Picture this: A man is living in Indiana before the ‘60s, running his own plumbing company.
Things are going well, so he decides to go on a family vacation to Phoenix when suddenly, his wife decides she wants to stay and live there for the rest of her life — so he packs up, moves his business, and does just that.
That’s how Forrest Anderson Plumbing & Air Conditioning started in Phoenix, Arizona, back in 1961. Three generations later and after introducing air conditioning to their services in the 1970s, it’s still there. Forrest Anderson’s granddaughter, Audrey Monell, has been serving as the company’s president for almost 14 years. She still works with many of her family members, including her parents, sister-in-law, and nephew.
Although the company is family-owned, it’s not exclusive — Monell says she enjoys running the business with an open-door policy. When hiring new employees, she looks more at the personality of a person rather than their previous HVAC experience.
“If you're willing to work, learn, and put effort in, then we are more willing to train,” said Monell. “We have a new apprenticeship program where we're bringing these young technicians along. They [come in] knowing very little, but we've been noticing that they are becoming some of the leading technicians in our company.”
Training and Lifestyle
While some of the employees at Forrest Anderson might not come from HVAC backgrounds, the company is sure to train them thoroughly enough to have a firm grasp on the industry. All new employees are trained by the company’s lead technicians and must ride along with them to jobs for as long as necessary — whether that’s for a couple months or even a full year. New techs are also required to attend several HVAC classes.
“We send them to continuing education programs through the Electric League Council and the Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Council,” said Monell. “We pay for the classes and we pay them while they're attending these classes.”
Along with the technical skills, Forrest Anderson encourages new employees to learn soft skills like customer service and how to effectively communicate with customers.
“I would go out pretty much weekly with one of our different techs, so I would learn customer service skills and hard skills from each of them,” said Noah Klugman, an HVAC technician who had recently gone through Forrest Anderson’s training program. “I kind of pick whichever works best for me and combine them, so I'm a little bit of a mix between all of our techs.”
Klugman was initially going to pursue a career in law when he decided to make the switch and attend a trade school. Although he attended the school for about nine months, he still went through another year of training with Forrest Anderson. His favorite part about the job? The freedom it has given him.
“Just being able to hop into my van in the morning and head to my first job [is something] I really enjoy. I don't have to go somewhere first or clock in at some desk,” Klugman added.
Although the technicians are kept busy, the company tries its best to keep employees happy. There is a rotation for on-call workers, which changes every four weeks for techs working on the weekend. Those scheduling make an effort to plan the technicians’ last job of the day by their homes, so they can have a quick drive back at the end of a long day.
Most employees at Forrest Anderson attend biweekly meetings. Every other Monday, the plumbers and a/c techs get together with their manager at the office for an hour-long meeting. They spend half of it discussing things that have been going well and things that need some work, and then the rest of the time is used for the employees to catch up with one another.
“You can tell we're more of a family company and you know just by working here. It’s really nice,” Klugman said.
President, Forrest Anderson Plumbing & Air Conditioning
Pushing Through the Pandemic
Like many other businesses, the onset of the pandemic had brought new challenges to Forrest Anderson. Protecting their employees and clients had become a priority. Ever since Phoenix Governor Doug Ducey’s mask mandate first came out, Monell said the company’s technicians have been supplied with full PPE — masks, gloves, and booties — but now that the requirements in Phoenix have relaxed, that decision is left up to the homeowners. Monell finds that some customers prefer the techs to wear a mask, while others get upset if they see one on.
Another issue they’ve been facing is rising prices with gas and products. Some of their materials and equipment have had price increases of up to 25%. On top of the price, there’s a problem with availability, as it’s become increasingly difficult to get a hold of more high-efficiency and high-end types of products.
“Especially with the HVAC parts, you have to wait longer usual. They've had some stock issues with all the vendors,” said Tara Monell, senior accounts payable at Forrest Anderson. She says it helps when the customers understand that it’s been difficult to get the necessary parts on time.
Even before the rise in gas prices, the company did its best to be conscious of where they were sending their workers. “If someone’s out near the east side of the valley, we try to keep that person out there. That doesn't always happen, but we do try to do that so they don't have to drive from one side of the valley to the other,” she explained.
While quarterly maintenance used to be Forrest Anderson’s more popular service, that number went down because of the pandemic — presumably because people became more cautious about having strangers in their home. Air purifiers, however, became a new hit. Although the company had been selling air purifiers for 10-15 years, they became extremely popular in the last couple years — the most requested being UV air purifiers.
Despite the challenges faced during the pandemic, those at Forrest Anderson continue to see the silver lining. After nearly 61 years in Phoenix, the company remains a strong presence in the community because of its family-oriented culture and personal connection to its clients.
“What I like to think we offer is a long history of being good to our word,” said Audrey Monell.