Contractor Insights

Contractor Insights

Bill Almquist and daughter Erin White review plans for a refrigeration project.

Bill Almquist, president and owner of Almcoe Refrigeration Company, Dallas, TX, runs a company that’s a model of a successful family business. That was validated in 2006, when Almcoe received a Baylor University Texas Family Business of the Year Award, in the category of Family Values.

“The Proverbs say ‘a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,’ and that’s the very basis of the family business; taking care of your family for this generation and the generations to come,” Almquist says.

“We integrate our entire family into the operation of the business. Whether a person is spending 50 hours a week taking care of customer needs or managing a project, or working part time and taking care of children, we view both of those individuals as integral to the operation of our business. The person taking care of the grandchildren is cultivating future generations that will carry on the business.”

Bill’s father, William E. Almquist, and his lifelong friend William J. Coe founded Almcoe Refrigeration in 1960, to fulfill their shared vision of providing quality refrigeration products and services.

For the more than four decades since, Almcoe has built on that vision and, today, under the direction of Bill Almquist and family, Almcoe continues to be a leader, servicing refrigeration customers in a 75-mile radius around its offices in Dallas and Tyler, TX. Almcoe operates 40 trucks out of the two offices. Supermarkets and convenience stores comprise about 90% of Almcoe’s business. The remaining 10% is generated by service to cold storage facilities.

All Systems Go at Almcoe
Almcoe’s revenue has more than doubled in five years. The company currently employs 20 service technicians and 50 installers, and it has a sales volume in the $10 million-range. Almquist says Almcoe’s growth is based on the company’s service philosophy, which has helped it win projects away from some competitors who, in his opinion, have insufficient supervisory and technical personnel in place to maintain their businesses.

“Their customers have been coming to us to get it done, usually because the competition has dropped the ball,” Almquist says. “We manage our service business better, and we’re gaining market share from our competition. That, in a nutshell, is how we’re doing it.”

Almcoe operates in an intensely competitive food market. “The grocery industry is constantly changing to adjust to the market, which usually necessitates a refrigeration modification, equipment change-out, anything to gain an edge over the competition,” Almquist says.

And, Almcoe recently announced it had secured the contract to install the refrigeration systems at the new Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, currently under construction.

Others who share an active role in running Almcoe include Bill’s daughters, Erin White and Jana Glaze, and sons-inlaw Andy White and Ryan Glaze. Erin is involved with sales, marketing, and business development, and helps to service several large accounts. Jana is responsible for various administrative duties. Andy manages human resources, benefits, insurance and technician education. Ryan coordinates general contracting for refrigeration projects.

Secondary Refrigeration a Breakthrough
Almquist says an exciting industry trend is the use of secondary fluid for medium- and low-temperature applications, especially carbon dioxide (CO2).

“Refrigerant is one of the largest maintenance expenses a company has, so whenever you can reduce the amount of refrigerant in the store from 4000 lbs. to about 500 lbs., you’ve done a huge favor to your maintenance budget,” Almquist says. “That’s what secondary fluid — such as CO2 — allows you to do. And, from an environmental standpoint, the secondary fluids are considered to be kinder to the environment, as opposed to the larger charges of supposed ozone depleting/ global warming chemicals.”

Almquist says he’s not convinced about global warming, yet would rather err on the side of caution.

“I think the jury is still out on global warming and ozone depletion, however, I don’t discount it, nor do I embrace it blindly. As a refrigeration man, I think it’s good whenever we’re forced to come up with better ways to do things, and by that I mean the refrigerants that are being compounded now are more energy efficient in terms of heat transfer and BTU consumption than the ones we’ve been using. That’s an exciting trend.”

For contractors who aspire to grow their businesses in like manner, Almquist’s advice is simple: invest in continuing education for technicians, and stay focused on customer service. “If you have a happy, well-trained, well-paid workforce, your company is going to grow,” Almquist asserts. “You’re going to attract good people and great customers.

“And, once employees get going, that feeling feeds on itself, and we’ve seen great growth because of it.”

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