The Airco service vans are lined up and waiting for a busy day of service and replacement calls.
TULSA, Okla. — Someone once said that “a happy employee is a productive employee.” If anyone needs proof of that aphorism, a perfect example exists in the city of Tulsa — Airco Service Inc.

This year’s “Best Contractor to Work For” in the South/Southwest region exemplifies team spirit and a commitment to happy employees and satisfied customers. For this company, it’s not a lot of hype. It’s the real thing.

John and Tom Boyce, owners of the company, place a lot of value on fairness and camaraderie among their technicians, installers, office staff, and salespeople. The first signs of this “fairness doctrine” appeared on the company’s entry form for The News’ contest. It read: “We work as a team every day. No one goes home until everyone is on their last call.”

John explained that it is only fair to all employees that the last technician is not stuck with two or three more calls while everyone else is finished. Calls are rerouted, and those who can help pitch in to even out the workload.

The company was founded by John and Tom’s parents, John and Louise, in March 1961. Airco began as a one-man service operation with Louise answering the telephone. The company now needs 19 service trucks and nine installation trucks. The staff of 54 includes three full-time salespeople and field/office support personnel.

Airco serves Tulsa and the northeastern region of Oklahoma. The company has been voted the “Best Service Company in Tulsa” for the past two years by the Greater Tulsa Reporter reader survey and has just been named Oklahoma’s first “Signature Service Dealer” by Lennox Industries. The company targets the remodel and retrofit service markets, with 60 percent of the company’s business as residential and 40 percent commercial/industrial.

Airco owners John (left) and Tom Boyce huddle over a Lennox condensing unit and "fire truck" in the company's showroom.

Getting Employees Involved

When John decided to enter the contest, rather than thinking of what his employees “might” say about the company, he polled them and asked for some reasons. Here are some of the responses the employees gave:

  • “The owners are in the office daily and have an open-door policy.”

  • “Everyone knows why he or she is here and what needs to be done — taking care of the customer.”

  • “Relaxed environment.”

  • “Family atmosphere.”

  • “Good pay and benefits.”

  • “Days off when needed.”

  • “Year-round work.”

  • “Teamwork.”

    “A lot of employees already knew about our company before they even came to work for us,” noted Tom. “Some have left and come back. They know how good they had it at Airco. Some of these people are often the best employees.”

    John said that a good working relationship has a “trickle-down effect” on employees. “We are all here for the same reason. If the company makes money, everyone makes money,” he said. “We try to provide a good environment which, in turn, will keep our customers happy.”

    Tom is also a big believer in the “family” concept, emphasizing what an integral part employees’ families play in the company’s success. “A happy employee is a better employee — and it makes the home life better,” he said.

    At work in the company's sheet metal shop are (from left) Larry Foster and Danny Osborn.

    It’s Not Just About Training

    John said his employees appreciate the custom vehicles that they drive, as well as the tools that the company provides and other things, such as free uniforms and a company coat. Other “incidentals” are important, too.

    Every Thursday the company has its vehicles checked for any necessary service. Each truck gets an oil change every 3,000 miles.

    “We will change out our regular tires to studded tires if there is a lot of snow or ice on the roads,” John said. “A couple of years ago during a snowstorm, one of our trucks that was fitted with a winch pulled two of our vans out of ditches. It saved us a lot of time waiting for a tow truck.”

    The company also stresses safety on the job. Yellow lines are prominent throughout the shop area to keep employees and visitors from venturing into the wrong areas. Airco also sponsors safety meetings in the first, second, and fourth quarters of each year.

    Training is a high priority at Airco. The company usually has so many people who want to take training offered by Lennox and Carrier, the company often schedules separate manufacturer training sessions in the Airco shop. “Most of the local classes accommodate 20 to 25 people, and we can fill them up with our people alone,” said John.

    John added that Airco encourages its employees to take training on the proper use of refrigerant R-410A “so that guys don’t have to call someone else to assist them in charging the systems.”

    Awaiting the start of another workday in the Airco lobby are (from left) Tom Boyce, John Boyce, service manager Rick Kellenberger, and salesman Mike Parrish.
    Another feature that stands out at Airco is the company’s large showroom and cozy entrance area, complete with a gas-burning fireplace. The company has a complete line of Lennox products in its showroom, as well as some featured Carrier equipment. Tom is proud of the fact that walk-in traffic usually walks out with a bill of sale.

    “If we can get someone to come to our showroom, we can sell them,” he said.

    In addition to ongoing training, Airco offers a number of other benefits to its employees. Company rings are given to employees, and diamonds are added to the rings at five-year intervals. Airco currently has four employees with 15-year rings, eight employees with 10-year rings, and ten employees with five-year rings.

    During extremely busy times, the company provides lunch for its field workers.

    Airco also participates in three local home/builder shows each year, which provides another way for the company to demonstrate to the walk-in traffic how important their customers and employees are. The company’s location is also an important part of its success. As John says, “We are 15 minutes from everywhere.”

    The bottom line is that Airco strives to satisfy its customers by putting the happiest and best-trained people on the road. “The equipment is not plug-and-play,” concluded Tom. “We don’t just send our employees out to install and service. We ask them to take care of our customers.”

    Sidebar: Just The Facts

    Name: Airco Service Inc.

    Owners: John Boyce and Tom Boyce

    Location: Tulsa, Okla.

    Years in business: 42

    Bulk of market: Remodel and retrofit service — 60% residential, 40% commercial

    Total revenue for 2002: $6 million

    Total employees: 54

    Total service technicians and installers: 21/16

    Average hours employees spend in training: 35-plus

    Benefits offered beyond medical/dental insurance: Paid holidays, paid vacation, paid life insurance, long-term and short-term disability insurance, and AFLAC are offered, as well as 401(k) and profit sharing plans. The company also provides uniforms, a company coat, and a company ring at 5 years, with diamonds added at 10 and 15 years.

    The News selected this contractor because: The company believes in the “fairness doctrine.” All employees are treated in the same manner and all workloads are “created equal.”

    Publication date: 03/10/2003