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Meet Will Harris: How a Father/Son Team Filled a Need for HVAC Services in Their Community

May 13, 2024

Do you see a need for quality HVAC services in your community? Many entrepreneurs get inspired by solving problems that directly impact them, including a lack of services. 

We’re spotlighting Will Harris who owns One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning of Crystal Coast with his father, Paul Harris. Discover how they saw a need for HVAC services in their local area and started their own One Hour franchise to fulfill that need. 

What were you doing prior to franchising?

Will: I graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2019 with a mechanical engineering degree and went to work in the manufacturing field. I worked for Trane, which is an HVAC manufacturer, as a manufacturing engineer for three or four years. I learned the ins and outs of the manufacturing business and about the equipment. 

Why did you decide to franchise with One Hour?

Will: My parents live in North Carolina, and it’s always hard to find help and get work done. Everywhere you call, it’s a couple weeks out before a plumber, electrician, or HVAC technician can come. 

We always kicked around the idea of opening an HVAC business or a business in the trades. We knew you’d do well if you could just show up on time or be the first one there. In July of 2022 we decided to start pursuing this goal of starting a business. 

As we did our research we found a lot of major hurdles we would have to get over, including getting a license which could take a couple years. We almost threw our hands up and gave up on the idea, but my dad researched franchises and found One Hour. The rest is history. 

When my dad spoke with the One Hour team, he realized that a lot of the hurdles we were seeing on our own would be more like speed bumps with a franchise. The One Hour team had the answers we needed to get over those challenges. 

How has your previous experience helped you as an HVAC franchise owner?

Will: My previous role was somewhat of a project management role, and having that background has helped with getting the franchise open and accomplishing the tasks at hand. Now that we’re open, it’s helpful with setting goals for each year and accomplishing them. 

I had a little bit of HVAC experience, but I certainly can’t go into the field and do any of the hands-on stuff. I have a general idea of how everything works and know the nomenclature. 

It helps having work experience, no matter what the work is. It’s taught me how to handle stress and mitigate it by taking one step at a time. 

What is it like to own a franchise with your father?

Will: My dad and I are 50/50 partners in the franchise. He worked his whole life in beer distribution and worked his way through the ranks until he became the owner. He sold the business several years ago and retired for a bit, but he didn’t really like retirement. He went back to work for a brewery but was ready to phase out of that. That’s what led us to explore opening a business together. 

He managed people for more than 20 years. That background has definitely helped us through the first year. I’ve been able to learn a multitude of things from my dad that will remain invaluable as we continue to grow.

What does a typical day look like for you as a franchise owner?

Will: I like to be the first one to the shop, so I get there around 7:00 am and open everything up. I spend some time looking at the day ahead and what needs to be done to get the ball rolling in the morning. 

The guys show up around 7:30 am, and we brief them on what their day looks like and get them out the door to their jobs. If we don’t have any jobs on the board that day, we game plan what else we can do. We’ll hang door hangers, put out yard signs, and various things to draw up business if we can. 

I handle reporting to see where we’re at for the month and year to determine if we’re staying on track and what we need to be doing. Then, for the rest of the day I’m firefighting. We’re answering phones, answering questions from technicians, and making sure techs are at the right place at the right time. We also meet with the guys in the shop weekly to game plan or go through some training. 

Have you found anything about franchising to be unexpected?

Will: Franchising has been pretty aligned with what I thought. The franchise system and One Hour team have been extremely helpful. All the other franchisees around us are willing to help, welcome you into their shop, and let you know their mistakes so you can try to avoid them. 

There may be little surprises, but nothing has ever been so major that we can’t overcome it. We can always call our neighbor and see if they’ve had the same issue and what they did to resolve it. 

How are you measuring success in your franchise?

Will: Obviously, we’re here to make profits. We’ve got our lofty goal hung up on the wall for everybody to see, and we color in the thermometer as we get closer to our goal. We keep it in our meeting room so everybody knows where we stand and that they contribute to that goal. 

Our mission statement is to be the number one HVAC contractor in the area in all aspects. We strive to provide excellent customer service, so we love good reviews. We currently have all 5-star reviews, and we like to maintain that and make everybody happy. When people are happy with us, they refer us to their neighbors or family. 

What strategies do you use to hire and retain technicians?

Will: We haven’t had too much trouble with hiring. Before we officially opened our doors, we struggled for a little bit to find qualified candidates. We made the decision that we needed to do market research and be on the higher end of the pay scale in our area to attract candidates. 

We guaranteed our initial hires 40 hours a week, whether we’re busy or not. The last thing we want is for them to be busy in the summer and only have 10 hours in the winter and leave us. We also like to provide a good work/life balance. We don’t want to kill techs in the summer and not give them work in the winter. 

Fortunately, word seems to be spreading. Now when we look for new hires, we get a good handful of qualified candidates to choose from. 

What tools or resources have been the most helpful for running your franchise?

Will: Having people around you that have been with the franchise for decades has been the most helpful. We also attend the conferences and come back fired up with all the new ideas that we learned. 

The network is probably the most beneficial, but also the system that One Hour has developed. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s already there for you to get it rolling in your area. Even down to training, it’s nice to have Success Academy. As a manager, you can watch the videos and see what the system says to do. 

We bring all of our new guys in and send them through the virtual training. We also try to send our technicians anytime there’s training within a couple hours of us. It’s helpful to not have to come up with the process yourself. We use the system to get our guys trained properly. 

How has being a franchise owner changed you, personally or professionally? 

Will: My former role was in project management and process development. I’m very process-oriented, so it’s nice to practice what I preach with the franchise. I have a process to follow for all aspects of the business, from taking calls to closing out a job and administrative tasks. It’s nice to have that laid out. 

The franchise has helped me grow my desire to follow the process. I’ve seen it work now. At my previous job, I got to develop the process but I wasn’t managing anybody that followed it. I never got to see it work for myself when you develop a process and follow it.

I’ve always been team-oriented, but the franchise drives that home a little more. It’s nice to develop the team aspect by speaking to new franchisees or potential franchisees and have them visit our shop. We get to share what we know and learn what we don’t with other people. 

What advice would you give to someone considering franchising as their path to business ownership?

Will: Follow the system. It’s there for a reason. It’s tried and true. My dad says all the time, “If you didn’t want to follow the process, why did you franchise?”

We learned early on that you’re not going to be perfect the first year or even two years in, but pick three or four big things each year that you want to focus on. Get them in line and you’ll see it pays dividends. Following the process is what’s been successful for us. 

Can Your Community Use Quality HVAC Services?

If you see a need for reliable, quality HVAC services in your area, franchising with One Hour can help you fill that gap. Whether you have experience in the HVAC industry or not, our franchise system provides the tools and resources needed to launch and grow your business. From training and support to operational models and financing, we’ve developed the roadmap to business ownership. 

Ready to learn more? Contact our team today to explore the One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning franchise opportunity!

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