When a family-owned business is around for almost a century with over 3,000 five-star reviews online, it’s safe to say the company has some strong leadership. Jackson Comfort Services started in Cleveland back in the 1920s as a tinning business under the name J. W. Jackson Company. Four generations later, Jackson Comfort found its way to Northfield, Ohio, and shifted its focus to heating and cooling. J.W. Jackson’s grandsons, Gary and Mark, now run the business.
“I started with them in 1979 — they had one other employee at the time, so it was just four of us,” recalled Gary Jackson, co-owner and president, Jackson Comfort.
With the help of their wives, Pat and Fonda, the Jackson brothers were able to expand their business and add more members to their company’s family. Gary Jackson attributes much of their success to their commitment to both employee and customer happiness. He believes if they have employees who enjoy coming into work, the employees are going to treat the customers with great care, and everyone will be happy.
Jackson Comfort instills an unofficial company promise into their employees: “Always do the right thing, even when no one is watching.” According to Gary, all employees are empowered to spend the time and money necessary to do the right thing on the job. The “right thing” can be anything from refunding $20 for an invoice overpayment to replacing a faulty piece of equipment.
Located between Cleveland and Akron, the company generally services the community within 15-20 miles of their shop. They keep their residential and commercial technicians on rotation to make sure they always have at least one tech available to their customers, if needed. The rotations, coupled with the reasonable commute to jobs, helps employees maintain a good work/life balance.
If there’s one thing Jackson Comfort is known for amongst its employees and community, it’s their family atmosphere — it resonates in the workplace and on the job. Eric Skrabec, warehouse manager, Jackson Comfort, has been with the company for less than a year and said the intimate environment is well-appreciated by everyone.
ON THE JOB: Employees are provided with company vans to get them to and from job sites. They generally service the community within 15-20 miles of their shop. (Courtesy of Jackson Comfort Services)
“It was always in the back of my mind as a company I would love to work for. It's kind of a testament to it going beyond the company,” Skrabec shared.
Coming from a corporate setting, Skrabec said the management at Jackson Comfort gave him the tools necessary to take care of his warehouse staff, which was something his previous work experience lacked.
The company gets involved with their employees in other ways too. Doug Jackson, operations manager, Jackson Comfort, said before the pandemic, they would do a monthly company breakfast where all the managers would cook breakfast for all their employees. Individual departments would also organize their own get-togethers and outside events, such as bowling nights and Christmas parties. During the hottest summer days, the managers load the cars with Gatorade, snacks, and water and deliver it to job sites.
“We really try to show our appreciation to all the employees,” Doug said.
Another way Jackson Comfort shows their appreciation is by protecting their employees during the pandemic. All technicians are provided with sanitizer and gloves as a part of their PPE and are required to wear masks when walking up to a customer’s door. The company also uses a paperless system, which Doug said protects employees who need to service emergency situations. This system allows technicians to do their job without coming in contact with sick customers.
Recruitment and Training
The pandemic might have brought on a lot of challenges, like the labor shortage, but Gary Jackson suggests recruitment to the trades has always been difficult. He said the industry needs to do a better job of making the general public aware of the career opportunities that can be found in the trades.
“A lot of our new employees come from current employees recruiting friends they think would be a good fit. In most cases, their friends weren't even aware of the opportunity until they were told about it,” he said.
Despite this challenge, Jackson Comfort participates in career fairs and visits high schools, spreading the word about the many opportunities found in the trades. The company also builds relationships with local vocational schools through their involvement with the Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ACCA) and conduct frequent job shadows. Though previous HVAC experience is definitely useful, Jackson Comfort has a different approach when recruiting employees.
“Our strategy lately has been looking for people that have a great attitude, some mechanical aptitude, are willing to learn, and want to start a successful career,” said Nolan Sarandou, the company’s service manager.
TRAINING: New employees with minimal HVAC experience are paid to go through training programs for two to three months. During this time, field technicians teach them how to become maintenance techs or install helpers. (Courtesy of Jackson Comfort Services)
Sarandou said they’ve been hiring a lot of new employees who have no experience in the trades and have been putting them through training programs for two to three months. During this time, prospective employees are brought up to speed and taught how to be maintenance techs or install helpers. While the field technicians handle the hard skills, the sales coach and managers handle most of the soft skills. Jackson Comfort also incorporates classroom-style teaching and online courses into its training program. Not only is training covered by the company, but employees who are going through the program also get paid.
“When technicians start here, they're young and here for a few years. At some point, they're able to buy a house, start a family, see their retirement savings grow,” said Gary Jackson. “It's just gratifying to see that progression.”
Jackson Comfort Services
CONTRACTOR: Jackson Comfort Services
OWNER(S): Gary Jackson (left) and Mark Jackson (right)
LOCATION: Northfield, OH
YEARS IN BUSINESS: Started 1920s, moved in 1970s to a new location and incorporated with a new name. Moved into a new facility in 1994.
BULK OF MARKET: Residential service/replacement
TOTAL SALES FOR 2020: $8,438,593
TOTAL SALES LAST 365: $12,039,587
TOTAL EMPLOYEES: 70
TOTAL SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND INSTALLERS: 43
AVERAGE HOURS EMPLOYEES SPEND IN TRAINING: Average 50 hours annually, more for new employees.
BENEFITS BEYOND MEDICAL/DENTAL INSURANCE: Life insurance, vision insurance, 401K with 100% match up to 4% of pay, vehicle, uniforms, PTO (vacation, holiday, bereavement, maternity, paternity), tool allowance, personal phone reimbursement, recruiting bonus, performance incentives.
INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION & CONTRACTOR GROUP MEMBERS: ACCA (local, state, national), Service Nation Alliance, EGIA, ACCA MIX Group.
THE NEWS SELECTED THIS CONTRACTOR BECAUSE: Jackson Comfort Services has implemented a program to train individuals with great attitudes with little to no experience for field positions in HVAC. Through classroom, online, and field training, the company has been able to get new employees in trucks to become successful participants in the HVAC trade.