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Rick Busby, Owner of Busby’s Heating Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, Augusta Georgia

Originally published: 03.01.09 by Terry Tanker

Rick Busby, Owner of Busby’s Heating Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, Augusta Georgia

Terry Tanker met with Rick Busby, owner of Busby's Heating Air Conditioning and Refrigeration in Augusta, Ga. Busby's was one of the three winners selected in HVACR Business' Tops in Trucks fleet design contest in 2008. The two met to discuss the economy, marketing and what Busby has learned from his dad.


1. When you leave the office Friday night where are you headed?

Usually home. However, I have been known to venture out on hunting or fishing trips, which I really enjoy.

2. What are you hunting?

I grew up in the country raising bird dogs and hunting quail with my dad. There aren't any wild quail left in Georgia so now I hunt deer, wild hogs, rabbits, ducks, doves and geese.

3. What is your favorite possession?

My integrity

4. Busby's is located about five miles from Augusta National Golf Club, have you ever played golf there?

No, but I've been asked to play twice. Both times I declined and told them to invite someone that would truly enjoy it more. I only play golf a few times a year.

5. Have you done any HVACR work at Augusta?

Yes. We have done service and installation work over the years but we are not their primary provider.

6. Your father started the company in 1945 what was his background?

My dad was an executive with the Kraft Foods company in Atlanta. After the war he decided that he did not like corporate politics and wanted to open his own business.

7. Did you work for your dad on summer breaks when you were in school?

Yes, throughout high school and college. In fact, the only other place I have ever worked was for another contracting company where I went to college. \

8. How difficult was it to make the transition from Busby's being your dad's company to it being your company?

My dad was great about letting me do my thing. I used to meet with him for a year end review and discuss our plans for the next year. One year before we began our review I started telling him about my plans and I guess I was very enthusiastic and he was impressed with my vision for the future. When I asked him if he wanted to review the financials he said "No, you know what you are doing. It's up to you now. If you need me I will be here to help." That was a huge confidence booster for me, and we have been going strong ever since.

9. Almost every business is struggling right now. What is your largest immediate challenge and how are you dealing with it?

Creating business in this slow economy is the biggest challenge. We are reviewing many policies and procedures to make sure that we are operating as efficiently as possible. I have also been reviewing our marketing budget to make sure that we are getting the most out of our marketing dollars. I believe that we will come out of this a much better company because it is forcing us to become less complacent and is making us do some things we should have been doing all along.

10. Has the slow economy forced you to make any major changes with regard to the operation of your company?

We have reduced the hours of all field personnel and office staff. I'm confident this is a short-term adjustment that has been mostly weather driven. In the past we have given everyone 40 hours and absorbed the cost, but due to the economic climate we reduced hours.

11. What are you spending the majority of your time on each day?

Being much more involved in reviewing the daily operations. I've also been reviewing systems and procedures—looking at things that I would not have looked at so closely in the past.

12. What's the one thing you want to do but just can't seem to get to?

I started writing a book a couple of years ago and I have not completed it yet. My goal was to havefinished it by the end of last year. My current goal is to finish it this year.

13. In twenty words or less can you describe your company?

Busby's is focused on the residential and light commercial service, maintenance and replacement business. Our emphasis is on customer service, quality, honesty and integrity. We are not the low cost provider, but provide and sell value.

14. Last year Busby's was one of three winners in our annual Tops in Trucks fleet design contest. When did you first begin to understand the importance of this marketing tool?

For as long as I can remember our customers commented on our trucks and that they saw them everywhere. My dad always had red trucks. The design evolved over the years and our current design has, by far, been the most effective yet.

15. How long have you had the design?

The current wrap was designed in 2007.

16. Is the design incorporated throughout your company?

Yes, all of our marketing materials and sales material incorporate the "Bee theme".

17. How do you measure the designs effect or impact?

By the tremendous response we get from our customers and others in the community. They say, we love that little bee, and the trucks are everywhere!

18. Is it a challenge to maintain the fleet?

We've learned over the years how and what to do to maintain the fleet. Our managers inspect the vehicles in partnership with the techs every week. As a consequence, we have good results and are ahead of the curve with our fleet.

19. Your service department is open eleven hours a day, six days a week. What kind of competitive advantage is that in your market?

Actually, all departments of our company are open those hours now and I think it gives us a big advantage. We are a retailer and we have to be open like a retailer. Customers love Saturday and evening service at no extra charge.

20. Can you tell me a little about your quality assurance program?

We have a designated person in our company that is our quality assurance (QA) specialist. We have a 44 point checklist that the installer fills out on every job. The QA tech checks every job against that list. Installers are rewarded for perfect QA checks.

About Terry Tanker

Terry Tanker

Terry is the owner of JFT Properties LLC and publisher of HVACR Business magazine. He has more than 25 years of experience in the advertising and publishing industries. He began his career with a business-to-business advertising agency. Prior to forming JFT Properties LLC in January 2006, he spent 20 years with a 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, NATE and ABMA. 

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