Customers, Community, and Lee's Heating and Cooling
I had the honor of visiting Lee's Heating and Cooling in Downtown Staunton, VA to interview the owner, Allan Mayz, and hear more about his business and what makes them special. Not only is this a family owned and operated business, but they also have heart for the community, and truly care about the customer. Not many places are this good, folks! See below the full interview, and don't miss the architectural photography of their building which was built in 1860! Whoa!
How long has Lee’s Heating and Cooling been open? And who were all the owners?
The business started in 1971 by my father, Lee Mayz. I have been working for the business since 1981. The building was originally built in 1860.
What are the services that you offer to your clients?
We are what’s called an HVAC contracting firm, which encompasses air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, ventilation, heating products, gas logs, geothermal units, indoor air quality products. We also do plumbing which is not a large side of it, but we concentrate more on the heating and cooling side.
Do you do more commercial or more residential?
More residential, but it is 90% residential and 10% commercial.
So, you get a lot of people with their heat going out in the winter time and momma’s needing heat for their babies?
Yeah, you get a lot of that. I have a sick mother in-law, and they need heat. They are 90 years old. There are little children. We try to get to the homes regardless of the circumstances though. Sometimes you are so busy that you can’t get there immediately, but we try to get to the houses that day. Most of the time we do.
How many employees do you currently have?
Five. We used to have 17. After the economy bust in May, 2008, things STOPPED.
How do you get through the rough times like the economy bust in 2008?
It definitely was a challenge. In that time, we lost 67% of our gross income but we still had credit based on our full amount of our gross that it was based on, so it was hard. Lot of phone calls, lot of making a payment, putting out a lot of fires, a lot of stress, took all the savings. Keeping the business going took everything we had. Got on our knees to pray a lot. It was rough.
What do you feel would help your business grow?
My website is being revamped. Other technology, I have developed a mobile sales app. I now have an Ipad to do quotes. My process to do quotes includes an hour of meeting with the client and seeing their needs. I then go back to the office for about two hours to get some plans put together which includes a good, better, best option. And then we call and make an appointment to go back and explain everything to the client. Most clients don’t understand what we do, so I like to educate the consumer of our products and how it will save them money by which product they choose and how they will get money back in the long run. I try to put things in perspective for people so they understand. This app streamlines this process and eliminates multiple visits so we can handle it all while we are right there and then the proposal goes straight to their email. Much faster and easier!
What is your background work experience? Did you have to go to school to do this?
I started out at 11 years old working with my father on Saturdays and Sundays when he was working. During school, I didn’t have a summer break. I just worked with him all summer. I went to college for engineering, but had a change of plans and went another direction in my life. Deep sea diving didn’t work because of another recession, so I decided to take on the business with my father. I have been doing this since 1981. We got married (to wife Kathy) in 1985. October 12.
How do you market/promote your business currently?
Currently we do a little advertising with the radio. We also have a Facebook page which we get a lot of activity from and it also helped us hire employees when we needed a CSR. The 30 year old demographic is all about these phones. Nobody uses the yellow pages anymore. My Dad was nervous about us not putting in the yellow pages, but then he realized that he used the computer to look up businesses too. He has been retired. Now he just enjoys life.
How do you incorporate the community into your business? How does Lee’s Heating and Cooling help others?
One of the big things we do is with Woodrow Wilson Rehab. We get some of the people from there that have an interest in what we do. They are typically in a program that lasts about a year. They come and work with us for about 8 months. We treat them like they are an employees, but we are here to show them tools, how to use them, etc. And then we have the option to hire them after the time they are here to learn. I try to keep this kind of stuff quiet because I don’t want attention for it. After they leave us, they know what to expect at the job site, they know which tools are needed, and they know how to use those tools.
Do you have to go to college to do what you do?
You don’t have to have a degree, but you do need a LOT of experience. There are trade schools you can go to. They are introductory classes. Technical schools for our stuff is few and far between. You pretty much start out as a helper and from there you have to have personal drive to learn. When you show up, do you retain it, can you keep on doing it? It is a very personal thing.
What motivates you personally?
I like working and the aspect of business. I got to stay busy. If it is quiet, I am climbing the walls. The more activity the better. I like it when the job is completed and the customer is happy. That is the ultimate is customer satisfaction. Without that, the phone isn’t going to ring. We get a ton of word of mouth referrals.
What has been one of the most satisfying moments as a business owner? Where have you found joy?
What really makes me happy is when the day goes well and there are not major issues. But some certain events have happened like when we helped my friend, Chap, get his home back up to par after a fire. I find joy in helping the customer out like always being available, even on holidays when others might turn their phones off. I like when they are happy with what we have done for them. We return every call, but there really is a lot of stuff we do for the customer that is behind the scenes.
What are some mistakes you have made through the years?
A lot of those. Hired the wrong people. But dealing with gas and electric, there is little room to make mistakes like that. Through these mistakes, we have learned a lot though.
How do you build customer base in your business?
Doing a good job. Installing it the way the factory wants it to be done, and then they are comfortable and happy. Then, word of mouth spreads the business.
Thank you, Allan and Kathy Mayz! You guys are appreciated!