20 Questions with Ron Gravitt, owner of Allegiance HVAC
Originally published: 02.01.12 by Terry Tanker
Late last fall Publisher Terry Tanker meet with Ron Gravitt, owner of Allegiance HVAC just outside of Chicago in Mokena, Ill. Allegiance HVAC had just remodeled their offices and were in the middle of a rebranding campaign. Part of the rebranding effort included a new fleet design, for which they were named a 2011 Tops In Trucks winner.
1. It’s rumored that you’re an expert snowboarder. Is that true?
Not really. I love it, but between family commitments and work, I unfortunately haven’t had the time to go.
2. Has anything taken its place?
I enjoy working out, and I can always find an hour somewhere in the day to make that happen.
3. You were named one of our three winners in the 2011 Tops In Trucks Fleet Design Contest. Were you surprised when you won?
I was surprised because we were chosen top three out of how many entries. I knew we had a good chance with the logo design and was happy to know the judges liked our new image as much as we did.
4. How did you decide on the design for your fleet?
We worked with an outside firm from New Jersey that we found online — Graphic D-signs.
5. Part of your design is a claymation character in the form of a service tech with a toolbox. Why did you want a character in the logo?
The idea was developed from seeing other claymation images. I then gave the idea to Graphic D-signs, told them what trade we were in, and after a couple proofs, we decided on the logo image.
6. What was the impetus to design your fleet?
We are trying to change our image so we can attract more replacement work.
7. Where has your primary business focus been?
New construction, and it still is. We have a very good reputation with builders. But we know we are missing some significant growth opportunities.
8. I notice your offices are being remodeled. Is that part of the rebranding effort?
Yes. We started with the logo and the fleet since those would be the first things prospects saw. From there it was an easy decision to rebrand everything, including our offices, stationary, website and even clothing for the service techs.
9. So, is your business plan to exit the new construction business?
Yes, eventually, because there is so much opportunity for us in service and replacement. However, we’ve been very successful in the new construction market for many years, so it’s not like we can just flip a switch. It’s going to take some time, but we have a good business plan, and we will execute that strategy.
10. Have you been able to notice any measurable results from the fleet design yet?
We’ve had some good feedback, but we are still early in the process. I can say our employees really like it, several customers have made mention of our vans, and of course your publication selected us as one of the Tops In Trucks Fleet Design winners. So, I think we are off to a good start.
11. How large is the service area you cover?
It’s about 30 miles, but the population density is significant, and the market is saturated with contractors. However, we are known for our quality work, and many others are not.
12. Have you been able to take advantage of that reputation?
We’ve found about three-quarters of our residential service work was fixing mistakes
by others. Our thought was if we did this right the first time, we’d build a larger maintenance portfolio, and it’s been working. We may not be the least expensive, but we are one of the best, and our prices are competitive.
13. What type of advertising do you do?
Most of our business has been through referrals from builders, family, and friends. But we have plans to do some marketing in 2012 to coincide with our rebranding effort.
14. What type of advertising/marketing are you planning?
We carry a few brands, but we’ve ramped our sales with Carrier significantly. They have
a promotion now where they are funding marketing, and we want to take advantage of the program.
15. Is Internet marketing part of the mix?
Yes. We built our website, www.allegianceheating. com. We know consumers go to the web first, and we want them to be able to find us there first.
16. What is your most significant business challenge for 2012?
I think it always has been and always will be a challenge to find the right caliber and right type of employee for our company that will respect our commitment to our work and our customers.
17. Where do you see the company in three years?
We are a small company with good growth opportunities. One of our goals is to buy a building and stop leasing. And, even though we have a nice niche in new construction, our plan is to exit that business totally within three years.
18. What is the specific niche you serve in new construction?
Green high-end heating systems (radiant and geothermal) for custom homebuilders. It’s not uncommon for us to design and build a system for a 10,000-square-foot-home that runs into the six figures.
19. What is your favorite aspect of running the business?
The freedom of being my own boss. It offers me a lot of flexibility.
20. What has helped set you apart from your competitors?
The fact that we do all of our own in-house Manual J heat load calculations, as well as computerized heat load calculations. That way we know what to guarantee the customer and that we will guarantee our work for the time the homeowner owns the house. We do the engineering, run the loads, install the system properly, and then achieve the efficiencies we said we
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