We tend to think that a college education is the only way to become successful but Louis Bruno, owner of Bruno Air Conditioning, proves that notion a myth. Bruno began his career in the HVAC industry in 2006 at age 17 after graduating high school in Fort Myers, Florida.
Eager to work, Bruno spent weeks applying for jobs and then was hired by a small family owned HVAC business. His first job included climbing around in 125 degree attics learning the business from the ground up or inside out, so to speak.
At 21, most of his friends were nishing college and he remembers thinking, “I’m just an A/C guy.” Watching friends begin their careers gave him the motivation to earn his Florida contractor’s license. The goal was to lease the license to his employer, but after 10 months of being their “quali er” he realized he wanted more. He wanted to own his own business.
“I decided to start my own A/C business so in my off time in 2012, I began planning,” says Bruno. “The first thing I did was create an informal Board of Advisers comprised of successful retired/semi- retired businessmen that shared my values and that would want to be involved in helping a young guy be successful.” In December 2012, Bruno began his business and also got engaged to Rachael whom he married the following August. The journey was well underway.
Bruno wrote his first business plan and presented it to his Board in 2013. The goal was to produce $400,000 in annual revenue. Three out of four Board members suggested the revenue goal was too aggressive and that he should reconsider. The fourth member noted that even if he hit half the goal, it would be a great rst year. Starting his dream on his life savings of $40,000, the plan was for Bruno to work out of his house in order to keep the business as lean as possible.
“I believed I could do a better job in marketing than the existing HVAC businesses that seemed complacent,” notes Bruno. “I knew I couldn’t afford to hire experienced people so I hired the inexperienced and trained them the way I wanted our customer experience to be – and it worked.”
It was a busy year and by April 2013 he had reached his goal of $400,000 in revenue. 2013 ended with over $2 million in sales and 30 employees. It was a successful and exciting year as the newlywed had his rst child on the way. The goal for 2014 was $5 million in revenue. Keeping with his plan, the business grew and the year ended with 90 employees and nearly $8 million in revenue. By 2015, the company was tracking $15 million in sales statewide with commercial service and grew to over 120 employees by the end of his rst quarter.
SCALING FOR GROWTH
Bruno adds by this point he was working 20 hours a day, extremely stressed and not very happy with his life although he had a business that was growing exponentially. “I was putting out res, having a lot of people problems and it didn’t feel right – so I followed my instincts. I started reaching out to experienced advisers that could help me understand where my problems were so I could treat the root cause and not just the symptoms,” Bruno explained. He began studying the Toyota Way and Lean Six Sigma which helped Bruno understand how to run an efficient company. He began value streaming and realized he was spending 27 hours worth of work time in an 18-hour day.
“It was impossible and not scalable,” Bruno added. “Starting to understand timings and where our opportunities truly lay, I knew I needed to hire professional managers to help set up a solid infrastructure.” Bruno started recruiting talented and experienced ‘people’ managers. He hired a COO who had been an ef ciency expert and had tremendous operations management skills. They set out to analyze what the company’s growth drivers were going to be for the future. The decision: people and technology. “We were in an “F” industry for technology and a “C” industry for customer service,” explains Bruno.
NEW OPERATING SYSTEM
In 2015, the company implemented “EOS” – The Entrepreneurial Operating System with the rst objective to analyze employees in the organization which had grown to more than 150. “We quickly noticed we had many people in the wrong seat and many not deserving to be on the bus at all,” Bruno notes. “We downsized to 90 employees and regrouped.” Amazing things started happening; the same amount of work was completed with fewer employees. Bruno says that the company was still not set up to be scalable and he needed to rebuild the management team. A successful future meant he had to focus on Core Values.
Bruno built his company on ‘vibrational’ frequency – energy reacting to energy. He put out the energy but wasn’t totally sure what Core Values meant. After studying and educating himself, Bruno now knows that his company’s Core Values are the moral guidelines and compass that guide his employees in decision making. He also says he now knows that he doesn’t have a say in every decision.
“What I learned in 2015 was eye opening,” says Bruno. “I obsessed over reading books by the most successful people in the world and their individual stories – they all talked about Core Values. Last year’s process of taking a good look at what I wanted my company to be really helped me see, not only what building a business was, but truly understand what organizational development was all about. The process also showed me I have a ton left to learn.” Bruno challenges himself daily to his Core Value #3 – continuous improvement.
Bruno Air keeps growing as the company tracked as high as $24 million for 2015. The story has only begun for Louis Bruno and his team as they are sure to see much more growth. Bruno Air was just named top producer for TRANE in the Southern Region of the USA.
WHAT IS LEAN SIX SIGMA?
Six Sigma: A system of tools designed to optimize quality management within an organization. It helps reduce errors and defects in a system using a statistical data approach to maintain and improve quality throughout organizations.
+ Lean: A descriptor of this system designed to cut waste from the product manufacturing process, that is, eliminate any and all activities that fail to add value.
= Together, Lean Six Sigma identifies a Business Excellence Strategy.
THE FIVE PHASES OF LEAN SIX SIGMA: DMADV
Enterprise strategy, customer demands and design goals – all must be de ned and align with each other.
Critical to quantify (CTQ) characteristics must be identi ed and measured: risk, product capability, and production process.
Process and systems must be analyzed in order to develop alternative approaches.
Analysis informs design of best-suited, improved alternatives.
Process owners need to verify the design. Perform pilot runs, implement the process, then hand it over.