From the Owner and President, Joe Zokan
I had always worked in the service industry either repairing refrigeration equipment or doing HVAC/plumbing. I always worked for someone else and decided I wanted to start my own business in HVAC. Unfortunately, in Wisconsin, my home state, the heating season was an emergency situation and the air conditioning season is basically non-existent. Central air was considered a luxury since the summers never were really hot. The year was 1990; both my wife Diana and I are turning 30. We were always up for an adventure and decided that if we were going to start a HVAC business, why not move south where I would be dealing with more air conditioning issues than heating. My brother and his family lived in Columbia and we had visited them a couple of times. We were impressed with the area, the friendly people, and the weather, “Famously Hot”. What better place to move than South Carolina!
Now with our new plan in mind, it must be noted, that people from Wisconsin just don’t pick up and move. Family is everything up there! With the difficult decision made to relocate, Diana resigned her job as an Employee Relations Specialist at Children’s Hospital and I resigned mine. With our young sons, Ryan (6) and Brent (3), we made the move in 1990. South Carolina has welcomed us and we have enjoyed our new family and life in Columbia.
Shortly after the move, Northpoint Heating and Air, Inc. was born in early 1991. The business was started in our home. Diana handled the phones, paperwork, and billing, while I concentrated on service, installation, and sales. Shelves in the garage became our warehouse for material and an extra bedroom served as our office. With a pickup truck and a box of flyers, we drove to all the surrounding area subdivisions distributing our advertisements. At the start, there was always the worry of not being able to pay the mortgage, but by the end of each month we were blessed to be able to pay all the bills. And slowly, Northpoint grew.
Our leads came in from friend’s referrals, direct mail, and flyers. We had missed the deadline for a phone book ad, so the relationships we built through church, the boy’s schools or sponsorships became our lifeblood. We would sponsor anything from basketball, soccer, baseball, you name it; everyone was looking for a sponsor and we were willing. Between volunteer youth coaching and helping start a men’s church basketball league our numerous contacts were continuously expanding!
As time passed, our increasing business needs were met by hiring our first employee to assist me with installations. Diana had her hands full with the growing business and the birth of our daughter, Kelsey. It was time to take the next logical step and hire someone to take on Diana’s constantly expanding role with Northpoint. The key hire was Tim Sheehan, whom is still with me today as my right hand man.
In 1998, our business was growing steadily and we could no longer work out of our house. With the garage filled with parts and the extra bedroom filled with files, Northpoint had grown to the point that we had to rent a storage facility for materials and equipment. By this time we had eight employees and five matching logoed vans. So you can imagine the morning traffic of employees passing through the kitchen to get to the office. My goal was to consolidate under one roof, so we took the next major step and moved the business out of our home and into an actual business space. We were looking forward to the move, especially Diana. She would finally get her house back!
The move proved to be a good choice and each year the phone book people would try to increase my ad size. I ignored their request because I was convinced Northpoint was growing at a manageable rate. I never wanted to grow so fast that I would lose control of giving my customers the best of service with the personal touch.
As the 90’s came to a close, it was time to make my second key hire. I coaxed my brother-in-law, Jim Aussprung, to relocate his family from Wisconsin to manage our growing installation department. Fortunately, the business kept growing and in 2001 it was time to move again. The new space was now double the square footage plus a rental unit for further expansion, if needed. At this time we had 17 employees and I’m not sure how many vehicles on the road. Northpoint continued to do what we did best, maintenance, service, and installation.
One of the great aspects of creating your own business is providing a stable environment for people to work. I have been blessed with many terrific employees who assisted in the development and growth of Northpoint. It is truly a joy to know that my children, Tim’s children, Jim’s children and many other family members, friends, and customers’ children have been able to work during the summer months. It has and continues to be fun to watch them grow over the years.
Where the years went, I do not know, but it is nice to know that we have retained so many of our loyal customers over the years. We are now getting contacted by our boys’ friends and children I coached, to handle all their HVAC at homes they have purchased.
In 2008, Northpoint opened a branch in the Bluffton area, which serves Beaufort, Hilton Head and Savannah. Our oldest son, Ryan, took on this management opportunity after graduating from the University of Florida. And, after graduating from the University of South Carolina and managing junior golf for three years, our son, Brent, is now employed in our Columbia office as Manager of Business Development.
As we recently celebrated our 25th anniversary, we want to thank our dedicated customers, who have made our HVAC Company what it is today…a Company that I am very proud of.
Thank you Columbia!