Meet Your Merchant: Fallon Heating and Air Conditioning
Although he’d spent time working with his father as a teenager, Dirk Roper, 55, had little interest in the family heating and air-conditioning business.
Instead, he built a career as a financial planner, putting his computer expertise to work in helping to design an investing system for Ameritrade.
But when his parents came to him in 2005, he had a change of heart.
After nearly 20 years of running the business they started in 1978, Fred and Theda Roper had sold it to retire. It wasn’t long, however, until it went bankrupt under the new owner.
So in 1999, they started over. They changed the name from Roper’s Heating and Air Condition to Fallon Heating and Air Conditioning, and by 2005 it was thriving again.
They came to Dirk for advice as to how to sell it this time while maintaining a retirement fund.
Rather than offer advice, Dirk offered himself.
“I’d run my own businesses before. I’d worked in finance before,” he said. “I had a lot of technical background. It turned out to be a perfect time for a transition.”
Not only was it perfect timing in his own life, he said, but in the industry, as well.
“There is no better mechanic than Dad in the state when it comes to working on these furnaces and things,” he said. “But they’re starting to get computerized, and Dad doesn’t want to get into computers. That’s my strength. The fact is, it’s changed. It’s changed from his world into my world.”
He started working for the company seven years ago, slowly taking on more of a managerial role. He and his wife, Autumn, who runs the administrative side of the business, officially took ownership in May.
Being able to work with his parents before taking it over, prepared him for the task ahead.
“Letting me work shoulder to shoulder with my parents has been one of the biggest thrills,” he said.
While Dirk’s expertise gives him the qualifications to run the business, he’s learned the real secrets of success from his father, Fred, 78, who still works part time.
“You can’t work with someone who’s been doing this for more than 30 years and not learn from them,” he said. “If you talk to about any old-timer in the area, they’ll know Dad. They’ll know his reputation, his honesty, his integrity. I’ll never be the mechanic dad was, but one thing that has to happen is the company’s character has to survive. If it’s possible, it needs to grow.”
He said all the service technicians are certified, and the company offers a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Working with the customers, he said, is one of the highlights of his job.
“There’s so much that can be done other than slapping a furnace or air conditioner in a house,” Dirk said. “There’s so much that can be done for comfort and efficiency. We can give them the straight scoop on what’s going on.”
Although it wasn’t how he planned it, Dirk is happy to be taking over where his father left off.
“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” he said.