Hajoca is a name that is well known among HVAC and plumbing contractors. With almost 400 locations, they are the largest privately held P&H wholesaler in the U.S., currently operating in 39 states.
Like other local Hajoca operations, customers at Hajoca Lancaster in south central Pennsylvania don’t really care about Hajoca’s size. What matters to them is the service they get from their team. They’re on a first-name basis with the people at Hajoca Lancaster: the HVAC contractor knows that Harry is always willing to provide hands-on hydronics training to his technicians; Jason will come to a jobsite to help size a new job; and Scott or Mike are available to talk through an order and make sure that the parts will be ready when the contactor needs them.
For Hajoca, it’s about having the best people in the industry who form lasting relationships with customers. “Our company motto is ‘Service with Integrity and Reliability,’” says Bill McDevitt, general manager of Hajoca Lancaster. “We take great pride in having courteous, knowledgeable salespeople.”
The company, Hajoca, was founded in Philadelphia in 1858 and its logo, featuring William Penn in the center with the Hajoca name running across, is considered to be the second-oldest continuously used logo in the country. The Hajoca name is an acronym formed from the first two letters of the last names of its Quaker founders: William Haines, Thomas Jones and Joel Cadbury.
Over the years, the business expanded through organic growth and acquisitions. It was a publicly traded company until 1980 when it was bought by the Colburn family and taken back as a privately held company. Since then, it has grown from 38 locations to about 400 across the U.S.
Like the parent company, Hajoca Lancaster has a long history in the region. It has been in Lancaster for almost 100 years and at its current location for almost 40 years. Their facility, which includes the showroom, sales offices and warehouse, is located at the confluence of every major artery in Lancaster County. “All roads flow through here,” McDevitt says.
Hajoca has a decentralized approach to how its operations are run. Each one is run basically as its own business, says McDevitt. As part of this approach to allow each location to operate as independently as possibly, most of Hajoca’s acquisitions continue to operate under their original business names. Today, Hajoca is represented by about 40 different names around the country.
The local branch makes decisions about everything from what to stock and who to hire based on the needs of its local market. An approach that works in southern California won’t necessarily work in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Having this decentralized approach creates the autonomy that sets Hajoca apart from so many of its competitors. “We’re able to be very fleet of foot in responding to the needs of the market,” he says.
For Hajoca Lancaster, that means a strong focus on hydronics for both the commercial and residential markets as well as operating a kitchen and bath showroom. “As a major player in the plumbing industry, hydronics is a natural fit for us, tying right in with all of the other segments of our business,” says McDevitt.
As Hajoca Lancaster built its hydronics business, so too did it build its reputation. The addition of two hydronics specialists who came from the Burnham Corporation (U.S. Boiler) has only furthered Hajoca Lancaster’s stature in the south central Pennsylvania market. McDevitt says having Harry Whittaker as a heating specialist and Jason Richards as a sales representative are two reasons why the business is so well regarded among hydronics contractors.
“We offer contractors assistance for any size job in residential or commercial,” Whittaker says. “Pump sizing, heat loss, radiant job layout…pretty much the whole nine yards. We can supply the whole package.”
Training is also an important part of maintaining relationships with their customers, adds Richards. They will work with customers at their facilities or conduct hands-on training at Hajoca Lancaster or at the Burnham manufacturing facility, which is just a couple of miles away. “It’s not just opening a book. They are working on equipment,” says McDevitt of the training.
When a smaller contractor customer knows they can bid on a larger project because they have the backing of Hajoca Lancaster’s experts, it makes a huge difference. “With our help, they can get into larger segments of the market that they’re not participating in right now,” McDevitt says.
The trend towards high-efficiency, condensing boilers with new boiler control systems are great for consumers who like the prospect of energy savings and also represents new selling opportunities for contractors. But Richards says these new products require additional training. “This is not your typical parallel piping,” he says. “There’s a need for a lot of training and that’s where Harry and I can play a role.”
Hajoca Lancaster has made a large investment in its showroom, showcasing products as a service to homeowners who, in many cases, are working with contractors. “We offer that service in support of our professional trade, giving them a venue for their customers to see and touch while selecting products that will be installed in their home,” McDevitt says. “It’s often a large investment for a homeowner so this is very beneficial in helping them get exactly what they want.”Best Practices
Hiring the right people.
- We conduct a diligent recruiting process to identify potential job seekers.
- Thorough assessments are completed to evaluate those selected applicants.
- Successful candidates are introduced to the Hajoca culture and training opportunities.
Training the team.
- We are dedicated to going from good to great, knowing that education is the backbone of that endeavor.
- Specific online training is utilized pervasively throughout our organization.
- Cross-training is ingrained in the makeup of Hajoca with the mindset of what one can do, all can do.
Retaining our people.
- Our culture of inclusiveness creates a friendly, family style environment.
- Through highly competitive wage and benefits packages, we show we care about our people.
- The generosity of profit-sharing by the owners of Hajoca makes it a special place to build a career.
The Hajoca Lancaster showroom features major manufacturers, demonstrating one of the strengths of being part of Hajoca. “Our partners in this business, in general, are considered the Cadillacs of the industry,” he says. “Having the Hajoca name draws top manufacturers to partner with.”
Having a wel l-appointed showroom is also a response to a trend by homeowners to be more involved in all phases of home construction or remodel projects. “With the education available to them through the Internet, it’s no longer as simple for the contractor to just say, ‘Here’s what I think you need and here’s what it’s going to cost,’” McDevitt says. It’s a balancing act for the wholesaler when they’re competing in that arena, not just with the big box stores but with the Internet companies that make product procurement seem attractive with home delivery, sales tax evasion, etc.”
The showroom represents another touch point for Hajoca Lancaster to keep its name in front of homeowners and contractors. McDevitt says his business doesn’t advertise specifically to contractors. “They know who we are,” he says. “To a great degree, our reputation fosters its own marketing effort.”
Outstanding Customer Service
Hajoca Lancaster’s team of salespeople maintains contact with local contractors through face-to-face sales at their establishments, by telephone and at Hajoca Lancaster’s bustling sales counter. Contractors can also order through Hajoca Lancaster’s online order entry system with specific apps that can be accessed through smart phones or tablets, allowing contractors to use bar code scanning and download orders to them.
With so many of their customers carrying as little inventory as possible, Hajoca Lancaster makes sure its facility is always well stocked. “It’s incumbent upon us to have what they need, when they need it, where they want it,” McDevitt says. “Because of our decentralization model, we rely on carrying a tremendous amount of inventory right here in our own warehouse.”
Having these tools is a convenience for contractors, but McDevitt says it takes a staff working together towards the same goal of outstanding customer service that makes this branch so successful. “Every manager wants to believe that they have a team of people like that, but I’ve truly got a group of folks here that work so well together, whether it’s the warehouse team or the outside salespeople, our truck drivers, or our showroom and inside sales teams,” he says. “We all work hand in hand with an open line of communication throughout the entire organization.”
McDevitt says his team’s rigorous hiring process comes out of Hajoca’s philosophy of hiring people who will provide outstanding service to customers. “The strategy of the company overall is to look for the cream of the crop,” he says. “In the interview process, I share with people that I personally believe it is a privilege to work for Hajoca and the Colburn family,” McDevitt says.
Richards joined the Hajoca Lancaster sales team from Burnham more than two years ago and he says there is a family environment here. He credits McDevitt’s leadership skills for fostering this spirit. “Hajoca is an outstanding company which I have a lot of pride in working for, but one of the main reasons I came here is because of Bill. He is extremely creative and innovative and willing to think outside the box to come up with ideas and solutions that bring value not only to his employees but to customers as well.”
Having such an open flow of communications among employees translates into an environment that works for everyone – employees, their customers and the end user customers. With such a solid foundation, there’s practically nothing that the Hajoca Lancaster team can’t handle. “Having been a major player in this industry for 158 years, we’ve adapted through world wars, depressions, recessions, disease, famine and climate change,” McDevitt says. “After all that, everything else is just tweaking.”Hajorca at a Glance
Michael Maynard writes frequently on topics related to HVACR, architecture and construction. He can be reached at [email protected].