Contractor Insights: Kenco Lusk, Atlanta, GA

Contractor Insights: Kenco Lusk, Atlanta, GA

Refrigeration service and installation experts Dave Lusk, left, and Ken Cooper, are building a peachy business in and around Atlanta, GA.

It’s not easy to cover a gazillion square miles of Georgia landscape with nine technicians, but the team at Kenco-Lusk always manages to “get ‘er done.”

Kenco-Lusk was formed by the partnership of Dave Lusk and Ken Cooper, who, after working separate successful businesses, realized they would do well to combine their talents into one company. Installation manager Jeff Salvo, who has been with Ken since his early days in the industry, also owns a percentage of the business.

Lusk and Cooper have a firm hold on much of the fast food business in and around Atlanta, and various commercial HVAC refrigeration service and installation customers. Its restaurant customers include McDonald’s, Arby’s, Chick-Fil-A, KFC, and others. Kenco-Lusk reached $1.8 million in sales in 2007, its first year.

Lusk manages the administration office in Canton; Ken holds down the operations office in Hiram, 50 miles to the Southwest. Their nine technicians set out each day from their respective home bases, and report in as needed, as their dispatches are sent and processed via real time digital technology.

Lusk and Cooper each have more than 30 years of refrigeration industry experience. Lusk, 51, got his start as a service technician for a natural gas utility. But with an eye on a career in golf club management (at one time he carried a 3 handicap), he left the industry to work for several country clubs in the Southeast.

After a time, however, the mobility required to be successful in golf no longer appealed to a man who wanted to build a family more than he wanted to manage Augusta, so Lusk got back into the industry, acquired as much experience and manufacturer training as he could, and started building his own HVAC and refrigeration business. Then, in 1989, his youngest son Travis was born nine weeks prematurely. Dave and his wife Carol were faced with large medical bills.

“Money was tight for awhile, but I managed to pay off the debt in about two years by working 24/7,” Lusk says. Eventually, Lusk grew his company to a point where he employed 11 technicians. Then, more trouble: in 1995, his major fast food account was sold, and the new individual franchise owners could not renew a 100+ location contract with Lusk.

“I had to scramble to pay off a bunch of bills, and sell a bunch of trucks and let half of my technical staff go. That almost did me in, monetarily and emotionally. After that, I’ve deliberately kept the business small, yet moderately profitable,” Lusk says.

Cooper, 50, attended technical school for electronics in his younger years, but took a job managing a restaurant afterward.

“While in the restaurant business, I had developed a reputation for running the lowest repair budget of any manager in the chain, because I was able to make correct judgments about repairs the contractors would suggest,” Cooper says.

“Eventually, the repair service that the restaurant chain was using hired me away, and I quickly became their lead technician. After two years, I went out on my own. Some years have been better than others, but more than anything, I’ve built a solid reputation, as has Dave.”

Combining Talents, Empowering Technicians
Lusk and Cooper are both service experts. Cooper also thrives on planning new installations and working with advanced industry technology, while Lusk handles the company administration and all computer networking. At the top of Kenco-Lusk’s list of success drivers, you’ll find high quality work, honesty, and earning customer trust.

“We have a relationship with the vast majority of our customers that allows us to tell them what’s wrong, and what they need to do, and they give us the green light. They trust us to do the right thing,” Cooper says.

“And, we can do that because we’ve been with them for so long, Lusk adds. Lusk and Cooper teach their technicians to “follow the job” through from beginning to end.

“When a technician gets an electronic dispatch, he visits the customer and checks everything out,” Lusk explains. “We allow him to call manufacturers and supply houses, and quote pricing to the customer. After a time, they can price the job down to the last dollar, and give the quote without calling the office, if need be.

“In my opinion, this is where our industry is weak, Lusk continues. “Being fearful that technicians will use our training to open their own shops. We do have a few who do that, and I may add they’re doing wonderfully. We partner with some, and both Ken and I are very proud of them. If we, as a company, stunt growth in our technicians, we limit our company’s success and the survival of new blood.”

Kenco-Lusk keeps a low profile, so it doesn’t get many calls from job seekers. To find technicians, Lusk and Cooper start by asking among their own technicians and suppliers. Once they make contact with a qualified technician, the job pretty much sells itself.

“We tell them about our pay scale and benefits, the trucks, who we work for, and that we visit the same customers over and over again,” Lusk says. “That’s the gem; that they don’t have to prove themselves to a different manager or organization day-in and day-out. And, since we don’t do any residential work, there are no one-time shots. They like that, and they stick around and learn our business.”

Dave Lusk and Ken Cooper are building a pretty peachy business. They keep it simple, do the right thing, and stick to what works best: quality service from dependable, trustworthy technicians.

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