20 Questions with Drew Timm, Owner, Sun Services Air Conditioning-Heating Inc.
Originally published: 07.01.10 by Terry Tanker
Publisher Terry Tanker recently spoke with Tops in Trucks honoree Drew Timm, owner of Sun Services Air Conditioning-Heating Inc., Fountain Hills, AZ. They spoke about muscle cars, meeting customers in hot tubs, and lessons learned from owning a small business.
1. What toys are in the garage?
I have a passion for collector cars. I have a show-winning Jeep CJ7, 1965 Mustang Convertible, 1971 Pontiac Firebird Formula 455 HO Ram Air, BMW M3 Convertible, 2007 Harley Davidson with over 40 celebrity signatures on it, and three Polaris Quads.
2. When did you start collecting them?
I’m thinking my first Hot Wheels was around three years old. High school is when I started dealing in muscle cars and exotics. My brother and I had a Porsche and VW repair business.
3. Where do you store all of them?
We have a commercial building that is done in a car hop theme inside. It’s really cool and a lot of fun.
4. Which one is your favorite?
I would have to say my celebrity-signed Harley Davidson. The bike was acquired at a charity auction to help the families of injured
5. Last month you won the HVACR Business fleet-design contest in the Lettering category. Your passion for cars obviously transfers over to your company fleet. Is this the thrust of your marketing, or are you doing additional marketing and advertising?
I created the vehicle design myself and figured even a service vehicle can be a piece of art. I believe attracting the attention of the consumer is extremely important. Those who are driving an incognito white truck or van with no lettering or lettering so small you can’t read are missing opportunities. This is simple, low-cost, high-return marketing.
6. What do customers say about your fleet?
We have folks tell us all the time, “I’ve seen your trucks around town.” Now, how sweet is that? Some of them are existing customers, and some are future customers!
7. What part of your business have you had to reshape or give special attention to this year? (during this economic climate?)
First, keeping the customer happy at all costs by doing whatever it takes to retain them. Second, keeping a sharp eye on expenses and costs, anything from vendor pricing to unnecessary purchases to labor overruns and call backs. Third, and I think most important is, keep on marketing. Letting our existing and potential customers know we’re still around and stronger than ever.
8. What is your biggest challenge as a business owner?
Seasonal changes in work volume and trying to level out the times of being too busy and not busy enough.
9. Do you have an interesting customer service story to share?
This is a case of “you never know who your customers are.” My wife and I were relaxing in a hot tub in Kauai a few years back and started a conversation with two ladies who happened to be from Arizona. Come to find out, she had been a long-time customer of ours. She was as surprised as I was and addressed me as “Mr. Sun Services.” Be careful what you say. You never know who’s in a hot tub with you!
10. How did you get your start in hvacr?
I was an assistant project manager of a $30-million property in Tampa when I turned 20, and being mechanically minded, took an interest in hvac, and now I’m 50, and the rest is history.
11. What aspect of running your business do you enjoy the most?
Interacting with people. I’m a people-pleasing person for sure.
12. How are you using technology to improve your business?
We are using Wintac software in our office, and our trucks are GPS equipped for efficiency and customer satisfaction in the event of a discrepancy. We also are venturing into the socialnetworking sites.
13. Can you describe your toughest customer?
It has to be the one who is confused by too much information on the Internet and by external sources. It takes a while to get them focused on what’s really important, especially in selecting equipment for their home.
14. Do you provide special services to customers because of the climate or because of your market area?
When it gets to be 110-115 degrees here, we kick into high gear and take care of the elderly first.
15. What brands do you carry? Do you have a favorite?
I have been with Trane since the ’80s and believe their equipment is the best. Their company is easy to deal with and has fantastic dealer support, along with the best opportunities in training to help the contractor succeed.
16. How important is the ability to forecast your business?
It’s always good to know what’s coming up for the future. Sometimes the predictions are right on track. But staying focused is the best way to weather any storm.
17. What is the most important lesson owning a business has taught you?
To be patient and understand that all things will work out fine. Don’t get too stressed out about every little thing you may view as going wrong. Deal with the bigger issues first, and then the small ones will be a piece of cake.
18. Do you sell service agreements?
Absolutely! They should be a part of every contractor’s business toolbox.
19. What management duties do you hang on to, but shouldn’t?
The Sun Services’ team is terrific and works extremely hard. I’m very proud of them. I guess I don’t feel burdened by anything I currently do.
20. What is the most difficult cost for you to control?
I’m still searching for the perfect formula for labor!
Terry has over 23 years of experience in the advertising and publishing industries. He began his career with a business-to-business advertising agency. Prior to forming Hutchinson Tanker Ltd. and HVACR Business in January 2006, he spent 20 years with large national publishing and media firm where he was the publisher of several titles in the mechanical systems marketplace.
In addition to his experience in advertising and publishing, Terry has worked closely with numerous industry-related associations over the years including AHRI, AMCA, and ABMA. He has also served on the Board of Directors for the American Boiler Manufactures Association (ABMA) and as chairman, for both the Associates Committee and the Marketing Communications Committee of ABMA.
Articles by Terry Tanker
Two Longtime Contributors Publish Books
Both Ron Smith and Theo Etzel have written new books — proving once again their commitment to advancing the HVACR industry.
The Problem with Listening to Customers
Customer insight is about short term tactics that lead to deeper discounts, price matching, improved service, less inventory and more automation.
Chris Hunter, owner of Hunter Heat & Air
Michael Meier, VP/COO Meier Supply
Bob McEwan, retired general manager of GE Aviation