Oliver Heating & Cooling
Soon after Joe Oliver, founder of Oliver Heating & Cooling (OHC), was laid off from his engineering job at Boeing’s helicopter division near the end of the Vietnam War, he was presented with an unlikely opportunity. “Mr. Oliver was laid off with close to 10,000 others as Boeing downsized at the end of the war,” recalls Rocco Pace, now president of OHC. “With a master’s degree in engineering from Yale University, Mr. Oliver was still struggling to support his wife, Beverly and six young sons.”
So, Oliver turned to his faith for some hope and inspiration. “Mr. Oliver went to a meeting at his local church and asked for prayers for his family,” continues Pace. “After the meeting, one of the church members approached Mr. Oliver and suggested he get into the HVAC business and said he would help him. The rest is history.”
Humble Beginnings and Family Roots
With the support of his family, Oliver opened the doors of OHC in February 1971. Oliver had no prior knowledge of the HVAC industry when he launched the company, just perseverance and a will to succeed. He attended night classes, working 14-hour days in the beginning and OHC began to slowly grow.
For most, OHC’s startup would have been a nerve-racking experience. However, as a man of strong faith and conviction, Oliver was confident he had chosen the right path. OHC’s success is deeply rooted in this same steady faith, bound by a unique sense of integrity and honesty. Oliver even made the company’s logo a white dove as a symbolic reference to its humble origins.
In 1987 Oliver purchased OHC’s present location in Morton, Pa. Three of his sons still work for the company; David in residential sales, Bill as the assistant manager of OHC’s fabrication shop, as well as John, a teacher who works in the purchasing department through the summer.
Pace joined the OHC family tradition in 1985 after several years of new residential construction experience. “I was hired in 1985 because at the time, new residential construction made up 60 percent of OHC’s volume,” he reveals. “After the housing crash of the mid-1980s we started focusing on residential and commercial service, add-ons, installations and replacements and now we’re a much more service-driven business.”
Today, OHC furnishes, installs and services a full range of HVAC equipment. In addition, OHC offers plumbing, water heaters, electrical, geothermal, as well as solar and air duct cleaning for residential, commercial and industrial markets. The company also has its own line of air conditioners, gas furnaces and heat pumps that can reduce energy costs by 50 percent compared to older systems. OHC backs its products with a 100-percent satisfaction guarantee and the peace-of-mind that comes from fast, professional service 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.
A Service-first Transition
Pace admits making the transition from new construction to service was one of the best moves OHC has ever made. “We’ve actually been in an uptick over the last four or five years,” he shares. “We have remained profitable through the recession while other companies have whittled down to nothing or even gone out of business by staying in the same market.”
OHC now measures its success on the number of service agreements the company maintains. “We have about 14,000 service agreements we carry out every year that really drive our business; everything from energy saving to full-service labor contracts that include parts labor and parts,” details Pace. “We have more than 7,000 commercial rooftop HVAC units, as well, ranging from 2-ton units to 500-ton chillers. The new construction aspect has significantly scaled back, now we only do about 10 new construction jobs annually.”
OHC has a crew of more than 200 individuals and 120 trucks serving both new and long-term clients in the region surrounding Philadelphia. “We’ve also gone to Pittsburgh, over to Baltimore and the Jersey Shore,” notes Pace. “We’re working on expansion in southern New Jersey. Just over a year ago in November 2012, we acquired Polar Bear Mechanical Services in Cape May, N.J. The first few months were rocky, but now we’re turning a profit and not looking back.”
Pace reveals he sees several more acquisitions and new product lines on the horizon for OHC. “We’re looking to expand into residential home extermination, commercial refrigeration and in-house carpentry repair work for cut-in jobs,” he shares. “We can grow other aspects of the company while the service side remains steady. Based on our service contracts alone we’re easily in the top 10 percent of HVAC contractors in the U.S. right now.”
But that kind of success doesn’t come without the time and dedication of reliable employees. “We take great pride in growing our team,” adds Pace. “We have an apprenticeship program where we take green, young guys and set them up with experienced technicians. It gives me great satisfaction to see them come through as knowledgeable mechanics.”
As OHC celebrates nearly 43 years in business, Pace says the company remembers its origins and the principles Oliver instilled early on. From an unlikely opportunity to industry-leading HVAC service, Oliver Heating & Cooling remains true to its foundation and an ongoing commitment to superior customer service.
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