Written by The Business Journal Staff
Tom Howard, President
Lee’s Air, Heating, and Building
What we do:
We are a commercial and residential air conditioning company specializing in service, repair, and retrofits. A typical day at Lee’s Air depends on the time of the year. Nobody is looking to replace their air conditioner when it is 70 degrees outside. We spend the spring and the fall doing extensive training.
We have a training room set up where we have weekly trainings during the off season for the entire technical staff and additional trainings for newer employees in order to get them up to speed. We don’t want our customers wondering which service specialist will show up and whether or not they are going to be able to do the job. During the summers and winters, things are a lot more intense and we all try to play our own positions so that we can maintain great response times for our customers. Last year, we averaged a 118 minute response time for our existing customers. When it’s 110 degrees outside, people not only need their air conditioner to work, they need it working ASAP.
Education: B.S. in management/finance from Brigham Young University
Age: 30 years old
Family: Spouse Samantha and sons Stephen and Ammon, ages 4 and 1 respectively
How did you become involved in the home heating and cooling business here, Tom?
I have lived in Fresno and Clovis on and off since I was 8 years old. When I was 15 and attending school in New Hampshire, I got offered a job from the guy that came by to fix my refrigerator. Since then, I have tried many times to get away from air conditioning-refrigeration but by the time I finished college, I had around nine years of experience in this industry and a degree in business. I realized that I probably would be happiest if I didn’t fight the obvious avenue in my life. Through several turns of events, I ended up purchasing half of Lee’s Air.
You’re in the middle of your busy season, correct, Tom?
The highest demand months are June and July. Typically, if something was going to break down, it will usually do so before August. To avoid being stuck in July with a broken air conditioner, have your system maintained. People get their oil changed on their cars but rarely get their air conditioners maintained. It not only reduces the chances of breakdown but can increase efficiency. Not getting your system tuned-up — quarterly for commercial applications and bi-annually for residential systems — simply doesn’t make sense.
Are today’s air conditioners more efficient in general, Tom?
Systems are more efficient in general because of government regulations. We do recommend however asking your air conditioning company about the return on investment before getting too excited about paying a lot of money for super high efficiency equipment. In many cases, but not all, you will get a better ROI by replacing your duct system or going with a mid-level efficiency unit.
What is your key business strategy, Tom?
Keep revenue growth as a secondary ideal and then growth will come. Focus instead on taking the projects that you are good at and under-promising and over-delivering on the ones you do take on. Not all growth is good growth. Being a young, cocky, and over-eager business owner with 20 employees, it was/is hard to walk away from opportunities. Many long-time business owners from the area have warned me about the consequences of poor growth decisions. That strategy has helped our team nearly double our revenue in the past 3 years and increase net profit margins.
What was the best advice you received, Tom?
“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.” – Thomas S. Monson
What was your first job, Tom?
I worked for Captain Wrench HVAC in Plaistow, New Hampshire when I was 15 years old.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Tom?
I enjoy wood working and reading non-fiction books.
What are some of your favorite ways to stay cool in the summer, Tom?
Sitting under my air conditioner, of course.