Sandhills Heating a Family Affair
General Manager Brad Hainley has worked every job at Sandhills Heating & Refrigeration since purchasing the company from his father, Gary, almost three years ago.
"I worked my way up the ladder performing every task in order to acquire the knowledge and necessary technical skills to run a successful HVAC company," Hainley said. "I also took notes on how I felt the company could be improved. Job One was improving our company image. It's been our biggest challenge."
Hainley, 30, said Sandhills Heating always had a reputation for quality, but took recent hits on pricing.
"We were perceived as too expensive," he said. "Now, we're competitive with all of our competitors."
Hainley also launched a biannual newsletter that was sent last month to 2,700 existing residential and commercial customers.
"It's a soft market right now, so we're doing everything we can to reach out to people," he said. "The next newsletter will be mailed in the spring to an additional 5,000 targeted residences in Moore County."
Hainley and his brother, Brian, 33, the company's chief financial officer, are also scouting locations in the county to move Sandhills Heating after its lease in Hoke County expires in about two years.
"I'm slowly looking at different areas," Brad Hainley said. "I would love to move somewhere close to downtown Southern Pines."
Brian Hainley is familiar with the Southern Pines market because he owned a restaurant, Cafe Sonoma, in the Cam Square shopping center from 2005 to 2007.
"You never like the hours in the restaurant business," he said.
The brothers each have extensive restaurant experience, but had to learn the HVAC industry from scratch.
"Brad and I have always been able to work well together," Brian Hainley said. "I'm the back office person. He's out front handling customers, putting out fires and taking care of people."
They have been able to grow the business in recent years by adding new contractors, increasing the number of annual maintenance agreements, expanding the service department, and adding a Whole Home Energy Audit product that is unique to the region.
Using infrared and blower door technology, the audit pinpoints areas of the home that are inefficient, resulting in higher energy costs and an unhealthy living space.
"It measures the amount of energy leakage you have throughout the house," Brad Hainley said. "We pinpoint the problem areas through artificial smoke and an infrared camera. Ninety percent of the time the energy loss is coming from the ductwork."
Sandhills Heating tested the technology on employee homes in July 2011 before bringing it to market last November.
"Our employees learned so much during the testing that they can now explain it to customers," Hainley said.
Brian Hainley said the market has been "kind of funny" responding to the technology because it's so new.
"The good news is that the audit creates a very specific report that is easy for customers to understand," he said. "We've been mainly focusing on Moore County, but we do have customers all over."
The audit costs $249 and can be conducted in two to three hours, depending upon the square footage of the home.
"We're using this new technology as a lead generator," Brad Hainley said. "We can provide a cost estimate to fix any problems. Progress Energy also offers rebates to homeowners who fix energy loss problems."
Usually, he noted, most problems can be fixed by changing out the ductwork, wrapping the water heater, adding insulation in the attic or crawl space, or sealing the attic or crawl space.
Sandhills Heating, which has customers in Moore and at least six surrounding counties, generates about 60 percent of its revenue from annual service agreements, 30 percent from replacing old equipment, and 10 percent from installing new equipment.
"It's more competitive here than I ever thought it would be," Brian Hainley said. "We're always looking for new opportunities that will give us a leg up."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or email@example.com.
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