Arista Air Conditioning Corp.
Leo Stern, a World War II G.I., founded Arista Air Conditioning Corp. (Arista) in 1949. The business started out as a mechanical contracting firm, named after the Greek word representing: the best.
Arista grew steadily for several years. As Leo diversified the business, his team entered new areas of mechanical expertise and eventually, Arista established a reputation around New York for quality service, expertise and professionalism.
In 1973, Leo sold his business and went into retirement. Stanley Berger, a young accountant, then purchased Arista. Identifying the potential of success, Stanley applied his financial savvy to the company’s operations, launching Arista into decades of prosperity. Scott Berger, Stanley’s son and current president, stepped into leadership in 2004. A graduate of Syracuse University’s marketing program, Scott had grown up around the family business. He joined Arista in 1991 as an account executive.
“My background is in marketing not engineering or as a technician,” Scott explains. “This business has grown to the point where it needs to be managed.”
Scott and his brother are the second generation in the family’s ownership of the business. The Stern family’s strong expertise in business management, marketing and financial affairs has allowed the company to grow at an expedited rate. Scott notes that the company’s 165 employees, including many technicians, have helped to build a longstanding reputation for quality in service.
Keeping it cool
Since the Berger family took over Arista, the company has gone from operating seven trucks to more than 100. The company serves primarily as a service company, performing retrofits, service installs, maintenance and repair. “We don’t do new construction or major renovations,” Scott elaborates. “We will do smaller renovations, such as build-outs of small offices, restaurants or retail spaces.”
The company’s target market is small to medium commercial clients with a small selection of large, upscale Manhattan residential clients. With one office in Long Island City, N.Y., the team travels throughout the tri-state region for projects.
The crew has been involved in a number of projects for diverse clientele. “One of our larger projects has been the Apple Store in Grand Central Station,” Scott recounts. “We just finished working on a new restaurant called Fogo de Chao. One of our most memorable recent projects was Gramercy Tavern a Danny Meyer restaurant that has been one of the top three restaurants throughout the last three decades. We completed the project in one week through a snowstorm working multiple shifts. Normally this would have been a multiple-month project.”
The Arista crew’s dedication to quality and customer satisfaction is what keeps clients coming back time and again. “Our preference is to be part of the value chain as opposed to the supply chain,” Scott explains. “We strive to bring value to a project on top of the actual work. Our team offers engineering expertise and practical experience in construction and service. Our goal is to build a relationship with the customer. That leads to more work for us in the long run because they can depend on us as a strategic partner.”
The secret behind Arista’s growing success in the market comes down to management. Scott and his team manage everything, which includes gauging productivity. The company has a system in place to measure cost and productivity for each technician and create success plans to help employees provide a consistent level of service while providing opportunities for personal and professional growth. Scott and his crew also tightly manage finances. With more than 30,000 transactions every year, the company’s management system is vital to keeping Arista’s operations efficient.
Despite an incredible management system, Arista has felt the pressure of the recession. Downward pressure on pricing makes competition greater between contractors. Fortunately, the company is structured for stability. In addition, the business further diversified to include more services in 2007, adding sister company, Kelnard Kitchen Services (Kelnard). Kelnard performs commercial kitchen installations for customers, including hospitals, restaurants, hotels, caterers and corporate cafeterias, among others.
Arista is constantly evolving, meeting the changing needs of a diverse customer base. Despite the changes and challenges, Scott and his team are passionate about what they do. “Every day is different,” he explains. “We are fortunate to have a great team. We have a solid group of people from management down.”
In the coming years, Scott says his team is looking ahead to continued growth. He strives to make the business increasingly more efficient through advances in technology and developing improved methods and policies for his team. The team will stay in the same geographic area, going after new clients while continuing to provide leading service to repeat customers. According to Scott, 2014 looks like a good year so far. As time goes on, Arista Air Conditioning Corp. is getting better and better.
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