Albuquerque Winair’s goal: Be the best HVAC distributor it can be
From the time he was 17 years old, driving a pick up and delivery truck for a local heating and air conditioning company in Albuquerque, N.M., Chris Lopez has always been in the supply business. And, he’s always had the spirit of an entrepreneur, exemplifying the WinWholesale Spirit of Opportunity long before he even knew about the company.
“When I left that first company looking for a management position, I wanted to run the show,” he recalls. Chris wanted to not only be in charge of a business, but to own a business as well. He became a manager and owner in 1998 when he started Albuquerque Winair Company as its president, which he remains today.
Owning a local Win company: the best of both worlds
By the time he opened Albuquerque Winair, Chris had already earned his stripes in the heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) distribution business. He had been very successful as a branch manager with two Albuquerque HVAC wholesalers, substantially increasing their sales and revenues. He expressed interest in acquiring an ownership stake in the second company, but only a small percentage was available. It wasn’t enough for Chris, so he decided to go out on his own.
In an odd twist, Chris investigated buying a small independent HVAC distributor in Albuquerque at the same time WinWholesale considered acquisition of the same company. For different reasons, WinWholesale and Chris decided against the purchase. In the process, Mike Samuelson, WinWholesale’s Western Region area leader, talked with Chris about buying into and opening a new Winair company. It wasn’t an immediate sell for Chris.
“My goal wasn’t to partner with WinWholesale in a new company,” Chris said. He wanted complete ownership of a company, and WinWholesale is the majority equity partner in all local Win companies in 44 states. But the more he talked with WinWholesale, the more he saw the advantages of partnering.
“It was just a matter of spending some time together and learning about WinWholesale. I didn’t think at first it was entrepreneurial enough for me,” Chris explained. “My wife and I had a lengthy conversation and decided that going with WinWholesale was the best of both worlds, and that it was really the future of distribution. Small independents have a habit of either going out of business or getting gobbled up by larger companies after a while.”
What does the “best of both worlds” mean for a local WinWholesale company? It means several things. For example:
- Operating independently to a large degree.
- Making decisions for the company locally without having to get the okay from a corporate office.
- Being part of the larger WinWholesale organization and receiving support to help companies succeed, such as inventory management systems and national buying power for products and fleet services.
“Being associated with WinWholesale means having the credibility to deal with manufacturers in our industry and being viewed as a player because of who you’re associated with,” Chris said.
Success requires effort day in and day out
But being successful at a local Win company like Albuquerque Winair is mainly due to effort day in and day out. It’s working hard, establishing and maintaining superior c
ustomer relationships and service, and running the company according to tried and true WinWholesale business procedures proven over more than 50 years since the organization’s founding.
According to Chris, even though associated with a large organization, there still should be a unique nature to local companies that sets them apart from the competition. For Albuquerque Winair, he says that includes:
- Direct access to the company president
- All employees feeling they’re part of the team and have ownership with profit sharing, so there’s a stake in the business that translates to customer service
- Returning customer phone calls quickly and being able to answer their questions
- Taking care of customer warranties immediately
- Helping customers reduce job costs in innovative ways, such as time saving ideas
- “Everyone here has a strong desire to be the best HVAC distributor we can be in WinWholesale and in Albuquerque. It’s a strong motivation,” Chris said. The company was the Winair Company of the Year for fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2008, and has had strong financial performances for several years in a row.
Company fire brought out best in Winair and others
Perhaps nothing in the nine year history of Albuquerque Winair speaks to what the company is made of or how it is viewed by employees, customers, vendors and competitors, than when a devastating fire occurred in October 2007. The fire that started in the business next door to Albuquerque Winair resulted in extensive smoke and water damage to Chris’ company. The $680,000 inventory was a total loss.
“That first night, the employees showed up to look at the fire and discuss what we had to do the next day. I found out there was a strong sense of ownership and that failure was not an option,” Chris recalled. “Out of adversity, we were going to pull out of this and be in a much better situation than before. That was the goal.”
Albuquerque Winair’s customers also cared about what happened to the business and to its employees. “Customers offered their buildings – whatever Winair needed. And vendors did their part to get the company back on its feet,” Chris said. “One competitor actually offered their building and employees to help us out.”
“We had a tremendous amount of support from the WinWholesale organization,” Chris said. “In my opinion, it was much better to have been part of WinWholesale than to have been an independent.”
It’s just one more validation of the decision by Chris and his wife in 1998 to open Albuquerque Winair with WinWholesale Inc.