“My dad and grandfather each spent over 50 years in the business,” says John Barron, who co-owns Barron Heating with Bill Pinkey. “And now I’ve been in it for over 35.”
John Barron worked during summers in high school as a berry picker. “That was really good, hard work and I did that for a couple years before asking dad if there was anything I could do with the company,” John says, smiling.
His first job was sweeping the warehouse floors. John worked up to cleaning the bathrooms, and then cleaning the fiberglass insulation in the shop’s fabrication area – a job no one else wanted.
“It was all better than berry picking, so I gladly grabbed that,” he says with a laugh.
He eventually moved into the fabricating shop with his grandfather. “As my dad worked the business side, I got hands-on training with the tools from my grandfather. He took great pride in teaching me all the little details.”
It was a special time for John Barron.
“I was really close with my grandfather and we’d have great conversations,” he says. “I loved to see how hard I could work to impress him.”
John began installing fireplaces and working on heating jobs before graduating from Sehome High School in 1979 and jumping into a Barron apprenticeship.
“I already had a running start,” he says. “I was passionate and intense and loved what I did.”
John worked up through being a sheet metal and heating/air conditioning installer, to becoming a journeyman, and eventually into full-time sales, in 1986.
“I really enjoyed the interaction with customers and contractors,” John says of his move from installation to sales. “My dad knew how much I cared. He put me on the difficult jobs, where there could be no compromise, and that allowed me to see the real complexities.”
Five years before John’s parents, Dan and Vivian Barron, decided to retire, Dan approached John and longtime Barron financial manager Bill Pinkey about taking over the business; he knew they were the right team to lead Barron once he’d retired. In 1998, they took over.
For the first six months, Dan stayed away from the business, to help the transition, which was a smooth one.
“But make no bones about it, my dad has been a tremendous ally for Bill and I,” says John. “I’d say he’s been our number one advisor and confidante.”
The company has continued to innovate and grow under John and Bill’s guidance. And both men still hold tightly to many of Dan’s central philosophies.
One of those is that a customer’s perception is reality. John and Bill feel strongly about customer service – but not in the way one might initially think.
“We wanted to stop talking in general about ‘customer service’ in management meetings and just live it everyday,” says John, of a direction they moved the company in while his father was still in charge – they had Dan’s blessing, but he left it to the two younger men.
John and Bill cut back on advertising spending and instead invested those dollars in making sure every single customer was taken care of, every single time. When problems cropped up, as they inevitably do, Barron fixed them.
Customer feedback became a hallmark of the company.
“We learned we could get everything we wanted for our customers and contractors if we would just ask questions and listen to them,” says John. “And I believe when a business owner really cares that deeply about a customer’s experience, customers can tell you’re sincere.”
These philosophies continue to drive John Barron and Bill Pinkey as they direct Barron Heating and Air Conditioning into the future.
A Big Move
After nearly 25 years at its original location on Meridian, Barron bought land and built a new facility in 2008, right off of I-5 between Bellingham and Ferndale.
“We just did not have enough space,” John says of the original place. They had taken to staggering the work time of the company’s 80 crew members so everyone’s vehicles could fit on the lot.
Over the years, Barron Heating had expanded its original building. “We built appendages upon appendages,” says John. “And if we couldn’t go horizontal, we’d go vertical.”
“And that part of town had just gotten so congested for our kind of business,” adds Bill. “It was very difficult for customers to get in and out.”
“When we decided to build, we built for growth,” John continues. “And now we’re definitely in a growth mode.”
The future: Turning new training and certification into even better solutions
A big part of that growth – while remaining a leader in selling and servicing all HVAC needs for both commercial and residential buildings – has been a focus on home performance.
“We’re actually making houses healthier and more comfortable, while genuinely saving our customers money,” says John.
Barron has invested time and money into team members who now hold highly specialized national certifications in building science.
While many things have evolved and changed over the years at Barron, John hits on the one thing that has not: “We always want to do our best – to make sure we’re meeting every customer’s expectations.”
To learn more about the company, visit www.barronheating.com.