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Climatech, a Pittsburgh-based HVAC contractor, was founded in 1972 by Mitchell Taback. Mitchell and his staff built Climatech into one of the top-quality installation and service contractors in the residential and commercial markets of western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and eastern Ohio. In 2009, the company expanded, starting an office in Tampa, Florida, primarily running commercial service. Finally, in 2011, Climatech acquired Atech Refrigeration a company specializing in commercial refrigeration.
In 2005 Mitchell Taback stepped down as president, and the company began it’s transition to the next generation. Mitchell’s son Brad Taback, who had been with the company since 1996, has been handling the day-to-day operations ever since.
Quality is more than a word
Brad Taback emphasizes that “quality” is more than tip-of-the-tongue; that it’s a philosophy that has become deeply engrained in Climatech’s identity.
“I know ‘quality’ gets overused, but it’s a driving factor for us in our customer service. At the end of the day, we’re putting a product out there that we’re proud of, and our customers appreciate,” Taback said.
Taback believes there is a correlation between quality and honesty and incorporates this into Climatech’s relationships with customers as well as vendors.
He said, “We are honest and up-front. That’s how we treat customers, and also how we treat vendors. Our vendors are a huge part of what we do. I think a lot of times they may be underappreciated. Contractors tend to beat them up a little bit. We’ve taken somewhat of a different approach, and we think it’s worthwhile.”
Contractors and vendors with mutualistic relationships, Taback said, is a model Climatech has molded itself around. For example, vendor Fastenal has a consignment program that has introduced vending machines that allow Climatech employees to obtain items like drill bits, tape, PPE, etc. These items, which were being generally expensed, are now being tracked by employee consumption.
“It helps us from a cash-flow standpoint, and it assists us in tracking. And it’s also good business for Fastenal,” Taback said. “It’s those kinds of relationships that help everyone.”
Recruiting the best
Climatech’s management team is comprised of several individuals who have been with the company for 20 plus years. Joe Saltmar, Climatech’s vice president of service has been with the company since 1972. Jeff Miller, vice president of construction, Mike Valent, general manager of service and Jack Miller, manager of Special Projects are all celebrating 30 years with Climatech. Like many family businesses Climatech team members have grown up inside and outside business together.
“We treat our employees like family, and we create opportunities for them to grow personally and professionally. We give our people autonomy to manage themselves. I think our people do better knowing that they can take some responsibility and not fear the end results. It’s worked really well for us in retaining employees and has helped create a nice working environment,” Taback said.
This is why recruitment into such a tight-knit team is essential. Taback is excited to share a recent project that the company has been putting together called Climatech U, an in-house training program that partnered with an outside instructor who offers weekly online training to apprentices. The apprentices are to undergo rigorous coursework, testing and evaluation.
“The apprentices’ ability to advance in our organization depends on how seriously they take the training and how much they continue to learn,” Taback said. “It’s something new. We’ve just started this project in the last couple of months, but so far it’s working out pretty well.”
The marketing process for Climatech U has only just begun, but this project will continue to pick up speed in the next several months.
Aside from Climatech U, the company provides monthly in-house training sessions to technicians, which is open to anyone interested. They also send mechanics out of state to be certified on various types of equipment, such as boilers and variable frequency drives, with all types of manufacturers.
“All of the training is a part of the education we’re really trying to develop. We want our guys to be as trained as possible,” Taback said.
Taback stresses this training is a part of the forward-thinking that has kept the company afloat since its inception.
He said, “I’m constantly thinking about the next 20 years. It’s more conceptual for me to say that we have a good thing right now, but we have a lot of aging employees, and we have to focus on keeping this company going strong into the future.”
He also hit on a topic that continues to form on the mouths of so many in management, that is, finding and retaining good people.
“We recognize that it’s difficult to find people in our industry, especially good people. A lot of youth isn’t venturing into our industry. Let’s be honest, this has been a problem for a long time. We’ve been aware, but now we’re really trying to make a concerted effort to attract, retain and develop those who do decide the HVAC industry is for them,” Taback said.
He also mentioned that the industry as a whole has become more specialized and technologically oriented than ever before, which definitely affects recruitment efforts.
“It’s also worth mentioning that our industry has gotten so much more sophisticated. To stay in a technological and service-oriented arena, you have to have the best mechanics,” Taback said.
Service and those who serve
Over the years, Climatech has been commended by various organizations for the achievements the company has made. For example, the company was recently recognized as an ACCA finalist in the Commercial category. Other accolades include the regional Mitsubishi’s Diamond Contractor of the Year award that they’ve received in 2012, 2014 and 2015. They also received an Excellence in Construction award from Associated Builders and Contractors for a project they completed at Washington & Jefferson College.
Climatech is currently in the process of expanding their operations into their newly renovated facility. They have added 10,000 square feet to their existing 21,000 square foot facility. Although growth has required the expansion, they hope for it to be as interactive as possible for those who visit.
“We’re trying to create a facility whereby our clients can see firsthand the types of systems that are available for their facilities. They touch and feel the various types of systems that we have to determine whether or not they like certain types of systems. We’re trying to use our building as a showcase, not just an office. We have elements like radiant heating, a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system, DDC Controls, packaged rooftop equipment, etc. By going through this process, it has allowed us to bring our facility into the sales and marketing side of the business,” Taback said.
Another recent development for Climatech is the focus on a product called TechAnywhere, made by Data-Basics. TechAnywhere is a software that uses various wireless devices to allow technicians to electronically fill out job tickets, access equipment and material history, create purchase orders, print invoices, access GPS and more.
“It’s going to provide a lot of benefits for our customers and us. We can receive service calls; the techs can access customer information onsite, order more materials, generate invoices … It’s going to be a big time-saver for everybody,” Taback said.
Climatech is in the process of transitioning its whole fleet over to TechAnywhere. Their goal is to have the system completely integrated by the end of 2016.
Climatech’s recent projects have also ventured outside the workplace and tied in with community needs that the company is passionate about. They recently established a community outreach initiative called Climatech Cares. Under that umbrella, they’ve provided a host of services to various organizations. For example, they recently worked on a project for Austin’s Place, a nonprofit that specializes in transitional training for individuals with autism who have graduated from traditional schools. In February, Climatech donated a high efficiency gas furnace, and their installation crew donated a portion of their time to perform the installation.
In March, Climatech partnered with an organization called Heroes Supporting Heroes, a nonprofit organization that supports stable and safe housing for military members and their families. Climatech will work with HSH through the Heat for Heroes campaign. Through February 2017, Climatech has committed to the complimentary installation of a forced air gas furnace, donated by Lennox, replacement furnace installations, emergency service calls on diagnostic repairs, furnace inspections and donations on select parts and other installations.
Climatech is only in its second generation of leadership, and Taback’s children are all fairly young. Whether leadership remains in the family or not, to him it’s important that the business continues on. The necessity is what keeps him and others in HVAC most hopeful.
“One thing I love about this industry is that it’s somewhat recession-proof. You need heating and cooling, and you’re always going to need someone who’s capable of servicing that equipment. It’s a good business to be in,” Taback said.