Helping members create a residential division for their companies
We met with the new SMACNA Residential Contractors Council Steering Committee Chair Kevin Shekell, president of J.E. Shekell Inc., Evansville, Ind., to find out his thoughts on the residential business, what challenges him, and what new technologies he’s excited about.
He is using his tenure on the committee to educate SMACNA contractors about the many opportunities in the residential market. He also wants to highlight the operational, structural, and cultural changes that members need to consider creating a successful residential division in their companies.
With an emphasis on integrity and service, J.E. Shekell Inc. provides top-quality heating, air conditioning, plumbing, electrical, building automation, and sheet metal fabrication services for residential, commercial, industrial, and construction in Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky.
As the second generation to run the business that his father John Shekell founded in 1978, he has learned the importance of setting clear expectations and being there to support his staff.
The company connects his workforce to the community
One of the most rewarding things he finds about being in the residential HVAC business “is interacting and working with our employees to solve our customer’s issues and how it ties to the communities in which we operate,” he explained.
How does he manage both residential and commercial work in one location? “Actually, it’s not much of a struggle as we have different divisions with great managers,” he said.
And the challenges of managing both residential and commercial in that one location? “It’s an asset as we can leverage our team across the entire organization to support both divisions.
Overall, Mr. Shekell’s biggest business hurdle has been the transition between generations. As for the most challenging part of being in the residential HVAC business, Mr. Shekell credits finding enough qualified craftspersons and keeping them trained on the latest equipment and technology.
Getting excited about mobile technology that streamlines operations
A technology that Mr. Shekell is excited about is the company’s new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with mobile service technology, which is slated to go live in the third quarter of 2018. It will allow the company’s more than 50 HVACR, plumbing, and electrical service technicians to use tablets in lieu of paper invoices.
“It will drastically change and improve how our business operates and how we interact with our customers,” he said.
What is the business tool he can’t live without? His cell phone. “While I am in the office most of the time,” he said, “when I am away, it is my lifeline to the office.”
What does he do when not at work? He has two children and enjoys watching his son play sports—including baseball, football, and basketball. In addition, Mr. Shekell plays golf and tennis and likes an occasional cigar.
His favorite activities involve sitting on a beach holding a cold drink and listening to the waves. The teams he cheers for include the Ohio State Buckeyes, Indianapolis Colts, and St. Louis Cardinals.
Rose up the company ladder while earning three degrees
He began working full-time at J.E. Shekell—the company his father created—as a residential HVAC installer, then became a service technician. At the same time, he attended Ivy Tech Community College, earning an Associate’s degree in Applied Science, Industrial Technology.
Eight years later, Mr. Shekel became a residential HVAC salesman, and after three years, he became an estimator for the commercial and industrial department and a project manager.
He attended Oakland City University during that time, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management.
The next step on Mr. Shekell’s career path was as vice president of the company’s construction department. Continuing his education, Mr. Shekell completed his Master’s of Business Administration degree from the University of Phoenix in 2006. He also served as president of SMACNA’s Evansville chapter.
In 2009, he was named president of the company his father had established.
J.E. Shekell Inc., started out as a one-van heating and air-conditioning shop, expanding later into the electrical and plumbing business. In the 1980s, they acquired a service center to make it the largest HVAC service company in the tri-state area (Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky). In 2000, WSC Associates, an engineering firm, became part of the fold, upgrading the company’s design capabilities.
For more information about the company, visit www.shekell.com.
Check out Business in Focus magazine, which featured an article on the company last year.