10 Minutes With: Don Batz

Contracting Business spent a few minutes chatting with Don Batz, senior vice president of CommAir Mechanical Services, a $40+ million mechanical service contractor in Oakland, CA, to find out more about the pressing issues facing his business and the commercial contracting community. Here's what he had to say:

Contracting Business: What is the key to being a successful mechanical service contractor?

Don Batz: It's crucial for contractors to develop and maintain a solid maintenace agreement base, which is the cornerstone of a successful service business.

Agreements lead to measurable results such as service calls and equipment replacement. They also can create long-lasting relationships with customers. There are customers who have been with Comm Air since I was a service technician nearly 30 years ago.

In addition, it’s important to target and meet the needs of your customers. For example, we offer a complete package that includes equipment
replacement and a five-year maintenance agreement and warranty, all for one price and paid for upfront. This way, the customer doesn’t have to write another check for the next five years.

At the same time, we have a lease-to-own program that allows customers make monthly payments. Thus, customers can make necessary equipment upgrades, while spreading out the expense.

CB: With the shortage of qualified labor always an issue, what does Comm Air do to attract and retain the right people?

DB: We try to cultivate long-term employees by showing them a long, successful career path. Many begin at the shop level, go through the
apprenticeship program to become service technicians, and make their way to foremen and leaders in the company.

It’s also important to make your company a place where people want to work, as employees really are your greatest asset. All of our employees can have a say in what goes on in the company; they're not just numbers.

CB: What do you see in the future for commercial HVACR?

DB: I definitely see a bright future ahead for service contractors.

Building owners and managers are increasingly looking for quality equipment and service. We're also seeing repair and replacement schedules pick up as the economy improves.

On the manufacturing front, we're seeing exciting developments in technology as manufacturers are creating high quality, high efficiency equipment.

CB: What's the best thing about being a part of this industry?

DB: It's always changing, and therefore, never boring.

CB: What is the best business advice you've been given?

DB: Take care of your customers and always follow through with what you promise.

CB: What advice would you give to someone considering starting his or her own HVACR business?

DB: Build your maintenance agreement base and never be afraid to try something new. Also, be active in this industry by participating in organizations such as the Mechanical Service Contractors of America. It builds a stronger service industry. Finally, don't be afraid to help your colleagues by sharing your knowledge. The rewards are priceless.

Don Batz is senior vice president at CommAir Mechanical Services. He can be reached at 510/839-1500.

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