Dave Musial, CEO of Four Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning
Originally published: 01.01.10 by Terry Tanker
Publisher Terry Tanker recently met with Dave Musial, CEO of Four Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning in Chicago. They discussed management philosophy, growth and controlling healthcare costs.
1. How were you introduced to the HVACR business?
My dad learned the industry in the military and introduced me to it. After I decided that college wasn't for me, my dad offered to sell me his business.
2. Were there any problems working for your father?
Sure there were.He demanded perfection. He would tell me that I was only as good as my last job.
3. What type of technical training did you have?
I learned my skills from my dad. I did not attend trade school, but I have continued my education and training by attending seminars and workshops. I am EPA certified and have gone to 200 to 250 seminars over the years.
4. When you took over the business in 1995, what were your goals?
I was recently married and living in my in-laws' basement because I couldn't afford a home of my own. My first goal was to afford to move out.
5. How long before you were able to stop making service calls and focus exclusively on growth?
About five years. And I was finally able to move out of my mother-in-law's basement.
6. When did you realize you had a formula that worked?
In 2001 when I had 35 employees and started to see the real potential of the company. Today we have about 500 employees.
7. At what point was company growth the most significant?
Our biggest spike in growth came in 2002-2003 when we started asking our customers for referrals and rewarding them when they did it.
8. How do you manage healthcare costs?
We are self-insured and operate our own health insurance plan, and we have a reinsurer that caps our maximum exposure for the significant health claims. We also promote and support employee wellness. We pay 90% of employees' health benefits after five years of service.
9. Do your employees like the program?
I think it's fair to say they do because our employees nominated Four Seasons for the Society of Human Resource Management's 50 Best Small & Medium Companies to Work for in America list.
10. What would you like to see change regarding healthcare?
I'd like to see that everyone, rich or poor, young or old, receives the healthcare they need and show the rest of the world why the USA is the greatest country in the world.
11. How many fleet vehicles do you have?
We have 400 Ford vehicles.
12. How do you organize your week?
I typically start off every morning by reviewing a list of tasks from the previous business week and to determine what I will accomplish the current week. I then put a timeline to each task and work on the task until it's completed.
13. What types of management meetings do you have?
I and my 17 department managers participate in a daily 30-minute call that consists of 30-second updates from each manager. We go over all of the numbers from all aspects from the previous day. Also, every Friday at noon the same group meets again to discuss weekly accomplishments and goals.
14. What management responsibility are you holding on to that you should delegate?
I still handle negotiations with major vendors. I have a purchasing department full of dedicated buyers, but I still prefer to do it myself. I like to negotiate.
15. What aspect of management do you really enjoy?
Seeing someone rise up through the ranks.
16. What is your marketing and advertising philosophy?
Our marketing and advertising efforts have a call to action and focus on the benefits of doing business with Four Seasons.
17. Have you started venturing into social media yet?
Yes. We are on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. We have an advertising agency and internal department managers that are actively involved in helping to manage our social media channels.
18. Can you tell me about your customerfinancing options?
We have our own private label Four Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning Visa card that allows consumers to receive up to 60 months of interest free financing — something that is really unheard of in our industry.
19. How has the finance program helped your company grow?
It has allowed our customers to realize greater reductions in their utility bills by investing in more energy-efficient comfort systems.
20. Do you have a good customer service story you can share?
We have a customer who was married for 55 years and relocated to Chicago with her husband so he could be closer to one of his favorite sport teams — the Chicago White Sox. Unfortunately, her husband became ill and passed away, leaving her alone in Chicago in a new home that was bought from a builder that went out of business.
One winter day when it was 15F out, she called us because, as she explained, "her husband always took care of these matters." We came out and contacted the furnace manufacturer on her behalf, found out that the system was under warranty, and repaired the system with no cost to her. She said to me, "Your company brought a ray of sunshine into my life at a time when I thought I would never see the sun again." Her words have stayed with me to this day.