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For the Love of HVAC: A Career Story

February 14, 2024

If I had to guess, I would say that most of us who work in the commercial HVAC industry didn't plan to end up in this field I, for one, had my eye on becoming the first female president of the United States. To be fair, I was a staunch feminist at six.  

I am reasonably sure that even the engineers in our industry didn’t dream of a life lived among rooftop units and mechanical rooms. I guess they envisioned engineering purring engines for fast cars or adding new curves to jetliners. Instead, they work here, helping other engineers and facilities teams to solve wicked HVAC problems for buildings that grow ever smarter.  

But even though HVAC isn't the stuff of childhood dreams, it seems to get into our bones like the heat of a Carolina summer. I've thought about it a lot. Why do people who get into HVAC stay here, sometimes flitting from company to company, but even more often, staying for years to build warm and cool comfort into the fibers of communities, businesses, and government infrastructure?   

At the Hoffman family of companies, we have a big reason to stay, and it's probably a huge part of why so many have worked steadily under the Hoffman umbrella for 10, 20, 30, and sometimes 40 or more years.  

You see, we own the company. 

The Hoffman family of companies is 100% employee-owned through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP for short. If you've never worked for an ESOP, you may be hard-pressed to understand the pervading intensity buzzing beneath every transaction's surface. I think we all work a little harder knowing that, at the end of every day spent, we're working to build and grow the company earned by our predecessors and acknowledged by the Hoffman family, who began it all in 1947.  

An ESOP is usually born when an owner decides it's time to hang up their hat. And, when they look around, as Louie Hoffman did before he retired, they realize that the company was born of their idea but built by the work they joined with others to do. A big group of employees invested their time for years in doing the right thing, serving customers, completing projects, and finishing work under the Hoffman name. And he opted to transform the company into something to honor those who had worked so long and so well that would grow into something new: a partially employee-owned company. Then, his son Rusty decided to convert the company into a 100% employee-owned company in 2016.  

As of 2021, there were less than 7,000 ESOPs in the United States, but you'll recognize at least one big name: Publix Super Markets. They employ over 200,000 people, all receiving company stock after they have been with the company for over 12 months. It is consistently present among Best Places to Work lists. 

But what does this rambling about employee ownership have to do with HVAC?   

Well, the combination of ESOP and HVAC appears to be magical. I joined the company almost exactly five years ago when the Hoffman family of companies acquired the company I worked for. Since that day five years ago, we have experienced surreal growth. 

  • We've doubled in size from a little over 400 employees to almost 900 today. 
  • We've increased our reach into Georgia, Alabama, and parts of Florida. 
  • We're working to expand processes, shore up protocols, and beef up infrastructure to make our companies run smoother and enable us to serve our customers more effectively than ever. 

Ultimately, the love of HVAC isn't really about the HVAC at all. We didn't dream of HVAC as kids, but we landed in a company that embodies the comfort at the heart of HVAC. 

We are a company dedicated to serving people in our industry. We aim to solve complex problems and make life easier for our customers. As a growing company, we are proud to have a team of dedicated employee-owners who work together like a family. We believe our time at work should be spent with good people doing good things for others. While we may not be able to solve all the world's problems, we are committed to making life more pleasant by providing conditioned and clean air. In the end, that's what it all boils down to. 

It's a pretty decent way to live, don't you think? 



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Kelly Patterson

Kelly Patterson

Kelly Patterson is a lifelong learner and the marketing director at the Hoffman family of companies. There is nothing she likes more than talking about commercial HVAC systems and extraordinary customer service.

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