Dedication was the first thing Air Comfort Heating and Cooling CEO Steve Simmons saw in Chris Landgrebe in Denver around eight years ago.
That dedication found Landgrebe a spot on the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News Top 40 under 40 list of high-volume air-conditioning (HVAC) professionals, from a pool across all of North America.
Simmons said when he first met Landgrebe during the Christmas holiday, Landgrebe would frequently step away from the festivities to help customers over the phone for his then-workplace T-Mobile.
“I thought ‘Wow, he’s a dedicated enough person that even when he was away on a Christmas holiday, he didn’t let that keep him from wanting to take care of his clients,'” Simmons said.
Simmons was impressed, and several years later brought Landgrebe on at Air Comfort, which Simmons bought a part of some years prior.
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“I thought if I could find someone with that dedication, that work ethic and that desire to make sure his clients were well taken care of, I would love to hire him,” Simmons said.
Simmons did hire him, as well as add him to the family when Landgrebe married Simmons’ daughter.
Customer care, Landgrebe said, is the core of all the practices that helped him take the company from $1.2 million gross revenue to $2.6 million in just a few years.
“We take the time to sit down with the client and figure out ‘what do you want out of my visit here?’” Landgrebe said. “We take a customer-first approach rather than an equipment-focused approach and a lot of our clients really like that.”
Landgrebe said he also tries to take care of his people at the office, who make things happen.
“I like that we’re family-run and family-focused where in corporate America, you’re just a number,” Landgrebe said. “My guys never miss softball games, boy scout meetings or family vacations. I try to get them home at 4:30 or 5:00 every day so they can spend time with their families.”
In addition to those factors, Landgrebe helped create a training program for aspiring HVAC workers who don’t want to or can’t go through trade school for years just to find a job.
“Thirty or 40 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for someone to walk into your shop with 15 years of experience looking for a job,” Landgrebe said. “Now, that doesn’t really happen.”
This helped solve the “Law of the Lid” problem Air Comfort had run into, drawing from a narrowing talent pool and not growing its collective experience level, according to Landgrebe and Simmons.
Simmons said Landgrebe’s approach makes his employees want to do better than the rest, because of Landgrebe’s loyalty to them.
“He draws out the best in the people around him. Instead of driving them to do more, they want to do more for him. That’s a huge thing and it’s helped our growth tremendously,” Simmons said.
In addition to overall boosting the company’s performance, Landgrebe has helped Air Comfort itself to win two awards: Best Contractor to Work For with ACHR News, the same group that awarded Landgrebe Top 40 under 40 and Extraordinary Outlook under Service Nation Alliance.
Aside from the awards, Landgrebe said Air Comfort is deeply-rooted in the communities of Columbus and Fremont, where its offices reside, and that it tries to make an impact.
“We’re heavily involved in the toys for tots program around the holiday season. We actually brought that program to Columbus it hadn’t been there in a long time,” Landgrebe said.
Air Comfort last year brought in over 30 boxes of toys and $1000 in donations for Toys for Tots, Landgrebe said, in a partnership with the Marines. Year-round a portion of the company’s profits are donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Around the holidays, the company does a campaign called “the gift of heat.”
“We take nominations from the communities we serve for people that are in desperate need of a new HVAC system that don’t have the means in order to do it,” Landgrebe said. “We’ve been lucky enough to really help out a lot in the last four years we’ve been doing it.”
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