invaluable contributions across several issues of importance to the HVAC industry, including state-based building standards rulemakings such as Title 24, development of AHRI Standard 1380 on
Demand Response-Ready HVAC Systems, and revisions to various versions of AHRI Standard 210/240. He is currently actively working with AHRI ensuring that the industry is well prepared to deal with the dynamism of issues related to IoT products.
Roy entered the HVAC industry thanks in large part to the fact that his father was in the commercial ventilation industry. Roy accompanied him to AHR trips while in college and was hooked.
He has over six years of industry trade association experience at AHRI in regulatory affairs, certification programs, standards development, and research activities. He has been with Goodman for over seven years in a regulatory affairs role, managing a variety of projects and programs pertaining to U.S. and Canadian federal and state/provincial regulations and laws, utility incentive programs, building codes, and standards.
“I am very passionate about harmonization of regulatory provisions across countries and jurisdictions since such efforts eventually help end consumers have access to high-efficiency inverter heat pumps and air conditioners at cost-effective prices,” Roy said. “I am also excited about the range of opportunities that lie ahead for our industry and for Goodman,
some of which include demand response-ready products, controls-related advancements, low-GWP refrigerant transition, cold climate products, building decarbonization, and sustainability.”
Nolan Sarandou started his HVAC career as a service technician at Jackson Comfort Services. Fast forward 14 years later and he is now the service manager at the same company, helping team members grow through continued training and education.
Sarandou created an in-house service technician training program that has been proven to take a technician from no prior experience to an entry-level maintenance technician in as little as eight weeks. By creating this program, he has brought numerous young people into the trades who wouldn’t have otherwise come. Meanwhile, Sarandou has taken a service department that was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to being sustainable on its own.
“My current career goal is to help all of my team members grow and become successful in their HVAC careers. In doing so, this will help improve the profitability of Jackson Comfort Services. In the long term, I would enjoy moving into a branch manager role as our company continues to grow,” Sarandou said.
The service manager has an Associate’s degree in applied sciences.
“I was also lucky enough to spend a year in a tech support role at Arzel Zoning in Cleveland, which helped grow my love for HVAC, training, and working with customers and coworkers alike,” he said. “When the path toward service manager at Jackson became a possibility for me, I decided to return to Jackson Comfort Services and couldn’t be happier. I take pride in helping team members grow and genuinely feel happy when team members succeed and benefit from their career.”
HVAC was not the first industry that Connie Schroder has worked in, but she certainly is making her mark as a senior product manager for Daikin North America.
She joined Daikin and the HVAC industry in 2017.
“The industry I was in was very cyclical, and it was common for companies to adjust their resource requirements to follow the latest ups and downs of the market. Having already been in a product management role, I knew I had a good chance to make the transition and began the hunt for my next career. I started seeing openings with Daikin at their newly built Daikin Texas Technology Park facility outside of Houston. After doing some research, it was easy to see that the HVAC industry brought the stability I was looking for but also offered plenty of learning and growth opportunities,” Schroder said.
Schroder started as a product manager and after a couple of years was promoted to the senior product manager role, where she manages the team responsible for ductless products within the residential product marketing team. She is supporting Daikin’s efforts to promote the benefits and applications of inverter technology in North America. She is also responsible for eight single- and multi-zone new product introductions.
“I want to continue to drive ductless product adoption in the North American market — the value that single- and multi-zone ductless systems bring to a homeowner from both a comfort and efficiency standpoint, as well as their ability to help a contractor grow their business, is exciting to be a part of. I am also looking forward to being a part of the upcoming transition to low-GWP refrigerants and introducing a new generation of ductless products for Daikin,” Schroder said.
Despite being 39 years old, Chad Simpson has been in the HVAC industry for over 20 years now.
As a freshman in high school, Simpson wrote an English paper outlining his aspirations to own and operate a successful HVAC company. Despite having no family history in the industry — and that same English teacher telling him there was no future for him in the trades and advising him to go to college — Simpson enrolled in vocational school and began working as an intern for a successful HVAC company when he was only 16 years old.
Along with his recently retired father, he founded Simpson Heating and Cooling in 1999. Over the next two decades, Simpson served in every role and capacity from service tech to CEO as he worked to acquire five additional companies, now grossing tens of millions annually.
Two of those companies have been serving Ohio for nearly 100 years each. His companies are known for their exceptional quality, superior customer service, and their focus on the overall customer/employee experience. Simpson established an operations book many years ago complete with job descriptions, stocking lists for service and install vehicles, career path planning documents, core values, organizational alignment charts, KPI targets, business processes, and P&L management goals to guide his businesses while providing consistency to all those involved in it. This book has been a living document, constantly being modified and grown as the industry and influencing factors have changed.
At the young age of 25, Abby Simmons is already the general manager for HVAC contracting company Texas Total Comfort Systems. She started with the company in 2016 when the company was called Pate A/C. At the time, she was going to college.
“I didn’t have a career plan, but as soon as I was hired, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Simmons said. “When Ricky and Tiffany Cox purchased the company, they empowered me to be the best I can. There have been some challenges and growing pains along the way, but I believe it has only made me a better person. They gave me a chance to thrive and I took it.”
After the ownership purchase and the name change to Texas Total Comfort Systems, Simmons has been part of an organization that has doubled in size. She has worn many hats with the company, including dispatcher, hiring manager, office manager, human resources, and social media department. She is currently the general manager despite being the youngest employee.
“I am proud to say they trust me to make the decisions that are best for the company. They always have my back on all my decisions,” Simmons said. “My goal is to continue to grow with the company. I am excited as I watch the company grow and expand. As that happens, the HVAC industry also changes, and I love being a part of learning the new equipment and advances of the technology to be able to help and educate our customers. I also love being a woman in the trade and being a resource to other women looking to join the trade industry.”
Austin Sims has dedicated his entire career to the HVAC industry and has a unique combination of experience and skills that make him invaluable to the industry. He started working as an HVAC helper for a contractor in 2006. He quickly proved his worth and moved up through the ranks as an installer, then maintenance technician, and then service technician for both residential HVAC equipment and generators.
Sims liked being a service technician, but it was not completely aligned with his natural creative passions for photography, music, design, and art. While working his HVAC day job, Sims attended the University of South Alabama at night in pursuit of a degree in graphic design.
This is when Mingledorff’s Distributors found Sims. They were looking to fill a recently vacated graphic designer position and found his years of experience as an HVAC technician extremely valuable. When sales and marketing managers came to him with new projects, he was able to instantly understand the objectives and offer additional value from his perspective as a service tech.
“My career goal is to develop and improve ways to help HVAC professionals visually communicate the complexities of this industry,” Sims said. “Contractors need to articulate the latest tech and industry jargon to the average consumer in a way that wins their trust with one of the most expensive decisions they may ever make.”
This last year was challenging and exciting for Sims.
“Thriving through a global pandemic at a time when HVAC and IAQ visual communications were needed more than ever was a challenge. I was able to contribute in my own way while working from home. I produced several visual assets needed to communicate and promote ways to do business with Mingledorff’s virtually,” Sims said.
Eric Swiney had his first Fluke 12B meter when he was five years old. That was right around the time he was helping his father, a mechanical HVAC contractor, recover refrigerant and swap out compressors.
Swiney officially started working in the HVAC industry in 2003 as a co-op student during his junior year of high school. This entailed going to school in the morning and performing preventive maintenance on commercial HVAC equipment after his first
In 2010, he registered for the state of Delaware’s apprenticeship program. This program consisted of four years or 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. For each year of training, a minimum of 144 hours of related instruction is required. The following year, he transferred his apprenticeship to an independent Trane office.
After a few more stops along the way, Swiney found Distech Controls, where he is currently the director of applications. Swiney and his team are responsible for building productivity tools for engineering, programming, and commissioning of building automation projects.
“Five years, a ton of flights, taxi rides, hotel stays, and several great product launches later, I am confident I have made the best decision,” Swiney said.
One of his main goals going forward is to address the labor shortage in the HVAC industry.
“Just in building automation alone, there is a staggering 36,000-job deficit and, if you ask any system integrator today, their top challenge is finding qualified people to hire,” Swiney said. “To help with this need, we will need to reinvent the traditional process and streamline productivity. My team and I are focused on building tools that are easier to use and require less training.”
Eric Truskoski joined Bradford White as a design engineer in 2006 after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University.
In 2016, when Bradford White identified the critical need for an expanded presence to address local, state, and federal regulatory matters, Truskowski was the obvious candidate to lead this essential work. As senior director of government and regulatory affairs, he represents the Bradford White organization throughout North America and in select other countries.
Truskoski keeps Bradford White leadership apprised on any new legislative or regulatory action that can affect Bradford White’s business or the business of its customers, including the recent infrastructure bill proposed by the White House.
Two significant projects in which Truskoski has been involved include managing the largest regulatory transition of products under NAECA III (April 2010 to April 2015), which affected all residential water heaters regardless of fuel type. This work helped internal and external customers through a critical industry change. Another demonstration of his leadership includes his participation as the Committee Chair for the AHRI Water Heating Regulatory & Policy Committee (RPC).
“No matter where I pursued my career, I always wanted to establish myself as a key part of the company’s leadership team, helping to steer critical business decisions. In addition, I want to work towards being viewed as one who is invested in both our company and the industry as a whole. These were the kind of leaders who I most admired and was deeply appreciative of their mentorship in terms of my Bradford White career and gaining a better understanding of the broader plumbing and HVAC world,” Truskoski said.
Service techs and sales employees are the lifeblood of any HVAC contracting company. Brody Upleger fills both roles with Progressive Air and has proved to be very valuable to the organization.
Upleger has been with Progressive Air for eight years. He started in the warehouse while he was attending trade school. He has worked his way up to become a true leader in the organization.
“Many of the service technicians look to him as a leader. He takes on new procedures and technology easily. He is resourceful and adapts to difficult situations,” coworker Julie Rogers said. “Many customers request him, and he is always willing to help and train others. We are proud of Brody and his accomplishments as a service technician.”
Upleger is able to diagnose and fix the most complex problems within any HVAC system. He has also been awarded employee of the month multiple times.
“My HVAC career goal is to eventually own and operate my own business,” Upleger said. “I am proud of being one of the lead service technicians after not having any previous experience in HVAC. My friends persuaded me to go to school with them and learn HVAC. It is the best career to have in Florida.”
Michelle Van Beek quickly proceeded up the corporate ladder at HVAC contractor Comfort Now Inc. She entered the HVAC industry six years ago as the office manager for the company that only had 10 employees at the time.
She was recruited to the company by the owner while Van Beek was working at a safety supply company. At that point, she did not know anything about HVAC.
“Taking a leap of faith into the industry turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made,” Van Beek said.
Van Beek was quickly promoted to general manager before working her way up to the position of chief operations officer. The company now has 50 employees across their HVAC and pest control companies. She has played a huge role in the tremendous growth at Comfort Now. She has developed a great team of dedicated professionals and built a strong operational foundation at the company.
“My goal is to become an industry trainer and continue to develop leaders and help grow/strengthen companies operationally. I have a true passion for inspiring leaders, growing businesses, and helping others overcome obstacles to become successful,” Van Beek said. “One of my greatest accomplishments in HVAC is mentoring up-and-coming leaders both inside and outside of my organization.”
Shaun Weiss has 12 years of experience in the HVAC and plumbing industry. While his experience covers several operational, management, and sales roles across the residential, commercial, and industrial markets, his passion is for service management and service operations. He has built and grown service, installation, and sales teams from scratch and improved performance in service, installation, and plumbing operations for each company where he has worked.
“I’ve held nearly every position you can think of in a typical HVAC company from 2004-2015. In 2015, I joined the team at BDR to use my experience to take clients across the country to the next level,” Weiss said.
With his skill and talent for business development, Weiss successfully prepares his service technicians to communicate with customers effectively, look for opportunity, and present and educate his company’s offerings to drive better service and greater sales.
Weiss is a strategic thinker with a proven record of tactical execution follow-through. He is skilled at identifying and diagnosing the source, cause, and cost of process inefficiencies, and then problem-solving to reach the desired outcome in a team-based approach. His success is documented at BDR as a head coach helping businesses grow their profits and improve efficiency.
“My career goal is simply to continue to advance in my current profession as a coach and trainer and see where that leads,” Weiss said. “Seeing my clients’ hard work and implementation pay off and bearing witness to their successes is my greatest accomplishment.
In addition to his job as the manager of technical troubleshooting and training for Coolsys, Brett Wetzel has recently started reaching even more people with his Advanced Refrigeration podcast.
The refrigeration podcast has detailed discussions about the working of the racks and devices that technicians come across every day. The podcast has become a training tool for many technicians. It reaches people in 50 different countries.
Wetzel also had an early goal of being a trainer for a national HVAC and refrigeration company. With his recent promotion at Coolsys, he has attained that goal.
“To be able to impact and educate technicians so they feel more comfortable and for them to be able to expand their horizons educationally is great. I like watching them become the best technicians they can be,” Wetzel said. “I have personal fulfillment in knowing that I’ve been helping educate the new technicians coming out of school.”
Wetzel is well-known at Coolsys as someone who is always looking into building a newer system to run refrigeration systems more efficiently, as well as willing to travel far from home to assist in jobs that have a hard problem to solve. He is constantly learning the new refrigeration programming and usually has a class to teach the other techs how the programming works.
In 2008, in the midst of a great recession, Joseph Wood started Boston Standard Co. with only a cell phone and determination. The business has grown into one of the leading independent residential HVAC, plumbing, and electrical businesses in Boston.
The company’s 60-person team and innovative mobile showrooms can be seen all around the Boston area.
“As we’ve markedly grown each year, I keep a focus on moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other, all the way to launching exciting new areas of growth, including the recent introduction of electrical services in 2021,” Wood said. “From the start, our focus has been on offering service, repair, and installation to our clients. We significantly upped our game in 2014 when my wife, Laura, brought herself and her MBA to Boston Standard along with her strategic business and organizational skills in her role as COO.”
Wood gives back, serving as a commercial advisor at Bristol/Plymouth Regional Technical School, and he visits and speaks at technical schools throughout Greater Boston. In Boston, Boston Standard has pioneered DIY classes in plumbing, heating, and cooling for Boston Building Resources — a social enterprise company based in Roxbury. Wood believes that supporting the growth and development of children is critical. He regularly partners with local programs and organizations that focus on services for children and those in need by sponsoring the All Dorchester Youth League every year, donating plumbing services to a family in need, and supporting the enhancement of local playgrounds and outdoor green spaces for children.
Bill Zilen is a person of great ethics and knowledge. That is exactly what an owner is looking for in a field service manager.
Zilen started out with a contracting company fresh out of high school on a recommendation from a family friend. He was changing filters before being quickly moved to install and service calls.
He joined Remco in 2010 as a service tech and quickly climbed the ranks to become the service field manager in the Allentown area at the young age of 25. He oversees a core group of technicians as well as several specialty accounts and national chain stores.
“I quickly realized this field is for me,” Zilin said. “Goals for my career would be to become the service manager for the entire refrigeration department and hopefully an overseeing board member at some point.”
Zilen’s current and former coworkers have the utmost respect for him and his HVAC abilities.
“He has willingly driven two-plus hours away to help a fellow coworker on difficult jobs. His knowledge, willingness to teach, and regularly scheduling training for nearly 200 technicians speaks all for itself,” Chad Weaver said.
Zilen has also overseen the addition of multiple new customers from the local pharmaceutical industries.
“I really enjoy training and helping advance people in the company,” Zilen said.
Rosalyn Zock, project manager and executive assistant at The New Flat Rate, is a newer face to HVAC (she entered the industry in 2019). With a core value of service to others, Zock’s goal is to help contractors grow their companies so they can change lives in their respective communities. From HR tasks to marketing, from copywriting and editing to giving presentations, from serving her fellow coworkers to serving members, she has left her mark on nearly every department at The New Flat Rate.
Zock is especially passionate about creating and contributing to a positive work culture because it has a trickle-down effect.
“If everyone in the office is happy, our members feel it, and their customers feel it. Happy community members and happy customers make businesses grow, and that cycle causes those happy businesses to be able to continue to provide top-notch service,” Zock said.
Zock strives to see the humanity in every company that she serves, no matter the size.
“A profitable contractor means so much more than showing numbers in green on a spreadsheet. Increased profits mean ballet lessons for your kid, a date night with your spouse, the erasure of overwhelming debt,” Zock said. “Doubling your average service ticket means having the means to buy your 16-year-old’s first car. It means finally being able to remodel your kitchen. It means being able to pay for your parents’ medical expenses. It means loving being in business for the first time.”