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“If you’re worried about the future of the industry, don’t be.”
- Alok Maskara

As many industries grapple with both political and economic uncertainty, one of HVAC’s largest companies sees nothing but opportunity in the forecast.

Standing before an at-capacity crowd at the Wilderness Resort in the Wisconsin Dells, Lennox CEO Alok Maskara assured those in attendance that the HVAC industry is resilient and fully prepared to not only face, but thrive, in the face of oncoming challenges.

Since taking the helm at Lennox, Maskara has put a focus on accelerating growth and enhancing Lennox’s core values of integrity, respect, and excellence. As a result, Lennox made the Wall Street Journal’s 2023 list of the 250 Best Managed Companies.

Prior to serving as Lennox’s eighth CEO since the company was founded in 1896, Maskara co-authored nine patents in advanced materials science while also accumulating 25 years of experience in global leadership in manufacturing and technology. Although he’s only been in the HVAC industry for two years, he said he believes it’s the best industry out of all the ones he’s seen, and it’s only going to get better from here.

Speaking to an audience of around 750 dealers, technicians, and students, Maskara addressed the current state of the company and what he sees coming down the pipeline.

“One reason I’m here is to establish a mutual trust,” he said. “It’s important who you do business with, and I can tell you that Lennox is a company you can trust.”

The world is facing a lot of different challenges right now, but Maskara said in many cases, the HVAC industry will be at the heart of the solution.

As extreme temperatures become more frequent, the need for HVAC equipment is becoming more important than ever, as it has the ability to literally save lives. And, as a growing number of people are able to afford HVAC systems, that is set to be a net positive for business.

Keeping with the issue of climate change, it's no secret that the efforts to combat it through legislation are taking an enormous toll in many sectors, forcing significant changes across the board, and that is especially true for the HVAC industry. While regulatory changes can certainly be classified as a burden, they’re also helping to safeguard and guarantee more business, as Americans continue to lead the way on the innovation front when it comes to implementing these new standards.

“Every time they change a refrigerant, it protects North American industry from overseas competition,” Maskara said.

Looking forward to the looming mandated refrigerant changes, Maskara said Lennox is currently working hard to prepare for next year, but again saw this challenge as a positive for the company.

“Every few years, we have to step down and get a refrigerant that’s better for the environment — we have to do that, there is no choice in this,” he said. “But we are good at (dealing with change) — we want you to be comfortable that the products that we deliver are going to be safe and meet all regulations and the homeowners will be safe with the equipment we install.”

These changes are also going to require technicians to undergo more training to understand how to handle these new products safely, but that is also another opportunity for the industry to grow more resilient.

As equipment becomes more high-tech and the skills to install and maintain it also increase, Maskara sees that as another gift to the industry, as trained professionals are needed now more than ever to ensure safe operation. Given the complexity, much of this equipment has elevated itself above the realm of the weekend warrior, meaning more people are going to be calling on trained HVAC techs for help.

“I don’t see in our lifetimes a Lennox product being sold at a retail store — it just won’t happen because of all the regulatory reasons,” he said. “New regulations would also make this even more difficult for anybody to do on a DIY basis.”

Many areas of the country are also facing housing shortages, and while Maskara said that is not good for people in general, the fact that more homes need to be built is another silver lining for the HVAC industry.

In short, while the world may seem like it’s in chaos, HVAC is standing strong.

“If you’re worried about the future of the industry, don’t be,” Maskara stated.

Diving deeper into the state of Lennox itself, as a public company with 35 million shares, Maskara said it’s on solid footing.

“I want you to know that we have very strong financial fundamentals,” he said. “And that’s important when you’re choosing to work for a company.”

As a company, Maskara said Lennox has remained steady in its commitment to selling directly to dealers, which is a unique practice in the HVAC industry, but also one that helps to build trust and maintain a sense of reliability with clientele.

“We like the direct interaction, we like you to know ‘I own all responsibility for manufacturing our product, not somebody else,’” he added. “There are no intermediaries in between; that’s our model.”

With 14,000 global employees, most located in the U.S. and some in a factory in Mexico, Lennox currently has 250 stores, 27 distribution centers, and over 3 million square feet under roof used for manufacturing and distribution.

Muskara’s keynote address at the annual Lennox VisionTECH conference was just one of the many of learning opportunities offered during the day-and-a-half-long event. Throughout the conference, the resort was buzzing with representatives from hundreds of different companies looking to make connections and get themselves up-to-date with the latest technology and techniques. In-depth discussions on specific Lennox products were held, expert speakers doled out advice on how to strengthen businesses through best practices, stations were set up to show how to troubleshoot common problems, business gurus advised on how to effectively communicate with customers, and the list goes on.

The conference also featured several career fair sessions, which helped pair the numerous students in attendance with a variety of industry employers and professionals. When not getting valuable face-time, students were also offered classes on building a career in the industry, advice on mastering the art of interviewing, and what to do once they get that first big paycheck.

In the outdoor laboratories, instructors gave hands-on demonstrations covering a number of crucial skills, like the fundamentals of brazing copper and aluminum with different solders, the basics of sheet metal layout and fabrication, and rundowns covering the basics of refrigerant charging.

Following the conclusion of day one, attendees funneled into the ballroom for a meal and drinks, where they were treated by perhaps the industry’s most unique band – HV/AC. This cover band, comprised of Lennox’s own employees including Dave Chatmon, Chad Mathern, Ben Carlson, and Andy Feist, along with Chatmon’s son-in-law Josh and grandson Brodie Vaughn, played a number of crowd favorites and frequently brought other featured guests onstage throughout the evening.

HV/AC Cover Band.

LENNOX BUSTS OUT THE LED: HV/AC, a cover band comprised of Lennox’s own employees, lit up the after party ballroom, where they played numerous crowd favorites, include Led Zeppelin. (Staff photo)