Fifty years ago, John and Helen Helbing moved their family out to California and John set up Air-Tro Heating and Air Conditioning to provide premier comfort to the residents of the San Gabriel Valley.
John Helbing: We founded Air-Tro on our 10th wedding anniversary which was May 16th, 1969.
Kevin Berry: I do remember that John was like a father to me when I first came on. He’s a great man. He was nurturing, he was supportive, he was a morale builder. He was very stressed at the time starting a new company. It was fledgling and we were trying real hard to make it bigger.
Helen Helbing: Anthony and Bob were one of your first sales people. When we first moved to Pasadena we had no connections, we knew nobody and we had no business.
Bob Helbing: Sometimes he would do mass mailings and he would ask my brother and I to help out. We would fold letters, put them in envelopes, put the label on, get them ready for mailing. One time he decided he was going to put flyers on doorsteps.
The next morning he got a call from a local bowling alley.
Bob: They called the phone number, set up an appointment and my dad sold his first real commercial job.
Helen: So for doing that, for getting that job, John took the boys to Disneyland. They were eight and ten. He gave them each $20.
Bob: We had a great day out there and we spent the money on stuff and we thought, “Hey, this isn’t so bad.”
Dave Grammer: I was so surprised when I was sent to Carrier school. It was like a three-semester college course condensed into 2 weeks. I’ll never forget, my first instructor said, “I know you are going to find this hard to believe but 80% of being a good air conditioning technician is learning how to communicate with the customer.”
Bob: It’s all about the customer relationship. If you don’t have a good relationship with the customer you don’t have a customer. People don’t wake up in the morning saying, “Oh, what a beautiful day. I need to buy a new air conditioner today.” There’s no curb appeal to heating and air conditioning. There’s a car and driver magazine. There’s no condenser and furnace magazine. So the first thing you need to do with a homeowner is give them a sense that you’re trustworthy, that you are going to take good care of them.
Jim Hunter: John Helbing never micro managed. He always allowed both myself and Don (at the time we kind of merged with him) to create something more at Air-Tro. He always gave us the freedom to do what we needed to do that we felt was best.
John: Many times when I thought I was doing the right thing and I bounced it off with them, it turned out to be that I wasn’t right and they were right. I think that was the beginning of a multi-layered management of Air-Tro and it made Air-Tro a much better company.
Kevin: We’re continuing that tradition of changing and evolving as the market does. Every customer is unique, every situation is unique. We don’t approach it with a boiler plate, sit down at the table, kind of a hard-sell deal. We actually try to figure out what the customer’s needs are and then interact with them to decide if they need multiple options or if they already have a system that they would like us to quote.
Helen: And I think it’s come through and I think they’ve carried through along with all the Air-Tro employees the attitude of Air-Tro. It’s always been a very ethical company. Many of their employees are 2nd or 3rd generation. Many of their customers are 2nd or 3rd generation. And they’ve gotten many awards for this because they do the job right and they do it honestly.
Call Air-Tro at 626-357-3535.