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hrai2oct162019

INSPIRING WOMEN IN HVACR

“You have to love what you do, seek out and surround yourself with supportive people, and go for it,” says Julie Berdin, CEO of Arpi’s Industries Ltd in Calgary and long-time HRAI Member. “In our industry there are many stories of father-and-son businesses, but in our case it was a father-daughter scenario. It wasn’t my original intention, it just evolved that way.”

The business was established by Arpi (Arpad) Berdin in 1963, a friendly and knowledgeable technician, famous for arriving at a customer’s home with his faithful dog, Chief, and working hard on the installation or repair, and on the company reputation. He pursued business wherever he could find it and became one of the largest dealers in the west. “He was an open-minded person and he created opportunities for me and for many people,” says Julie.

In the late 1990s Lennox proceeded with a vertical integration strategy and bought numerous dealers, including Arpi’s. But by 2004 the two returned to ownership discussions. Lennox wanted to divest only the commercial side but Arpi had other ideas. Julie holds a Masters in Business Management from University of Calgary. “We bought back the whole thing and I was appointed CEO.”

Clearly it was a smart move. Today Arpi’s has more than 180 trucks on the road, has been named one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies for the past seven years, won a HomeStar’s Best Of Award in 2019, and numerous Dave Lennox Awards.

It wasn’t always easy. When Julie Berdin took the helm she was also having children: Scarlett who is now 16 and Reeve who is 15. But she found a way and built the company, with support from her husband Randy. Asked about gender bias, she says it hasn’t been much of an issue. “There’s been the odd comment that I could have chosen to interpret as a slight or inappropriate. Someone might have said something 20 years ago that would not be appropriate today. But my attitude is let’s move on and get things done. You have to press forward.”

“I’m proud of our resilience,” says Berdin. “My father (who passed in 2015) structured the company to weather the ups and downs, and we continued with that philosophy. We don’t lease anything, we tend to own it; and we invest in the best talent, new directions and technologies. Alberta is hurting right now and not everyone has made it through. It’s tough. A lot of good people are out of work. We have to deal with the situation, wait for the colder weather, which will increase business, and try to remain positive.”

In terms of the larger picture she expects better times ahead. “I think HVAC has a promising future. We have an important role to play in the design of homes, and I applaud the HRAI for being at the table with a strong vision for our industry. I think the future will involve more and more Wi-Fi enabled equipment, electronics, smart thermostats and control systems –that’s where it’s at right now. I don’t know what will be the next quantum leap, but it will be related to energy, possibly more decentralized systems.”

“That’s why it’s important to recruit educated young talent, including women. Arpi provides a scholarship through the Canadian Construction Association. We also get involved with the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) for high school students and with the Women in Trades Training (WITT) initiative. There are not a lot of women in the trade, but I think they are now being supported, and I would encourage young women to seek out opportunities and just go for it.”