Parr’s Heat Pump Centre is southern Tasmania’s leading air conditioning retail outlet with well over 40 years in operation. John Parr sat down with us to talk about business, customers and leadership.
1. What areas does Parr Air work in?
We are specialists in domestic heat pumps, commercial air conditioning and commercial refrigeration, with domestic making up over 50%
2. The business has been established since 1976 [so you must be doing something right!] – what do you think it takes to own and run a successful business for that long?
It takes determination, never say die and to learn from mistakes! It is essential to create excellent relationships with clients; we are replacing units for the third time in some instances.
3. Where is the showroom located?
41 Lampton Avenue, Derwent park.
4. Technology has changed dramatically since you first started the business – how do you remain at the forefront of your industry?
We have been at the forefront of technology throughout our company. We had the first computer for accounting and word processing in our industry. Today we use a full-service software web base system so that all our staff are connected; they do all their “paperwork” online, we can invoice the job as they leave the site. If extra work is needed our office staff are notified as they leave the job and can action what is needed. It has streamlined the whole process, cut printing, postage and increased cash flow.
5. As Managing Director, when did you feel comfortable to delegate to others and what ignited that change?
Over the years I admit I struggled with the delegation, I now have excellent staff who I trust and who are looking at taking over the business. I have stepped back from day to day running of the business and am only doing the specialist quoting which is still not fully covered within the business as well as financial issues.
6. What strengths does Michael Denehey from Collins SBA, bring to the business?
Michael has acted as a pseudo director and mentor to all the management team. Being an accountant, he brings clear direction and a clear head. He has guided us as a team to perform and concentrate on the core issues; we have never been as profitable!
7. What marketing activities have you found over the years have worked?
We were spending a bucket load on yellow pages, it used to work but nowhere near as much today. We get a LOT of feedback from our fleet as we have made them huge billboards, we have five buses with different messages, we monitor new clients to see where they heard about us and the overwhelming result though is word of mouth so doing the right thing over time is by far the better advertising.
8. How have customers’ expectations changed over the years?
Significantly, I must be too old as I believe that some people’s expectations are grossly unreasonable and they can’t see reason with a push to either get it for nothing or substantial discounts for minor issues, fortunately not all but the ones who are, are enough!
9. What advice would you give to someone that wanted to start a business in today’s world?
Be brave! And think twice it certainly is not all roses! I am seriously over the WHS requirements with the push to cover their backside with no productive result. We ALL have to protect workers but the stage we are at today is stupid, it takes longer to satisfy the paper side than it does to actually do the work, in a lot of situations.
10. What have been three significant lessons you have learned since growing the business?
It was 14 years before I took a holiday! That was stupid because, of course, I was indispensable! Never lose sight of the reason you are in business, and that is to create a lifestyle better than a wage could create, and put as much as you can into super for that retirement (which I hope is around the corner). Another is to employ the best people and pay accordingly; they need motivation and ground rules for them to operate within so they can make decisions without involving you every step of the way, which is where I am at now (I know it is more than three!!).