I started working at Hendel’s when I was 16 years old. I cleaned up the back of the shop after school. I gained some retail experience and then attended Arizona State University, majoring in finance.
I helped a friend of the family make a database template in Filemaker 2.0 to prepare some proposals that they were typing. In 1994, when I was 22 years old, I obtained a copy of Filemaker 3.0 and figured out how to set up a relational database.
Originally I set up a database to handle all the service calls and estimates. I replaced a manual schedule system with computer system based on an Apple Localtalk network. No one wanted to give up the reliable manual system but one night I made the change. The next day everyone was forced to use the computer system that I had set up.
I worked for Hendel’s for six years and continued to improve the computer system. I also designed computer programs. I worked in sales, marketing, handled the newspaper ads. I set up the computer programs to handle the inventory control, payroll, and Internet access. I developed a referral rebate program that grew 300% per year for the first three years.
Now the system is so sophisticated that once a day it summarizes everything that has happened and sends an email to Mom and Dad, at any desired location, anywhere in the world! We have taken mechanical measurements from thousands of homes and downloaded the data. Frequently we can access the data on a job site before our estimator arrives.
Robert Hendel and Laurie Hendel
I was one of the top salespeople while working at Hendel’s. For a while I worked in the sheet metal shop and I really enjoyed that. I obtained a certain satisfaction from actually making something tangible.
In 1998 I left Hendel’s for 1-1/2 years. I sold my home and traveled around the world. In 1999 I came back for a year. But my heart was not really in it so I took a job at a consulting company that used the Filemaker database. I really learned a lot about database design. I now have my own computer consulting company, Rob Hendel Consulting.
Hendel’s Air Conditioning is successful because we do things right and we do things efficiently. This includes being fair to everyone, both customers and employees. The long duration of hard work by my parents was more critical to Hendel’s success than the matter of timing. But starting an air conditioning in Arizona was a very good decision because it is one of the hottest places in the country.
One of the challenges in this business is that it is very difficult to budget. You make money for one-half of the year, during the summer, and then you lose money for one-half of the year during the winter.
I greatly admire my parents for who they are and for what they have accomplished. They are very good at budgeting money. For a long, long time they did not take money out but kept putting it back in the business.
As far as the future is concerned, I think that five years from now Hendel’s will be at the same location. It has always been a family business. The family is continuing to grow and the business will continue to grow.
One day in June 1993 when it was 122 degrees our answering machine had 60 incoming calls. I went to the shop at the end of the day and the schedule was completely full. People came to the front and the back of the store and knocked on the door trying to get in the store because they needed service. I realized that you couldn’t live without air conditioning in Arizona and how important air conditioning is here.