April 2010

Old School Values

Author: Paul deVere | Photographer: Photography By Anne

POP QUIZ: What famous ad campaign did we recreate with Mike Covert above? E-mail your answer to m.washo@celebratehiltonhead.com for a chance to win a $50 Gift Certificate!

About 22 years ago, Mike Covert drew an HVAC service van on a napkin and decided that’s what he wanted to do when the time was right. After working in different facets of the industry, from engineering to service, and building up the appropriate nest egg, he and his wife opened Covert Aire in Bluffton.

That was three years ago. “It took those 22 years to finally say, ‘I’ve got all the stuff I need.’ I’ve seen how everybody does it. So I asked myself, ‘What can I do that nobody else does?’” Covert said in his new office on the corner of Gibbet Road and Estate Drive, just off SC 170.

“I consider myself old school. I believe in showing up when I tell you I’m going to show up. I believe in calling you back if you call me. I still believe in ‘yes sir, no sir,’ no matter how young or old my customer is. And I believe that the customer is always right,” Covert said. What his company also does is same day service. That was part of his business model.

Another part of that model was staying local. “We don’t go all over. We don’t go from Myrtle Beach to Daytona Beach. We’re in Bluffton. We take care of Bluffton and Hilton Head. We advertise same day service, and that’s what we do. What you see on my vehicles is just that, same day service, plus our name and phone number. Manufacturers of equipment are not on my vehicles. I’m not in business for them. I’m in business for Covert Aire, which is in business for our customers,” Covert explained.

Another feature Covert said sets his business apart is that the company does not do new construction. “We’ve stayed true to that. That piece of the pie, I don’t want. We do service and repair, preventative maintenance and replacement,” said Covert.

Because timing is everything, his decision to exclude new construction was something of a blessing. While current economic conditions have had an influence on business, he said it made people pay more attention to what they are paying for. “A few years ago, people would just replace a system if it needed repair. That’s completely different now. People are now paying more attention to maintenance plans. They are comparing plan A, B and C. We don’t just inspect and then charge for individual services,” he said. “Anything that water or air passes through needs to be cleaned every six months. That’s just part of what we do—what we should do.”

While Covert considers his company “old school” when it comes to customer service and retention, he said the company is truly state-of-the-art when it comes to the various systems homeowners and businesses have installed. “We use the latest computerized testing devices. We use the most state-of-the-art equipment made. I think it goes back to taking care of someone. That’s where it all starts from. Yes, we have to stay abreast of the latest and greatest [technology] because it comes out daily. Our education is ongoing. However, even with all that we know, if you lose touch with your customer, face-to-face, it doesn’t matter,” Covert said.

While the green movement is important to Covert, he is also a realist. “While we are very sensitive to green technology, understand our industry is based on a refrigerant that is not ecological friendly,” he stated. He was referring to the hydro chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) Freon, or R-22, which depletes the earth’s ozone layer. As of January of this year, Freon is basically history, Covert explained, via the Montreal Protocol that began in 1989.

But Covert is very sensitive and supportive of consumers trying to go green. “Being green has had a huge impact on this industry. It forces contractors to think a little bit harder, a little bit longer on the products they choose. This is mostly consumer driven. The consumers are very, very wise and astute to green technology. Homeowners are very keen on it,” Covert explained. As an example he pointed out the pad used for compressors (the unit outside the home or office) in a heat pump configuration. Typically, the pad is extruded plastic. While a little more expensive, Covert Aire offers a pad made of recycled tires.

Over a decade or so ago, geothermal heat pumps, though costing twice as much as air-to-air heat pump systems, gained in popularity. They were two to three times as efficient as standard heat pumps, using the earth’s constant temperature to provide a heating and cooling exchange. “We service them,” Covert said. But he pointed out that the companies who manufactured the more traditional air-to-air heat pumps have become as efficient as geothermal. “We have a unit right here,” Covert said, pointing to heat pump in the showroom, “that’s more efficient than anything on the market, with a 24.5 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating.”

For Covert, however, given all the technical advances his company embraces and his self-imposed requirement that he and his staff continually upgrade to “the latest and greatest” technology, the “old school” fundamentals will be, he said, what will keep Covert Aire a success.

For more information, call (843) 706-5090 or visit www.covertaire.com.

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