Doug Magnus, CEO and founder of Conditioned Air Systems in Gainesville, Georgia, has held exactly two jobs over his long career in the HVAC business. “I worked for a local contracting company all through high school, which was in the early ’60s; worked for him part-time when I went to a local junior college; worked for him part-time when I went to a local trade school; worked for him after I finished college,” he remembers. “I worked full-time during the day and went to school at night.”
Magnus’ second job came in 1983 when he decided to step out on his own and start Conditioned Air Systems. “I really had no intention of growing as much as we have over the last 38 years,” he says “We got some great people, and we’ve just been able to grow unbelievably over the last 38 years.”
Today, Conditioned Air Systems is a full-service HVAC company, offering commercial and residential duct services such as installation, maintenance, repair, duct cleaning, sealing and in-house sheet metal fabrication.
A large part of the company’s growth and sustainability can be attributed to its dedicated employees, says Magnus. Conditioned Air employees around 75 to 100 people consistently, with a number of subcontractors working in its sheet metal shop and popping and service divisions.
“Most of our people have been with us a long time,” says Magnus about the relationships that have helped carry Conditioned Air to success. “We just try to do everything the correct way and the right way. We try to be able to save a little, spend a little, give a little, and we do all that in this community. We love where we live. We love everything about what we do.”
Finding professional partners in the HVAC industry who feel the same has been equally important to Conditioned Air’s sustainability. Early on, the company found a dedicated partner in distributor Conklin Metal Industries.
“Conkin Metal has been a supplier for us for 38 years. I knew Conkin Metal before I ever started this company,” says Magnus. “Conklin has always done an excellent job of supporting Conditioned Air. We’ve bought a lot of equipment through them. We created relationships all over the company with different vendors. I think Conklin is one of the best ones if not the best.”
He adds, “I don’t know that we’ve ever had any disagreements with Conklin in anyway at all. And that works both ways. Conklin has grown a lot in the last 38 years and so have we. And we’ve been very supportive of them.”
When it comes to finding the right distributor, it’s all about service. “Service is No. 1,” says Thomas Prather, who runs Conditioned Air’s sheet metal division. “Good service. Good service.”
Good service builds trust, says Prather, who has been with Conditioned Air for 20 years. “I think networking, relationship building, I feel a sense of loyalty to my vendors as well,” he explains. “If they are going to treat me right and do good, I’m going to have a sense of loyalty to them.”
As Magnus stressed, it works both ways. As a distributor of sheet metal, duct fabrication and HVAC supplies during the pandemic, Conklin’s priority has been to help its customers keep business going as normally as possible with good, social-distanced service.
“It’s a give and take I believe that’s what builds a great, long relationship, being able to work back and forth,” says Brad Craven, a territory manager with Conklin. Although many of his standing in-person meetings with Conditioned Air have shifted to calls, no-contact deliveries and pickups, service is still top of mind.
“Being on the road, it’s just about showing that respect and understanding that people are going to feel differently about the pandemic,” says Craven. “From our perspective, it’s trying to figure out ways to be respectful of the fact that they are running a business. If I by any odd chance tested positive for COVID-19, well then it’s not going to put Conklin down. But if for some reason one of our customers did, it could shut down the sheet metal shop.”
The Pink Pin Spotter
After his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, breast cancer awareness became a cause close to Doug Magnus’ (second from right) heart. Thanks to Conditioned Air’s close relationship with sheet metal products maker Duro Dyne, Magnus famously got a chance to show his support for the cause during the 2017 AHR Expo. He bid $50,000 for a pink pin spotter machine to benefit breast cancer awareness.
“Now that’s much more than what that piece of equipment costs, but since the money was going to support breast cancer, we were all in,” says Magnus. The bid inspired others to go all in, too, and Duro Dyne was able to auction off a second pink pin spotter. “And that was important to us. We had a good time in Las Vegas, and it was really heart moving for us to be able to do that.”
Prather adds, “We were an essential business so we stayed open with social distancing and masks. I wiped down every doorknob every light switch in the morning and in the afternoon with Clorox wipes. We do that every day. I take everyone’s temperature. Just doing our part to make sure we are not endangering our employees. It changed the way we went to market and I am sure it will change the way we go to market down the road because it’s not going away unfortunately.”
On the same page with its distributor, Conditioned Air has been able to use Conklin enhance the company’s products and service. One such example is Conditioned Air’s support of Duro Dyne’s pink UL Listed 440 Butyl Gasketing. Not only a superior product — 440 grade with an H pattern for cleaner compression to the duct frame—its eye-catching pink made it easier for inspectors to ensure duct has a gasketed connection while supporting breast cancer awareness. A cause close to the Magnus family after Magnus’ wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It was a scenario where Duro Dyne manufactured it, and we partnered with them to buy here. Then we looked to who the best partner would be in the market. Obviously Mr. Magnus and his history and his involvement in breast cancer awareness,” says Craven. “So both Conditioned Air and Conklin Metals both made that leap of faith to buy a product to show their support.”
It goes back to trust, says Prather. “Because I’ve been around people that demand, demand, demand, and you’re not building a relationship like that. I want to be competitive in pricing, but I want that service, too, and I want to be loyal.”
In the end, the benefits of strong relationships between distributor and contractor cycle up to the customer and the whole HVAC industry benefits.
“Sometimes, as you grow a company, you try to decide how big do I really want to be. How much business do you really want because the larger you are, it’s tougher to give all the service to your customers that you really need,” says Magnus. “So sooner or later you’re gonna have to slow down and say we will take on new business, but let’s take care of our customers first, and then we will decide how many new ones we want to add.”
He adds, “We’ve always been in the service business, but we are stronger in the service business today than we were 25 years ago. This industry has just been wonderful for me, my family and this company. If you look around at the people who are employed by this company, they are all better off today than they were when they walked through those front doors. And that was important to me.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of SNIPS Magazine.