Jason Stom, president of Clear the Air
Originally published: 07.01.14 by Terry Tanker
HVACR Business Publisher Terry Tanker recently interviewed Jason Stom, president and CEO of Clear the Air Cooling & Heating in Friendswood, Texas. Clear the Air is one of this year’s winners of our Top-In-Trucks Fleet Design contest. Stom discussed his company’s history, his father’s legacy and the importance of enjoying what you do.
1. What is Clear the Air’s history?
Clar the Air was founded in 1990, by my father Mike Stom. Dad was an extremely patient man.
At the same time, he couldn’t sit still for long. He was always thinking. After spending 35 years as an astronaut crew trainer with the space program, he retired from NASA. His retirement was short lived, however. He got the itch to do something and got his HVAC license, then started an air conditioning company. His friendly personality and commitment to serving others suited his new venture well. As a result, he established a loyal customer base very quickly.
2. How did you get involved in the company?
I worked with him over the years and really came to love the science of comfort. My formal background is in network security and administration, but I decided to make the jump from IT to HVAC. So, I earned my HVAC license and went all in. I tried to learn as much as I could from my dad. Business development is what I really enjoy and I wanted to make the company grow. I wanted to expand upon what my dad had started. In 2006, I took over the business and have tried to fill his very large shoes.
3. Did he really start the company as a hobby?
He always told me it was just a hobby, but after working with him and seeing how happy he was working with his children, I really feel he did it for us. My mom, brother, sister and I have all worked in the business to some extent. I think my dad hoped maybe someday one of us would want the company.
4. When you’re not working, what do you like to do for fun?
I really enjoy music. I have played the drums since I was 8 (sorry for all the noise, mom). Lately, I’ve been learning the ukulele. It’s been fun to pick up and also teach to my kids. I also try to find time to go fishing. Living near the coast provides plenty of opportunities.
5. Could you tell us about your family?
I have been married to my wife for 13 years. We have three beautiful children — two daughters and a son. Family has always been very important to me. They all have been a big source of inspiration.
6. How has the company changed since you took over?
We’ve seen tremendous growth. We’ve rebranded for a new look and feel. We’ve also implemented a completely paperless system in the office and started using tablets in the field with all the technicians.
7. With your background in IT, have there been any cutting-edge tech systems you’ve implemented?
We’ve created some proprietary systems for the paperless office systems using small Fujitsu scanners and a MSQL database located on our server. On the field side, everyone uses iPads for all of our communications. Every form we have is digitized and able to be filled out on the iPads.
8. How did you come up with your winning fleet design?
We weren’t planning to do it. The plan was to simply redesign our website, and it rolled into a complete company re-branding effort that included the entire fleet.
9. What drove the decision to rebrand Clear the Air?
As I said, I wanted to simply redesign the website, but then we began looking at everything else that would need to be updated to mirror the new website design, and it led to a complete rebranding. What I really wanted with this new look was to harken back to the days of when companies truly provided service. I wanted a vintage feel, but it had to be modern as well.
10. What’s your favorite part of the business?
Serving people. Helping clients stay comfortable and healthy. We really have an awesome bunch of people working here that truly want to make a difference. It’s contagious.
11. What excites you about going into the office?
It's very satisfying building something that you can see grow on a daily basis. Continuously learning, coaching others and building systems and processes — it’s rewarding seeing it all in action.
12. How did you come up with your philosophy of “Better, Cleaner, Faster” and what does that encompass?
I was bouncing around ideas with my wife and that phrase came out during our conversation. It entails our drive to provide a better service to customers through skilled and caring employees. Everything from a cleaner experience by using shoe covers, drop cloths and cleaning up even if we didn’t make the mess to improved and faster service 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
13. Not only do you list your company mission statement on your website, you also have an extensive code of ethics. How did you develop this?
It was part of planning where we wanted to go with the business and how we wanted to service the community.
14. What is your management philosophy?
I feel it’s important to outline the vision, coach and delegate. Empower our co-workers to make decisions on their own. Trust and measure results.
15. What’s your definition of business success?
To me, it’s about happiness. Our customers are raving fans and our coworkers are happy. Profits are important for business health, but without enjoying what you do, what’s it all for?
16. What are some of the biggest challenges facing the HVACR industry?
Without a doubt, it’s the shortage of skilled labor. We have an opportunity to recruit and train technicians from the ground up. This industry is ripe with opportunity for anyone who needs a job, but it’s up to the individual companies to take advantage of the many training resources available. We’ve been implementing systems to overcome that challenge; building our own workforce through training and development.
17. Your website says your technicians are NATE-certified — Could you tell me more about that?
All of our techs are NATE-certified. To work for our company you must be certified or get certified in your first year. We feel it’s important for all of our technicians to have goals and to keep on top of the most current trends and technologies. The techs must keep all their certifications active.
18. What’s your business breakdown?
We are 70 percent residential and 30 percent commercial.
19. What’s on your to-do list for this year?
We’re gearing up to build a new facility. Our growth has accelerated our need for additional office and warehouse space.
20. What’s the most important lesson this business has taught you?
Plant seeds and water daily.