Cold Control’s Operations Director believes people are paramount to the company’s success

Business partners Mark Grant and Adam Dyne founded Cold Control in Hampshire, UK, in 1989. During its first decade, the specialist refrigeration and air conditioning company obtained contracts with the likes of Pret a Manger, Subway and Starbucks. Adam left a few years after the enterprise took off, which, combined with Mark’s son, Lee Grant, Operations Director, joining in the early noughties, has rendered Cold Control a family-owned operation. Today, it offers design, installation, after-sales, repair, and maintenance services, to big names such as Greggs, National Ambulance Services and MOJ Prison Services and is the only organization to have won the ACR Contractor of the Year three times.

“There are plenty of other companies out there that offer the same products and services as us,” states Lee, “but the Cold Control difference is our key account customer service, on which we pride ourselves. We have a strong administrative provision and an excellent team of key account managers, from which every client is assigned a representative. If a specific manager isn’t available, anybody who answers the phone is capable of solving an issue, which we think makes us stand above most of the competition.

“We have strong family ties to Cold Control, with my brother and step-mother also working in the company, but beyond relatives, we also have some incredibly long-standing employees within our loyal workforce. One of our engineers joined when he was 17, and he’s now in his 40s, and our finance director started on the admin team when she left college! Looking after staff is one of our core foundations, we like to take people who are keen to learn and mold them, and we always try to promote from within. There’s about 50 of us now, operating the perfect one stop solution shop for our clients on the high street, in education, providing care or anywhere really.

“In terms of procurement, last year was certainly the trickiest we’ve had yet. Whether this is a COVID hangover or the longer-lasting effects of Brexit, I would like to think things will improve in 2023,” Lee says. “On top of this, we’ve been thrown the cost-of-living crisis, meaning our suppliers are constantly increasing our rates. Unfortunately, we’re having to pass these costs onto our customers, as our engineers are about to receive their third pay rise in 12 months. Luckily, though, we haven’t had to be quite as drastic as others within our supply chain.

“Another issue that the last few years have left us with is the labor shortage. We used to have a much higher demographic of employees from overseas and receive a far larger number of CVs from people from elsewhere. Another dwindling sector, people-wise, are trainees and youngsters looking for work. Now that teenagers have to stay in education until they’re 18, the adverts for trainee positions are only successful if they’re based close to colleges. I advertised the same job in two contrasting locations. In the place without a college, it took me six months to find someone, in the location next to one, I had 65 applications in the first week.

“I’m always willing to do whatever it takes to keep our teams happy in their positions, we’re flexible and like to maintain a sociable feel outside of the workplace,” he continues. “It’s always easier to work with someone, than simply bark orders at them. There’s no benefit to quoting contracts or being threatening, because they will simply find somewhere else to work. The vast proportion of our engineers who leave, end up coming back again. I get it, sometimes you have a bad day or week, and the grass starts looking greener elsewhere, but I’m always incredibly proud when somebody calls and asks for their job back. We may not be the most financially rewarding company, but we must be doing something right, and I believe it’s the family-owned culture.”

Recently, Cold Control has been steadily aiming its trajectory towards domestic work and smaller installations, in a move away from larger projects. Lee believes the continued working from home initiatives across the country to be a driving force behind this market, as he concludes: “It’s a lot cheaper to only heat or cool one room in your house, and we’ve seen those sales numbers improve. It’s only a matter of time before peoples’ houses join cars, restaurants, offices and retail outlets in employing air conditioning for greater comfort. Last year was a good year, but this year is going to be a great one.