When South Florida entrepreneur Anthony Perera decided to invest in a new business a few years ago, he picked one of the most competitive, crowded and difficult sectors in the region, and one that is essential to most homes and businesses: air conditioning.
“We estimated that there are about 1,000 licensed HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) contractors in the tri-county area,” said Perera, president and co-owner of Davie-based Air Pros.
That figure doesn’t include the army of unlicensed neighbors, in-laws and handy folk who offer to fix your recently departed air conditioner when it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit and feels like 122.
“I asked what’s wrong with the current air conditioning market,” he said.
“Commercial and residential customers want good, reliable and economical service on time — when they need it. There’s room for a company that offers excellent service every day of the week.” And customers don’t want to be overcharged or sold expensive equipment they don’t need.
Using $25,000 of his own money, Perera and his father, Doug Perera, who worked for decades as an A/C technician, set up Air Pros in the garage of Anthony’s Plantation home in 2017.
“We had one truck and one technician. My father knows the air conditioning business and I’m a marketer.”
Today, Air Pros has 35 employees and 25 trucks operating out of its headquarters in Davie and other offices throughout the state. In 2018, the first full year in business, the young company posted sales of more than $2 million, Anthony said. About 60 percent of its business is residential, the rest commercial and industrial.
Air Pros offers a full line of HVAC services for commercial, industrial and residential clients: repairing and replacing A/C and ventilating equipment; cleaning and replacing air ducts; A/C tune-ups and a service plan. Most of its customers are in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
How did the company grow so quickly? “We advertised online, did direct mail, bought outdoor advertising and put hangers (advertisements) on people’s doors wherever we went,” Anthony said. “We gave customers excellent, on-time service at affordable prices. Word of mouth is the best advertising.”
Designed to attract attention, Air Pros’ trucks are part of the firm’s marketing campaign. Wrapped in bright colors, they display cheetahs, dolphins, zebras and other animals, often representing local university teams.
Air Pros’ technicians carry tablets and photo IDs, and advise customers of their arrival time. They try to assess the type of problems affecting customers before starting each service call so they can bring the right parts and equipment to the job.
Air Pros picked up new customers after Fort Lauderdale-based Service America announced in late 2018 that it was closing down after 43 years in business. A large share of the home warranty company’s business was devoted to installing and repairing air conditioners, and Air Pros acquired Service America’s telephone numbers, as well as some trucks and equipment. So when Service America customers call their former service supplier, they are connected with Air Pros and can obtain HVAC service if they wish.
Anthony, now 31, grew up in Davie and Ocala, attended Penn State University and Nova Southeastern University and began his business career at 19. His first business was Mud Life Magazine, a popular off-road publication, and its parent, Extreme Media Group, which eventually reached more than 15,000 retail outlets, he said. Managing a staff of 50, he also developed and launched off-road and other festivals, like the Okeechobee Mud Fest, Truck Wars and the West Palm Beach Chili Cookoff. After selling the Mud Life Brand, he launched the Cowboy Saloon brand and sold it in 2016.
Company name: Air Pros.
President: Anthony Perera.
Founded: In 2017 in the garage of Perera’s home in Plantation.
Ownership: Anthony Perera and his father, Doug Perera.
Headquarters: 3801 SW 47th Ave., Davie. Other operations centers in Jupiter and Ocala, plus smaller offices in Coral Springs, Boca Raton.
Clients: Commercial, industrial, educational, government and residential customers, including Chase bank branches, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, Sally Beauty Supply stores, the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Financials: Revenues during Air Pros’ first full year of operations (2018) were more than $2 million, Perera said. The company expects revenues to grow by about 400 percent by the end of this year.
Competitors: Air Around the Clock, Thermal Concepts and hundreds of other companies, most of them very small.
The difference: Providing excellent, on-time service seven days a week at affordable prices, Perera said. Air Pros’ technicians listen to customers and offer the best advice for reliable and economical service.
Client view: JLL, a large international property management and real estate investment company, has been working with Air Pros for about two years, said Felix Fernandez, JLL’s facility manager for the Southeast U.S. “They were recommended by another company,” he said. “They’ve installed large air conditioning units and have done duct work and other projects at call centers and data centers we manage in parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. There’s a lot of competition out there and we always seek quotes from different companies. Air Pros gives you a good, ballpark quote and aren’t like some companies that want to retire on one job. They provide rock-solid prices and excellent service and are now a preferred vendor for us.” Fernandez noted that JLL properties, including data centers that must operate within a specific temperature range, sometimes have air conditioning failures on weekends or in the middle of the night. “Anthony gives us his cell number and he always responds when we need service – this is vital for us. And when we have an emergency, they send mechanics who previously worked at our buildings, people who understand the systems we have and don’t have to start from zero.”
Outlook: Despite competing in a crowded market, Air Pros sees expanding demand for reliable, responsive and economical customer-focused air conditioning services in Florida. Air Pros expects strong growth as customers need new air conditioning units and repair existing ones. It is expanding within the tri-county area and in other parts of the state.