At Magnusson Balfour, one of our top priorities is client relationships and that doesn’t end when a transaction is complete. In fact, many of our past clients continue synergistic relationships with us well into the future. Recently, we visited with a former client, Justin Zandan, owner of Gelinas HVAC Services. Magnusson Balfour worked with Justin two years ago on his vision to own his own small business in Southern Maine, and we are so happy to learn that he and his new company are experiencing much success through the transition!
How did you come to work with Magnusson Balfour?
I was just getting burned out from the corporate culture, and knew I was ready to own something of my own, control my own work. I had 15 years’ experience as a mechanical engineer in the power plant industry, with a lot of hands-on project work as well as serving on management teams, but I wasn’t necessarily looking for a technical business. I really wasn’t sure what type of business I wanted, to be honest, I knew some industries I wasn’t interested in for one reason or another, but I was pretty open to what kind of business I wanted. I knew I needed some professional advice from someone who really got it, and a colleague mentioned to me that a business broker could really advise me best.
I was referred to Craig Church at Magnusson Balfour, and early in 2016, I met with Craig to discuss my desire to purchase a business. We had great rapport right away, I just liked his style. He was clearly very knowledgeable about his business, the local real estate market, and he is also a business owner himself, so I felt he had the perfect professional mix to help me. What really appealed to me was that Craig is both a business broker, as well as a commercial real estate broker, so his knowledge of consulting and advising could transition easily to helping me find and purchase a business. I was so open and all over the place in the beginning, but Craig never seemed impatient, I felt listened to, and we just worked as a team together looking at different businesses. He had all the business brokerage tools to guide me through the process, and he has a wealth of professional knowledge and resources that were invaluable too. The ability to discuss different business models, and what different industries involve to operate was extremely helpful, and that is his experience and expertise – he clearly has a real passion for what he does. I still consider Craig a great sounding board today!
What made you decide to purchase a business?
In a nutshell, I had a dream to own my own business, and Craig worked patiently and diligently with me over many months, as we explored various business investment opportunities throughout Southern Maine. I did know that I wanted to purchase an established business with a reputable brand, something I could build on. After a few deals didn’t work out, we took a look at Gelinas HVAC. I knew my experience in engineering, understanding heating and cooling systems well, would fit nicely into the business. The principals had similar values to mine, treating employees like they matter, putting customer service up front, and delivering great service, so that was a fit right away. It’s been challenging, of course, but a great decision for me and my family!
You’re 1 ½ years in now, how is it going?
My first focus has been on internal processes and improvements. We’ve transitioned from a traditional whiteboard scheduling routine, and a lot of dependency on the office, to automating our work order and customer information with a software program. Now our technicians carry an iPad, and can see immediately not only what they are going to a jobsite to do, but how long the customer has been with Gelinas, what other services they have had, if they are in our Loyalty Program. It really sets our technicians up for success before they even walk through the door to have this depth of information. Customers know they are a top priority when technicians are well informed.
Marketing a small business is always tricky, things can be feast or famine, and so marketing becomes a just-in-time reaction. I prefer to think ahead whenever possible, and marketing needs someone paying attention to it so it isn’t just sell, sell, sell. I have professionals I work with to outsource some of our marketing so that we are making ongoing and consistent efforts to build our brand. We have done a whole new website that can assist customers, and offer helpful information about their heating and cooling systems, energy efficiency options, information on new products and programs, etc. We’ll continue to expand our marketing communication efforts as we go, and all the online marketing avenues offer a lot of exciting possibilities for us going forward.
The Value in Human Resources
I feel very strongly about the quality of our workforce, and I believe a business achieves that by being a great place to work. As well a competitive wages, good benefits, and work environment, we offer full tuition reimbursement to our staff, we’ve brought vendors on-site to provide hands-on demonstration of new products, and we always have new technicians shadow our experienced techs in the field until we know they are ready for working on their own. We have worked to partner with the area trade schools, serving on the advisory board of NTI, and speaking regularly at SMCC, NTI and MEMA in Brunswick. We want to help new technicians have a successful experience in their first interviews and jobs, and we have hired several apprentices to begin their career at Gelinas from these programs. We don’t want to just get people to work for us, we want to build an environment where people want to stay at Gelinas and build a career with us. The quality of people’s work lives is very important to me.
Growth can be great, or a disaster, and so smart scaling is a top priority. I want our growth to be organic, to grow in the best way to serve our customers and employees. We’ve worked over the last year to clearly define what our different organizational positions are, how training and development will support everyone in their roles, and how our workforce will evolve over the coming years. I want a good foundation for our growth, and to be thoughtful about how we grow the company.
What are your big goals going forward?
I’m very passionate about this business, so I’m always interested in organizational improvements, new products, new opportunities to serve our customers better. I’m pretty happy with our direction, and much of it is still a work in progress since it’s not even two years yet! I want to continue to improve our work-flow processes, streamline our procedures, and keep paying attention to how and why we do things. We’ll continue to build on customer communications, and our marketing efforts.
This is not just a business for me to lead until I want to retire. My hope is that Gelinas will become a family business, and that our employees will continue to take larger roles in the success of the business.