WEST FLAMBOROUGH, Ontario - One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning®, the franchise division of VenVest Inc., parent of AirTime 500, the contractor group that was formed south of the border, in the United States, several years ago, has expanded into the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba. Vaughn Goettler and Bruce Cook saw a need for a "timely" HVAC residential service and replacement contractor in Canada.

Goettler and Cook brought along their expertise in HVAC after long careers with Union Energy, a major Canadian utility company, which sold several service units to Goettler and Cook under the guise of AirTime Canada, the Canadian version of AirTime 500. The two men had bought exclusive Canadian rights to AirTime 500 in 2000 for $2 million (Canadian) while at Union Energy. In all, four AirTime Canada locations in Ontario and two in Winnipeg soon will be carrying the One Hour moniker.

For the record, AirTime 500 members in the United States were given the first option of purchasing a One Hour franchise in their territory. Eventually, the One Hour franchise became available to qualified buyers outside of the AirTime 500 group. AirTime 500 members who have purchased One Hour franchises have the option to leave AirTime 500 eventually since the synergies are so closely related.

Ironically, Union Energy is now a direct competitor to Boonstra's One Hour, yet shares some of the same AirTime 500 tools.

In fact, eight Union Energy operating units utilize AirTime 500 business tools. That's OK with Kevin Mitchell, general manager of Boonstra's One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning in Flamborough.

"Boonstra's and Union Energy are the two biggest and probably the two busiest in this market," he said. Mitchell added that his company plans to "own the business in communities where they work."

One Hour service tech Justin Hay checks his “Inspector” camera and equipment prior to a service call.

Business Is Good

Boonstra's has come a long way since Clarence Boonstra founded the company in 1961. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Boonstra continued to grow his residential and commercial service business. He sold the company to Union Energy in 1998. Eventually, AirTime Canada bought the residential service business from Union Energy in 2003.

When Goettler and Cook took on the challenge of turning around Union Energy, the company was bleeding from a $66 million deficit. Within a year, thanks to a lot of hard work and the tools of AirTime 500, the locations turned a $2.5 million profit.

The Boonstra location had revenues of $5.5 million in 2003 and the total of the six locations was $23 million. Almost 200 people are employed by AirTime Canada, which celebrated its first anniversary in mid-May.

Cook enjoys the residential service business and knows that it takes a special group of people to keep up with the demand for heating and A/C service. "Every day you fill up the bucket with business and then you empty it out and fill it up again," he said. "You need to keep filling up the bucket.

"We have to go out and get the peak purchases by working harder. The service business is very demanding."

One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning is making inroads in Canada thanks to (from left) Vaughn Goettler, Kevin Mitchell, and Bruce Cook.
One Hour has been busy filling up its bucket this year. Revenues have been up 40 percent for the first four months of 2004. That has led to a lot of happy employees.

"We have been able to reinvest in our employees with the increase in profitability," said Goettler. "And we are focused on taking care of our clients because they will be with us and will need equipment replacements in the next 10 years.

"As we are getting it right, employee retention has improved and people are coming to us for employment. The word is getting out: We are finding people and not laying anyone off."

He said the problems that commonly plague consolidated companies do not have the same impact on his company because of the systematic approach instilled by AirTime 500.

"There is often a lifetime of work that goes down the drain when a business is sold and the owner leaves," Goettler said. "You might as well take a match to your money."

"Sometimes it is hard to persuade a manager of a well-run company to change," said Cook. "They often have an ‘If it isn't broke why fix it?' attitude. It isn't that way with Kevin [Mitchell]."

Mitchell added, "We surrendered totally to AirTime in 2003. The company has doubled its size in three years and tripled its profitability."

Goettler believes that Mitchell is the right person for the job. "This isn't all about Kevin," he said. "But he has been the one to implement the AirTime tools."

Cook was quick to add his kudos, too. "The measure of Vaughn and my success is in the front line people," he said.

Despite the competitive nature of the Ontario market, Goettler does not see Union Energy as One Hour's real competitor. He looks at a much smaller target.

"The people who work out of their cars are our competition because they falsely educate the marketplace to believe price is all that matters," he said. "If I lose a job to Union Energy, who uses AirTime 500 tools, then I just haven't done my job good enough."

Since training is such a hot button for the trade, AirTime makes several levels of training available to its members. In turn, members do a good job of educating their peers.

"Great ideas from other members flow back to us," said Cook. "There is a phenomenal source of information and capabilities to operate a business here."

Both men see the importance of having many resources at their fingertips - it allows for more time to work on operations. "The average contractor spends too much time working in the business than on the business," Goettler said.

He said that despite all of the changes in technology and methodology, the HVACR service business is still a service business. "The people here want to be the best in the industry, and customers think the best are those who respect their time," Goettler stated.

Since time is the No. 1 component of the One Hour philosophy, it stands to reason that customers and employees will enjoy seeing the bright yellow signs and trucks sprouting up all over Ontario and Manitoba.

"Our employees are looking forward to the One Hour model," added Goettler.

Publication date: 06/14/2004