News & Articles

TOP PROFESSIONALS DOING GREAT WORK 

By Debby Belding - Construction News Magazine.

     The heating, air conditioning and refrigeration business is extremely competitive.  There are peaks and valleys in demand and customer loyalty is certainly not what it used to be.  There is one company, however, that has sound strategies in place to beat the odds and keep their name in the forefront as the best in the industry.  General Refrigeration, a mechanical sales and service company based in Kitchener, has earned a top-notch reputation for its diversified range of services, professional technicians and fair prices.  "We haven't experienced any slow times in 65 years," says Terry O'Sullivan, the third generation at the helm of this family owned and operated company.  His grandfather Ed O'Sullivan started the company in 1942, passing it on to his son John who in turn handed over the reins to his son Terry.  Since then, there have been some changes in the name of progress, but the one philosophy that has been carried down through the generations is still the backbone to the company's success today.  "Being open and honest with customers and doing a very professional job - that's always been our number one standard," emphasizes Terry.  "Having good communications with customers and charging them a fair price is our golden rules." 
     General Refrigeration has customers all over the province, but their main focus is servicing commercial, industrial and institutional industries in Central Ontario - from Toronto to London to Hamilton to Stratford and places in between.  "We'll work on anything to do with heating, air conditioning and refrigeration - air dryers, radiant heaters, unit heaters, rooftop HVAC units, make-up air, air conditioning systems for computer rooms, walk-in coolers, reach-in coolers, chillers and ice machines," explains Terry.  "We also do installations like walk-in cooler and freezers, from 4 sq. ft. to 80,000 sq. ft., but about 90 % of our work is service." 
     The company continues to raise the bar in its industry by introducing innovative practices and programs that not only contributes to better efficiency, but also sets them apart from the competition.  A new $25,000 computerized system, for the HVACR industry, as an example, has enhanced the effectiveness of their entire operation - from administration to technicians out in the field.  "What it has allowed us to do is save time," explains Terry, "so our customers are not paying for wasted time.  We've also implemented higher standards for our technicians, in terms of their overall appearance and training.  No matter how many years of experience they have, they're continually taking courses to upgrade their skills and become more knowledgeable - and their salary reflects that education.  We have training nights where equipment manufacturers come in to our shop to put on seminars.  That's how we're competitive - we don't waste our time learning on the customer's bill, we train them personally and then send them out.  We have a good crew, from apprentices to top-level technicians who hold all required licenses.  We're very diverse.  Our technicians are trained in everything from humidification to low temp chillers to heating to air conditioning, ventilation and gas.  Often when we service a customer in a general area, such as chillers, they'll be so happy with the results they'll ask us to do a repair on something else and before we're finished we've done the work in the whole plant. 
     People are the driving force behind most good companies, and O'Sullivan emphasizes how important his team is to General Refrigeration's accomplishments.  "Our employees are responsible adults - both in the community and on the job.  They are committed to what they do.  We can lead them and offer guidance, but ultimately it's up to the employees to project our image to the customer and they do a very good job at that.  Everyone believes in being a good person, working hard and doing a good job - that's why we've been so successful."  General Refrigeration is also committed to the community, supporting numerous charities and fund raising efforts.  
     The General Refrigeration team is available for service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  "Our customers trust that we'll be there for them when their equipment breaks down," says Terry explaining that for many customers, particularly in the manufacturing sector, time is money.  General Refrigeration services many manufacturing plants, such as automotive, as well as the food industry, municipalities and other government organizations.  "Some customers just want reassurance that their problems will be taken care of.  That is definitely something we can offer.  We have an excellent reputation for doing good work and being able to solve problems," says Terry noting that today's market is very competitive.  "Customers are very educated now and are able to distinguish between who is good and who is not.  Our customers realize that we are licensed and efficient.  They know they're getting good service and value for their new parts, if required, at a fair price.  Our customers come first and we won't do anything to jeopardize that." 
     That strong commitment to customers keeps the General Refrigeration team hopping.  "We're very busy, but we try not to spred ourselves too thin,"  says Terry adding that General Refrigeration employees often put in long hours.  "Our regular hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we try to maintain that, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way.  The technicians do sacrifice some family time for their jobs and that's why it's so important that their wives are behind them.  Our little family here includes employees' wives.  All the technicians work hard and their wives are very supportive and that's very important."  he says complimenting his wife as his "best partner in business" before stressing that the mutual respect he shares with his employees is the most rewarding aspect of the job. 
     General Refrigeration is well on the road to accomplishing another of O'Sullivan's goals: to grow the business.  "We don't advertise, but a lot of manufactures are getting wind of us.  Customers are finding out that we can do the work, that we have a professional team and we're competitive."  It's no wonder that General Refrigeration is becoming the company of choice for those customers searching for specialized technicians to solve their problems.

 

ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION

By Clyde Warrington - The KW Record

     Maintaining a step in front of the competition is what keeps General motoring these days. That's General - as in HVACR - a mainstay in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industry for the past 65 years. "It's a reflection of the times," says General's President Terry O'Sullivan of the Kitchener company's gradual introduction of its new logo.  "At one time refrigeration systems were the major part of our business but it accounts for less than half our business now.  In my grandfather's day it was manufacturing, sales and service.  We stopped manufacturing decades ago and our business has evolved into industrial and commercial sales and service." 
     The company continues to offer a wide range of services while serving a client base that spans the province. "We'll work on anything to do with heating, air conditioning and refrigeration - air dyers, radiant heaters, unit heaters, rooftop HVAC units, make-up air, air conditioning systems for computer rooms, walk-in coolers/freezers, reach-in coolers/freezers, chillers and ice machines," O'Sullivan adds.  "We also do installations such as walk-in coolers/freezers, from four square feet up to 80,000, but about 90 per cent of our work is service." 
     General has been family owned since it's inception in 1942 by Terry's grandfather, Ed, who worked out of his shop on King Street which was attached to the family home. Ed passed his tools of the trade to Terry's father John in the early 1970s. Terry grew up playing on the shop floor - never suspecting the tools might be passed to him some day. He had attended Wilfrid Laurier University majoring in a double honors program in business administration and political science before his dad convinced him to put his knowledge to use in the family firm, now located at 1408 Victoria St. N. "So I went back to school, this time to earn all my licences in the trades,"  says Terry.
     General's new computerized management system has enhanced the effectiveness of their entire operation - from administration to technicians out in the field. "We've also implemented higher standards for our technicians, in terms of their overall training and professionalism.  No matter how many years of experience they have, they're continually taking courses to upgrade their skills and become more knowledgeable.  We have training nights where equipment manufacturers come in to our shop to conduct seminars.  "Continuing education is one example of how we differentiate ourselves from our competitors - we don't waste our time learning on the customer's bill." He also preaches the Golden Rule.  "I am a frim believer in meeting the customer's needs and ensuring their complete satisfaction." 
     Putting those good intentions into practice appears to be working.  General has managed to retain a highly skilled staff of technicians in an industry where certified technicians are nearly as celebrated as major league baseball's free agents.  Make no mistake:  HVACR ranks as the major league of trades.  "It's the highest paid trade," O'Sullivan asserts, "our technicians are the best trained and are the best paid."  A top technician can earn approximately six figures with pension and benefits because licences are so difficult to get and the technicians have to be so specialized in this industry. The route to the federal Certificate of Qualification is a long one, typically involving three years of college, followed by a five-year apprenticeship, plus another three years to earn a gas-fitter's licence. 
     While O'Sullivan spends much of his workday planning and administering, he shares his staff's zeal for troubleshooting. "Nothing pleases me more than to get a call from a potential customer who's complaining that he's had serveral companies in to fix a problem that won't go away.  That's the kind of challenge that makes this job so interesting,"  he says.  "We have a good crew, from apprentices to top-level technicians who hold all required licences.  We're very diverse.  Employees are the driving force behind most good companies and General is proud of its team and their accomplishments.  Our employees are responsible adults both in the community and on the job.  They are committed to what they do."  General has always relied on word-of-mouth to advertise its services in the past, but is now actively marketing its presence with the recent unveiling of it's websit, www.CallGeneral.com 
     "It's just another tool to let the public know we're out there to help them, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year," he says.  For more information cantact us at 519-742-7464.