When Marc and Julie Beede decided to buy an HVAC service contracting business in 2016, they started on their own. Marc Beede’s service in the U.S. Navy (electronic technician working on aircraft), his mechanical engineering degree and experience working in the Army Corps of Engineers gave him a distinct appreciation of heating and cooling systems.
“HVAC is a lot of engineering-type work,” Marc Beede says. “That’s something I like to do. I had a lot of hands-on technical troubleshooting work in the Navy. I did project management work for the Army Corp of Engineers. I was working with HVAC systems and found I was interested in pursuing that kind of work.”
The couple purchased an existing independent heating, air-conditioning business two and a half years ago in the Bigfork, Mont., area. But neither had any business experience and a year later they went looking for the right franchise company to partner with. They started looking for franchises offering discounts for veterans.
“I’ve done project management, I’ve been a technician; a franchise was something I felt a little more comfortable with,” Marc Beede explains. “I’d heard from other people who owned franchises that it’s a good model. There’s already a framework for you so you’re not trying to figure it out on your own. We looked into franchising that catered to veterans. Aire Serv offered a lower buy-in because of the veteran’s discount.”
Aire Serv (aireserv.com) is one of 12 franchises owned by The Dwyer Group (dwyergroup.com). As part of the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative (VetFran), Dwyer Group offers a discount of 15 percent off the franchise fee for the initial base territory purchase as well as special vendor incentives for those who qualify. The VetFran program (www.vetfran.com), established by Don Dwyer Sr. soon after the Gulf War ended in 1991, is a voluntary effort of International Franchise Association (franchise.org) member companies to encourage franchise ownership by offering financial incentives to honorably discharged veterans.
Once the Beede’s made the switch to Aire Serv, their revenues began to rise.
“From the time we took over the existing company to becoming an Aire Serv franchise, we had really strong growth from year one to year two,” Julie Beede notes. “We had only two employees – besides us – when we first started, and now we have seven. We have all the flexibility and freedom as a business owner, but at the same time, we have support from the corporate office and this whole network of other Aire Serv franchisees we reach out to regularly. We believe there are many benefits to being part of a franchise vs. on our own trying to figure it out.”
Marc Beede agrees: “When I look at successful companies in the world, whatever business they are in, they pay outside consultants to address specific areas of their businesses and make them more efficient. I look at a franchise operation as a full-time consultant providing me the expertise I need to make my company successful.”
Aire Serv offers training business and leadership training for owners – such as employee coaching and recruiting new people. On the technician side, the franchise offers sales and customer service training – skills critical to closing the deal while retaining existing customers and ensuring a good review and referral.
The Beede’s advice to anyone considering a franchise business? Talk to other franchise owners and establish a work life-personal life balance.
“Talk to the people who have bought into that franchise and see what they say,” Marc Beede says. “They’re the ones who are going to give you the best feedback. It was pretty powerful to call people from all over the country in different markets and their response was very positive. It really solidified why I wanted to go with Aire Serv.”
Julie Beede adds: “It was a big switch to our family to business owners. We still struggle with the long hours and the obligations to our work family vs. the responsibilities for our three young children, who are eight, five and three.”
The Beede’s Aire Serv technicians were awarded Elite Contractor status from Fujitsu, the only techs in Montana with that honor. In addition, the couple was presented Outstanding Dealer Awards from Johnstone Supply and Coleman Heating and Air Conditioning, based on year-over-year sales growth.
“Our goal is to become the employer of choice and the No. 1 brand in the valley,” Marc Beede notes. “When I compare how long we’ve been in business to where we are now, it helps put it into perspective. I know that three to five years down the road, if we continue on our growth and get better at refining ourselves, we can reach our goals.”
Kelly Faloon is a contributing editor to Contracting Business, Contractor and HPAC Engineering.