Mike Abrashoff, former U.S. Navy Captain
Originally published: 10.01.13 by Terry Tanker
HVACR Business Publisher Terry Tanker sat down with 2013 Tops-In-Trucks Fleet Design Contest winners Ron and Yvette Farris owners of Air Control Corporation in Springvale, AR. They discussed managing a business together, service agreements, re-branding, sales leads, marketing, delegating responsibility to employees and hot-selling products this year.
1. This is your 20th anniversary in business — how are you celebrating?
We’ve been too busy to celebrate (knock on wood). We decided to have our celebration at our annual meeting and Christmas Party at the end of the year.
2. Do you have anything special planned?
I’ll never tell! But I will say part of the celebration includes having new uniforms and jackets made for all of our employees that feature our new logo designed earlier this year.
3. What specifically added to your work load?
Builders with new construction work has really picked up. That added to an already busy summer doing service and replacement.
4. Looking back, what were some of the larger challenges over the years?
Balancing our workforce to workload. We’ve always had a much larger work load in the summer. The other big challenge has been delegating work to employees, but it is certainly liberating when
5. Prior to opening Air Control what were you doing?
Ron was managing an hvac/plumbing business and I was an office manager.
6. Can you tell me more about the Circle of Excellence Award you received from Lennox?
It is an award given to the top 2 percent of Lennox dealers. They give the award based on sales, great customer feedback, rebates and business marketing and management. It’s very prestigious, and we’ve been honored to receive it each of the past three years.
7. Do you incorporate awards like these into your marketing?
We haven’t done it in the past, but we are starting to now. We’ve featured the award on our website. We believe it will help customers differentiate us from our competitors. We like to concentrate our advertising messages on customers needs and the services we provide that help them.
8. What other types of marketing do you conduct and what works best?
Television, newspapers and direct mail. But referrals and word-of-mouth still account for the majority of our business. The truth is, they work together. We know there is a good chance prospects have already been exposed to one of our communication messages.
9. In June, you were named one of our Tops-In-Trucks Fleet Design Contest winners. How did you decide to make that investment in your fleet?
It was a big decision to purchase the wraps. We have always been cautious about spending, but once we had the vehicle wrap design completed, we knew it was going to actually be an “investment” and help increase our business. Customers really notice our vehicles, and we know it’s paying off.
10. You do a nice job outlining maintenance agreements on your website. How many customers take advantage of those?
Since we made maintenance agreements a priority, quite a few customers have signed up. We didn’t push them in the past, but we realize now how important they are.
11. Was integrating your brand on your fleet and website part of an overall strategy?
Yes. Our strategic plan and process was to develop the logo, wrap our fleet and then revamped our website to include the new logo. We kept the colors we’ve had since 1993, but obviously, the entire look is much different and better.
12. You’ve done a nice job of incorporating Angie’s List comments into your site. How did that come about?
We noticed they were advertising heavily in our area. We thought it would be a good idea to try it. As their customer base has grown, so have the leads. We have customers mention Angie’s List to us, and many people use the coupons we have on their site.
13. What’s your favorite customer service story?
One of our first customers was an older couple from California. He was a retired home inspector. We did several installs at various homes they bought. They referred us to their friends and wrote us wonderful letters telling us what a good job we had done for them. They didn’t have any family here, and we started inviting them over for holidays. They had financial issues as so many retired couples do, so we hired the gentleman to do work in our shop for a while. He was wonderful to have as part of our team and everyone enjoyed having
14. What are the hot selling products this year?
WiFi Thermostats, variable speed furnaces and two-stage outdoor units.
15. You offer zero down and financing up to 60 months. Who’s your financing partner?
We recently started using Wells Fargo because they offered plans that were very appealing to our customers.
16. Husband and wife teams are common in our industry. How do you split up the duties?
Ron is in charge of sales, builders and a lot of the marketing. He also schedules the installations and goes to the job site if there is a technical or installation question. I oversee the office, financials, work flow, after sale follow up, on-line marketing, customer issues, payroll and benefits.
17. How long have you two worked together?
About 22 years.
18. Are there other family members at Air Control?
Yvette’s mom runs errands for us and bakes everyone a cake on their birthday.
(Terry: That’s awesome!)
19. How do you make things work smoothly at work when they may not be at home?
If we have rough patches at home, we try not to make much of that at the office. It’s harder for us to keep work at work. Our business is 24/7 and we tend to get drawn back into it when we are at home with after hours calls from customers and employees. We get better at it every year though.
20. What are the larger goals moving forward?
We are training our employees to take on more of our responsibilities. We’ve spent a lot of time, energy and resources getting to this point. The next step is to begin to delegate more and more to the qualified team of individuals we have. Once completed, that should offer us more flexibility, both personally and professionally.
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.