Carmine Galletta, owner of GallettAir, Inc.
Originally published: 06.01.16 by Terry Tanker
Publisher Terry Tanker sat down with Carmine Galletta, owner of GallettAir Inc. in Long Island, N.Y. Carmine was the very first winner of the Tops in Trucks Fleet Design Contest, and it's been nearly 10 years since their first visit. The two caught up again to discuss fleet design, business, family and what's changed since 2007.
1. Can you believe it's been nearly 10 years since we sat down for our first interview?
I can't believe it. It seems likeyou were just here. We had a great visit and we were excited and honored to win the inaugural Tops in Trucks Fleet Design Contest.
2. You joked a secret ambition was to own a '50s style restaurant for family gatherings and a place for car enthusiast like you to show off their cars — have you moved forward with that?
It's funny you mention that. The answer is no. But, the Friendly's restaurant chain has closed several of its stores on Long Island. There's one very close to our office that I've got my eye on. It would be a great location and I know I could make it work!
3. When we first met you had quite a car collection — have you added to it?
I've had most of my cars a long time, but I've added one or two since then. Recently, some friends and I bought a building to store our cars. We've got a Facebook page called the Long Island Crew Car Club. We're all enthusiasts and now have a place to show our cars and meet weekly with other local car enthusiasts.
4. What's changed with your business since we last met?
We've added energy auditing for our customers. Utility rates on Long Island are high and people want to know how to lower those bills. We launched GallettAir Green Solutions in 2012 to address this and it's been very successful.
5. What type of growth have you experienced since 2007?
Looking at our installations, replacements and service contracts, we've grown approximately 50 percent in 10 years.
6. Where has the growth come from?
New installations and replacements. I believe this is because the demographics are changing. Older people have passed on or sold and younger people have moved in.
The homes from the '40s, '50s and '60s didn't have central AC. The younger buyers want the comfort and are installing new systems. Our replacement business is booming and I think it's the result of pent up demand from 2008 and '09, when we were doing mostly repair work. The phase out of R-22 is also a determining factor in the decision to replace rather than invest in an old, inefficient, obsolete system.
7. What type of systems are you installing for the younger buyers?
It's a mix. We offer heat pump systems as a type of hybrid heat with gas furnaces. Every system type has its place. The application has to be the best for the customer.
8. How have you managed personnel growth?
We have 34 in our service fleet and we've been consistent. To be honest, everyone feels like family.
We have many employees who have been with us a long time, such as: Paulie, service manager (30 years), Bobby, service tech (26 years), Cindy, office (23 years), Carla, office (16 years), Tommy, service tech (16 years), Joanne, office (15 years), Mike, service tech (15 years), Katie, office (14 years), Jeff, service tech (11 years) and Mike, operations manager (10 years).
And, of course, immediate family members who work for the company include my son Matt, my son-in-law Mike, two nephews Jeff and Thomas, my brother-in-law Mike and my sister Terry.
9. Speaking of family, you've got a big weekend planned — are you nervous?
Yes, it is a big weekend. My daughter Anna is getting married to one of our service techs, Mike. I'm a little nervous, but probably more excited than anything. Mike is an excellent technician and a great guy.
10. How did they meet?
My son Matt and Mike became friends here at work and he said, "Dad, I want to invite Mike on our family vacation." I said great. Anna and Mike hit it off on our family vacation and now they're getting married. It's a great story.
11. You had a cutting-edge truck design when you won in 2007, how has it changed since then?
I realized the full wrap design we won with in 2007 was starting to blend in with other contractors on Long Island. As a result, we changed the design in 2012. We went back to basics, featuring our red and blue logo on a white vehicle. We also went to a reflective material that really pops when the light hits it.
12. Have you totally moved away from the full wrap?
No. GallettAir Green Solutions, our energy auditing division, still use the full wrap; they are green, yellow and white.
13. How difficult is it to keep your fleet design relevant over time?
It's not as bad as you may think. When we changed our fleet back to the original design, we didn't do them all at once. As new vehicles came into the fleet, we'd have them revamped. Our logo is always first and foremost — G/A is on everything and we've always been consistent with our branding.
14. You're a "car guy," so investing in your fleet has been easy for you — if you had to justify it to a board of directors, could you?
Absolutely. We have a nice building, but a customer has to drive by it to see it. We have 34 vehicles on the road and they're seen by tens of thousands of people every day. Conservatively, you could estimate each vehicle is seen by 2,500 people a day. Where else can you get that kind of return?
15. What advice do you have for other contractors who may still be hesitant to invest in their fleet as part of their marketing expenditure?
I always had a vision of growing the company and I knew I was in it for the long term, so I wanted to have our name out there. If you want to grow, you have to put yourself and your name out there. There's a risk, but there's a huge reward too.
16. How do you select the brand of vehicle?
We've had all the brands at one time or another. As you know, with the higher efficiency equipment, the vans needed to evolve and become wider and taller, or equipment wouldn't fit. Some manufacturers have done a better job than others redesigning. Ford has done a nice job with their new design, as well as with the EcoBoost engines.
17. What do you drive?
I just bought my first Mercedes Sprinter. It's a work of art and it's beautifully set up. The interior and all-aluminum rear shelving is extremely high quality — it's a really amazing set up for service or installation technicians.
18. Do you buy or lease?
I always buy because of the mileage we put on them.
19. How long do you keep them?
Typically, between five and eight years, depending on mileage or if maintenance becomes an issue.
20. What do you do with the vehicles when you retire them?
We've got a good reputation for maintaining our fleet. Other contractors from different trades often call to see if we have anything for sale. I sold three last week to a young guy who was just getting started.