Leading the Way in Building Automation
Dave Voll and his nephew Chris Voll founded Accu-Temp in 1982. Both licensed tradesmen, the entrepreneurs launched the company to service commercial heating and cooling ventilation systems in Ontario’s Kitchener Waterloo area. “At that time it was running out of the basement,” Vice President of Business Development Scott Ward says of the humble start-up.
The Accu-Temp team did not stay in the basement for long. “Chris had this vision to offer clients automated building solutions, to control systems to make things easier, save money,” Ward says. “He loved the technology.” The company grew steadily as Dave handled the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) side of the business and Chris, an “extremely innovative man,” explored building automation.
Soon, Chris partnered with multinational conglomerate Honeywell, a lucrative relationship that continues to this day. Over time, Accu-Temp evolved to focus exclusively on building automation, earning a leading position within the industry. Now with Chris’s son Alex as President, he follows in his father footsteps.
“We have continued to invest in the technology,” says Ward. “We always tried to lead the way, be ahead of the curve. There’s always new stuff coming out [and] we’ve always tried to be a leader in that. We’ve always tried to invest in our people, to make sure they are properly trained and certified and they have the best tools and knowledge base to grow.”
This support is mutually beneficial. “We truly feel that if our employees are happy and they’re trained and they are looked after properly that will come back to the company, so we just continue to invest in people and take chances on new technologies that we see can work to future-proof our clients.”
The idea of ‘future-proofing’ is a core part of the company’s philosophy. “The goal for the last five to seven years is to make sure that whatever we install, recommend, program, commission to help our clients with an intelligent building or an integrated building with their HVAC, lighting, and other systems is to try and future proof them, [to] not be something that will time out in six or seven years and they have to upgrade or replace.”
A part of future-proofing is to ensure that clients can operate the system independently. “Our approach to customer service is a little bit unique to what some other people do,” Ward says. “We design, install, and commission a system, and then we train our customers to operate that building. If we’ve done our job right, they do not need a lot of continuing support because we’ve trained them how to operate their building.”
Of course, if a client does run into trouble, Accu-Temp is there to help. The company’s Director of Service, Danielle Allen, “has vast knowledge,” Ward says. “She runs a good group, keeps our clients happy.” When service is necessary, the team uses technology for a more efficient outcome.
“The way we are different from many of our competitors is we don’t believe in rolling a truck on a service call,” Ward says. “We try to do everything with remote access and support and work with their current and existing HVAC service providers to troubleshoot and come up with solutions, and by doing, so we can keep their operational maintenance costs down.”
Accu-Temp values employees in addition to customers, and this shows in the retention and growth rates, even during COVID. “Since about 2014, we’ve grown from eleven people to thirty people,” Ward says. “In doing so, we tried to stay ahead of the curve. We invested in people as well as technology to make sure they had everything they needed… to try and create this culture and retain employees and we have through COVID, which is amazing.”
Ward credits management for providing this supportive work environment, calling each department lead solid. Management encourages employees to maintain a healthy work/life balance for the good of all. “We encourage them to take time off. They need time; they need family time [to] take vacations. It’s very important. You have to be able to work hard and play hard, and family has to come first.”
Accu-Temp launched a brand new, improved benefit plan in May to better support the workforce. This includes a program where the company will match employee registered savings plan (RSP) contributions dollar for dollar, up to a limit. And at the beginning of the year, the team implemented a company-wide pay raise.
“With the cost of living across Canada and North America, it was challenging for people,” Ward explains. “And look at the price of fuel today. So we did an across-the-board, five percent cost of living bump for everybody, whether you’ve been with us for two months or twelve years.”
To ensure employees are getting everything they can out of their job and fulfilling their career goals, management sits down with each person twice a year. The aim is to “get the feedback and make sure they’re on their personal plan, make sure that they’re doing what we need and we’re doing what they need.”
The company’s relationship with Honeywell remains mutually beneficial and has been an important component of Accu-Temp’s continued success. “Honeywell has a contracting network throughout North America with over sixteen hundred contractors, and we’re very fortunately part of their ACI direct channel—there’s only twelve of us in North America,” Ward explains. “So we represent the top tier of contractors throughout North America and continue to participate in that shared technology, do testing on new products for them, and work with them.”
Accu-Temp recently completed a major, benchmark project in Guelph, Ontario, on a six-storey government building with a large atrium. “What was unique about it is the value of this project was probably fifty percent larger than our best year seven or eight years ago.” In addition, the project was “the first of its kind in North America,” Ward says. “It has over five hundred BAS controllers and they’re all installed over an IP network using fibre cable and managed IP switches.”
The project also stands out because all work had to be done outside of normal business hours, while the building was unoccupied. “All this work has to take place at night-time. We have a team of six people on site every night for twelve months to install all these new controls, program them, commission them, and get it up and running.” The workforce adapted to the nightshift and the challenges of the oversized, high-tech job without a problem.
“We’ve had nothing but rave reviews about how our team worked with the other contractors on it, and it’s enabled us to continue to grow in that sector with not just the consultants, but with the government agencies that tender these projects, and we’re doing more throughout the province as we speak.”
Accu-Temp is eager to continue pressing forward. This includes striving for the best internal systems within the company. “We’ve just activated a brand new database, going from an old, antiquated database to a new database and accounting system,” Ward says. “It went live May first, and we’re just getting up and running. That’s something new we’re doing to help create systems internally to make us more efficient, to help people do their jobs better. We wanted to continue to do that. We want to continue to empower people to make decisions to grow for themselves and their families, and we are continually trying to stay ahead of technology.”
After four decades in business, the team is looking forward to celebrating the company’s fortieth anniversary this year. On September 22nd, the team will throw a big bash for over three hundred friends, family members, and business partners to mark the occasion.
The half-day party will feature live music, food, and gifts and, fittingly, will be held in a building in which the company has installed systems. “We are having a major event at a local hall,” Ward reports. “We’ve actually done a lot of work in the whole complex.”
As the team looks to provide their top-of-the-line building automation solutions for the next forty years, they know they must maintain the standards the company has set from its inception. “Our next project is only as good as our last project’s success,” Ward says. “So we continue to [address] issues head-on, keep our clients happy, and future-proof them. I truly believe the rest will take care of itself. We are creating relationships, not just contacts.