Contracting Business 2010 Hall of Fame: Jim Isaac

Aug. 5, 2010
His commitment to his company, his family, and the HVAC industry has made Jim Isaac one of the finest examples of a successful HVAC businessman.

A gentleman, a family man, and a businessman, Jim Isaac helped build one of the great companies in the HVAC business: Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning Inc., Rochester, NY. His commitment to both his company and his family led to one of the finest examples of a successful family business in the HVAC industry.

Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., was founded in 1945 by Jim's father, George, and mother, Phyllis, as George T. Isaac Heating and Sheet Metal. The company, through Jim Isaac's stewardship as president from 1967 until his semi-retirement in 2002, won numerous industry awards, including Contracting Business' 2002
Residential Contractor of the Year. The company reached the top and remains there to this day by staying true to the tenets Jim Isaac insisted upon: excellent quality, unwavering integrity, and outstanding customer service.

Jim Isaac also gave back to the industry that he loves, capping years of involvement with the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) by serving as chairman of the organization in 1990-1991. Jim's son, Ray, the current company president, served as chairman in 2008-2009, in the process becoming the first second-generation chairman in the association's history.

Long-time ACCA executive vice president Jim Norris, now retired, says Jim Isaac, "typifies all that's best about family business. Jim is the model of how to do it. He always had tremendous dedication to his customers, his employees, and his family."

A critical moment in a family business occurs when the reins are handed to the next generation, Norris notes. "Jim Isaac handled this magnificently," he says. "He gave Ray the power and authority to run the company and he got out of the way, which is very difficult to do. I have tremendous admiration for him."

Jim Nicholas, retired president of Bay Temperature Control, Baytown, TX, was a member of Isaac's ACCA MIX® Group. He says Isaac is always a perfect gentleman. "I never saw him not be nice to anyone. He's always interested in the other person." Another MIX Group member, Lee Rosenberg, chairman,

Rosenberg Indoor Comfort, San Antonio, TX, says Isaac is kind, compassionate, unselfish, caring, and always ready to help others.

"When I first met Jim, I was beginning my career as an HVAC business owner," Rosenberg says. "It was a major struggle. Jim was most instrumental in helping me hit the ground running, by giving constant advice and encouragement as a member of his MIX Group."

Isaac's sincerity and honesty also served him well. Both Norris and Nicholas say one of the most moving moments they ever experienced occurred during Jim Isaac's address as incoming ACCA president. Jim recited the lyrics to the song "Wind Beneath My Wings" as a tribute to his wife of 52 years, Shirley.

"Not everyone could have pulled it off without sounding schmaltzy, but Jim is such an honest and sincere person, and it was so 'from the heart,' that it was a stunning moment," Norris says.

"I attended 20 or so years of those introductory speeches," adds Nicholas with a laugh. "And when Jim recited the lyrics of that song as a tribute to 'Shirl,' as he always called her, it was truly unforgettable."

Jim Isaac remains involved with the company to this day. "I never really had an official retirement date." he says, "but outside of the company I've put away the bookwork and traded it for what I loved to do when I began working for my dad: residential installations."

Isaac says he has been involved in three local affiliates of Habitat for Humanity over the past 26 years, and has led an all-volunteer crew on a long list of not-for-profit projects, including 111 Habitat for Humanity homes. "I've always believed that if you love what you're doing, you really can't call it work," he says.

Ray Isaac says his father has always served as an inspiration to him. "After all of the seminars I've attended, the books I've read, the professional speakers I've heard, and the consultants I've worked with, the person I quote the most and the one who has been the most influential in my life, is my father. That sums up the influence he has had on my life both personally and professionally."

While Ray is taking Jim's wisdom with him, Jim Isaac says his own favorite quote is from his uncle, Bernard Katzenberger. A lifelong plumber and volunteer who passed away on a volunteer project at the age of 83, Katzenberger said, "The purpose of human life is to serve and show compassion and the will to help others."

Congratulations to Jim Isaac as he joins the Contracting Business Hall of Fame.

About the Author

Ron Rajecki

Ron Rajecki served in various editorial roles on Contracting Business during the 1990s to approximately 2013.