Managing editor, Heather Langone, sat down with Jacob Gee, 29-Year-old COO, Gee Heating and Air, to talk about the advantages of being young, the challenges of recruiting, and the importance of a five-star standard of care.
1. What is your favorite day of the week and why?
Monday. I’ve pushed myself to like Mondays, to see it as a day that holds the possibility of new opportunity.
2. What is your preference – walnuts, sprinkles, or no topping on your ice cream?
3. Is golf a “real” sport or a pastime?
It usually whoops my butt. By the time I'm done playing 18 holes, I'm worn out. So, it must be a real sport!
4. Do you have a favorite family tradition?
I’m twenty-nine, so it may change, but one of my family traditions before getting married, was traveling. We’d go annually to Disneyworld. At Christmas time, one of my favorite family traditions was traveling to Pigeon Forge with my family.
5. Do you consider yourself lucky?
Luck is fleeting. I consider myself not lucky but blessed.
6. As part of a family business, did you always feel pressure to be on the management side?
I studied business management in college. I knew I wanted to be in a marketing and operations role and worked a dream job until I started thinking, "I'd like to work for myself." My brother and I decided to take over my father's business. It was a small operation – basically my dad and a van. That was eight years ago. It’s grown significantly. When we took over, we asked about his plans. He said, "I'd like to be retired in 10 years." This year, we bought him out and sent him off to enjoy his retirement. It’s exciting.
7. Are there any idiosyncrasies in HVACR that you believe pose a unique challenge in this field versus traditional financial management in other businesses?
HVACR is a weather-based supply and demand business. When the summer's hot, a crew of two hundred people will be kept busy. But as soon as it gets comfortable outside, that’s where you need to get creative. To retain the best employees, you need to have good processes that allow you to keep employees working while keeping the business profitable during the shoulder season.
8. What would you say is Gee's competitive edge?
Speed. We get to customers quickly. If we sell them a system, we install it the same day. There's a whole iceberg that goes underneath the speed – it’s our entire system that allows us to do this. Your CRM system must be efficient. Multiple processes must trigger simultaneously for the job to be completed fast and well.
9. Have you already created a family succession plan?
This year we officially purchased the company from my father. That was the family succession plan. Now we need a little time to think about our future and then work on our succession plan.
10. Do you have any advice for small business owners who deal with recruitment challenges?
Recruitment is the biggest topic for us. My very basic but very real answer: pay more. You need to pay more to attract top talent. The other thing we do is that we are willing to train new people with no experience in the industry.
11. Are regulatory changes affecting Georgia HVACR owners?
Georgia has been lenient on businesses. Nationally, we’re dealing with the CR2 transition. We’ll have to liquidate our 14.0 to stay in compliance with operational changes. But we try to stay ahead of the changes. Adaptability is important.
12. Georgia has grown significantly with an influx of transplants, has that affected the way you do business?
We like transplants. They use Google and we rank high on search engines It’s great for us!
13. Do you have a distribution agreement for any brands?
We have a private label agreement through Goodman and Daikin.
14. How do employees respond to training and new processes you’ve brought to the company?
We want a five standards and there are some growing pains associated with that. There is technical training, process training and image training. We've had some veterans , who couldn’t get on board with the image we want to portray in the community. Simple things like dressing properly. It was tough, but we had to let folks go.
15. Do you have a training manager who does ride-along calls with service guys?
Yes, a call-by-call manager – it’s the new version of the service manager, basically a systems and procedures manager. The call-by-call manager goes on ride-a-longs and will have a pregame call and a halftime call with the service tech. They ask questions like, “What are you seeing in this job? What's going on?” What’s our solution? And that's how we triage from there. Our call-by-call manager is very important.
16. Do you use advanced GPS technology?
We have GPS trackers on every vehicle and iPads that are tracked. We use Service Titan to track customer service to see when the technicians arrive at homes. We also have a program with Enterprise Fleet. Drivers use gas cards from Enterprise, and it allows us in one dashboard, to track all maintenance, mileage, and any double dipping with fuel.
17. How has fleet advertising impacted your business?
It’s been huge. It's one of those things where now, we’re very well recognized in our community, especially having integrated the brand design throughout the company
18. What is the biggest learning curve on the financial management side of owning an HVACR business?
Understand price versus value. In the beginning, you want to take every job, but it isn’t about that. I try to teach people, "Don't be tempted to be the cheapest in town. Offer value and know the value you bring.”
19. Do you have a contingency plan for economic volatility?
That's on our radar constantly. I am very aware and responsible for maintaining a good cash reserve. We have built up reserves. The best advice I’d give is the same rule I follow, stay lean. If we don't need three people running one thing, we reduce it to two. And there are positions that lend themselves to part-time employees. Stay as lean as you can.
20. Where do you see Gee in five years?
We have two locations. I'd like to get a third or fourth in five years. We plan to further our reach down into Atlanta, then, maybe multi-state!