With growth comes opportunity, and Century HVAC Distributing, a wholesale distributor out of Texas, was formed when its parent company, Century A/C Supply, saw an opportunity to help its customers expand their product offerings.
Dennis Bearden founded Century A/C Supply in 1973 after working for another distributor; he believed there was a better way to operate a wholesale supply house. His philosophy was to treat employees like family and customers as friends, with a generous amount of customer service. Starting with one storefront in Houston, Bearden grew the business organically throughout the 1970s and early 1980s; it was named the Ruud distributor in the Houston area in 1986. The company acquired locations in San Antonio, San Marcos, and Dallas between 1999 and 2008.
With increased growth, in addition to a manufacturer investment in the Houston branches in 2020, Century HVAC Distribution was established, and features the York line.
Today, Century HVAC Distributing is a wholesale distributor of HVAC parts and York equipment, serving every major market along Interstate 35 from Dallas/Fort Worth down to the Rio Grande Valley. Its customers are professional HVAC contractors, multifamily properties, commercial plants, and institutions. With 12 locations, many of which include the convenience of a distribution center, and one full-service distribution center, 125 employees take care of the family-owned company.
Century HVAC Distributing has a progressive mission statement and business philosophy; General Manager of Business Administration Renata Morgan expounds on its meaning: “Our philosophy is ‘empowered employees providing exceptional service.’ In action, it means that each employee is empowered to make decisions without going through several layers of approvals to get a simple answer. If a customer is standing in front of them with an item that is two days out of warranty, our teams know they can approve an exception to our policy without fear of retribution.”
“It’s not to say we agree with every on-the-fly decision, but it provides an opportunity to discuss how we would recommend handling it in the future, and it becomes a learning opportunity rather than a disciplinary conversation.”
This empowerment makes for invested decision-making woven into the company culture, and providing educational opportunities is an area where the company excels.
“Our culture and benefits create a work environment that leads to high retention rates, but that is only one piece of the puzzle,” Morgan explains. “Employee development is an area of focus — and we can do more to provide learning opportunities that are customized to each individual and role.”
Century HVAC has resources in place and leans into connecting with its industry affiliations. “We have a spiff program that allows employees to earn bonuses for completing product training classes through BLUE HAWK University,” she notes. “We offer inside sales and branch manager certification programs through our partnership with HARDI. We also have an internship program with Texas A&M’s Industrial Distribution Program that funnels into our sales and leadership development program. We have a lot more initiatives planned to launch over the next three years; we’re excited to see the results, in terms of employee engagement and satisfaction, and the impact on the bottom line.”
When businesses needed to adjust to COVID-19 pandemic procedures, Century HVAC Distributing invested in changes to help customers and team members navigate through the pandemic. Early on, the distributor took the mandated measure to maintain employee safety and then focused on how it could help its customers.
“We implemented product pick-up lockers at several of our branches, which allowed customers to get the items they needed without coming into contact with another person, Morgan says. “We also offered curbside service for those who didn’t want to come into the branch.” In addition, the company launched a new website, allowing customers to circumvent the will-call counter if they preferred.
These small changes combined to make a big difference to Century and its customers. “We were able to keep our counters open for business and avoid any layoffs during a time of much uncertainty and skyrocketing unemployment,” she notes.
“Customer service and providing value is what drives distribution,” she explains. “We pride ourselves on being true partners with our customers and understand that their success is linked with our success, so we keep this in mind when deciding where to focus our efforts. Any new programs or integrations we undertake are aimed at making it easier or more efficient for our customers to run their businesses. In this era of consolidation and disintermediation, distributors have to step up and make sure they continue to provide value to the channel, both to customers and suppliers.”
General Manager Todd Shadden expounds upon the meaning of the company’s cornerstone of the high level of service. “Adding value is at the forefront of the company’s strategic plan, and the driving force behind “The Century Experience,” defined by the employee conduct which creates high expectations for the customer experience in every interaction.”
Another avenue to keep its customers educated, informed and best in class is an impressive lineup of training classes. “We have training facilities in Dallas, Fort Worth, San Marcos and San Antonio,” Shadden notes. “We offer NATE-certified courses and Texas licensing continuing ed classes so contractors can receive their required hours. We also have hands-on labs at our facilities for our customers to receive the best experience possible.”
As a relationship-focused industry, we all need someone to lean on — and the company leans heavily into organizations that help sharpen its competitive edge. The company is actively involved with HARDI and BLUE HAWK, and local apartment associations Texas Apartment Association and the National Apartment Association.
“HARDI provides numerous opportunities for everyone in the organization: from someone who just joined the counter sales team and has never heard of HVAC to executive leadership,” she explains. “Between its certification programs, Focus conference, Emerging Leaders program and the annual conference, the group provides members with the knowledge and resources they need to drive their business practices toward best in class.”
Expounding on the advantages of being an engaged member of HARDI, Morgan drives home how the member toolkit helps sharpen their focus. “HARDI has very powerful analytics that allow HVAC distributors to see how they compare to other wholesalers, with very granular detail that results in actionable improvement plans,” she says. “The educational opportunities are just one of the many benefits we reap through our membership.”
Century also understands that being an active member is important to the health of one’s company, as well as the organizations to which it belongs. “The networking opportunities out of the organizations we engage with allow for individuals to meet others in similar roles and share ideas and best practices, elevating the industry,” Morgan explains.
“I could go on for days about member benefits, but It starts with leadership,” she adds. “I give an immense amount of credit to HARDI and Talbot Gee for elevating the distribution layer of our industry and developing tools and info that arm distributors with the resources they need to make sound business decisions.”
Expansion and opportunity excel when tools are available to help along the way. “Everyone at Century HVAC is excited about the recent changes and their opportunities made available to everyone on the team,” Bearden says. “As Renata stated earlier, we are an employee-driven company that prides itself on delivering exceptional service. We look forward to future opportunities for growth and expansion.”