The Isaac family of Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. includes (left to right) Jim Isaac, CEO; Bill Isaac, president; Dave Isaac, commercial HVACR technician; Ray Isaac, vice president/general manager; Mike Isaac, commercial HVACR technician; Ken Isaac, residential sales representative; and Chris Isaac, marketing/IT director.
Bill Isaac, president of Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning in Rochester, N.Y., was recently asked about his company’s success.

Founded in 1945 by the late George T. Isaac, Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning has grown into a multi-million dollar operation, earning $14,159,419 in total sales in 2002. Its lifeblood is residential replacement/add-on work, as well as residential service.

“There’s no magic formula,” Bill Isaac said. “You just have to make it happen. Hire good employees, honest employees, people who appreciate a job and want to do good work. There’s no easy anything. It’s just a lot of hard work by everybody.”


Elite residential contractors like Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning, which placed on The News’ list of Residential All-Stars, know exactly what Bill Isaac is talking about. Each has worked hard to earn its fair market share (as well as its total 2002 sales volume and customer loyalty) in either residential replacement/add-on or residential new construction work.

The News went looking for the best of the residential best this summer. We surveyed more than a thousand candidates and asked for possible nominees via our Web site, keeping several criteria in mind, including:

  • 2002 sales volume;

  • Percentage of work in the residential arena (and 50 percent or more of its total 2002 sales volume had to be in residential sales);

  • Firm’s “reputation” (for lack of a better word); and

  • Customer satisfaction.

    Some nominees opted not to participate or produce 2002 sales figures. Such is everyone’s right. But from among those contractors who did not shy away from the much-deserved limelight, The News has accumulated some true power hitters in the residential marketplace.

    (For a complete list of each of our “dream teams,” click on the links “Residential All-Stars: New Construction” and “Residential All-Stars: Replacement/Add-On” provided below.)

    George “Butch” Welsch (in front), president of Welsch Heating and Cooling, stands with his employees outside his company’s headquarters in Westport, Mo. Started in 1895, Welsch Heating and Cooling placed among The News’ Residential New Construction All-Stars.

    Residential New Construction

    Leading The News’ Residential New Construction All-Star team is Chas Roberts Air Conditioning of Phoenix. With more than $123 million in residential new construction sales in 2002, Chas Roberts is, hands down, the residential new construction home run king. (See the related story “Making The Most Of New Construction” in this issue.)

    Right behind in the batter’s box is Airtron, a division of Residential Services Group Inc. of Dayton, Ohio, which recorded nearly $103 million in residential new construction last year.

    Another All-Star is Tempo Mechanical of Irving, Texas. Headed by president and CEO Steve Saunders, Tempo recorded more than $13 million in residential new construction last year. That’s not bad for an employee-owned company that had to scramble in late-summer 1997, after TDIndustries, its employer for over 30 years, decided to exit the residential service and installation market.

    “They offered us [Tempo partners] the first opportunity to purchase the company,” said Saunders. “We jumped at it. After all, no one knew the value of the business like those of us who worked on it.”

    Saunders admitted the move wasn’t easy. Tempo was a large business with a lot of assets and ongoing commitments.

    “That first year was tough,” he said. “We had to find a new place and move. We had to buy software and the hardware to run the new business. We did not have enough people, and we literally doubled the number of Tempo partners in the first six months. Together, we first survived and then began to thrive.

    “It’s a tribute to the power of employee ownership,” he continued. “Employee-owners care more. Your satisfaction is their highest business priority. In this world of change and turmoil, satisfied customers provide the only path to long-term security.”

    Another strong firm to watch is Scott-Lee Heating Co. Inc., anchored by its more than $10 million in residential new construction sales last year. Terry Scott is president of the St. Louis-based firm, which has been in business for 25 years.

    “This was a growing market requiring skilled tradesmen, and my partner Larry Lee and I had worked together in the trade for years,” said Scott, explaining why he ventured into the residential new construction market some years ago. “We felt we could take our combined knowledge and make a decent living. We knew there was an opportunity for high volumes of work, provided installation costs and quality could be controlled.

    “It is still a viable market,” he said. “Though volatile, it will always exist. People want to build their own home or purchase a newly built home. As long as financing remains affordable, the housing market will remain relatively strong. The question becomes then, ‘How much of the market share do we need to capture to keep our people working and maintaining profit margin and cash flow?’”

    Another member of the elite residential new construction team is Welsch Heating and Cooling of Westport, Mo. The company, which has been a St. Louis-area fixture since 1895, drew in nearly $8 million in residential new construction sales in 2002.

    President George “Butch” Welsch believes in customer satisfaction. “Our job is to serve customers, and that means everybody does anything that is necessary,” he said. “Our departments are cross-functional; each knows what the others are responsible for. We don’t have one person with a customer service representative title. We’re all customer service representatives.”

    Working on a home furnace is Mike Harding, vice president of Tempo Mechanical, Irving, Texas. Tempo Mechanical earned a spot on The News’ Residential New Construction All-Star team.

    Residential Replacement/Add-On

    Providing the one-two punch among The News’ Residential Re-placement/Add-On All-Stars are Keyspan Home Energy Services of College Point, N.Y., and American Home Maintenance Inc. of Tempe, Ariz. Keyspan earned nearly $61 million in replacement/add-on in 2002, while American Home Maintenance accounted for nearly $13 million. (See the related story “Contractors Stress Quality, Customer Service” in this issue.)

    Right behind these top two firms is Cropp-Metcalfe Air Conditioning and Heating of Fairfax, Va., which earned nearly $12 million.

    “Cropp-Metcalfe believes that if you show a customer the true value of your service, he will stay loyal to you forever,” said president Mitchell Cropp. “We have always striven to find ways to give the customer as much value as possible. ‘Customers for life’ is not only our goal, it’s our promise.”

    Another member of this dream team is James River Heating and Air Conditioning Co., Richmond, Va. Hugh Joyce started James River in 1967 and the company has grown from one employee to more than 100 today. Last year it earned over $6 million in the residential replacement/add-on market. The company serves the entire central Virginia area through a fleet of 50 radio-dispatched trucks and 10 installation crews.

    Joyce likes to quote the company’s mission statement: “To provide breathtaking service, engineering, and installation quality for our customers; a happy, challenging environment for our employees to work and retire; and to give back to our community through sharing our money and our time with those in need.”

    Residential All-Stars: New Construction (PDF)

    Residential All-Stars: Replacement/Add-On (PDF)

    Publication date: 09/08/2003