Quality work, quality people
Airepair Air Conditioning Services is a company with the experience and skills necessary to handle almost any project in their field. They deal in the installation, repair and maintenance of air conditioning and refrigeration systems for both commercial and industrial projects. The company’s team of expert technicians have helped earn Airepair a high reputation for providing superior quality service to their client base – which includes everything from commercial buildings, hospitals, manufacturing plants, hotels, schools and much more.
The current Managing Director, Brad Wiseman, has been in charge ever since he purchased the business in 2000. At that time he was managing the service department of a company that went into liquidation, and the Director offered to sell the company to Wiseman and his wife. Wiseman accepted the offer without much hesitance. “Why not have a go?” he asks rhetorically. “I was young enough to dust myself off and get back on my feet.” It is this sort of confidence that has gotten Wiseman so far. He began in the industry as an apprentice, and as he explains, “I worked my way through the industry in various roles, from service technician to doing some installation work, sales, some supervision, service management, and now Managing Director and Owner of the business.”
At Airepair, they have many ways of distinguishing themselves from their competitors. As a unique example: while most of their competition uses regular, white vans for their jobs, Airepair uses black vans painted with the corporate colours (red, yellow and blue) in order to stand out in people’s minds. Also, more importantly, they believe that good old-fashioned customer service is crucial. For this reason, they go above and beyond the service level other companies in the industry offer. All of the office staff at Airepair, including the owner himself, have their mobile phones on them 24 hours a day. They can be contacted by clients at any hour, seven days a week, and are guaranteed to be available.
Wiseman believes this sort of openness in satisfying customer needs is the key to ensuring success. “It’s all about communication, maintenance, and ensuring we have the right people for the right job, and the right people for the right site and organization,” he says. “It is just ensuring that the lines of communication are open at all times.” It is for this reason that Airepair has such a high retention rate of clients. “We’ve got long-term contracts, and due to our communication and workmanship, we seem to retain our contracts long-term – which is fantastic.” Some of their blue chip clients, for instance, have been with Airepair in excess of eight or nine years.
Although installation is a small part of Airepair’s operations compared to service and maintenance – which accounts for around 85-90 per cent of their work – it is still an important one, because it shows how Airepair is always driven by the needs of their clients. When the business first started, they only provided service and maintenance. Two years later, after consistently observing that their clients needed a quality installation service as well, Airepair opened a small projects department that provided the necessary and expected quality workmanship. “The problem was our clients were needing to go to other organizations who could supply that service, and they didn’t necessarily think they would get a good end result if they had to use someone else,” says Wiseman. “They preferred to use a company that would be contracted to them, because why would we put our contract at risk with our client?”
Airepair is equally as dedicated to communication with their staff as they are with their clients. They currently have around 50 people on their team, and many of them have been with the company for a long term period – Wiseman credits this low turnover rate, in part, to the open lines of communication that exist at Airepair. “The fact is you tend to build a core group of employees that hang around for quite some time, and it’s a win-win situation,” he says. “We have regular meetings, we have regular management meetings, we post communications in the office, we have a monthly trade meeting with all the trades people, and we have toolbox meetings,” he says. “So there’s plenty of communication that happens.” Airepair also considers itself a progressive employer, having females on staff in an industry where they are not traditionally represented.
The biggest challenge facing Airepair, as with most of the industry, is a shortage of skilled workers. Like many other industries in Australia, Airepair has been losing many workers in the last few years to the currently lucrative mining industry – Wiseman believes this is only a short-term trend, however. In general, he combats the problem in several ways. “We’re trying our best to employ apprentices and also train our younger technicians with greater knowledge through further tertiary training,” he explains.
As for planning for the future, Airepair wants to move forward productively but cautiously. “We want to continue to grow, but we’re very mindful that we need to control that growth,” explains Wiseman. Their long-term strategy is what they are most concerned about, and they are very careful in deciding what – and how many – projects to take on in the future. “Lots of people have fallen down the path of growing and growing and growing, and haven’t really put people in place to cover that growth,” says Wiseman. At Airepair, they are making sure that they put quality of work over sheer quantity. “The strategy at the moment is obviously to continue growing, organically, but maintaining the level of service that our clients are accustomed to.”
Eventually, in the upcoming years, Wiseman hopes that Airepair will have a stronger holding nationwide. At the moment they are focused in Victoria, and while they are open to opportunities out of that geographical area, Wiseman is not too concerned. “There’s enough work at the moment in Victoria,” he says.
As Airepair continues to develop and expand, they still look to the strong workmanship of their employees as being the centre and driving force of the business. “The fact of the matter is, Airepair is only as good as the employees it employs, there’s no doubt about that,” says Wiseman. “Sure, there’s been some hard work from myself and senior management as well, but at the end of the day it’s the guys on the ground that either makes or breaks a business.” Considering the quality of people Airepair has, and the quality of service they provide to their customers, Airepair will continue to make it for a long time to come.