HVACR Business Publisher Terry Tanker recently interviewed Konrad Rybak, owner of Air Blue Heating and Cooling in Wheeling, Ill. Air Blue is one of this year’s winners of our Tops-In-Trucks Fleet Design contest. Rybak discussed his company’s mission to be customer oriented, plans for growth and what he looks for in a supplier partner.
1. What is an interesting fact about you?
I am a first-generation U.S. citizen. I emigrated from Poland in 1998 as a sophomore in high school.
2. What made you decide to launch your own company?
While working as a service manager for a local company, I realized there was no room for advancement except becoming an owner so I opened my own company.
3. Did that seem like a good decision at the time?
Months later I realized that was a perfect time to do so because the company I worked for scaled down and laid off most of its employees.
4. What were you doing before that?
After I graduated high school, I went straight into the HVACR field, taking full-time classes at a community college. I started as a helper, then advanced to technician/installer. I?then moved to another company as service manager before starting my own company in 2006.
5. How do you strive to be customer-oriented?
We’re always looking for new ways to attract new customers, and retain our current ones. We’ve launched a new email notification system from Demandforce, which allows us to connect to our customers on a regular basis. We also recently upgraded to a more efficient and customer-friendly phone system.
6. How do you differentiate your company from your competitors?
We treat every potential and current customer like we do our own family. We offer them the best value in equipment, service and warranty that fits into their budget.
7. What’s the largest capital investment you’re making in Air Blue this year?
We’re opening up two new positions: Outside Sales Specialist and Install Manager. We’re also expanding our fleet and advertising so we can continue to grow in both residential and commercial markets.
8. Speaking of your fleet, how did you come up with your winning truck design?
Four years ago, I came up with a design for our fleet wraps, but it wasn’t great. It had too much information on it and wasn’t clean enough. I enlisted the help of Road Rage Designs earlier this year to refresh the look and make our trucks more eye-catching.
9. How is this design different from the previous design?
It’s much cleaner with a lot less information. Other than that, it’s very similar. There’s something to be said for brand recognition, and I didn’t want to stray too far from that original design ... the colors are similar and the logo is the same since I started the company in 2006.
10. What type of training do you offer employees?
We partner with Temperature Equipment Corporation (TEC), our main supplier, and Carrier to offer our employees all necessary resources and training needed to succeed?in their HVACR career. Our employees are able to take NATE certification classes, various Carrier hands-on-training seminars and online classes to help them develop and strengthen their skills.
11. What’s your business mix?
We’re mostly commercial, about 62 percent. The other 38 percent is residential.
12. How large is your customer base?
Combined, our customer base is about 2,500-3,000.
13. What is your number one selling product?
Commercial Carrier branded equipment, such as roof top units and large split systems.
14. Have you formed any alliance or network with other contractors?
We’re always looking for new connections with other contractors both in the HVACR field as well as other fields such as general contracting. Currently, we work with several other contractors from different areas around Chicago.
15. Do you target specialty markets?
Yes, we specialize in storage facilities, car dealerships and animal healthcare, as well as high-end residential.
16. Are you broadening the scope of products and services you offer?
We now offer air quality testing and wireless HVACR products. We’ve also implemented paperless technology in the field. We’re always looking for new ways to expand our products and services.
17. Have you added any product lines?
Recently we added generators and wholehouse scent and odor elimination system.
18. Are you adding suppliers this year or next?
We’re not planning to add more suppliers. We are very happy with TEC and Munch’s Supply. We have worked with them on a daily basis for years.
19. What do suppliers have to do to get your attention or a meeting?
They need to be fast, have reliable service, knowledgeable employees, great customer service, same-day deliveries, great prices, extended hours and be efficient.
20. What are your growth expectations for the next 12 -24 months?
Since 2012, we’ve more than doubled in size in both customers and sales. We expect to reach a growth of about 30 to 40 percent in the next 12-24 months.
Terry Tanker 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 Hutchinson Tanker Ltd. and HVACR Business 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.