Contractor successfully expands into water-, energy-conservation, solar

Contractor successfully expands into water-, energy-conservation, solar

Last summer, after nearly 30 years of leading THE Air Conditioning & Heating Co., CEO Ray Grimm stood at the brink of retirement. However, under the new economic structure’s pressure, the company struggled to grow.


CAROL STREAM, ILL. — Last summer, after nearly 30 years of leading THE Air Conditioning & Heating Co., CEO Ray Grimm stood at the brink of retirement. However, under the new economic structure’s pressure, the company struggled to grow. Instead of calling it quits, Grimm embarked on a bold reinvention of the 100-year‐old company to infuse it with the vitality and relevance that could propel it well into the next century.

Grimm launched A.W.E. Air. Water. Energy. That business model included expanding service offerings to include plumbing and electrical services, energy audits, air quality testing, and solar panel installation and testing. The additional services ensure A.W.E.’s customers have one trusted source to call for all of their homes’ vital systems. Grimm likened his company’s service to being doctors for the home, intent on promoting preventive care that helps homeowners avoid costly repairs, while improving operating efficiency, and extending the life of a home’s core systems.

It’s been far from hard times for the HVAC‐only service provider. In fact, the company served over 21,000 customers across five suburban Chicago counties last year, and achieved a 39% increase in revenues over the past two years.

“We evaluated our position, and identified a business model that allowed us to increase our service offerings while adding to our ability to help homeowners maintain the healthiest home possible,” Grimm said.

Grimm credits, Alan Misale, general manager at A.W.E., with helping him formulate the vision for his new company and corporate philosophies. Enlisting the expertise of creative director, Jessica Kizorek, was the next step as he proceeded with repositioning the company.

With the team in place, Grimm undertook a year‐long process of marketing research, sometimes-tedious self‐evaluation, and strategic re‐branding. He’s invested $1.2 million dollars and hundreds of man‐hours in improvements that included acquiring Hansen Mechanical & Plumbing, hiring licensed electricians, installing and implementing new management system software, and developing A.W.E.’s overall branding and marketing elements. Ultimately, Grimm believes the return on his investment will help triple company revenues over the next five years.

These investments have paid off. Some of A.W.E.’s biggest successes since launching in May include:

A.W.E.’s customer base has increased by 400.
• An additional $850,000 in new revenue has been realized.
• The company’s new plumbing division represents 15% of revenue and didn’t exist a year ago.
• A.W.E. now has kiosks in five Costco stores, garnering an additional 15% in revenue.
• The company’s energy division, including solar panel installations, has added $40,000 to overall revenue. (The real gain here is clients recognizing that they can rely on A.W.E. to educate them on green energy and alternatives available to meet their energy and comfort needs.)

The company also continues to look at new technology and certifications. For example, Misale, A.W.E.’s GM, just completed the course work to become a Certified Indoor Environmentalist. Earlier this year, A.W.E. became certified to perform energy audits, and they have worked with ComEd to improve air conditioning efficiency, and Nicor to improve furnace efficiency.

With A.W.E.’s Member Value Program, regular maintenance visits ensure all of a home’s systems are properly installed, operating efficiently, and are ready to provide top indoor air quality. By assessing the homeowner’s needs, taking into consideration everything from children to pets, to occupant health issues and budgets, A.W.E.’s NATE‐certified technicians, licensed electricians and plumbers can help homeowners define the right choice or product to meet their needs.

“If you want to grow, you have to take calculated risks that are backed up with fresh ideas that make good business sense, and the courage to believe in your mission,” Grimm added.

One thing that won’t change is the bright yellow color that emblazons every AWEsome technician’s truck. The eye‐catching hue has become a recognizable part of the current company’s 37‐vehicle fleet, and it is incorporated into every piece of the marketing and branding campaign unveiled.

“We believe we’ve designed a solid business and embraced a modern philosophy of management that will result in higher customer retention and ultimately grow our already strong company into one our customers and employees can count on for years to come,” said Grimm.
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