How Bell Brothers Built Their Name as an Honest HVAC Company in the Sacramento Valley
What does “quality” mean to you? It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot, whether it’s quality time, quality work, or quality material. That’s because it’s a word that sells well. Unfortunately, whenever a term like quality becomes a popular advertising schtick, it usually gets thrown around until the meaning is completely lost. And that’s too bad, because quality is still a great word when spoken by the right people. Of course, to those people, it will always be more than a word.
Even when Kenny and Jerry Bell were growing up, they never thought to do anything but a quality job — the brothers learned early that no work is valuable unless it’s done well when they were 8- and 9-year-olds in Elk Grove working their first paper route. Over the next decade, they would end up taking over the family pizza business from their dad, who used every opportunity to teach his sons about customer service and the right way to run a business. Kenny and Jerry took their father’s lessons and ran with them, and soon, “Pizza Bell” opened in new locations.
The Beginnings of Bell Brothers HVAC Company
Despite the pizza parlor’s success, the brothers decided to sell the business and go into the trades industry, and Bell Brothers Plumbing, Heating, and Air was born in 1991. To some folks, starting over with one repair truck and only two employees (Jerry and Kenny) seemed like a step down from running a multi-location restaurant chain, but the brothers weren’t worried about growth or expansion. They just wanted to do a good job for their clients, one HVAC job at a time.
They already knew that treating people like family got results. Whether they were dealing with clients, other contractors, or their growing pool of employees, they treated everyone like they cared deeply about them, because they did. Not surprisingly, people responded to their hard work, fair treatment, and family values, and pretty soon, they were attracting a large pool of people who wanted their services — and another pool of people who wanted to work for a company that did things the honest way. Word of mouth has always done more for Kenny and Jerry than any paid advertising could ever accomplish.
It was around this time that the brothers started getting an informal nickname as “the no surprise guys.” This was thanks to their decision early on to never quote someone one price and then bill them for a different one. They’d seen other companies do that first-hand, and it was one of the primary complaints they heard from clients about other contractors. Not only was it against the brothers’ morals to take advantage of a vulnerable customer, it was clear that this practice was a sure-fire way to lose clients. Over time, they took the “no surprise” moniker as an unofficial slogan, figuring that if their customers were calling them that, they might as well themselves. Eventually, it made sense to patent the saying, and it’s now the Bell Brothers’ official slogan.
Connecting Core Values with Community
In addition to being branded as “The No Surprise Guys,” Kenny and Jerry began to identify some core values they wanted their company and employees to embody. Nothing fancy, just some common sense principles about how a local business owner should act: support the community, work with integrity, have a little fun — things like that. Combined with the “no surprise” guarantee, these core values became one of the best ways to show what the company’s all about, and they’ve proved to be an invaluable tool to see whether a potential employee will make a good fit with the company.
Over the years, Kenny and Jerry have made a few operational decisions that have set it apart from the pack. One of the first was their initiative to set up a comprehensive training facility for new employees. Packed with practically every piece of equipment a tech might encounter, it ensures that new Bell Brothers techs aren’t ever surprised by what they find in the field. It’s also a great way for all our guys to stay on top of their skills during slower times of the year.
The brothers also knew it was important to give back to the community that gave them so much. From supporting worthwhile causes in the community like St. Baldrick’s children cancer research to showing up in force to River Cats games, Jerry and Kenny remember where they came from and remind everyone in the community that we’re all part of the same family.
Our own family has gotten a little bit bigger over the years. We serve everyone from Placerville in the east to Fairfield in the west, and all the way south to Stockton. We even recently started serving people in Fresno. We expect the family to get bigger in the future, because that’s what family does. We’ll never get so big, however, that we lose sight of what makes us different. Core values, our “No Surprise Guarantee,” and quality service.
Because to us, quality is not just a word. It’s how we do business.