- Written by: Ivy Carter
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Catherine Tojaga, owner and president of CT Mechanical (CTM), founded the company in 2008 in the midst of the recession. Over the years the company has defeated the odds through strong leadership, quality and professional work. Today, CTM is a growing HVAC business with a single location in Lombard, Ill., and 22 employees.
“One thing that sets us apart is that we are a certified Women Business Enterprise [WBE] HVAC company,” says Tojaga, a registered professional engineer and registered energy professional. “The other is that, while our business is in sheet metal and duct work, our focus is on how we treat people.”
Customers and co-workers alike are on the receiving end of respect and gratitude at CTM. “I founded the business in a year where everything was falling apart,” Tojaga elaborates. “Getting bank support and financing was difficult, but we have been very successful. We focus on people. We never want it to be just about the price.”
Tojaga worked in the design industry for six years and as an HVAC contractor for 10 years before establishing her business as a contractor. “I worked for one of the largest HVAC contractors locally,” she explains. “I was vice president when I left, but I just knew I had peaked at that company. I decided to quit and didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I figured it was a good time to find out what I wanted to be when I grew up.”
The key to figuring it out, she says, was in checking within herself. “I decided I could get where I wanted to be by doing what I know best and where my skills lie,” she explains. However, her unusual position comes with pros and cons. “There are challenges and advantages to being a woman in this business, but there are more positives than negatives,” Tojaga continues.
With her established background and wealth of knowledge in the mechanics of such systems, Tojaga has pushed ahead of many competitors who have been in the business longer than she. “I am very grateful that my clients allowed me the opportunity to compete against other established and reputable companies when we were just beginning,” explains Tojaga.
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“We don’t want to be the biggest, we just want to be the company people want to work with,” Tojaga explains. Therefore, CTM is staying small, maintaining quality control and making changes when the market demands them.
Most of the team’s projects are in the Chicago area. “We recently added a new market,” Tojaga notes. “We are teaming up with other mechanical contractors. Many of these businesses have WBE goals to meet, and we fill that requirement while offering professional, capable service. These partnerships also allow us to work on larger, more diverse projects alongside our competitors.”
CTM’s recent work includes several projects at O’Hare International Airport, Meridian Health Plan and a few projects at Rush Hospital to name a few. “We are currently working on a $3 million project at Great Lakes Naval Base with Kroeschell, as well as a design-build for the United Neighborhood Organization, a charter school in Chicago with Wight & Company.”
The team accomplishes projects with a combination of in-house and subcontractor work. “We employ sheet metal workers and sub out the piping, insulation and temperature controls,” says Tojaga. “Why we excel with people is that we are in the unique position of employing several subcontractors under our contract. Therefore, we know what we like from our subs, and we can anticipate the needs of our contractors. We get some of the general contractor perspective in that aspect.” Tojaga’s team builds lasting relationships with strategic partners to ensure financial stability and guarantees exceptional performance.
While the national economy is still in recovery mode, Tojaga and her team are cleaning up. “Last year was a big growth year for us,” she says. “We know we’ve hired the right people. The goal has been to get to $15 million in sales and then focus on profitability. This is about where we are now.”
While CTM has only been in business for five years, Tojaga says she celebrates success more than anniversaries. “I’m planning to take the crew to a White Sox versus Cubs game this summer,” she says of one such celebration. Working diligently and steadily, the business is positioned for continued growth. Tojaga’s knack for leadership and background in engineering will continue to complement her decisions as an executive. CT Mechanical is making major gains in the business, offering people-focused solutions for the HVAC industry.
For more information about CT Mechanical, please visit: www.ctmechanicalwbe.com.
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