June 2010

Hot Tips & Cool Solutions - FOSKEY HEATING & AIR Says Honesty Is The Best Policy

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: Photography By Anne

Even in the best of times, starting a new business is a challenge. Five years ago, with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a powerful personal motivation (a baby on the way), Michael and Christine Foskey stared boldly in the face of impending economic decline. Without two nickels to rub together, they took a giant leap of faith, opening their own heating and air business, operating it from home and doing every lick of the work themselves. Against the odds, the business has grown by leaps and bounds—300 percent each year, according to Christine. At the same time, business ownership has allowed her the flexibility to work from home and spend more time with her children.

“Michael and I are kind of like a Cinderella story,” said Christine, explaining that they went into business with no bank loan.

“It was scary, because basically we started out with nothing—just my reputation from working for other companies,” said Michael, who was born and reared in the Lowcountry and has worked in the industry for the past 25 years.

They bought an old van (paid cash), with 200,000 miles on it, a leaky roof and no air conditioning. Michael worked out of that vehicle for two years, making all the service calls, all the sales calls and doing all the installations, while Christine managed the office, kept the books and took care of the administrative duties.

“It’s been a real rollercoaster. I found out that, as a couple, we are really good business partners. We’ve found each other’s strengths,” said Christine.

But the Foskeys are quick to point out that they couldn’t have succeeded without a wide web of community resources and support, including their SCORE counselors, Harrison L. Hays III (“He held our hand and basically walked us through how to start a business,” said Michael.) and Scott Griswold. Pat Cameron at USCB and David Carter at TCL helped, too, among others.

SECRETS TO SUCCESS
The Foskeys credit God and community for their success, but the real formula is revealed in their business philosophy, succinctly stated in their tag line: “Honest Answers and Affordable Options.” That’s what they promise, and that’s what they deliver.

According to the Foskeys, building a loyal clientele is a matter of truthfulness and compassion. “A lot of the bigger companies now are just sell, sell, sell. They send their employees to sales school before they send them to technical school,” said Michael. “With the way the economy is now, a lot of people can’t afford a new unit.”

“One thing about being in business for yourself is that, at the end of the day, you want to feel comfortable with everything you were able to do instead of working for someone else and having to abide by their rules,” said Christine.

Today, in addition to themselves, the Foskeys employ four NATE-certified technicians (all hired locally from TCL).

“Some companies offer their service techs a bonus for selling a new unit. I didn’t feel comfortable with that,” said Michael. “Our technicians do not get paid bonuses for sales. They get paid an hourly wage for what they do, so there’s no pressure on them to sell units. They are to give me the information on the job. Then it’s up to me to make a recommendation on repair or replacement. I always give the owner that option.”

While Foskey Heating and Air consistently offers the option of repair, it is sometimes necessary and/or more sensible to replace a system. “If your unit is over eight years old and you have to spend more than $500 to fix it, or if you have to repair it more than twice a year, you are better off replacing it if you can,” said Michael.

MAYTAG: A NAME YOU CAN TRUST
When the time comes to install a new HVAC system, Foskey Heating and Air, the area’s exclusive Maytag dealer, sets the standard for quality and affordability. “I fix everybody else’s, but I install ours,” said Michael, citing the many advantages of the Maytag brand, including the highest SEER rating (24.5) and the best warranty in the industry (12 years parts and labor on select series). Even the lowest-priced model carries the 12-year parts warranty, which also applies to accessories and add-ons such as upgraded HEPA filters, air purifiers or a Maytag thermostat, when installed with a Maytag system, Michael explained.

According to Christine, many people who are familiar with Maytag brand appliances do not realize the company makes HVAC systems. “We wanted to bring something different to the table—a really good brand that would satisfy our customers,” she said. “We did our research about Maytag. It kind of goes with our philosophy about honesty, too. On their Web site, they have a list of all the terms for heating and air. It educates people.”

“We can offer a better product at a lower price because we are a small company and we don’t have the overhead of some of the larger companies,” Michael added.
“We’ve never done much advertising. It’s all been word-of-mouth,” said Christine.

“We’ve grown progressively. Now we’re ready to let people know who we are. We want to get the word out that Maytag makes the best HVAC systems in the industry. But what sets us apart is what it says on our logo. We give people honest answers and affordable options.”

Foskey Heating and Air is now located at 1 Promenade Street, Bluffton, SC. Their service area includes Beaufort and Jasper counties. For more information, call (843) 681-4328. Learn more about Maytag products at maytaghvac.com.

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