Design Mechanical is a homegrown success story that proves there is still room for small start-ups to take on competitive industries and prosper. Beginning in one of the toughest economic times in US history, the odds stood strongly against the then small HVAC business. Today, the company is a leading player in the Midwest, providing everything from HVAC mechanical construction and service to refrigeration. Despite widespread growth, Design Mechanical has kept a people-focused ethos at its core, and according to General Manager Valerie Mussett, it is this commitment that is guiding its future.
Based in Kansas City, Kansas, Design Mechanical has become the first point of call for Midwestern projects seeking out industrial, commercial or institutional HVAC work. The highly skilled, award winning, service provider has built a reputation for its expertise, particularly in the design side of HVAC systems. However, Design Mechanical’s success story has humble beginnings.
The small but dedicated team worked out of their cars and had no office but a great deal of ingenuity. Bill Iller, the company’s current president and one of the original founders, is widely recognized as an expert in the industry. “His desire to start this company to provide a safe, fun, and profitable working environment with complete emphasis on unbeatable customer service is what drives our people today. We are in the business to create and maintain great relationships (customer, vendor, employee and personal) for life!”
When the company set out, there was a near-instantaneous upswing in demand. Ms. Mussett explained: “We had the backing of people we had worked with in the past. They had a great relationship with us, trusted us, and that really helped us to get going and achieve success.”
In its first year of business, Design Mechanical turned over nine million in revenue and, as such, quickly became a major player. The company worked on projects with some of the most reputable firms in the country and expanded quickly. Five years on, the company was valued over $20 million, and today, the firm stands at a value of $40 million strong.
With a range of specialized services and an expanding multi-state footprint, Design Mechanical has entered a new era of development. In a commitment to provide high-end quality services, the firm has consistently invested in technology, vertical integration, its facilities and, most importantly, staff.
One contributor to this success is DMI University. In 2009, DMI started this educational program for its clients in its new training facility. This monthly program is designed to help promote customer awareness of products and practices that enhance and improve the heating and air conditioning industry. Customers have hands-on experience with industry professionals to learn what’s new in HVAC technology to help maximize their operating budget and also increase building HVAC knowledge. Classes have grown to over 50 customers each month! The company feels this partnership with its customers not only generates revenue with current customers but gives DMI the competitive advantage with potential customers by providing valuable training for FREE.
Another contributor to Design Mechanical’s explosive growth was the introduction of technology to its field technicians. They can be dispatched through the team’s Mobile Management System with the job information going straight to their phones that includes everything they need to perform their job. Workorders are generated electronically through this system complete with labor, parts, electronic signatures, etc. at their fingertips. These workorders are then generated back to the office for payroll and billing processing. This new system has decreased fuel charges by at least 20% and increased communication between office, field and customer dramatically!
Both the HVAC industry and Design Mechanical’s services have diversified. It remains most widely known for its expertise in HVAC systems, but refrigeration, construction and restaurant work have become substantial pieces of Design Mechanical’s business in recent years. To cope with changes, its top-of-the-line 26,000 square-foot facility is currently undergoing expansion. Design Mechanical has renewed its commitment not only to growing, but to innovating within the sector.
Much of the HVAC industry has shifted towards cookie-cutter solutions. Although cheap, these systems are often defective and fail to compensate for the differing needs of each project. “We fix a lot of things that come out of the box,” said Ms. Mussett. She explained that, although basic functionality itself can be a challenge with standard HVAC approaches, these issues are particularly trying when it comes to major projects.
Working in the industrial, commercial and institutional space has unique complications that are directly related to the size and capacity of such structures. For this reason, the development of built-to-specification heating, cooling and even refrigeration systems has become the efficient solution that many projects need. The real challenge lies in finding a service provider with the expertise to both design and implement a responsive, integrated system.
This is what Design Mechanical is known for, and, unlike many service companies, Design Mechanical is not manufacturer-specific. Although the firm covers a broad spectrum of works, its biggest point of difference is its ability to solve complex HVAC issues and replicate the results across any space or structure. “Our niche is more on the design side. We really shine when it comes to putting together a system with specific parameters with the end user in mind. It is truly custom.”
Design Mechanical systems often incorporate multiple communicative units that work in tandem. Built to specification and beyond, these systems not only create a better end-user experience, but result in major maintenance and efficiency savings in the long term. Design Mechanical’s clients include the likes of major universities, hospitals and even the Environmental Protection Agency.
As a service company, the sun rises and sets on the expertise of your staff. Since the beginning, Design Mechanical has been committed to cultivating only the best. “We have a great group of people in the house and in the field. It is ultimately the people we have on staff that have made this company so successful. It’s something our customers really appreciate, and something we are very proud of.”
When it comes to service providers in the HVAC arena, there is no shortage of competition. The fact that there are roughly sixty direct competitors in Design Mechanical’s immediate geographic market is a testament to just how treacherous the firm’s journey has been.
Regarding labor hours, Design Mechanical is now recognized as the fifth largest provider in the city, outranking dozens of companies who have been in operation for decades. Through ongoing staff training and, most importantly, a personal approach, Design Mechanical has gained new customers while retaining longstanding relationships that have withstood the test of time.
“We are really about all of the people behind the name. We are a service company; we don’t put our name on widgets, our reputation has to come from within. It purely comes from our people and our culture” stated Mussett.