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Rochester Top 100: Business heats up for longtime Rochester firm

Rochester Business Journal
March 21, 2014

Things started changing for Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. in 2005.

The company had nearly 60 years of success and a reputation in the community as a trailblazer in the realm of heating, ventilation and air conditioning, but president and third-generation employee Raymond Isaac had ideas for it to grow.

He envisioned doubling the company, but his approach had less to do with expanding territory or offering new products and more with how it treated employees and customers.

The company went through a reorganization in 2005, emphasizing a professional approach in all aspects of the business.

“We started a culture creation, setting down core values and establishing priorities,” Isaac said. “It was that vision that really set us on a path, and it doesn’t have anything to do with going out and getting new territories or being the predominant HVAC company in the Northeast.

“The first line in the vision statement is about creating an enjoyable experience met with anticipation.”

That mission does not start with customers, he said, but with the company’s employees.

“We say safety first, then the employee and then the client,” he says. “People sometimes ask why we do it that way or why put employee first, and I ask them if they would want someone in their house working on their equipment who isn’t happy with their job.

“Someone who isn’t happy with their employer doesn’t take it out on the employer; they take it out on the client with bad service.”

The strategy has been a rousing success, Isaac said. The company has set records for revenue every year since 2006, with overall growth of 113 percent in the last eight years.

“We wanted to double revenue in 10 years and ended up beating it in eight,” Isaac said.

He credits the company’s employees for this growth, saying the commitment to customers extends from management to service employees and technicians.

Eric Knaak, vice president of operations, said Isaac’s leadership has been pivotal in the recent growth. He notes that commitment to management is strong, and Isaac has instituted a leadership development program tailored to the company.

“He really has been a key part of all our growth,” Knaak said.

Knaak notes the culture change has translated to a stronger employee base as well. Though the company normally goes through a period of layoffs in the late winter, this year employment has held steady and even grown, reaching a record level of roughly 250.

Isaac said employee loyalty traditionally has been strong. He recalls looking at a photo taken for the company’s 50th anniversary, which was more than 20 years ago, and seeing many faces still with the company today.

Today, turnover has dropped from just below the industry standard in the low 20 percent range to single digits, he said.

Isaac said his grandfather’s vision for the company allowed it to stand out in the area from the start. The company was founded in 1945 by George T. Isaac, Ray’s grandfather, and in the early 1960s incorporated as Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning.

“He was a pioneer in a lot of different things,” Isaac said. “It was unique at the time in the 1960s to include air conditioning, and the idea of a 24-hour company was new as well.”

The Isaac family still is closely involved, though Ray is the only member of the third generation of Isaacs on the management team. His other brothers work in the field.

Isaac recognizes that the first two generations of his family built Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning into the strong company with a good reputation that it is today. But it cannot rely on that reputation alone, he said.

“We always say that you get paid for what you do, not who you are,” he said. “The last name is a responsibility, not a privilege.”

The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. This year’s Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 5. For more information, go to

Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.
Heating and air-conditioning service and installation provider.
Founded: 1945
Top executive: Raymond Isaac, president
2013 ranking: 87
Employees: 250
Location: Rochester

3/21/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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