In 1946 the smoke was still clearing from the horrors of World War II. In Europe, the Nuremberg Trials were underway. Winston Churchill delivered his “Iron Curtain” speech warning of Soviet expansion (eerily familiar in 2022).
In the small village of Madison, OH (named for U.S. President James Madison), 1946 also marked the birth of a small plumbing and heating business by David Hearn. Interestingly, residential heating has been at the core of the very early days of Madison with the establishment of the Arcole Furnace Company in the 1820s, which manufactured the Buckeye Furnace from ore mined locally.
Hearn Plumbing and Heating operated mainly as a one-man shop. In fact, according to Tom Hearn, David’s grandson, the company operated this way for decades.
“My grandfather only ran one truck with little to no identification on it. Eventually, my dad took over the business and ran just one truck. Marketing was based on word-of-mouth reputation. The business operated this way for 50 years,” Tom Hearn says.
He describes the business as being 100% family-owned and operated during that half-century. Tom’s father, Dan Hearn, continued in David’s footsteps until 2000 when Tom started with the company.
Slowly the company began to change as Tom got more experience and took over many management functions. In 2006 Hearn Plumbing and Heating added a second vehicle for Tom and in 2011 the company hired their first non-family employee. Sometime around 2010, Tom’s wife Dennielle joined the company part-time to handle bookkeeping and some other office functions. Four years ago, she gave up her years as a surgical nurse to join the company full-time.
As the business grew, so did the need for additional office personnel to handle the rising tide of invoices, payroll, and so on.
Other changes included Tom becoming involved with a best practices group called Airtime Success International. Through this organization, he met several other HVAC contractors who helped him better understand the business side of contracting. One of them was Tom Spall of TE Spall & Sons.
Airtime and NCI Help Hearn Focus
“Airtime helped us tremendously on the business management side of things,” Hearn says. “Through that experience, we were able to understand how to focus on what we are good at doing.
“That meant learning the importance of slowing down and focusing on who we wanted to serve.”
He adds that training became an essential cornerstone to the changes in the company. In addition to business management training, he began enrolling his technicians in technical training from manufacturers, distributors, and National Comfort Institute (NCI).
“Four or five years ago, I began looking into the high-performance approach. It made so much sense, and we now started understanding what was happening in a customer’s HVAC system. We began implementing testing, measuring, and diagnosing airflow issues.
“Implementing the technical process wasn’t hard,” he continues. “We just made it part of how we usually run our processes in the company. Testing and measuring are required. They are not negotiable.
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