By Camille Gillies
If you had to rank the top 10 greatest inventions of the 20th century, would air conditioning be on your list?
In Florida, we love our AC and if your cooling system has ever shut down in the middle of a sweltering summer heat wave, you realize just how much you depend on it. Opening the windows to 90-degree temperatures, 100-percent humidity and buzzing insects would mean sweaty, sleepless nights for most of us.
Enter the team of experts at Ierna’s Heating and Cooling, a family-run business that has been keeping homeowners and businesses in our area comfortable for more than eight years. Opened by Ron and Charlene Ierna, the hometown company they started in a spare bedroom of their Lutz home in 2003 now has 35 full-time employees based out of their office on 19121 U.S. Hwy. 41 (between Sunset Rd. and S.R. 54) in Lutz, and soon will move to a new, larger location across U.S. 41 next to the Old Lutz Schoolhouse, in a remodeled building that formerly housed the Lutz Bank.
For such a relatively short existence, Ierna’s has racked up an impressive trophy collection. In the past five years Ierna’s Heating and Cooling has been named Central Pasco Chamber Business of the Year, the Wesley Chapel Chamber’s Small Business of the Year, Best Air Conditioning Company in Lutz by the U.S. Local Business Association and the Florida Bryant Air Conditioning Dealer of the Year.
Much of this success is attributable to the vision and fortitude of Ron and Charlene. In fact, Charlene, who serves as the company’s vice president, two years ago was recognized as a finalist in the entrepreneur category of the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Businesswoman of the Year honors. Her winning, common-sense business philosophy revolves around keeping the company’s customers, employees and the community happy.
With more than 18,000 residential and commercial customers in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties, Ierna’s approach to service and repair is a no-pressure attitude.
“When a diagnosis is reached, we will give you your options and a flat rate cost of the repairs,” says Ron, the company’s president. “If your system is old, inefficient and/or in disrepair, we will educate (you) about the current high-efficiency technology that is available and offer a competitive bid for replacing the system, as well as the cost to repair it, if repair is possible.”
Ron feels that educating customers and providing options for them to make their own decisions are the keys to customer retention. “Whether they make a decision that day or five years down the road, we will be ready to take their call and race out to their homes when they need us,” he says.
In addition to repairing and maintaining existing heating and cooling systems, the company also sells and installs new systems and offers air purification systems and duct services. All services are performed by crews of experienced technicians whose dedication and professionalism are valued by the Iernas and their customers alike.
Local resident Christine Garmeson Wisser recounts that her former air-conditioning contractor told her she needed a new $6,800 unit without ever inspecting her current system. Posting her comments online, she writes, “Luis Santiago from Ierna’s came to give a (free) second opinion, changed a capacitor, and I have AC again! I now have a service contract with Ierna for the next three years. Great job!”
Homeowner Leigh Grundy feels confident enough in the company’s technicians to offer them access to her home in her absence.
“I have literally opened my house up for Ierna’s techs to come out when our AC was not working and I could not be at the house,” she writes. “They respond quickly and are honest! I have recommended Ierna’s to all of my family members in the area.”
Several customers have gone out of their way to mention technicians by name. Bridget Verrecchia expressed relief over getting a long-standing cooling problem resolved at her home, stating, “I sincerely thank you for fixing our AC problem and for providing friendly, trustworthy technicians. Victor, Don and James all should be recognized for their great service and professionalism!”
Charlene prizes the hard work and the “do whatever it takes“ attitude of her employees to provide Ierna’s customers with the highest quality service and products.
“I personally make it mandatory that every employee understands the importance and appreciates the value of cultivating each and every customer,” she says. “From a personal follow-up call to sending out thank-you notes to committing ourselves to a 100-percent satisfaction guarantee policy, the goal is to foster relationships with our customers that will last for years to come.”
A Proud History Of
The company’s commitment to the community doesn’t end there. Just ask the plethora of schools, civic groups and nonprofit organizations that have benefited from the Iernas’ benevolence.
From donating $15,000 to sponsor the Florida Aquarium’s Penguin Promenade to outfitting the Land O’Lakes Recreation Center with a new $5,000 utility vehicle to sponsoring fund-raising events for the Oasis Crisis Pregnancy Center to backing golf tournaments to supporting the troops, the list of Ierna’s philanthropic activities goes on and on.
Whether it’s little league or varsity sports teams, the Wesley Chapel Chamber, Lowry Park Zoo or Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, Charlene and Ron are committed to the community in which they were raised. They still live in Lutz, where they are raising their three young children, but their support for all of the communities they serve is evident in everything they do.
“This business has been successful because of the sheer determination of two people who truly believe that to be successful you must build a trusting relationship with your customers as well as your community,” Charlene explains.
And, they share that commitment with their happy employees. The Iernas believe in rewarding their employees and have done so in the past by taking their staff on all-expenses-paid company cruises. Employee appreciation trips have included jaunts to the Bahamas and Mexico.
For a couple who eight years ago began their pursuit of the American dream with only a home office the size of a closet, a few credit cards and a tenacious spirit, the Ron and Charlene Ierna are reaping the fruits of their labors, continuing to expand their business and embrace the community despite difficult economic times.
But, Charlene is quick to point out the true foundation of their success, insisting, “In the air-conditioning world, success is not about the products we offer and it’s not about my company. It’s clearly and undeniably about our customers.”
For more information about Ierna’s Heating & Cooling, call 948-6355 or visit IernaAir.com.