CONTRACTOR INSIGHTS: Values-based Strategy Brings Outstanding Growth

April 1, 2012
Ever try to expand your reach to seven states in six years? Neil Lansing and Fournier AC & Refrigeration did just that, by improving attitudes and talent, and reaffirming their commitment to solving customers’ problems.

When Neil Lansing purchased Fournier AC and Refrigeration in 2006, he was a man with a plan: expand the 18-year-old company beyond its Jacksonville, FL-region, and become a major player in commercial refrigeration throughout the Southeast. He’s making good on that plan.

“Our founder — Tom Fournier — laid the foundation. The current management team has expanded the company’s capabilities by expanding services and moving into new geographic locations,” Lansing says.

In six short years, Lansing and his team have expanded Fournier’s service outreach to include the entire state of Florida, the east coast of Georgia, and all of South Carolina.

In addition, it’s now licensed for HVACR installation in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas. An electrical contracting division was formed near the end of 2010, to support Fournier’s installation business.

Bottom line: Fournier has grown five times its original size in five years.

Business, Engineering Background
Lansing’s background includes high finance and high tech. Prior to purchasing Fournier, Lansing served as chief financial officer for publicly-traded and private organizations, including 10 years in various senior financial positions with Dun & Bradstreet Corporation. He served as vice president of operation/audit services for A.C. Nielsen, and was CFO for A. C. Nielsen’s Europe/Middle East division.

Lansing’s technical background is just as impressive. For a time, he worked as an engineer for Hughes Aircraft and Grumman Aerospace.

So why purchase an HVACR business? Lansing says it suited his personality, and was a good way to channel his diverse experience into an entrepreneurial venture.

“I wanted to leverage my mechanical engineering and business background, and my prior experience in service businesses, with my passion to build a company to be the best,” he says.

Lansing says his past experience helped him approach the HVACR industry with a clear understanding of what was needed to improve Fournier’s business management processes, service quality, and growth strategy.

Fournier’s business model is based on providing clients with the best quality service for the lowest possible price. Lansing has focused on growing the company carefully, without diminishing any of the company’s services.

Fournier now lives by five core values:
1. The customer is king.
2. Associates are the company’s most important assets.
3. Treat people the way you want to be treated.
4. Quality, Quality, Quality.
5. Tone of the company is set from the top.

Weeding Out
Establishing those values under Lansing’s direction brought some initial growing pains. About half of Fournier’s technicians were replaced in the first year, due to attitudes that Lansing believed weren’t in line with Fournier’s new culture of quality service.

“We asked technicians if they enjoy being problem solvers and educating clients. As we went through the process, I realized there were some who did care and wanted to make it better, and others who didn’t. We kept the employees who wanted to improve the company,” Lansing explains.

“We were also fortunate that our major clients —Target and Walmart —were insisting on high quality. Their scrutiny has helped us change the company culture. Now, we’re much better than we were when we first started. Our associates are motivated to understand that quality is the winning way,” he says. Fournier’s additional refrigeration clients include Save-A-Lot, Costco, and Whole Foods.

A new service manager helped Lansing learn processes and client expectations. Construction Manager Ron Fournier —brother of founder Tom Fournier — agreed to remain with the company for some time after the acquisition.

“Ron had good insights,” Lansing says. “He had a vision of where the industry was going, and the importance of being a regional player, rather than just local. He got the wheels turning for us related to growth. It wasn’t possible to stay local and stay in business. To take on national clients, you have to be a regional player across the Southeast,” Lansing stresses.

Helping Customers Meet Challenges
Lansing says today’s store managers need help addressing a variety of challenges.

  • They’re required to do more with less. In response, Fournier provides service that’s meant to solve the problem the first time, and formulates preventive maintenance (PM) programs to reduce unexpected service calls.
  • They don’t possess technical knowledge, so Fournier is helping store managers understand how the actions of store personnel can affect mechanical systems operations.
  • They must adhere to tight budgets. Therefore, Fournier provides system efficiency data and information to help them meet those budgets.

Lansing won’t reveal all of his future plans, but he does share that he’s looking for ways to apply technology to field technicians’ service platforms.

“These platforms will give our technicians a standard operating procedure manual to go by, rather than having them rely solely on memory. It will force them to follow steps to avoid mistakes. If we can make that work, we’ll have enhanced quality,” Lansing says.

Other internal changes include finding ways to reduce operating costs.

“For example, we were driving ¾-ton Chevy 2500 trucks, and have switched to smaller, 1500 models,” he says. “Just as larger companies look at their cost structures, so do we.”


Q: Does an HFES (or other balanced port TXV) bi-flow, for use on a heat pump system?

A: The HFES series (or other balanced port valve) will meter the flow of refrigerant in either direction. The sensing bulb in such a case would have to be located on a common suction line, such as the center tube of a four-way valve (Fig. 1).

Also, for such a system to work properly, the system would have to be “close coupled,” meaning that the evaporator and condenser would have to be physically located in close proximity to one another, such as in a packaged system.

For “split” type systems, the long length of tubing between the TXV and the coils makes it impractical to use an approach of this type. For such systems, two expansion valves must be used: one on the indoor and one on the outdoor coil. Check valves must be installed around each TXV to allow flow around the valve when operating in the reverse direction (see Fig. 2).

About the Author

Terry McIver | Content Director - CB

A career publishing professional, Terence 'Terry' McIver has served three diverse industry publications in varying degrees of responsibility since 1987, and worked in marketing communications for a major U.S. corporation.He joined the staff of Contracting Business magazine in April 2005.

As director of content for Contracting Business, he produces daily content and feature articles for CB's 38,000 print subscribers and many more Internet visitors. He has written hundreds, if not two or three, pieces of news, features and contractor profile articles for CB's audience of quality HVACR contractors. He can also be found covering HVACR industry events or visiting with manufacturers and contractors. He also has significant experience in trade show planning.