“Tough times toughen you up, and I don’t know that we could have grown the business that we have today without learning the lessons that came from that period.” A relevant message with COVID-19 having an effect on many businesses today, this “Looking Back” delves into Airmaster's challenges as a new business finding their way through the 90’s recession.
Statistically, the majority of businesses fail in their first three years. So when the “recession we had to have” hit Australia’s economy in late 1990, the threat to Airmaster was very real. “It was a huge challenge,” recalls Courtney. “We started in 1988, and just three years later interest rates were going through the roof.”
With construction projects around the country drying up as the economy ground to a halt, Airmaster’s competitors – many of whom had previously operated predominantly in the construction space - turned to service and maintenance to help keep them afloat. The niche that Airmaster had carved out for itself suddenly became a highly competitive market. “We began having to quote for a $50 belt replacement when previously the work would have just been done. And we found ourselves waiting longer and longer for clients to accept these $50 repairs. It was a tough time and we had to work pretty hard to keep things going.”
Airmaster’s rapid growth had, ironically, created its own problems including a growing payroll, and a need for tools and vehicles to continue to service clients. The founding trio learned quickly that controlling costs would be the only way to keep Airmaster’s doors open.
“That period built our culture – everyone had to come together.”
Necessity, they say, is the mother of all invention and around this time Airmaster sold some company shares to Ray Cook, which provided much-needed cash flow. Ray would ultimately play a key role in Airmaster becoming a nationwide leader in HVAC service and maintenance, serving as a major shareholder until his sad passing in 2010.
Airmaster would like to acknowledge the following staff for their long term contribution to the company:
Noel Courtney – 32 years
Rod Falk (Retired)
Russell Seebach (Retired)
Gary Stott – 32 years
John Wessel – 32 years
Rick Wilkinson – 32 years