Kansas City’s Heating and Cooling Experts Discuss Growing & Giving Back
For Cates Heating and Cooling, serving the HVAC needs of Kansas City area home and business owners has always been a family affair.
In 1974, Jim Kiekel began Cates Heating and Cooling with a partner. In 1975, Jim bought full ownership of the company.
Since then, the company has been offering both residential and commercial HVAC services in Kansas City and has made a name for their business by offering quality services paired with excellent customer service.
Recently, Jim’s son Jeff Kiekel shared a little about the company, his role in their growth, and how they’re using marketing to reach more customers in the metro area.
A Love for the Heating & Cooling Business
Jeff Kiekel began working in his family’s business in 1975 as a part-time technician while he was in college.
After graduation, he moved into a full-time role as a service technician.
Since then, he has acted as a salesman, as operations manager, and currently acts as the company’s President.
Over the years, the industry has changed and Kiekel has found a lot of enjoyment in exploring new technology and watching how these improvements provide better HVAC options to Kansas Citians. One way he has watched the industry change is through the Internet.
“I think it gives people the opportunity to look at us and see all of the reviews we have online, and also an opportunity to do a little self-research and find out if we are providing an item that is related to what their need is at the time, or what their future need is going to be.”
Above all, Kiekel enjoys the relationships he builds in his work.
“Most of all, the friendships we make with our customers.
We try to treat them as if they’re a family member,” he shares.
“We only hire people that believe in that same concept, that it’s not just a single service call, it’s an investment in them as a customer.”
Investing in the Kansas City Community
As a company and a family, the Cates’ team has made a habit of investing not only in their customers but in the city as a whole.
They share a love for Kansas City and for giving back in ways that match with their interests and passions.
This has included being involved in the sports programs at UMKC and supporting the Cars 4 Heroes program.
“We have worked the last couple years with Rex Hudler in the Up for Downs Syndrome Charity,” he says. “We provided tickets to 200 kids for the baseball game last year.”
Kiekel also shared some of his favorite things about KC. He loves Kansas City BBQ — citing Jack Stack and Q39 as his favorites — and following Royal’s baseball games. More than anything, he loves the people and the sense of community.
“I think the one thing I love the most is the people in general. Midwest attitude,” he says.
“Everybody wants to be friendly, take care of themselves and their neighbors.”
Building a Strong Local Company
There is no hesitation when we ask Kiekel to offer advice to aspiring and new business owners — he immediately says that building a strong business starts with building the right team.
“You have to put those people in a job they can succeed in,” he says.
“Then you have to give them the ability to make decisions, so that you can concentrate on growing the business and they can concentrate on providing the business message through work and diligence with their customers.”
Kiekel has also used a combination of traditional advertising and digital marketing to grow the business and reach new customers in the metro area.
They’ve invested in pay-per-click campaigns, blog regularly, and have consistent TV campaigns featuring Rex Hudler and Joel Goldberg testimonials, both of whom are customers.
“We believe that every home is different and comfort issues are unique to that individual customer or family.
Having the ability to sell all major brands gives our technicians the ability to customize solutions for each home, which in the end, creates happier and more loyal customers.”
Jeff Kiekel’s Kansas City Faves
- Cars 4 Heroes (Charity)
- Up for Downs Syndrome (Charity)
- Aristocrat Motors
- Jack Stack for BBQ
- Q39 for BBQ
- Don Chilitos for Mexican
- Jose Peppers for Mexican
Read the Interview Transcript
Blogger Local: Today, our featured guests is Jeff Kiekel from Cates Heating and Cooling. Welcome to the show, Jeff.
Jeff Kiekel: Thank you very much. Appreciate …
Blogger Local: Sure. I’ll just get started with the questions that we have for today. First, tell us about your company. What kinds of products or services does your company provide, and what makes you stand out from the crowd?
Jeff Kiekel: Okay, we are a heating and cooling company in Kansas City. We strive to provide the best customer service through our techs in everybody’s individual home or business.
Blogger Local: Great. Would you provide a brief history of your entrepreneurial journey through today? Briefly tell us your story and why you love what you do.
Jeff Kiekel: Okay. The company was started by my father in 1974. He had a partner. That’s where the name Cates comes from. After approximately a year, my father bought out his partner. I entered the business in ’75 as a service tech and part time while I was going to college. Once I graduated from college, I went full-time starting off as a service tech, then a salesman, then operations manager. This is our 43rd year. We pride ourselves on having good people and taking care of our people.
Blogger Local: What is it about what you do that you love?
Jeff Kiekel: Well, I love the technology improvements that come down the line every year, the improvements in efficiency. But most of all, the friendships we make with our customers. We try to treat them as if they’re a family member. We only hire people that believe in that same concept, that it’s not just a single service call, it’s an investment in them as a customer.
Blogger Local: Great. Is your business involved in any local charities or causes, or are there any special ways that you participate in or give back to the local community in Kansas City?
Jeff Kiekel: Yeah, we are a participant in the Cars for Heroes program. We also participate in the UMKC sports department, primarily the basketball team. Then we have worked the last couple years with Rex Hudler in the Up for Downs Syndrome charity. We provided tickets to close to 200 kids for the baseball game last year.
Blogger Local: Great. Kind of shifting topics, how do you think the Internet has changed the way you and your customers do business?
Jeff Kiekel: Well, I think one, people who do not have an established company are more likely to go to the Internet, see what ratings people have, and what comments customers have made about the companies themselves. It’s easier for people to do that now. A Yellow Page book doesn’t tell you anything about a customer when you look at it. I think everybody’s so busy today, the old word of mouth is not as important as the Internet is now.
Blogger Local: How do you feel like it has changed the way that your company is doing business?
Jeff Kiekel: Okay, ask me that again. I’m sorry.
Blogger Local: How do you feel the Internet has changed the way your company specifically is doing business?
Jeff Kiekel: I think it gives people an opportunity to look at us and see the quality ratings that we have on the Internet, and also an opportunity to do a little self research and find out are we providing an item that is related to what their need is at the time, or what their future need’s going to be.
Blogger Local: Okay. What ways are you marketing to local businesses and consumers in Kansas City?
Jeff Kiekel: We do both a pay for click program. We also do TV advertising with Kansas City Royals, using Rex Hudler and Joel Goldberg. Then we do some direct mail to specific areas where we know we have the message to tell the people, or we understand that that particular area has a comfort issue because of the design of the homes in those particular areas.
Blogger Local: Okay. Do you have any advice for would be entrepreneurs that want to start their own business?
Jeff Kiekel: First thing you have to do is hire the right people. You have to put those people in a job that they can succeed in. Then you have to give them the ability to make decisions, so that you can concentrate on growing the business, and they can concentrate on providing the business message through their work and diligence with their customers.
Blogger Local: Okay. We got some kind of fun questions now too. What are your favorite things about Kansas City?
Jeff Kiekel: Well, obviously I love the barbecue. Then the baseball. You can’t beat that. I think the one thing I love the most is the people in general. Midwest attitude. Everybody wants to be friendly, take care of themselves, worry about their neighbor. That type of thing.
Blogger Local: Yeah, I agree. Do you have favorite places to go to eat or to just get out and about?
Jeff Kiekel: Well, that brings us back to barbecue, obviously. Jack Stack and now the Q39, but we also like going to the nicer steakhouses in town. Then of course you have to throw in a little Mexican food there too.
Blogger Local: Right. Do you have a favorite Mexican place here in Kansas City?
Jeff Kiekel: Yeah, my wife loves Don Chilitos, believe it or not. I’m more of a Jose Pepper guy.
Blogger Local: Yeah, those are both great. We like those too.
Jeff Kiekel: Yeah.
Blogger Local: Are there any local companies that you really admire or they really stand out to you?
Jeff Kiekel: Yeah, the one that I always felt like I wanted to model my business after is Aristocrat Motors. They’re definitely into only doing things the right way the first time, and making sure that the quality is there, and taking care of their customers. Very impressed with their follow up process, that they get back to keep those people. That’s a company that stands out in my mind.
Blogger Local: Great. What kind of hobbies or what kind of things do you do with your friends and family when you’re not working at Cates?
Jeff Kiekel: Play golf. Then up until couple of years ago I used to coach football, Johnson County Youth Football Association. Coached up there for over 11 years. Just socializing with our friends and that type of thing.
Blogger Local: Great. To wrap up, we wanted to see if you have any special offers, promotions or new products or services that you would like to mention on the podcast.
Jeff Kiekel: Okay. We have a AC tuneup for $79. The other item we have is a free comfort survey to see if we can do anything to the system in your house to eliminate second floor being hotter than the first floor, and the reverse of that in the wintertime, to improve the comfort level of the home.
Blogger Local: Great. Well, those were the questions that I had for you today. Is there anything else that you want to mention or share before we wrap up?
Jeff Kiekel: No, I think that covered quite a bit.
Blogger Local: Okay.
Jeff Kiekel: I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you, and look forward to working with you.
Blogger Local: Thanks for taking the time to talk. Thank you for your contributions to Kansas City and our local economy.
Jeff Kiekel: You bet.
Blogger Local: Have a great day.
Jeff Kiekel: You have a nice weekend.
Blogger Local: You too, bye bye.
Jeff Kiekel: Bye bye.