Eddie McDonald, owner of Zen Air Heating & Cooling in Suwanee, Ga.
Originally published: 07.01.20 by HVACR Business Staff
We sat down with Eddie McDonald, owner of Zen Air Heating & Cooling in Suwanee, Ga. McDonald, who is a 2020 Tops in Trucks Fleet Design Contest winner, discussed moving away from the franchise model, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on business and working with KickCharge Creative on his winning fleet design.
1. Can you tell us about your background?
I started at Diversitech as the chief information officer back in 1998. I spent 18 years there learning about the industry, at least froma product and distributor perspective. When a private equity company purchased them about five years ago, I decided to evaluate my options.
2. So you went into business for yourself?
Yes, I was initially a Temperature Pro franchisee, for about four years. Earlier this year, I left the franchise and rebranded as Zen Air Heating & Cooling.
3. How did you come up with Zen?
There are so many companies with, ‘Bob’s Heating and AC’ or just the family name or whatever. I wanted something different. I started thinking along the lines of when people are in their home, what is something that represents the state that they want to be in? They want to be in an ideal comfort state. Anyway, Zen just popped into my mind.
4. What’s your business mix?
We’re 70 percent residential, 30 percent light commercial. We don’t do any new construction.
5. How would you describe your management style?
I prefer to delegate and have the right people in place that can do the job, and I let them run with it. At times, I do tend to delve into the details and do a little micromanaging, but that’s not the best way to be successful.
6. How do you motivate your team?
We try to have a lot of comradery, try to make it a fun place to work, motivate them through incentive programs. It’s really about the overall culture of working together and wanting to take care of our customers that gets everyone on the same page.
7. What was the learning curve to owning a business?
It was significant and being part of the franchise helped a little bit, but there’s just such a tremendous number of things you encounter that you can’t learn or can’t be prepared for until you actually experience it. I’m happy to be where I’m at, at this point, but I still have plenty to learn.
8. What resources have you found helpful?
I’ve recently signed up with BDR, which is a coaching company, and they’ve been very helpful. I’m constantly reading and watching videos, just soaking up as much knowledge as I can.
9. What do you view as the most important aspect of your job?
Keeping my eye on the big picture and trying not to get bogged down with small setbacks and day-to-day issues. I’ve got to stay focused on the long-term plan and work to put the right pieces into place.
10. How has the coronavirus pandemic affected business?
It’s definitely slowed business. Of course, the weather has also had an effect … it hasn’t been as hot as normal here in Atlanta. Customers are definitely more apprehensive too. But we have been apple to secure a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, which has actually helped put us in a more financially secure place in the short term.
11. What precautions have you taken?
We use full personal protective equipment (PPE) when going into customers’ houses and a contactless invoicing system to make them feel more comfortable.
12. What are your plans for growth in the future as a company?
I’m putting together a three-year plan of revenue growth and profitability, of where I want to be. My plan is to grow but grow profitably. I’m not trying to grow too fast; I want to make sure that we continue to be profitable every step of the way.
13. What was it like to work with KickCharge Creative?
Working with Dan Antonelli and KickCharge has been great. All the designs they’ve done, they tailor. They tailor to your needs, but they still make sure that they’re hitting all the check boxes as far as what draws attention. It needs to be something that’s going to stand out for sure and that people will remember … KickCharge understands that.
14. How did you come up with the color scheme?
I told KickCharge what my color preferences were. Then they came up with a number of different options and then I chose the final one. All the options they came up with were great, but I wanted to convey that feeling of satisfaction or comfort, and I felt this really worked.
15. What were you looking for?
I was excited to do something a little different and figured it would be noticeable. There are only a few brands that stand out to me. When I think about particularly in the HVACR, none of the branding in our area really stands out.
16. Did you do research for this design?
That’s part of their normal process, to evaluate the local competition, but a lot of our competition is not very eye catching. Some of the companies have just been around forever. They haven’t focused on rebranding or making their stuff stand out because they’re already well known.
17. What kind of feedback have you gotten?
The trucks have been on the road for a little more than a month, honestly, but we’re getting a tremendous amount of positive feedback. One technician said a guy was walking down the road next to him, doing the little symbol that the bear’s doing. I mean, we just had a lot of positive feedback. It’s pretty exciting.
18. How has this new design paid off?
At this point, it’s just getting the name out there and trying to reinforce that we’re not a brand new company, we’ve been around and it’s the same great service, but without the franchise aspect.
19. What’s your favorite aspect of this new design?
It’s definitely the bear. I mean, the bear’s just sitting there glowing. I’ve actually been trying to come up with a name for the bear and I haven’t settled on one yet. I was thinking about maybe making it a contest.
20. Do you track leads based off customers who see your trucks?
Yes. We use ServiceTitan, which allows us to track every marketing campaign. The trucks just have our generic number, so when someone calls in off the generic number, we do ask them how they heard about us and we’ll track that as well.