HVAC Contractors of Excellence: Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air

April 2, 2018
From almost closing up shop, to $30 million in annual sales revenue. Mary Jean Anderson used a new start to build a super company, and give back in many ways.

Supporting information provided by Anderson PHA.

The Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air company story is one of unbelievable success after near failure, and the benefits that come from seeking help when help is needed.

Today, Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air is one of the most trusted service companies operating in San Diego County. Owner and president Mary Jean Anderson has built a financially successful business, and an amazing company culture of respect and empowerment, and she willingly gives back to her community in many unique and inspirational ways.

But none of this would be possible had she not put her pride on the shelf, and sought advice in a time of crisis.

Close to the Edge
Mary Jean Anderson started her business in 1978 with her then husband, Walter. After more than two decades of growing their business together, the couple divorced, but continued as business partners until Walter retired, and Mary Jean bought out his portion of the business.

Then came that favorite year of businesses everywhere: 2008, and the Great Recession. The nation’s economic dilemma was bad enough, but for Anderson, it came on the heels of a few disappointing years just prior to the disaster. Mary Jean knew she needed to make some big changes. With the company $1 million in debt, she joined the Nexstar Network in 2008, and the transformation began.

Anderson used the tools Nexstar provides its members to completely turn her business around. She worked one-on-one with her Nexstar coach, Jodi Peter, to develop a formal business plan and a strategy for building a strong leadership team.

“I did everything they told me to do,” she says. “In two years I worked out of the $1 million debt. Now I run a very successful business, with significant growth. I credit everything to Nexstar, but I also credit myself, for reaching out when I was in trouble to find people who were smarter than me to direct me. I left my ego at the door.”

“As Mary Jean’s Nexstar coach, I urged her to reconsider and give it six months of hard work to turn it around,” recalls Jodi Peter. “Mary Jean and her leadership team agreed and learned everything they could from Nexstar, their coaches, and other successful Nexstar member companies.”

All of the suggestions worked. Anderson paid off her company’s debt, and over the past decade has grown her business from $4.2 million to $30 milion, with 175 employees. Anderson Heating & Air recorded $30 million in sales revenue for 2017, and Anderson wants to hit $50 million by 2023.

“Anderson PHA has amazing leadership who view the industry from a customer’s perspective. They have broken long-standing industry conventions in their approach to business and have inspired a new generation of Nexstar business leaders to be extraordinary in their own special way,” says Jack Tester, president and CEO of the Nexstar Network.

As is the case with many of our award-winning contractors, Anderson is active in a number of industry associations. Those include the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC), the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, Green Plumbers USA, and the Electric & Gas Industries Association (EGIA). Her business acumen and exemplary success has earned her a spot on Nexstar’s board of directors, and she continues to to give back by providing advice and best practices to other struggling HVAC businesses.

Providing the ‘Wow’ Factor
The Anderson company motto is, “Nobody wows clients like we do!” Anderson sees that as the driving force behind the success of the company and she’s committed to providing the very best home services in the industry to every customer, every day.

Employees are trained to go ‘the extra mile’ at every step—from the initial call to fulfillment of service. The team of highly-trained technicians is adept at making personal connections and making sure customers understand all of their options without feeling pressured into decisions. And to ensure the well being of all customers, all technician job applicants are required to pass a felony background check, drug test, and psychological evaluation before they enter any customer’s home.

Workforce Investments
Everything Mary Jean does ties directly back to her company motto, including training, which has inspired her to have what she believes to be the the best-trained team in the industry. All technicians must log 200 hours of training per year. They are allowed to attend training at other locations as needed. Currently, 16 of 20 technicians are NATE-certified.

Last year, Anderson instituted a robust mentoring program, in which senior employees take junior employees out into the field to get hands-on learning experiences. Ongoing training is a serious financial commitment, but one that Mary Jean sees as instrumental to the success and reputation of her business.

Mary Jean Anderson’s commitment to having the best workforce goes well beyond training for current employees. She knows firsthand that there is a serious nationwide shortage of good people going into the trades. To combat this, in 2017, she opened the Anderson Career Builder Institute—a training program and facility that puts people on track to a career in plumbing or heating and air conditioning.

The Career Builder Institute came about after Anderson realized the serious nature of the HVAC industry labor shortage. But at the time, existing tactics were not helping.

“People were stealing employees from each other, and offering ridiculous $10,000 signing bonuses. All that did was cultivate greed. To reach our goals, we realized we would not reach our goals with this crisis in our economy," she recalls.

So this woman of action petitioned state of California officials and obtained a grant to start the Institute. Bryan Rominger helped establish the Institute, and serves as its president.Institute students receive tuition-free, industry-leading technical training in the classroom and in the field, and are also paid a salary while they are enrolled so they can focus 100% on learning the trades. Once they graduate, they are either offered a position at Anderson PHA or they are referred to other Nexstar member companies in the area. And, while the Anderson Career Builder Institute is open to everyone, Mary Jean pays special attention to recruiting women and military vets to the program.

“Across the board, the number one problem in our industry is finding employees and technicians,” she says. “We need to stop stealing each other’s employees and start looking at alternatives. Let’s bring women into the industry. Let’s have apprenticeships and do in-house training. We can change the way our industry works if we make the investment, and I’m committed to doing my part.”

Unmatched Philanthropy
The Anderson company’s heart beats for the community, and for the less fortunate. Beyond providing what she believes is the best customer experience in the business, Mary Jean has also built her business around the philosophy of giving back. She sees the financial success of her business as a way to make a real impact.

In 2017, Anderson donated nearly $200,000 in time and resources through her business. Her other activities include:

• Susan G. Komen — In addition to rallying her employees to participate in the annual “Race for the Cure,” Mary Jean has instituted “Find a Cure Friday,” where a portion of all profits made on Fridays goes
directly to Susan G. Komen.
• San Diego Police Foundation — When she learned that there was no funding for the local K9 unit, Mary Jean jumped in and started underwriting the canine training program. Her donations also helped purchase mobile defibrillators and other equipment for police vehicles. That equipment saved a police officer’s life within the first six months of being installed.
• Hurricane Harvey Donations — After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, she she reached out to the community. In a week’s time, she had gathered enough supplies to fill three trucks and a 20-foot trailer, then paid two employees to drive the donations directly to the communities that needed it most.
• Random Acts of Plumbing, Heating & Air — Once each quarter, Anderson PHA selects a family or organization in need as the Random Acts recipient. Through this program, they have changed lives in unmeasurable ways. including donating and installing HVAC and plumbing in the homes of two senior citizens in great need.

Field technicians are encouraged to keep an eye out for possible Random Acts recipients while they are on calls. “If your technicians aren’t trained to look for people that need help, it’s easy for them to just do the work and leave,” Anderson says. “I make sure all of my technicians know that they are empowered to speak up if they think there’s a way we can help.”

Marketing, Communications Leader
Anderson’s marketing program blankets the community in mixed media, with help from Nexstar marketing tools, an in-house marketing consultant, and an outside marketing consultant. TV, radio and digital messages reach customers in every way possible.

While Mary Jean’s marketing plan includes traditional methods such as print flyers and TV ads, she is not one to shy away from embracing new technologies. Anderson PHA has built an active following on all the major social media channels including YouTube, where they offer a series of videos aimed to help homeowners troubleshoot common problems. The company also employs newer technologies like an interactive website and instant pop-up windows on its homepage where customers can chat in real-time with service specialists.

She is also an expert in telling her company’s story. Anderson PHA shares news releases on a regular basis, and the company website and social media channels are filled with photos and videos of her and her employees participating in community events and
interacting with customers. This is just one indicator of the personality she has instilled in the organization. Anderson has given her company a personality and she works hard to make an emotional connection with her customers, which can be very hard to do in the HVAC industry.

The Story Continues
Mary Jean Anderson has dedicated her life to building the best HVAC company. As a 2018 Contracting Business HVAC “Contractor of Excellence,” she exemplifies what a successful woman-owned, family-run business can be. She took a struggling business from being weeks from closing its doors to a place as one of the most respected HVAC businesses in the country.

She is to be admired for her company’s financial success, outstanding customer service, philanthropic efforts, and dedication to bringing qualified people into the trades.

Congratulations, Mary Jean Anderson and the team at Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air, for your personification of all that is good about the HVAC industry!

 • Year originated: 1978
• Owner/President: Mary Jean Anderson
Professional memberships:
• Nexstar
• Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors (PHCC);
• Electric & Gas Industries Association (EGIA)
• International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials
• Green Plumbers USA

• 20 HVAC technicians (16 NATE certified)
* 20 HVAC installers
• 10 HVAC salespeople
• 22 plumbing technicians
•  8 drain technicians
•  3 camera technicians

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.