In 1998, Doug Young became CEO. As the economy weakened between 2006 and 2009, Michigan was hit hard, and so was Behler-Young. He says at that time, “half of our business was in the residential new construction market, and during that downturn, new construction pretty much shut down throughout Michigan. That forced the company to make major changes, including reducing staff, closing a branch on the north side of Grand Rapids, and changing how they went to market.
“We pivoted and began focusing more on the replacement and service parts business,” Young says. “Frankly, that is what saved us. Today, we are much stronger in the replacement products, equipment, parts, and supplies serving the Michigan residential and light commercial markets.”
He adds that after shifting the business mix, Behler-Young began working in earnest on strengthening their culture and core values, and he feels that made them a solid company.
These changes didn’t mean the company got entirely out of the new construction business. Young says they just became more selective about it. New construction still accounts for between 10-15% of their business. In his opinion, this move made the company strong enough to weather other economic challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Staying Safe, Staying Healthy
At the outset of the Michigan COVID pandemic, most companies, including Behler-Young, had to send team members home. After six weeks, the federal government deemed the HVAC Industry essential, and Young says they got back to business, but had to modify operations significantly.
“Many team members worked from home. Customers were not allowed into our branches. We asked them to call ahead and served them curbside for several months. They could also order online for deliveries.
“As the supply chain started to experience challenges, we began increasing our inventory to the point where we could continue to supply our contractor customers. The result of doing this was that our business grew,” he says.
“There’s no doubt that the supply chain issues are still challenging. Our team did a phenomenal job of flexing where they needed to, negotiating with our current suppliers, and picking up some new suppliers where we could.
“Our employees’ health and safety are extremely important to us.
“We’re a family business, and we treat everybody like they’re part of the family. We were careful about taking care of people during the pandemic. Our culture is very strong and is the main reason for our ongoing strength and success”
As time marches on, Behler-Young prepares for the future. Step one was to design a succession plan. Doug Young promoted the company’s CFO, Dave DeJonge, to chief operating officer (COO), who was then promoted to president in 2021.
“Dave handles the day-to-day management of the company,” Young continues. “I’m still involved with strategy and oversight. I am also the cultural cheerleader. As such, I get to go out and see our customers and our team members and work with them to ensure our culture remains strong.”
Furthermore, Doug Young’s sons are also beginning to move into the business. His eldest son, Jonathan, worked for the company for 11 years and then moved on to pursue other interests. His middle son, Cameron, joined Behler-Young three years ago and helped the firm grow its digital eCommerce business. He is now working on Business Development. And Doug Young’s youngest son, Mackenzie, will join the company’s purchasing department in November 2022.
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