Using the word ‘organic’ to describe a company’s growth seems too on the nose when talking about…a refrigeration company. But then you start listening to Brett Fletcher, VP of Operations, talk about Ready Refrigeration. From a start in the ‘ice business’ (we’ll explain that later) to a full-blown heating, cooling, HVAC company, the growth of Ready Refrigeration has been…truly organic! Brett sat down with Spotlight on Business Magazine to give us an idea of how they’ve managed to have so much success in the past, and how they hope to continue that in the future.
Brett Fletcher is a man who knows his ice and the business of keeping things cool. During our interview, I needed clarification when I kept hearing him use the term ‘ice business.’ He has worked in this field for so long, over 25 years, that it’s second nature to him to know what it means…but to the rest of us, or at least me, as it turns out, he’s referring to those amazing frosty bags of Party Ice we all buy and use at every single party or get together, and for that I thank him. THAT’S the Ice business, and business has always been good. Brett then found a way to translate that ice business knowledge and success into other avenues, and voila, Ready Refrigeration was born. “Having a background in the ice business, it just felt like a natural progression into the refrigeration business, almost 10 years ago, as it kind of grew as a spin off from the original company. And we just continued to grow into what we’re doing now offering a full line of refrigeration, heating, cooling and HVAC products and services for both residential and commercial,” says Brett.
Like almost every small business in the world, Ready Refrigeration was not immune from COVID, and all the struggles that came along with it. Brett and the team had to find their way through so many new challenges, from safety rules constantly changing on job sites to timeline delays because of supply chain disruptions. The past two years have not been easy for any of us, and so many businesses weren’t able to survive. Thankfully though, Ready Refrigeration made it through and even managed to grow the business.
Ready Refrigeration is what’s called a Daikin Comfort Pro Dealer and has been since 2013. So, what does this mean? Well, it means they are a highly qualified HVAC contractor trained to install Daikin’s heating, cooling, and ventilation solutions. Ready Refrigeration was the first business to receive the Daikin Comfort Pro Dealer status in the area. They primarily work with and have a great relationship with Daikin which gives them the ability to offer all products that Daikin sell and that are available for customers in North America.
One of the key parts to the Ready Refrigeration business model that has led to their success is creating strong partnerships with others in the industry. Not only do they have a corporate partnership like the one with Daikin, but they have strong relations with other vendors and service providers so when customers come to them curious about what other services they offer or looking for information on other related products and service providers, like for solar, they know exactly who to recommend for the job and will give them the same level of service they have come to expect from Ready Refrigeration.
Ready Refrigeration also works in the natural gas and propane business. And in a province that is seeing such huge growth, especially in urban centres, this is a very good business to be in. While most of the projects, about 80 percent they handle right now being either multi residential or commercial, they still do about 20 percent of the work in residential, but this would be more for custom projects like a custom home, or one offs compared to your one big builder that you just do all their work. They will provide a solution for a custom builder, or our custom homeowners that we deal with on our commercial side of the business, and offer things from boilers, to fireplaces, and then your regular fit up in a home, which includes your barbecue boxes, your dryer, your ranges, water hookups and things like that from the propane or natural gas side that they can offer a one stop solution for the customer. Brett adds, “In most of these circumstances we’re probably already in that home for this custom builder, doing other HVAC work. So, then we can bring a whole package in and a tie in their furnace and, and everything else all under one umbrella for the customer.”
New commercial building projects, and new home construction is booming in Halifax and throughout Nova Scotia right now, and it is hard to keep up with the growing demand for everything that they are doing, and that demand is barely being met by all of the companies in this region because of labour shortages. That is why Brett is always looking for potential new members to join the over thirty-member team at Ready Refrigeration. He wants everyone who may be interested in working for them to know that his company respects a work life balance and that unlike some other businesses in the area, they know and respect that everyone has a life outside the office. Brett goes on to say, “There’s a lot of different attributes that we take into consideration when it comes to looking after our staff, whether it be appointments, family life, vacations and things like that, we understand the needs of our team members and offer more flexibility than anyone I’ve ever known in this type of industry.” This is such a refreshing perspective to hear from a company. So often employees can be left feeling like if they take a moment off for themselves that their job might be in jeopardy. But to know that Ready Refrigeration wants you to have a solid work-life balance, along with a great remuneration package with RRSP matching and very competitive wages, which is something that really sets them apart from the crowd. Plus, we also found out during our conversation with Brett that the company is getting ready to implement a four-day work week, showing their commitment to offering a better work-life balance for their team members.
Energy services is an ever-changing business, and to be able to handle that new landscape you have to be very well informed. Brett talked about all the large and small changes that are happening every day for their business, and how they deal with that. Being a Daikin Comfort Pro Dealer, gives them the ability to use the research and development they accumulate and then offer the newest products and technology such as the Daikin One+ smart thermostat and Daikin One Home mobile app to their customer so their systems run as efficiently as possible with the minimal amount of service and interruption. One of latest advances that Daikin offers is the ability for Ready Refrigeration to monitor their customers heating and cooling systems from their office from a cloud-based system should they choose; allowing their staff to see errors on customers systems before they even know they exist and help diagnose and sometimes fix the problem without having to roll a truck to the customers home! “When you’re a Daikin dealer, you get the support, you get the products, and things like that. It’s one of the best ones out there. And so, these are all reasons why we kind of stay in line and try to focus mainly on Daikin products for our customers.” Brett also mentioned that during the entire pandemic, that they never had a shortage of equipment. Although sometimes warranty parts were delayed, Daikin, unlike some other manufacturers, always kept them in inventory for their customers. Which is another benefit of working with a Daikin Comfort Pro Dealer.
It’s really clear when talking to Brett that offering customers consistency and reliability is really important to him. Because the province is growing so much, especially in big urban centres like HRM, he said unfortunately a lot of people are getting inferior products or installations where corners are cut, and he never wants to add to that confusion. That is why they stick mainly with one product line, and keep lines of communication open with their customers, so that none of them are stuck with a system that they don’t understand or worse…doesn’t work properly.
In the past few years, there has been an influx of heating and cooling systems that have gone into homes by other companies that are only concerned with getting the sale and the install. These systems don’t get maintained like they should or at all for that matter. Maybe it’s an awareness thing, maybe they don’t understand what has to be done or something that was not explained to them in the process. With Ready Refrigeration we educate our customers first from start to finish, it is where the Penguin Promise came from. It is a promise that is put into writing about what you can expect from Ready Refrigeration to make sure that customers understand that they backup what we say. And even if something doesn’t go exactly as planned, they promise to be transparent, explain the reason for something if something is different than originally expected. Whether it’s something that the customer knew about or was maybe unexpected, like a charge that wasn’t covered under warranty. They want to make sure that it’s not just, “Well, too bad. So sad.” Brett goes on to say, “We back everything we do. And make sure that customers realize that we are there for them no matter what. And like I said, sometimes everything doesn’t always go perfect, but we own it. If we made a mistake or something got messed up, then we will fix it and we will make it right.” But it does not stop there, they request feedback on the customer’s experience and follow up to make sure everything’s going well. They want to do all these things and make sure customers don’t think we forgot about them after the install, their promise to the customer is more than that. Brett says, “Customers can rely on Ready Refrigeration to tell them everything they need to know and leave them aware of everything they’re paying for,” and we think that is such a refreshing perspective for business.
Brett is really great to talk to, he joked a few times in the interview about rambling on when talking about the industry and the business, but that is the kind of enthusiasm I personally want from someone I am investing my money with. When you are considering a big life investment like heating and cooling systems, it can feel very daunting. You might not know where to start, where to go, and what to expect from the company handling your installation. But that won’t happen with the team at Ready Refrigeration. In Brett’s own words, “We want to do what’s right for the customer. We’re not a fly by night one install, see you later kind of company. We want to do everything we can, in the crazy world that we live in, to make it easy for customers. So, they can be able to trust one person, one company, and be able to just rely on that.” We can’t think of anything better than that.
by Allison McKinnon