HVACR Woman of the Year: Tonya Collins and the Tradition of Trust

HVACR Woman of the Year: Tonya Collins and the Tradition of Trust

Tonya Collins

The Contracting Business 2016 HVACR Woman of the Year — Tonya Collins, general manager of Universal Heating & Cooling, Goodlettsville, Tenn. — shoulders a great amount of responsibility at this 41-year-old business. However, she is quick to acknowledge the contributions every employee has made to the company’s success in residential and light commercial contracting.

She’s worked with them all, past and present, considering she was the company’s first employee, helping her mother sort the paperwork in their home office. Today, Universal’s current employees look to Tonya as a role model of honesty, quality service and efficiency.

Universal Heating & Cooling was founded in 1975 by Tonya’s father, Don Tisdale. He had served his country in Viet Nam, returned to Nashville and worked for five years with a local HVAC business. After he started Universal, Don made the sales, grew the accounts and installed the equipment, while his wife Deborah managed their home and home office. Soon, Tonya, and later her younger sister Tiffany, were by their mother’s side to offer what help their young hands could provide. They helped with filing, invoicing, dispatching, and whatever else needed to be done. Later, it was their summer job during the high school years. She joined the company full time after high school.

TONYA COLLINS WILL BE A FEATURED SPEAKER during the Women in HVACR Annual Meeting, to be held on Tuesday, Sept. 20, in conjunction with the Comfortech show.

“Eventually, the office responsibilities came down to me,” she recalls. “I did the billing, and checked in the deliveries. I didn’t know how any of that equipment worked, but over time I learned how it all fit together. Each year, as I added to my responsibilities, my dad started spending less time in the office, feeling more relaxed that I could handle things. I was so glad to help out like that.”

It was a natural next step for Tonya to assume a greater role in running the business, once she had her dad’s blessing to do so.

Honesty is at the top of Tonya’s list of standards: “I tell our customers that if I don’t trust an employee in my home, there’s no way I would send them to anyone else’s home.”

“It was a little scary, and it still is sometimes,” she says. “But I have a very good support team here. They’re here to tell me, ‘OK, we made a mistake, let’s move on.’ If I need a hand, there are people here to step in for me.”

“Tonya has always gone beyond what was expected,” says Don Tisdale. “You can always count on her. She wants to grow the business, and she does whatever it takes to get the job done, and take care of the customer. It really bothers her when things don’t go as they should, as far as taking care of the customers.”

Tonya’s husband Kerry was her high school sweetheart. He also started working for the company after high school, with the intention to make it his career, too. Today, he’s the installation supervisor, and he handles some sales.

“There is no way I could run the business and do what I do without Kerry’s help,” Tonya says. “You’ve got to have a person you trust, and be confident of their skills. I don’t know the technology. I can’t run the office and be in the field. Kerry is a big part of my success.”

Kerry Collins can’t say enough about how Tonya holds down the office and ensures smooth sailing.
“She runs everything. She handles all the decisions and makes sure everything runs smooth,” he says. “She wants to uphold a workplace where everybody’s happy and everybody gets along.”
Tonya’s younger sister, Tiffany Mlckovsky, also plays a major role in running the business.

HELPING HOMEOWNERS
Tonya relishes working with homeowners, and helping with decisions that affect families.
“The fact that we can do that — help them, and provide a service for them — may not be very fancy or exciting, but everybody’s got to be comfortable in their home. I enjoy knowing that we’re helping them be comfortable every day,” she says. “I also enjoy getting to know our customers. We have many repeat customers who we’ve worked for since our first year in business. It’s nice to build relationships with people. We’re not just selling to someone we’ll never see again.”

Collins speaks to every customer at some point, during and after a sale. “If someone calls in with questions, with everyone else being in and out of the office, it’s my job to be here to answer their questions, so they don’t have to wait for a return call or email,” she says.

Honesty is at the top of Tonya’s list of standards: “I tell our customers that if I don’t trust an employee in my home, there’s no way I would send them to anyone else’s home.”

Collins is excited about the HVAC industry’s future, due in part to the many new technologies. They are a Trane dealer, and have installed a number of Nexia products. They also install York comfort products.
“We’ve got thermostats that can control garage doors, door locks, lighting, and security cameras. You just don’t think of all those things being tied into air conditioning. When I first got into the business, you called the air conditioning contractors for heating or cooling problems. Now, there are so many different options, and a different comfort level for customers, thanks to high efficiency, variable speed equipment and improved dehumidification. I love to hear someone tell me we’ve made the quality of life in their home better.”

GROWING IMPORTANCE OF WOMEN IN HVACR
Tonya Collins believes that women have had immensely positive effects on the HVACR industry and other industries as well.

“Women bring a different perspective to the way you handle things,” she says. “And, I’m finding more and more decision makers in the households are women. That’s not to take anything away from the men, but women are becoming more involved. I think it’s great. I come from a time when you would try to talk to people, and they would not care to hear from a woman.

“I think women might have something to prove in this industry, that they don’t have to be spoken down to just because you’re talking about something mechanical. We can learn too. I think women have come a long way in this business, and have shown that we can do just as much, even though we can’t lift as much.”  
 

Congratulations, Tonya Collins, our 2016 HVAC Woman of the Year!   

 

 

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