As no surprise, Climate Engineering won the award for 2001 Residential Contractor of the Year. According to Tom Casey, Climate Engineering doesn't want to be the biggest company around, just the best company, and their motto, “if it's not exceptional, it's not acceptable,” proves it.
Climate Engineering, a third generation HVAC contracting firm, had to evolve to get to where they are today. They started as Casey Fuel, Ice and Coal in the 1930s, and over time they dropped the coal businesses to build a successful fuel oil business by the 1960s.
At the time, Tom Casey was in business with his brothers so there were always issues about which direction the business should go, and they spent a lot of time trying to buy each other out. In 1986, they broke the business up into several different companies, including real estate and a truck-and-trailer leasing business. Tom Jr. and Tom Sr. took the residential/light commercial HVAC service division of the old company, and that's where Climate Engineering began.
Tom Sr. said he was not so fond of the early days. In 1986 they were working long, hard hours and the year's volume was $186,000 which isn't even a good month for their business today. The father/son division of the company grew and by the early 90s, had a strong growth period. That's when they added Tom Jr.'s younger brother, Todd Casey.
Unlike Tom Jr., Todd had enough of the classroom environment after spending 3 years at Northeast University and working at Climate Engineering during summers. He saw how difficult it was for peers trying to get jobs out of college so he decided to join the division with his father and brother. Todd said, unlike the horror stories you hear about a family-owned business, he couldn't ask for better business partners. They're confident in each others' judgment and capabilities to do things the Climate Way.
Tom Sr.'s vision in turning over the reins to his sons while remaining in the business has been a valuable asset. Tom Jr. recalls that when he first started, Tom Sr. put him in every training class he had the opportunity to attend. He knew the day would come for his sons to take over the business, so he made sure that Tom Jr. got all technical and business training available. Not to mention, the training was valuable to the father/son duo and they still sit down once a week to discuss their ideas for the company and the different angles both family members bring to the table.
Fate also played a roll in the transition from father to son when Tom Jr. came on board at 21 years old, and Tom Sr. hopped on his boat for a vacation. The boat broke down in Bermuda and he didn't make it home until 7 weeks later. Tom Jr. recalled that he had no one to talk to and that opened the door for him to come up with ideas to run the company effectively, which he actually really enjoyed.
Tom Jr. and Todd were a natural fit. While Tom runs with his ideas, Todd follows through and implements the ideas into a plan. While Tom Jr. runs the company, Tom Sr. stays involved in the industry at a larger level, most notably as a member of the board of directors of the Connecticut Heating and Cooling Contractors and as chairman of that association's legislative committee. Tom Sr. is also one of seven members o the Connecticut Heating-Piping-Cooling Board, a governor-appointed board responsible for granting and approving mechanical licenses in the state.
Climate Engineering is now a $4 million company with 38 employees, 8 service trucks, 9 installation crews, and the company is split almost evenly between residential and light commercial, with a high percentage of service work compared to new installations. Business referrals are their biggest money makers and customers shopping for price may be excluded.
Climate Engineering is best at tackling tough comfort challenges, creating innovative solutions for people who didn't think they could find one. Evidence of this is found in the numerous awards the company has received from Contracting Business over the years: three Quality Home Comfort Awards and one Design/Build Award.
The two major reasons for Climate Engineering's technical expertise are the company's obsession with training and doing things the “Climate Way.” Weekly training sessions are conducted in-house for the technical personnel and office staff. There's a constant focus of quality with new technologies and innovative applications of older technologies being common training topics.
Tom Jr. has spent hours compiling training manuals on how to do things the “Climate Way” over the last several years. These manuals are designed to ensure that jobs get done the same way – the right way – time after time. After years of practical experience they standardized everything so that the manuals explain just how to do things, right down to what type of thermostat goes on a job, the size of the pad, pipe, ductwork, and everything down to the smallest detail. They even engineered CAD drawings so technicians could see what jobs were supposed to look like. Now, all install teams have installation manuals in their trucks and service techs have service manuals that spell out the “Climate Way.”
According to Tom Jr., the manual is to help create a service-friendly job. But, they also have added benefits such as being used as a marketing tool with customers. None of their competitors can show manuals or anything like it and they also use them as a screening tool when interviewing prospective technicians, always asking them if they can live up to it.
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