Q. Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
Ans: Jenkins Heating & Air is a commercially licensed and full-service air conditioning and heating contractor located in Jacksonville, Florida. We provide indoor comfort solutions to a variety of customers including but not limited to builders developing new neighborhoods, architects and developers building commercial space and your average residential homeowner who requires annual preventative maintenance or full system replacements. We have been in business since 2007 but I have been in heating and cooling in North Florida for over 35 years. We service Jacksonville, Macclenney, Fernandina / Amelia Island, Gainesville, St Augustine and the surrounding areas. Our company philosophy is simple: provide cutting edge air conditioning design and service to meet the needs of our customers with a focus on educating and ensuring that our customers have their needs met and that they have no uncertainties in what’s available to ensure their total indoor comfort. We know today’s generation values transparency!
Q. Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Ans: I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. I am a veteran of the Vietnam War, a retired Jacksonville Sheriffs Office Lieutenant and have been in air conditioning for 35 years. Over the span of that 35 years I have been the Vice President of two very successful HVAC companies responsible for a majority share of service work and new construction in Jacksonville. I am a Certified Factory Authorized Dealer for Carrier Enterprise, the company that invented Air Conditioning. I have won nearly 4 dozen awards over my time representing Carrier’s brand of air conditioning. Those awards include but are not limited to being named the number 1 sales person in the state of Florida numerous times.
Q. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
Ans: In 2007, at age 63, when the market was at it’s weakest I decided that I no longer wanted to run someone else’s business, but rather, wanted to open my own. I felt that after 63 years on earth and 35 years in air conditioning that there were still ways to improve the customer experience in the air conditioning and heating contractor space. At age 63, I was able to retire which provided more of a “why not?” mentality to jump out on my own.
The fact is, few air conditioning installation/sales/service providers have embraced many of the technological advances made in the past decade which would better the customer experience. I saw many other trades – electricians, plumbers etc – bettering the customer experience but felt the business I worked for at the time as well as it’s competitors were lacking. What better reason to go out on your own then seeing an unmet need in the market place?!
Q. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Ans: 1) Rome wasn’t built overnight – neither will your business be built overnight.
2) COMMUNICATION differentiates people who win business from people who KEEP business
3) Entrpreneurship is a lot like being the quarterback of a football team – you get all the glory when you win… and you get all the blame when you lose. Be prepared to embrace that level of responsibility. Don’t get too high on the wins and don’t get to down over the lows… the rollercoaster won’t stop for you to celebrate or pout!
Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: 1) The humility required to ask others for help when you don’t know something as well as the humility required to accept when “your way” isn’t always the best way
2) Organization / prioritization – can you stay organized and adequately prioritize how your time is most effectively spent?
3) Resolve and patience – As I said when discussing the roller coaster… some times you have a month of nothing but “Mondays”. A successful entrepreneur can navigate hardship with patience knowing that emotion does little to solve problems.
Q. How many hours do you work a day on average?
Ans: Being an entrepreneur means ALWAYS being on call. With that said, I generally awake around 6:00 a.m. and am going nonstop until 5:00-6:00 p.m. Just as good and bad inevitably occur in cycles, so too does your work load. Some weeks all I do is work, other weeks I’m able to prioritize my activities to ensure I make up the quality time that I aim to spend with family and friends and time spent engaging in my hobbies.
Q. To what do you most attribute your success?
Ans: My success is derived from 2 places: the genetic makeup of my family and my formal training in the military and law enforcement. My family is characterized by extroversion and ambition. Growing up we were taught to reach for more; to challenge ourselves, to be better, to do better. The military and law enforcement sort of put a tent over that circus and taught me organization, discipline and initiative. Initiative… being a “self starter” is crucial when it comes to success. Even the most well-built ship won’t go anywhere if the engine is in neutral and the captain has no particular place he’s wanting to go!
Q. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Ans: Given that I am from the “old school” I have grown my business exclusively through word-of-mouth. I was taught that all a man has in life is his reputation and word. In my 35 years of dealing in air conditioning I have employed that methodology and it has yielded for me the reward of a now 7 year old business which continues to grow. However, my 28 year old son has begun consulting with me on the business development side of company and we’re working to build a strong digital marketing campaign that employs the latest “buttons and levers” afforded by technology. Today’s generation sure does things differently…so I figure who best to consult with on that matter than an actual Generation-X’er!
Q. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
Ans: I have always been a saver. When I decided to launch this business, I had a sufficient amount saved to collateralize a small business loan with a local bank with whom I also had a nearly 4 decade relationship with. The rest fell into place.
Q. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Ans: Its simple, constantly do what you see is working and don’t reinvent the wheel unless improvements can be made. Moreover you have to be consistent. There’s no way to know what is and what isn’t working if you’re constantly changing things. Implement a few ideas at a time and track their progress.
Q. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Ans: In 5 years I see our company being successfully established as a leading provider of retail service and replacement in the north florida market. Currently we do a majority of new construction installation but in the coming few years are going to target more of the residential retail customers. Additionally, we are broadening our focus to other disciplines including commercial new construction and refrigeration.
In ten years I see myself in a deer stand! No I’m kidding! I will be hopefully be watching my sons and daughter navigate Jenkins Heating & Air through the paces of being the leading provider of heating and cooling in North Florida. My youngest son has no shortage of ambition and has spent the last 6 years honing his business acumen in the medical device industry. He tells me that in 10 years we will have “taken over!”.
Q. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Ans: So this may come as a strange answer but I am absolutely enthralled with Southwest Airlines. They are the only airline since the de-regulation of the airline industry to show a net profit every single year. Where other airlines have over-diversified their breadth of services, incurred substantial debt, major layoffs and unfavorable sentiment from Wall Street, Southwest has made no attempt to be something they’re not and they have most certainly not over-extended themselves like the other airlines. They put their people first, they cultivate leadership and personal betterment amongst their employees, they make it an endeavor to fully understand their customers, they take a VERY outside-the-box approach to customer service and they implement a few new routes at a time while ensuring that their partnerships and negotiations with municipalities and state agencies are well navigated. When you boil all that down you see few things: the forethought to build a plan, the discipline and consistency to work the actual plan, measured ambition to not try too much too fast and a simple investment in their people and their customers. Business can sometimes almost feel too logical, can’t it?
Q. How important have good employees been to your success?
Ans: They haven’t been important to my success, they are the prerequisite for my success. Without employees who have bought in to the goals and vision of the company, then the customer suffers. When the customer suffers, we suffer. I have a warm relationship with all of my employees and feel that it pays off in their “final product”.
Q. How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Ans: With regard to this business, I haven’t tried anything that I didn’t know already worked. When building a business from scratch its important to think and act efficiently. There wasn’t much room for “creativity” until recently. I was busy building the foundation with the tools I knew worked. However, when helping others to build their businesses in the past… it was always save to give yourself anywhere from 6-18 months to fully test the viability of an idea.
Q. What motivates you?
Ans: Bettering my family’s quality of life and using the gifts God has given me.
Q. What are your ideals?
Ans: I value integrity over everything. The only person that has to look me in the mirror is me. If I act with integrity then everything else falls into place.
Q. How do you generate new ideas?
Ans: Either sitting in a deer stand or talking to close friends whom I value as mentors. Lately, my youngest son has proven to point out things I was noticing perhaps at a subconscious level but not yet acting on. We can all learn from anyone regardless of their age and experience!
Q. How do you define success?
Ans: Can I pay the rent? Just kidding! Success is a function of quality of life and customer satisfaction. Am I happy doing what I’m doing? Are my customers happy? Are my employees happy? I think if the answer to those 3 questions is yes, then I must be doing something right.
Q. How do you build a successful customer base?
Ans: I have always thrived in new construction working with builders and superintendents or with friends and their friends. They have followed me and allowed me to do their work for 35 years because of my integrity and quality of work. My youngest son and daughter are the ones now tasked with converting all of that construction into a customer base. We will be employing newer technologies to log, track and curate our customer’s experience so I suppose I’ll have to get back with you on that one!
Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Ans: Creative liberty! Actually, liberty in general. The freedom to know I’m working for me, for the betterment of me, and only I have to define that success.
Q. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Ans: There are far too many to pick a favorite but anytime I have truly provided a solution for someone utter distressed I get the satisfaction that makes the whole thing worth it.
Q. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Ans: The motivation to get the job done right!
Q. What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Ans: I place a high priority on tying everyone in to the collective goal and vision of the company… which boils down to communication and accountability. To go back to the analogy of the ship stuck in neutral… if you don’t tie your employee’s in to your vision for the company than they could wind up working in opposition to your goal. They don’t know what you don’t tell them!
Labor doesn’t always take the strongest initiative to do their job because they are simply there to work their hours and collect their pay. When everyone understands where we want to go and why, then all of the sudden they feel the significant role of importance that they have to the achievement of that vision.
Q. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Q. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Ans: I would’ve gone out on my own a lot sooner!
Q. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Ans: Well… no one has gone to the hospital or prison yet so I suppose we’re doing all right! Haha, it has improved our family’s resolve. We all are tied together and understand that EVERYONE must contribute. It’s a lot more fun to work for yourself than someone else. My children all understand that without their initiative and contribution they will either suffer a lower quality of life economically speaking or they will be forced to work towards building someone else’s dreams.
Q. What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
Ans: Failure. Going to mass helps to reduce that.
Q. How did you decide on the location for your business?
Ans: The space was adequate, the location was central and the price was right!
Q. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: I think that many people are successful for different reasons but the one commonality is the desire to achieve and the willingness to work hard.
Q. If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
Ans: I hate to sound cliché but Steve Jobs has always fascinated me. Beyond his technical intelligence the man simply had a 6th sense for business. He managed and conducted his life and his business with so much finesse that its unimaginable. The guy literally, and single handedly transformed humanity!
Q. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Ans: I have always aimed to give my children more than I got which was a lot. The betterment of my family is the gas in my engine, so to speak.
Q. What book has inspired you the most? (OR what is your favorite book?)
Ans: “ A land remembered” is account of a dirt-poor family that moved to the Everglades in the late eighten hundreds and through hardwork, resolve, and a little bit of luck fundamentally changed the landscape of Florida’s economic infrastructure. Few know this but Florida’s cattle industry is equal in size and value to that of Texas. This particular family was the first modern day cowboys in Florida. They catapulted their successful cattle ranching operation into citrus farming which platformed their development of most of modern day Miami… and we all know that that is an international hub for business and the arts. Their story goes to show you that people with nothing can endeavor to many great accomplishments. It also inspires the notion that family businesses can be wildly successful!
Q. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Ans: Not going out on my own sooner!
Q. How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
Ans: Staying calm and emotionally detached from things which might stir an emotional response. Business necessitates an even-keel approach to everything.
Q. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Ans: I am an avid big-game hunter, I enjoy the University of Florida gators athletic program and spending time with my grandkids and family!
Q. What makes you happy?
Ans: The aforementioned with the inclusion of having a successful business that enables me to spend the time engaging in those hobbies.
Q. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: More than I care to remember but none which I regret. Life works out that way I guess… it isn’t always easy or pretty but each day can get better than the next.