20 Questions with Joe Timo, Timo's Air Conditioning & Heating
Originally published: 09.01.12 by Terry Tanker
Publisher Terry Tanker recently interviewed Joe Timo, founder of Timo’s Air Conditioning & Heating in Palm Springs, CA. They talked about branding, search-engine optimization, and the unusually humid desert summer.
1. What hobbies/interests do you have outside of work?
Traveling with my wife and spoiling my grandchildren.
2. What is the last expensive gift you bought for yourself?
A Macbook Pro laptop, though, I’m still not 100% sure how to use it.
3. How did Timo’s get its start?
Being born and raised in Brooklyn, I started in the HVAC business working in high-rise apartment buildings in Manhattan. After starting a family and assessing my future goals, I decided to move 3,000 miles across the country to join some friends and family in California and start my own business in Palm Springs.
4. Can you give me a brief history of the company?
Timo’s Air started as a one-man operation in 1994. Over the years we have grown into a full-service HVAC firm, servicing residential and commercial clients.
5. Your family is integrated into your business.
What challenges does this present as an owner and manager? In a family business, no position is more valuable than the other. It’s important that each person has a specific role and obligations.
6. How big is your company?
We have 11 employees but are growing. 2011 was our highest-volume year ever. This year, we surpassed 2011’s sales in August.
7. Timo’s offers property-management response and insulation services in addition to basic heating and cooling. Why did you include these in your service portfolio?
We have always worked closely with property management and real estate companies. The thing about rental management companies is they offer a consistent flow of service calls, even in slow times. Making their calls a priority is very important. We’ve only started offering blown-in attic insulation this year, but the response has been positive.
8. How much revenue does the property-management work contribute to your company?
9. Timo’s has a unique and interesting website. How was it developed, and what type of return does it produce for you?
The website was launched shortly after branding was introduced by our design agency in New Jersey (Graphic D-Signs). They really came up with the whole retro-themed concept for it and wrote all of the content for the site as well. We also had them handle all of our search-engine marketing, which has generated a huge return on investment. A good portion of our leads are from online searches.
10. Why has investment in the website paid off so well?
So many of our competitor’s sites are really bland, so ours really stands out. And of course, superior search-engine rankings play a huge role.
11. What convinced you that branding was worthwhile?
When we first reached out to Graphic D-Signs, we initially wanted to focus on their vehicle and truck wraps. After speaking with them, it was clear that in order to build a successful image and identity, we needed to rethink our current brand.
12. How did you come up with your brand motif?
They convinced us that a retro-themed brand would represent who we are, and more importantly, would connect to our customers in a more meaningful way. We also knew that without a good brand, it would be tough to build a cohesive image across with our marketing. The brand has been so well received, it has even surprised us.
13. Timo’s is a 2012 Tops In Trucks winner. How did you come up with your unique design?
As we went through the branding process with Graphic D-Signs, they started sketching the vehicle with the new brand so we could begin to understand how it would start working in other mediums. Most HVAC guys are putting pictures of AC units, or themselves. It’s just not memorable or brand-building. This stands out among the clutter. Within days of buying a new vehicle we send it over to our graphics-installation company and have it wrapped with our logo/branding.
14. How many fleet vehicles do you own?
Our small fleet consists of six vehicles — three service vans, two utility trucks, and one sales truck.
15. Do you have a preferred brand of vehicle you purchase?
Most of our trucks are Fords; however, the GMC/Chevy service van offers the best canvas for our vehicle logo/branding.
16. Do you invest in GPS for your fleet?
Using our scheduling software and iPhones, our trucks have the ability to map their location and get directions to their next service call.
17. What other types of automation do you use?
All of our guys are equipped with iPhones. Using this device we are able to link our calendars and schedules for the day. When a call comes in, it’s sent to their phone and received instantly. We also use the phones for credit-card transactions that can be swiped at the client’s home.
18. Palm Springs is a desert location. Was the summer typical or hotter like most of the country?
This summer was unusually brutal. Typically, summer in the desert is hot and dry. However, this year we experienced much of the humidity that is usually reserved for the eastern states.
19. Did the summer present any unusual management challenges?
Scheduling has been a bit hectic due to the overwhelming call volume. This year we tried, more than ever, to better prioritize our appointments according to the nature of the call and severity of the problem.
20. How do you keep service personnel motivated when they are working nonstop?
By being truly appreciative and thankful for their hard work and expressing it often.