FROM MILITARY SERVICE TO SERVING HOMEOWNERS.
If your HVAC business has you feeling stuck in the trenches, Luke Cooper is the man to get you out alive. With intelligence, an iron will, and the courage to match his convictions, Luke’s resume includes defending our country and saving his family name from destruction. Get ready to salute him.
Q: What led you to the trades?
My dad started Cooper Heating and Cooling in his garage back in 1978, so I grew-up doing odd jobs to help the guys pump out sheet metal for new construction work. Growing up, I never imagined carrying the torch, so I went directly into the Army after high school, then to college after the Army. I didn’t enjoy college, so my dad asked me to learn hydronic heating and bring that skill to the family business. I agreed, but quickly discovered the business was in financial trouble, so I put all my attention on getting us out of danger.
Q: What kind of danger?
Near bankruptcy. I had to change bank accounts, cancel credit cards, and cut off all spending. After 20+ years, my dad built the largest new construction company in Colorado, but then came 9/11, and the market totally collapsed. Dad landed an account with a major retail chain to cover the new construction losses, and within the first year, he added 12 install crews. This caused a massive shift in the business and this success almost became our downfall. We became 90% retail chain and 10% core business. The company got completely lost in the transition. My dad hired several GMs and marketing reps to correct the balance, but they were ineffective and financially irresponsible. I inherited a total disaster.
Q: How did you dig your way out?
It was a long, difficult process. For nearly two years, on a daily basis, I never knew if we would have enough money in the bank to buy the equipment we needed and to make payroll. We couldn’t even get a bank loan. We often had to ask people to wait for their paychecks, so there was a revolving door as you could imagine. I think our longest tenured employee was something like 18 months. And to top it off, our bad customer reviews reflected the entire situation we were facing.
I was able to overcome these challenges by not getting overwhelmed by the big picture. Instead, I followed the advice of a mentor and focused on what could be done daily. For example, the first step was to cut-off all spending. I put a kink in the hose until I could find the faucet. We were bleeding money; none of the GMs that my dad had hired were watching the financials. There was no sense of budget management; money was going in and out with zero accountability. Every day, I made sure to stop all spending in areas that weren’t generating revenue. Ultimately, I brought an entirely new culture to our business, step by step, day by day, until we began seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
Q: Did you meet any resistance?
Absolutely. You know, people think working in a family business is easy, but I’ll tell you, there is a very thin line between business and personal relations when it comes to making hard decisions. For instance, I had to let go of a Service Manager that my dad hired. That was rough. He had been with the company for a long time, so it caused a lot of tension in the family. But it wasn’t personal. As a result of letting him go, we quadrupled our revenue from $100K per month in service revenue to $100K in a week! I also had to let go of the marketing rep that my dad hired. I met tons of resistance to that idea, so I closed the credit cards that were being used and that got the point across. In the beginning, it felt like every decision I made was met with resistance.
Q: How has success changed that dynamic?
As a family, we can finally breathe again. Our confidence is restored, and with that confidence came trust in my ability to lead. There’s no longer any doubt that every decision I make is with the best interest of the family in mind. We are closer together than ever before. My mom and dad grew up with nothing. Cooper Heating and Cooling provided them with an amazing life and then they had to sell everything to keep the business alive. The success I created proved that if they trusted me, I could get us back to where we belong. I’m proud that I was able to earn their trust and release some of the trauma.
Q: What impact has success had on the staff?
At one of the most difficult points during the rebuild, Cooper had lost all but seven of our staff. Now we can boast a retention rate of 90% and we have more than 150 employees. The family atmosphere that started in dad’s garage has been restored. Everyone can see the long-term opportunities that Cooper offers. Nobody points fingers, everyone works together, and there is 100% buy-in to the team goals.
Q: What comes next for Cooper Heating and Cooling?
Right now, the focus is on making sure that we don’t become complacent with the success we have regained, and I’m doing that by setting a goal to reclaim more of the market in our area. When I started in 2019, my focus was “Efficiency + Teamwork = Profitability.” Last year that became “2020 Vision,” and 2021 is all about taking time to “Re-group and Re-Coop.” That means reclaiming the market. There’s no reason why Cooper can’t be the biggest player in Colorado again. My new five-year plan will achieve this.
Q: How has your life changed since taking over the business?
I have my own family now, so that brings a deeper understanding of what motivated my dad to launch the business out of his garage. I have earned more time to go golfing, skiing, snowboarding, all the things that I love to do, but honestly, I think of myself as a family man now. I spent my birthday building Legos and forts with my kids. That’s all I want to do. I see success and the future connected in a new way now, and I am more motivated than ever to continue reclaiming the family name for my kids. There was a time when seeing Cooper on the side of a truck felt almost shameful. Those were dark days. But now I feel a sense of pride in seeing our trucks again, and I am determined to uphold that name for my kids.
Q: What does Contractor Strong mean to you?
For me, it has meant reclaiming the family name, taking pride in my work, and instilling a sense of pride in everyone around me. Never forgetting an employee’s birthday. Never missing an opportunity to recognize their success. Reaching all my goals without sacrificing time with family and striving to become the type of leader that never hesitates to make the tough decisions that protect our future.
Are you ready to maximize your personal and business success and make your business Contractor Strong ? Take the first step to a better future. Schedule your personal Maximum Yield Strategic Mentoring Session today.