In a sense, it’s only appropriate that Bowen Refrigeration, Heating, and Cooling of Muskegon, MI, is the winner of The News’ first-ever “Do You Want to Grow Your Business?” contest. After all, if you are first in a race, you take the crown, right?

Then again, this was not first come, first serve. Those who entered our contest had to explain why they desired (and deserved) to win six months of free consultation from Ruth King, president of American Contractors Exchange. The News established this contest with the desire to help, at the very least, one contractor grow his or her business in 2001.

We wanted to do something special in this our 75th anniversary year. We wanted to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. That was the thinking behind the creation of our first-ever “Grow Your Business” contest.

Looking at the final tally, we realized Bowen’s entry just happened to be the first to reach our desk.

Our contest kicked off with the January 29 issue. Owner Donald P. Bowen faxed over his completed questionnaire four days later.

“I’m pretty aggressive,” confessed the 34-year-old contractor.

The contest’s title was enough to hook the 1987 Ferris State University graduate.

“I’m always looking to grow my business,” said Bowen. “We do a lot of promoting.”


Over the next six months — and possibly longer — Bowen and his 15-employee business will certainly get “free publicity,” not to mention national exposure. The News will be following this contractor’s progress under King’s capable guidance. Expect to see our first report soon after King’s initial face-to-face visit with Bowen and his crew — and that’s planned for early next month.

The News will be there. King will be there. And Bowen is ready.

“I am a young, aggressive businessman with goals and I love doing what I am doing,” he said. “I also have great employees.”

Bowen can be proud of what he has accomplished to date. Two years after working for W. Smith Refrigeration Inc., he partnered with the owner in 1989. Seven years later, he became sole owner, buying out the former owner in September 1996.

“I told you I was aggressive,” he said with a slight laugh.

Bowen topped the $1 million revenue plateau in 1999. He did not state what his financial goals are for 2001, but just knows that he wants to top last year’s record income. When asked for specific goals, he wrote on the contest entry form: “We want to be known as the best contractor by gaining trust.”

“Every employee is aware and excited about our goals,” he assured.

For the record, Bowen’s business mix is 65% residential, 25% commercial, and 10% industrial. His activity mix is 40% service, 40% replacement, and 20% new construction. If the firm has a niche, it’s a “strong refrigeration service department.” When asked to state his current greatest challenge, Bowen simply replied, “The economy.”


We believe readers of The News will be able to identify with the problems and challenges Bowen faces day in and day out. The real challenge, though, will be to see how Bowen addresses these problems and concerns — and whether he learns how to improve on business practices, service skills, marketing efforts, or whatever facets of his business King believes Bowen should address.

Through our periodic reports on the life and times of Bowen Refrigeration, Heating, and Cooling, we believe our readers can learn and possibly improve, too.

Of course, we want to thank all contractors who stepped forward and opted to enter our “Grow Your Business” contest. It was not an easy decision. After all, those who entered knew that, if selected the winner, he (or she) was going to have to share financial statements with King and The News.

It was not easy selecting the winner, either. The News’ editorial team huddled up with King to review all entries. Through a careful elimination process, it came down to the three finalists. (Yes, one was from Lower Lake, CA, and another was from Pine Hill, NJ.)

In the end, though, it was No. 1 who finished No. 1.

Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 04/23/2001