Creators of Cool Systems
Damuth Trane creates energy everywhere it goes
Half a century is an impressive milestone. In 1970, Don Damuth purchased a local Norfolk, Virginia-area Trane franchise. Having worked with Trane for a decade, transitioning to his own company—with his own vision—was smooth. Today, Don’s mantra resonates as powerfully as it did 50 years ago: “If you’re not serving a customer, you better be serving someone who is.”
Even though Don passed away earlier this year, the idea of placing client service first continues to be held in high esteem by Don’s sons—Clint, Phil and Roger—and is evidenced by the trio’s approach to culture at Damuth Trane.
Clint became President and General Manager of Damuth Trane in 2003 and assumed ownership of the franchise in 2016. He is joined in leadership by his brothers: Phil as Vice President and Roger as Sales Engineer. Damuth Trane is a professional energy services company, originally focused on selling commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. In the 1980s, the company created a Building Automation Team in response to the need for more energy-efficient systems (due to the oil shortage in the late 1970s).
Today, the company has evolved to specialize in complete building energy services—working with building owners, contractors and engineers to design HVAC systems that are safe and efficient. The Damuth Trane team also maintains the equipment throughout the course of the asset’s life span. Clint says, “Air conditioning and lighting are a huge part of a facility’s energy use, and as experts in optimizing equipment and controls, we provide a one-stop shop offering the right energy solutions for our clients.”
Sustainability and environmentally friendly designs are now commonplace, but to Clint, designing an energy-efficient facility is one thing—having someone to work with the building owner to ensure the facility is properly used and maintained is another. “If you don’t know how to properly use a building, energy efficiencies can disappear after the first day of operation,” he says.
A Strong Culture
Clint is passionate when he talks about his leadership style. “My father shared this idea and we use it now…it is all about respecting the client, but we also need to treat one another as we do our clients. I am intentional with my advice to place others in high regard, and we must strive to contribute to each of our colleague’s personal successes,” he says.
The company has developed two committees that work together to help achieve this shared success. First is the Client Experience Committee. This group focuses on the entire process of client engagement. “For example, we could repair a system in a hospital and do it flawlessly but if we bill them wrong, it could ruin the whole experience,” Clint says. This committee helps put processes and systems into place to ensure the company is always looking at client engagement, from start to finish.
In addition, a Culture Committee was formed to reward employees and seek out the best talent. The group is achieving its goals, too, as evidenced by Damuth Trane being honored as one of the “Best Places to Work in Virginia” by Virginia Business magazine for 10 consecutive years. “We’ve developed each committee to ensure we acquire and retain the best talent and to help us make sure we give our clients excellent service,” Clint says.
At Damuth Trane, the culture centers around transparency. “We have to be willing to take an honest look at where we excel and areas where we need to improve. To have an open culture you have to be willing to admit your flaws,” he says.
Client Focus Means Community Focus
Damuth Trane has long-term relationships with a large variety of clients within the Hampton Roads and Eastern Shore regions. According to Clint, “We’re committed to excellence in every way we interact with our clients. We focus regionally and don’t have imperialistic aspirations to expand beyond. Our commitment to focus on the local community has been a privilege for us, and giving back in the community is one of the things in which the company takes great pride.”
Something to be proud of is the Community Impact Award that Coastal Virginia Magazine gave Damuth Trane in 2019. The award cited the company’s many corporate volunteer initiatives, like the Hampton Roads St. Jude Spring Fling, Special Love’s Tidewater Family Weekend, the United Way of South Hampton Roads’ Day of Caring, and VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads’ Family Volunteer Day.
Where and how the company gives back isn’t a corporate mandate; associates are encouraged to bring ideas to the leadership for consideration. Clint says, “When we have employees who say something is important, we definitely try to incorporate it into our community planning. We don’t want to be just a great business in our community, we want to be an integral part of the community. We love this part of the world and want to make it better.”
People at the Core
Damuth Trane is big on shared values—so much so that the company teaches this as a course to all new associates as part of the onboarding process. Since the 1990s, the company has been careful about who is selected to join the organization. The goal is to look for quality people who will make a strong impact both in the company and the community.
And, the “giving back” mentality works both ways. Damuth Trane is focused on encouraging an employee’s growth by offering education credits, mentorship programs, free on-site training, a four-year apprenticeship program and paid schooling. Bailee Keaton, Marketing Coordinator for the company, says, “We started our apprenticeship program in 2018. It’s a great program that essentially offers a paid internship, which culminates in a full-time job at the end of the four years. The HVAC service industry is seeing a decline in new people interested in the trade, but our program is helping to cultivate more interest.”
Once on board, a new employee soon learns that the company recognizes outstanding performance. One way success is celebrated is with the Damuth Trane “Bravo Zulu” award, a Navy term meaning job well done. Employees nominate other employees for going above and beyond. Clint says, “I get an email or phone call at least every two weeks about how someone did something awesome. We celebrate that throughout the year and believe in recognizing people regularly.”
The Future Looks Bright
The ability to adapt to the changing market and diversify the products and services offered has helped the company continue to expand. Even though the industry has changed a lot, the company’s leadership is excited about the future of complete building management systems. Today, HVAC systems can communicate with a building’s lighting, fire alarms and security. Everything can be connected in one building and the team at Damuth Trane is building out these connections in government buildings, military bases, schools, hospitals and industrial facilities.
“Using a building’s data and technology and our expertise to optimize a building’s performance gives us a wonderful feeling. Whether we’re helping a client achieve ENERGY STAR certification or simply increasing efficiency, our services help the world function better,” Clint says.
Clint is sure his father, Don, would be proud of what the company has accomplished and the team that continues to honor and live out the values he instilled half a century ago.