Heating up

Mark Swepston knew he had to make a change – at the top.

As president and CEO of Atlas Butler Heating & Cooling, he knew the revenue numbers intimately and he knew why they weren’t growing as fast as they could be — poor sales management. Problem was, he was the sales manager.

“Even though I enjoy sales management, my background is more financial, so I do much better in that,” says Swepston, recalling the epiphany he had about 12 years ago that led to the hiring of the first true sales manager at the now 84-year-old Columbus company.

“Learn to hire people to work for you that can do things better than you can,” Swepston says. “Basically fire yourself from the things you don’t do as well and have the guts to go out and hire somebody who can do the job and move forward.”

It’s a lesson that has paid off.

Atlas Butler’s sales last year topped $10 million, up from $4 million when Swepston took the helm in 1986 and was trying to do it all.

“Having a good accountant/controller in place without really having any other management positions in place, well, we just wouldn’t have grown to nearly the size we are today,” he says.

Today, Atlas Butler’s more than 100 associates include not one, but two full-time sales managers – one dedicated to the commercial side of the business, the other overseeing residential sales — as well as a general manager and a CFO.

“Now I have to perform in a different way,” Swepston says of relinquishing these management roles. “Before, when you’re the CEO of a smaller business and you don’t have to report to anybody or you don’t have anybody that really has the skills you have in probably three-fourths of the areas you’re working in, it’s tough for anybody to challenge you or to step up and say, ‘Do it better.’

“So I have to look at it from both sides now. They do a great job at what they’re doing. In a way, I have to measure up and take a step up to the next level also.”

The adjustment hasn’t always been easy.

“You step back and you wonder, ‘Boy, if you would’ve done it this way, would it have come out better?’ But I don’t question it every day. It takes some letting go to let other people do it and get it done. It’s a challenge. At least it is for me.”

HOW TO REACH: Atlas Butler Heating & Cooling, (800) 387-6223 or www.atlasbutler.com