In the renovated warehouse office of Building Controls and Services, a staircase leads to a second-floor overlook.
Instead of a glass-walled conference room or the CEO’s office overlooking the cubicles below, the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit is on display.
“I think it’s kind of cool,” said Ken Stoppel, owner of BCS. “The architects always want to put it on the roof.”
That fascination with HVAC has driven BCS since Stoppel started as one man and a truck 30 years ago.
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But something funny is happening at BCS. Sales rose 30 percent last year and 30 percent the year before. They’re twice what they were three years ago, and the company now has 79 employees.
“I’m 62 and some people say ‘What the hell are you doing?’ ” Stoppel said, with a laugh
He showed a chart of company sales. BCS’ sales were relatively flat through the 1990s and, at a slightly higher level, flat through the early 2000s, too. The company more or less rode along with the overall economy, Stoppel said.
In the past, Stoppel said, they mainly focused on keeping costs low so they could bid low. They would wait until the bid solicitations came out, put in their bid to supply the building control system and would often win. It was a good business, but not a great one.
“I had low overhead and a sharp pencil,” he said. “We’d win our share of those contracts.”
He has gained in recent years with some astute moves. He started offering innovative product lines by Aaon and by LG in recent years.
But the real change, he said, started in 2009 and 2010 when he and the managers at the company started to think more strategically about the business. In 2011, they held a corporate retreat aided by consultants from Allen, Gibbs and Houlik. What opportunities were they missing? How did they need to change to seize those opportunities?
They started doing things differently.
They have worked to make the business more effective by clarifying employees’ expectations, being more thoughtful in how they hire and more systematic in how projects are completed.
BCS has added market share in its core building controls, by taking the time to develop relationships with decision makers likely to influence who is hired for projects. So that when the time comes to bid a job, the specs are written in a way that makes winning less of a crap shoot and they can then add value through service.
Another innovative move is the creation of a performance solutions team. They approach decision makers at large regional companies with HVAC-related issues and offer to install new more efficient equipment paid for by the cost savings. That business is exploding, he said.
Stoppel said he’s no longer the hands-on manager. That role belongs to vice president James Herrman.
Stoppel is mostly the public face and the chief coach and mentor.
This year, Stoppel said he expects 5 percent growth. Which, he said, is about what it should be coming on the heels of big jumps in business. BCS is exploring the possibility of opening an office in Kansas City for the performance solutions operation.
All this success certainly isn’t going to his head, he said.
“When you get big and have a lot of public awareness, that is the time to be most aware of your business because that is when you are most likely to slip,” he said.
Tier I I
Name of Business: Building Controls and Services
Year Founded: 1985
Principals (or owners): Ken Stoppel
Address: 1730 E. Douglas
Phone number: 316-267-5814