Case Studies

Outer Banks Heating & Cooling

Providing innovative home comfort solutions in North Carolina

Brian McDonald established Outer Banks Heating & Cooling (OBHC) in 1987 alongside his brother, a former partner in the business. “I never wanted to go to a four-year college,” recounts Brian, president of OBHC. “I got into the trades instead. Throughout my career, I had worked in service and it was appalling how many companies were treating customers. When my brother and I started the business, we knew we would operate the way we would in our own home. We decided to be honest with our customers and that is something we have stuck with for more than 25 years.”

Over the years, the McDonald’s small, family-owned business has grown into a household name in Dare and Currituck counties in North Carolina. With 27 employees, OBHC provides innovative and effective heating and cooling systems for customers in the Outer Banks region. Most of the business’ revenue comes in through service and replacement work. A majority of these contracts are for residential customers. In 2011, OBHC started offering home performance services as well.

A broad scope of work

The Outer Banks is a unique region. Brian and his team relish the area’s natural beauty, surrounded by beautiful coastlines. “There are about 100 miles of oceanfront, 60 of which are federally owned,” Brian explains. “We work in a really interesting area.”

It is no surprise that many people choose to build large, beautiful vacation homes in the area; such clients make up a good portion of OBHC’s customer base. The team’s high level of training and experience allows the business to offer high value even on larger projects, providing whole-house solutions that allow owners to control comfort and save energy.

OBHC is the only Energy Star-rated contractor in the service region. The business is signed on as a franchise of Dr. Energy Saver, a national company committed to energy efficiency in the home comfort industry. Brian’s team has access to some great resources through the affiliate company, including training and educational opportunities that helps OBHC employees perform comprehensive energy audits and make recommendations that fit best practices through the latest technology.

Whether installing heaters and air conditioners or performing service work, OBHC guarantees customer satisfaction for every project. Brian’s team members are trained to see a job through from start to finish. These professionals commission systems in the home and get them running for customers in order to ensure that comfort products operate effectively and up to the expectations of a homeowner.

Standing apart

OBHC offers exceptional service, hands down. Of course, service is not everything. Customers seek out the team for an innovative approach to home comfort systems, whether in methodology, through energy efficiency and innovative products. Brian and his crew are constantly keeping up to-date with the changing technology in the industry.

“One of the newest products that we are using is called Aqua Products,” Brian elaborates. The brand offers spot chillers on small and large scales. Originally developed for industrial use, these spot chillers allow home and business owners to cool any room in the house without central air or window units. Separate thermostats can control individual rooms. According to Brian, such an innovation is set to make big waves in the home comfort industry.

The team has another secret weapon: relationships. As a member of PHCC’s North Carolina chapter, North Carolina Plumbing and Mechanical Association (NCPMA), Brian and his employees reap the benefits of a strong support system.

“One of the biggest benefits of our NCPMA membership is the ability to interface with our industry peers across the state,” Brian explains. “We also benefit from the group’s advocacy efforts. We do not directly compete with fellow members in our area. We take pride in our ability to refer customers to our fellow members who can help them out in another region.”

With the NCPMA backing OBHC, Brian and his team are looking ahead to new opportunities in the market. Though Brian has seen slow improvement in the market, it is not to where the business was before the housing market crashed. His greatest challenge now is finding qualified labor. Additionally, fewer and fewer younger people are entering the trades and both businesses and consumers suffer for it.

In the coming years, Brian is anticipating continued support for industry growth through the NCPMA. The organization’s apprenticeship programs offer encouragement while helping young professionals obtain the skills and experience to take on a changing industry. “We need to get young people into this industry,” he explains. “We pay our people well and offer good benefits.”

As the industry shifts, a few basic things stay the same for OBHC. Brian and his team focus on quality, safety and customer satisfaction. These components have kept the business stable even through the recession. Going forward, Outer Banks Heating & Cooling will carry on the tradition, working hard to bring customers efficient comfort systems that fit differing budgets and lifestyles.

Published on: March 19, 2015

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