Peer-to-peer support is one of the top reasons most companies join Vistage. That’s particularly critical for Theo Etzel, CEO of Conditioned Air in Southwest Florida, because peers in his industry don’t always appreciate his strong focus on business ethics.
“Anytime you see a company promising to tune up your air conditioner for $29.99, you can bet that the service tech is working on a sales commission – and he’ll find something wrong that isn’t covered in that deal,” he says. “It costs us $139 to get a truck off our lot and to your house, but we’re not coming out with the intention to sell you anything you don’t need.”
The bonus to that philosophy, he says, is a good night’s sleep, happy technicians and compliments from customers. It’s also brought kudos from the community including the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame Laureate and the prestigious Uncommon Friends Foundation 2011 Business Ethics Award, as well as the 2010 Residential Contractor of the Year from Air Conditioning Contractors of America.
Etzel’s background in the hospitality and retail industries – where repeat customers are critical to growth – helped him increase revenues at Conditioned Air from less than $3 million when he joined the company in 2005 to $50 million last year. Vistage plays a key role in the growth, providing the information that keeps him up to date on the most relevant new business practices and the peer-to-peer meetings that provide different viewpoints that help work through issues.
“There’s a real bond among the members in this group,” he says. “We all share the same commitment to good business ethics and help each other make decisions that benefit our businesses as well as our employees and customers.”
One-on-one meetings with Chair Barbara Monti also keep Etzel focused and accountable. “It’s hard for a CEO to find someone they’re accountable to – there’s really nobody else who will challenge our decisions or complain about our organizational skills,” he says.
And Vistage keeps him on track with the company culture. “I’m a huge believer in culture, ethics, integrity and honesty – and Vistage has helped me create the processes that I need to walk that walk.”
Vistage also was an important factor in Etzel writing a book for other business leaders based on advice from his very wise mother. Entitled “Invest Your Heartbeats Wisely,” it credits Florida Vistage’s founder Charles “Red” Scott with eight principles of success that every successful business leader should have. “Profit is important but if you put people first, the money will follow,” Etzel says.
“It’s hard for a CEO to find someone they’re accountable to – there’s really nobody else who will challenge our decisions or complain about our organizational skills”