SFI Celebrates 15 Years of Air-Conditioning Innovation and Excellence
As SFI Group proudly steps into our 15th year of HVAC maintenance and service, we look back on the last 15 years with managing director Edward Hector and reveal what the next few years may hold.
SFI – Where did it begin, and what made you start the company 15 years ago?
EH – I was in the air-conditioning industry for decades. First, I worked my way up to Service Manager at a national air-conditioning company where I worked for over 12 years. Then I moved into facilities management outsourcing for a few years, after which I returned to air-conditioning with a specialist supply company. With facilities management experience and air-conditioning expertise, I saw the opportunity in the market with companies who see the benefits of outsourcing services such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). I set out to create a company that not only met and exceeded the technical and service demands, but also ensured we provided comprehensive reporting. This is how SFI Group was born.
SFI – What was your vision then, and how has it changed?
EH – Our vision and mission has always been to be the preferred maintenance outsourcing partner with a reputation for innovation and excellence. Over the years our vision has broadened to include more services, and this has manifested in the recent acquisition of a successful refrigeration company.
SFI – How has your team grown and evolved with this vision?
EH – Most organisations in the service industry struggle to get their people to buy into the vision and culture. I am very proud of the passionate, dedicated people at SFI that champion the vision within SFI and continue to live out the culture of our group.
SFI – Has technology changed in the past 15 years, and if so, how?
EH – Yes, and no. The core air-conditioning systems and principles of operation have hardly changed over the years. However, with the establishment of a Green Buildings framework, there is now a greater emphasis on products and designs that reduce energy costs and improve efficiency. Control systems have also become more sophisticated to manage building conditions optimally, while also actively reducing energy and water waste.
SFI – What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
EH – Thankfully, most of our challenges have been related to our upward growth curve, and finding the right talent with the right skillsets, technical acumen, people skills, and culture-fit. We also struggle to find young people who have a goal and vision for their own lives to take up apprenticeships for future growth and development of the group. However, we continue to develop our existing people to better meet our technical demands and invest in young people through our internship programme.
SFI – What is the one thing you have learned over this time?
EH – The one key takeaway I have learned is that you can lose money, but always try to protect the relationship. In this industry it is about listening to clients and working with them to solve a problem. Sometimes this requires compromise, give and take. Recently we lost a contract where all our metrics showed we were doing a great job; however, we could see the relationship was deteriorating. The loss became inevitable once the lines of communication broke down.
Successful relationships both internally and externally are what builds success. Therefore, we always work on having healthy employee engagement and ensure our client relationship are engaging, structured, transparent, and authentic.
SFI – Where is the company headed in the next 5 to 10 years?
EH – Our company is headed towards even greater national growth. However, this growth must be tempered by our ability to have a team to support this growth. As a result, the next few years will see us anchored by our sense of purpose, and deeply invested in our WHY. This will impact on our people and our customers. Our development programme will ensure we have the skills to meet the ever-growing demand, but more importantly it will change the lives of our team. This is where our greatest impact is. We will continue to embrace new technology and innovative solutions to our clients, as we partner with them to achieve optimized and healthier buildings. But more of that in the future.
SFI – Are you reading any interesting books that you have learnt from?
EH – I regularly read business books. However, the challenge lies in implementing what you’ve learnt, and it often takes years for the lesson to really take root. For example, I am reading a book called No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings, the guy who started Netflix. The book, recommended by a wonderful consultant, Ian Mann, talks about the Netflix culture amongst other things. The amazing truth is that it linked directly with a book I’d read at the start of SFI Group’s journey 15 years ago by Jim Collins who said, “put the right people on the bus.” The central theme of Reed’s book echoes this: your number one goal as a leader is to develop a work environment consisting exclusively of stunning colleagues.
As we confidently step into the next 15 years as a group, we continue to build up our amazing team of talented, motivated, passionate people, and provide innovation and excellence in everything we do.