Doug Brantley has been a member of the Tennessee Army National Guard for 23 years, and the owner of a growing HVAC business — Brantley Heating and Air Conditioning —for eight.
When the news came that Brantley’s 194th Engineer Brigade was off to serve in Iraq, Doug’s wife Kim was left to care for their son, Will, and run the family business
Doug joined members of the 194th Engineer Brigade of the Tennessee National Guard at Fort Bragg, N.C., in November 2004. The following month, the brigade left for Iraq, where Doug applied his engineering background to a variety of construction projects throughout the country and earned the Bronze Star for his service.
“With respect to my business, my biggest concern was maintaining my customer base while I was away,” Doug recalls.
“There really wasn’t much I could do about it apart from putting people in place that I thought Kim could call on for help if she needed it. I also made the decision to scale back our new construction work and ductwork installations.”
Prior to Doug’s leaving, Kim ran the office, answered phones, and handled billing and payroll issues. She had no technical HVAC background, but soon found herself running the business and practicing on-the-job training.
“I probably knew just enough to be dangerous,” says Kim. “I had managed to pick up some things about the business as I worked in the office before Doug left, but that certainly didn’t prepare me to step into Doug’s shoes.”
Plagued with some personnel issues shortly after Doug’s departure, Kim found herself with fewer people she could rely on for help. Fortunately, she was able to communicate with Doug on a fairly regular basis online.
“I don’t think I could have survived without that ability to communicate with Doug,” Kim says.
“I was able to ask him about model numbers and pricing issues, and if he didn’t have an answer for me, he could at least direct me to someone who might be able to help.”
Johnson Controls’ Coleman distributor, Equipment Supply Distributor, Inc. (ESD), also provided Kim with support. Doug switched to the Coleman line of heating and air-conditioning products in 2000, after assessing the units’ reliability, and the accessibility of components.
“Accessibility makes the products easy for a technician to work on,” says Brantley. “In addition, I appreciate the fact that every piece of Coleman equipment I sell has either a five- or 10-year parts and labor warranty.”
“The company also offers dealers a lot of support. Kim experienced that through the efforts of ESD. Anytime she or the guys here had a technical problem, the folks at ESD were always available to talk on the phone or drive up here from Memphis to help figure out the problem. They even made trips here to help move equipment. “
“I can’t tell you how good it made me feel to know I could go to ESD whenever we needed advice or technical help,” says Kim. “I know they wanted Doug to have a business to return to and did everything they could to see that he did.”
Charles Humphreys, president of ESD, says it was only natural to want to help Kim.
“Kim is a very capable young woman, but I don’t think she was prepared to sit in the hot seat, trying to keep the business afloat while taking care of family obligations and participating in support groups for families of service men and women who are serving overseas,” says Humphreys. “I can’t imagine what it’s like for a small business, when the principal is suddenly absent for a year. We just wanted to support Kim with whatever she needed to make her situation less stressful and protect the business.”
Brantley Heating and Air Conditioning is a Coleman Liberties™ dealer. As such, the Brantleys have access to a variety of cost-effective services and programs designed to help them manage their business. “I appreciate the financing options available to me as a Liberties dealer,” Doug said. “I’ve also been able to take advantage of some of the training programs offered by Coleman Business Training University (BTU). A lot of what they teach you I’ve been doing, but it’s good to know that I’m doing the right thing. The other important thing I carried away from each session is the fact that you really have to practice the techniques they suggest all the time, not just when you think of it or feel like it.”
Home since last December, Doug is working hard to make up for the year he lost. “I’d like to take some additional training, but at the moment I’m still busy trying to build the business again. It’s just good to be home and have a business to return to.”
As for Kim, she’s back doing the invoicing and happy to return to a more limited role in the business. “It was definitely an adventure,” she says, “one I hope not to repeat anytime soon!”
For more information about Coleman, visit: www.colemanac.com.