If the success of any business is measured by the satisfaction of its customers, Craig Krueger doesn't have to look too far to feel confident and appreciated.
His office on Lamson Avenue is decorated with air conditioning units of several shapes and sizes, air handlers, and open demo models that show the quality aluminum coils and connectors. Literature is displayed with information about each Trane unit Krueger sells for new installs.
But the most interesting décor in the building is what hangs on three of the walls. Bright white copy paper with black computer-created text or notebook paper and stationary with handwritten messages are displayed from the ceiling to the floorboards. And each represents a heartfelt thank you.
For Krueger, the notes are a testament to the fulfillment of a goal he set more than 13 years ago when he decided to open his air conditioning and heating business in Spring Hill. With a large percentage of elderly customers who seemed more prone to trust than doubt, Krueger wanted to provide customer service that was honest and fair.
It may not seem difficult to build a successful air conditioning company in Florida where demand, especially during the summer months, is high. Yet Krueger is quick to point out that competition is fierce. Some less than legitimate players are rampant in busier climates, hoping to hook unsuspecting victims with "too good to be true" deals and specials. Trusting souls are being taken advantage of.
He has made it his mission to help build a stronger defense for consumers who need service for their air conditioning and heating units or those who find themselves in need of a new system. Krueger offers free second opinions for customers who are concerned about the estimate they've been given.
Krueger's heart seemed to be destined to air conditioning repair and service from the moment he threw his graduation cap into the air in Virginia. He obtained his degree in air conditioning, said Cheryl Krueger, who has been behind her husband's passion when he began the business from their garage in Spring Hill.
It grew to the point where they needed a better location and a showroom. In 2005, when the economy was steady, they began looking for a location to build. And after several months of construction headaches, they broke ground.
"The economy was good then," said Cheryl. But it soon became distressed, bringing down many companies that were dependent on the real estate and building industries. Krueger wasn't affected directly because his business focused on residential change-outs, light commercial and service and repairs of existing units.
Yet he was impacted in the aftermath as other dying industries turned to air conditioning to survive. In turn, the business tightened ship, holding on to the employees it could and hustling to keep its reputation solid.
Today, as the economy struggles to climb out of the ditch, Krueger is feeling some growing pains. To meet the demands of customers while maintaining his spotless reputation for quality customer service, Krueger was forced to hire two new techs to maintain the overflow for the summer season.
"He agonized over adding more people," Cheryl Krueger said. But it was necessary to free his other technicians so they could focus on the big jobs. The new techs will work on the many maintenance calls Craig Krueger receives on a daily basis, many that have come from using other companies.
The bread and butter of the air conditioning industry isn't made from these maintenance calls, Cheryl explained.
Yet Krueger continues to offer them because he believes in the importance of protecting his community.
Like Spring Hill resident Anne Rauth, who called Krueger when her system went out during the Memorial Day weekend.
"They came out very quickly and were very honest with what they did," she said. "My air was back on almost immediately."
Rauth had called Krueger a year ago for a second opinion on her unit when a competing company suggested it needed to be replaced.
"They told me they could fix it for about a month but then the system would need to be replaced," she said. "It turned out to be a $100 fix."
Similar stories are repeated often in the letters that paper the walls of Craig Krueger AC & Heating.
"The drain pan on my air conditioning unit rotted out and was leaking," wrote one Spring Hill client. "I called THREE air conditioning firms for estimates. Each told me that since my air conditioning unit was a compact unit.there was no way to separate the drain pan from the air handler. They said I would have to purchase a new handler at a cost of several thousand dollars."
Craig Krueger's technician rebuked the first estimate, believing the pan could be replaced, the letter read. "The cost to me was $300 instead of several thousand."
The foundation of his company is to provide the best options for air conditioning repair, service, and new installations that are backed by a trustworthy and knowledgeable team. Because trust, Krueger said, is the most important quality he can give his customers.
"It isn't about taking their money," Cheryl Krueger said. "It's about earning their trust."
Hernando Today Correspondent Kim Dame can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org