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Hendel’s First Employee

One day I had to replace a compressor at a bar. In those days some air conditioning compressors were made of cast iron and they were very heavy. It was extremely difficult to raise the compressor onto the roof. This particular compressor was so heavy that I couldn’t get it on the roof by myself. I tried to raise the compressor with a rope but the rope got stuck in the grout between the bricks. I recruited a patron from inside the bar to help me but still we could not raise the compressor to the roof. The patron asked a passer-by to help and finally the three of us were able to pull the compressor to the roof.

After this job I decided I needed help. I hired a young man, Harry Ruster, who had run away from his home in Michigan. Harry was hard working and had good mechanical aptitude. His compensation was $1.25 per hour and we also paid for his lunch. Harry worked at Hendel’s Air Conditioning for ten years and then started his own business, Blue Ribbon Air Conditioning. By the way, Harry’s two brothers were named Tom and Dick.

After hiring our first employee I remembered reading the policy manual at Motorola and thought it would be a good time to begin my own policy manual. Every time a situation arose I wrote a procedure on how to deal with it. I continued to expand the manual over the years.

Hendel’s First Truck

The Challenges of Running a Business

With increased business activity there were also new challenges to manage. Although challenges may not always be pleasant they are part of owning a business. After countless service calls our ever-faithful 1961 Ford Econoline van was on its last leg. Linda and I decided since we were achieving some success I would keep limping along with the Econoline for a while longer and we would purchase a second vehicle. We found a used Chevy truck and hired another technician. This was a big decision for us!

It was a busy summer and the ever-faithful Econoline van was exhausted and worn out. Linda and I decided to purchase two new Ford trucks and hire a third employee as well. I oversaw three employees and also handled service calls. This often required me to be in two or more places at a time so Linda and I decided it was time for another change. I was going to have to be a manager rather than a repairman. It didn’t take long for me to see that time management was paramount in the air conditioning business. I spent a significant amount of my time finding shortcuts.

Many times Linda and I would go out to dinner and our entire evening would be spent planning how we might improve the business. Linda sometimes thought I was a little too aggressive but she was always supportive. We made all the decisions jointly and there were plenty of issues to consider. We decided to hire an answering service to handle after-hours calls. As we realized that our employees were traveling all over the valley on service calls, it seemed as though our employees spent half of their time just traveling from job to job. In the interest of time management this led us to restrict our service area only to the Tempe area.
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