Company Celebrates Milestone
OCEAN CITY - For the past 10 years, 1st Service has been providing 24-hour service, 365 days a year for central air conditioning, heating and refrigeration needs from repair and maintenance to installation, allowing customers to 'stop worrying, and start enjoying.'
Owner and operator Bob Lemley started 1st Service in 1998, after many years of experience in the trade.
'I wanted to practice my trade in the way that I thought it should be done. I had my own philosophy on doing things,' said Lemley.
Lemley took his philosophy and built 1st Service Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Company, aptly naming the company after one of his primary goals, providing quality, first service.
After a few years, Lemley sought Jim Hinds to come on board with his expertise and shared philosophies.
'We both worked for larger companies here and we both left for the same reasons,' Lemley said.
Combined, Lemley and Hinds have over 50 years of service and installation experience.
Lemley and Hinds described 1st Service as a mainly service-oriented company, however a large part of the business also includes equipment sales and installation.
Licensed in Maryland and Delaware, 1st Service primarily serves Worcester County, east Wicomico County and lower Somerset County.
'We have a really concentrated customer base and we build on that,' explained Lemley.
When it comes to heating or air-conditioning units, Lemley explained that while it is typically one of the last things on a homeowners mind, it is one of the most important.
'It's one of the few, if only, things that done right, can save you a lot of money,' he said.
Areas that may seem simple enough, like airflow, are really one of the most important functions of a forced air heating of cooling system, making correct installation and regular maintenance a high priority at 1st Service. Lemley and Hinds explained that it's more than just installing new equipment. Without proper installation, duct work and airflow, a brand new unit is essentially worthless, as a result, 1st Service considers its niche getting the proper system to fit.
Another priority at 1st Service is customer service, whether it's providing high quality work or simply returning customers' calls and showing up on time.
'We're reliable and friendly. It's all about the customer service, we hear their needs and we help,' said Hinds.
'It's caring, putting back into the community,' agreed Lemley. 'We're really giving them what they're paying for.'
Having a well-trained, qualified group of employees keeps customer service at its peak at 1st Service, where all employees are provided with continuing education in the field.
'We invest a lot back into the business and the people that work for us,' said Lemley.
Most of the employees came to 1st Service with experience from high school vo-tech programs. 1st Service takes the education further however, paying for their employees to further their education at local tech schools.
'It helps reinforce specialty areas like air flow and air diagnostics, it's all a matter of keeping up with the trade,' said Lemley.
With the equipment and the field constantly changing, providing employees with the right education and tools keeps 1st Service competitive and allows employees to excel, agreed Hinds and Lemley.
'They are able to practice their trade in the best way possible,' said Hinds. 'We really do have some of the best trained guys that really like what they do, and it shows,' said Lemley.
For 1st Service, business stays steady all year, with January and February typically the slower months for service calls.
Maintenance contracts keep business steady in the spring and fall as well, said Hinds, explaining the importance of maintaining your home systems. Keeping A/C units maintained through maintenance contracts can easily prevent units from malfunction during the first intense heat wave, a common problem in the summer months.
With the trade constantly evolving, Lemley and Hinds encourage customers to stay well versed in the field as well, to avoid later problems and high-energy bills.
'The Internet has really helped people to explore and learn. What we really like is having informed customers,' said Lemley.
1st Service also aims to educate customers on their own systems. Each employee brings a digital camera to the customer's home to allow people to see where they can't, or typically don't want to, go. Lemley explained that often times customers are not home or can't crawl into crawl spaces, as a result, snapping shots with the digital camera allows customers to see what the problem is, as well as see before and after images of the work done.
'It just makes it easier for us to explain,' said Lemley.
For Lemley, 10 years of running his own company has been a work in progress, but providing quality service has always been the driving force and remains the top priority today.
'There's a lot of really good companies around here, but we know we are one of the best. It's a fun trade it you let it be,' he said.