Michael Rosenberg, president of Rosenberg Indoor Comfort
Originally published: 02.01.19 by HVACR Business Staff
We sat down with Michael Rosenberg, president of Rosenberg Indoor Comfort in San Antonio. Rosenberg, who grew up in the industry, discussed moving from sales to management, starting over and what he’s learned about being a leader.
1. How did you get your start in this business?
My parents, Lee and Betsy, owned Metro-Tech Service Company, so I grew up in the HVACR business most of my life. I started out sweeping the floors of the warehouse. I actually attended some Air Conditioning Contrators of America (ACCA) meetings when I was in high school because of my parent’s involvement, and that’s where I got a feel for the industry.
2. What did you do after high school?
I went to the University of Texas and got a degree in business management. I joined the family business full time the week after that.
3. Did you always know you were going to join the family business?
Actually, before college I wanted to be a doctor. I was pre-med my first year in college, but then I decided I was more fit to do business. I really liked business. I didn’t really like the hospital environment, the sickness and the death. I enjoyed sales and accounting, and dealing with clients. And then I shifted my focus from the biology and chemistry classes to accounting and statistics.
4. What was your position when you started full time?
I was the purchasing manager. I knew about the parts and such from working during the summer time, but I had a lot to learn so I just dove in there and I was inventory control, made sure all of the trucks had the proper amount of parts. I made sure the warehouse was clean and that was my first job. I think I did that for a couple of years before I moved into the next place.
5. Where did you go from there?
I moved into the residential replacement side, going into homes and visiting with customers. Then I moved into commercial sales. From there I started to do more of the work on the business side of the business ... planning and managing ... I became the business manager.
6. What happened to the business in 1998?
My family decided to sell the business to Blue Dot. I stayed on with them doing mostly commercial maintenance sales until 2003.
7. What happened then?
My parents approached me and said, ‘Hey, let’s start over again with a new company.’ That’s when I went and got my Texas air conditioning license. My parents still owned the original building from their old company, so we moved in there and purchased seven trucks.
8. Were you competing with the old company?
Actually, no. The old company was sold again and blew up. We got the word around that we were back in business and named the new company Rosenbery Indoor Comfort. We started off with a bang and actually made a profit that first year.
9. What was your role at the new company?
I was, and still am, president. My dad was president at the old company, but had taken a couple of years off and was doing some consulting. He wanted me to lead this new business, while he took on more of an advisory role.
10. How long before you started to grow?
It was about five years before we really got to the point where we saw growth. That’s when we bumped up our marketing — SEO, ad words and other internet marketing. We also started doing TV then. We had to grow the business and grow the cash flow to allow us to invest in the business. We started with about 10 employees; today we have 36.
11. What kind of learning curve did you experience now that you were leading?
That’s a great question, because all of a sudden I’m the man. I’m in charge and it was definitely different having people come directly to me and not my dad. My dad’s always there for feedback and help. But when we started over and he said, “You’re the president,” that really made me push hard into learning and sitting in that position and learning what it takes.
12. What does it take to be a leader?
Communication. When you’re president, you’re involved in all kinds of different things, including dealing with your people and making sure they’re motivated and doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
13. How do you motivate your people?
The most important thing in motivating your people, spending time one-on-one with them and listening to them. And when they do a good job or they sell something or they excel at something, it’s important to thank them. A huge part of motivating people is making sure they feel appreciated.
14. What is your management style?
I like to communicate with the individual and tell them, “This is what I expect and this is what your goals are,” and then I leave them alone and let them do what they need to do. I don’t micromanage.
15. How do you approach recruitment?
We’ve built relationships with trade schools ... we’re on their advisory boards ... and they send us potential graduates. We interview them and put them through our Build-a-Tech Program, which is a six to 12 months training program.
16. How do you combat the labor shortage?
It’s really challenging to bring in experienced service technicians and installers because there’s seems to be a shortage in our industry. When you do find an experienced tech, it’s sometimes difficult to hold onto them and they don’t work out. But the ones we bring in from trade schools and build within, those we’ve had a really good success.
17. What’s the biggest misconception about the current workforce?
Everyone has this bad taste in their mouth about Millennials ... that they’re not hard workers and they’re high maintenance and such. If you know how to work with them, they can be really good workers. They simply have different types of motivation.
18. What challenges do you see in the next few years?
The Internet is making business kind of difficult. For example, people go on the Internet and can buy a Ductless Mini-Split for half the price of what we have to sell it for, or they question the prices we charge on parts because they can buy it cheaper online.
19. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t be afraid to spend money smartly to grow your business.
20. Who is your role model?
My dad, for sure. He’s passionate about the business and the industry. I think the business is his hobby.