Tell me about your business.
I founded Albany HVAC with a few contractor buddies in 1988, not far from downtown Albany. We handle anything and everything related to heating and cooling – ac installation, repair, maintenance, furnace installation, repair, maintenance, hot water heaters, heat pumps, PTAC units, and so on. We’re kind of a one-stop-shop. Our guys are good…what year is it now – 2017? Yeah, we’ve been around for a while, doing work out in the field. It’s the hands-on experience that really makes a difference. We keep everything up to date with their training on systems from the top brands so we can handle anything a client throws at us; basically, if it’s carried in a store, we can install it, maintain it, or fix it. Sometimes, we just end up replacing things all together, and because we’ve got relationships with a lot of people in this industry, we can usually get decent pricing to pass along to the customer.
What was it that made you want to start this business?
I was doing odd jobs and some HVAC gigs here and there with my father, and I thought I’d call up my buddies that do a similar thing and see if they want to work together on it. We started the company with just a few of us and then expanded to 15 or so guys a few years later.
What was the toughest thing you went through when opening?
The logo – I had no idea what to do for the logo. Nah, but in all seriousness, I think the toughest thing was finding trained employees when we wanted to expand a bit. There’s a lot of contractors who do hvac work, but the quality wasn’t up to par, so we had to do a lot of searching to find a good group of guys that we could trust to serve our customers.
If you had to start over from day 1 what would you have done differently?
Choose a different field! Haha. I don’t know that I’d change anything. I think we ran the business well and we made some smart moves to get where we are today, so I wouldn’t change anything.
What is the toughest part about having a business in 2016?
Competing with all these Amazon-like service connectors like Thumbtack. Everyone wants the cheapest price, but they fail to realize that the cheapest isn’t always the best.
If a customer was to choose between your business and 3 others just like it why would you suggest they at least give you a try first?
We’ll get the job done right the first time for a reasonable fee. A lot guys get in there and start charging extra fees for things customers don’t need or go straight for expensive replacements that may not be needed. Honesty is a better way to go, and we can promise that part.
What is the number 1 way you currently bring in new customers?
Believe it or not, referrals and the SEO on some of our microsites. We haven’t really done anything with our main site hvacalbany dot com because we have so many calls from the other sites.
Has the Internet played a big role in your business as it has become more prevalent?
Absolutely. Prior to the Internet it was mostly referrals and of course the phone book. Now it’s still referrals and a lot of Internet.
If you look 6 months to a year into the future where would you like to see your business be?
I’d like to expand it further to 25 guys in the coming 3 years or so and then maintain that until 2030. I’ll also need to start training a replacement so I can retire.