What do alligators and the HVAC industry have in common? They are both being dominated by our special guest, Charlene Ierna! Charlene is the owner of IERNA’s Heating, Cooling & Plumbing out of Lutz, FL, and she shares with us the wisdom she’s gained and how she’s been able to achieve so much success in the trades.

Not only has IERNA’s been celebrated with the Bryant Dealer of the Year award, Charlene can also showcase 9 Bryant Medals of Excellence, as well as the Pinnacle award given by Bryant. Under Charelene’s direction, IERNA’s is the first and only contractor in Florida to win all three awards. Even with all of that she’s going to need a bigger trophy room, as she not only has a dancing award, she’s known for being an avid fisher and trophy gator hunter. Charlene is a complete badass not only in the trades, but in every other facet of her life, and we’re honored to have her as our guest for this episode.

Learning the Ropes

Along with many of our other guests, Charlene didn’t start out with her sights set on the trades. She was a corporate recruiter, and helped people find their dream jobs. After working with someone in the trades, she became highly interested in the HVAC industry. She recalled growing up that there weren’t many nearby service companies, and in fact, at the time, there really weren’t many air conditioning companies in her area. She just went for it, starting IERNA’s from scratch!

Many owners in the trades can relate with Charlene’s early days. She worked countless hours, serving as a dispatcher, hiring manager, bookkeeper, and even toilet cleaner for her business when she started in 2003. In the beginning, IERNA’s was just an air conditioning company, but have since added heating and plumbing to their service lineup.
Charlene started out knowing virtually nothing, but her mindset and ambition drove her to learning all of the ins and outs of the trades. She credits a lot of success to loving the challenge of learning and working in the industry. The real breakthrough moment for her was when she was finally in a financial position to start delegating work to others by taking the risk to add members to the team.

The Right People for the Right Results

Success year after year doesn’t happen though luck. IERNA’s has an incredible team, and Charlene points out that having great people from top to bottom is the key. From customers to employees; the management team all the way down to the newest hire, it’s all about the people. Having the right partners, distributors, and team members creates the perfect environment for success, and Charlene has partnered herself with the best of the best. Her work “family” share the same values and algin strategies, allowing all of IERNA’s to be on board to accomplish their goals.

Only a very small percentage of dealers win the Bryant Medal of Excellence each year (21 last year in the entire country), so consistently winning the award is a big deal to IERNA’s. The team works hard each year to meet the strict requirements for the medal, and it’s only with the right people that accomplishments like this can happen.

“It’s all about the people”

A Positive Mindset

In addition to having the right people, Charlene stresses the importance of keeping the right mindset for success. It’s especially important during the COVID-19 crisis, as you need to be able to pivot and make the right changes to come out of this situation on top. A positive mindset allows her and her team to take the crisis in stride, accepting the process and leading in a positive manner. They’re ready to hit the ground running when the gates finally open, and they’ve taken the steps to maintain and grow their market share during the pandemic. She tells her team to keep a “vacation mindset”, and treat each day like it’s the day before they leave for a vacation. That means answering every call, every email, and getting everything on their list done.

“Treat each day like it’s the day before you leave for a vacation”

Marketing as a Priority

IERNA’s may be known for being an HVAC company, but Charlene considers it to be a marketing company selling HVAC services. For IERNA’s, taking a marketing approach allows them to satisfy the needs of their customers. It’s about learning who their customers are, what they want, and researching the products to offer the highest quality of service. They consider it their job to become a household name so that when their potential customers do need a service, IERNA’s is the only name they call.

Gators and HVAC: Become the Hunter

She may not use a crossbow when running daily operations at IERNA’s, but there’s more commonalities between gator hunting and HVAC than you might realize. You have to have courage and motivation for both, and preparation plays a huge part in the outcome. Still, you can set up the perfect “hunt” and fail. You can ready the perfect supplies and materials, perfect location, but if that gator doesn’t swim by you, you’re back to ground zero. It’s the same in the trades. You can hire the right people, offer a great product, and have incredible marketing, but if ten people call out sick that day, you’ll have a tough time succeeding. You have to be able to adjust and have a positive mindset to switch gears quickly and take risks, whether it’s to catch that elusive trophy alligator or gaining a lifelong customer.

We sincerely thank Charlene for joining us on To The Point to share her valuable insights and incredible stories. Until next time, we thank our listeners for their continued support and encourage you to stay safe, and find your inner badass!

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