Reliable and Compassionate
Inland Air Balance, Inc.’s responsiveness and family-first culture key to its success
In 2004, Inland Air Balance, Inc.’s (Inland) Owner, David Jones, set a straightforward mission for the company he launched in San Dimas, California: to provide excellent, reliable test and balance services for customers throughout the state. These services range from HVAC system analyses, air and water balancing, duct-leakage testing, and sound and vibration testing to system commissioning.
“Inland is licensed as an independent air balance contractor, which means we don’t design, install or sell equipment for HVAC systems,” David says. “We don’t have a vested interest in the projects we undertake. Our role is to test and tune these systems to make sure they work properly. Typically, mechanical engineers review our reports to confirm the systems they have designed work as intended.”
A good part of Inland’s work also comes from business owners and subcontractors—many of whom need immediate assistance.
“In the early years, I showed my commitment by being available on a moment’s notice and helping to complete jobs that were behind schedule,” David says. “My customers still know I’m just a phone call away. We focus on more than what it takes to get a job done. We take the time to talk, problem solve and, in some cases, educate customers who may not have experience with the technical situations we address every day. This builds trust and has led to us having some ‘forever clients.’ ”
“For example, we first started working with Judy Bailey-Savage and Debbie Savage, the Owners of MMJ Construction when they owned Coastal Air in the San Diego area,” David explains. “Coastal was strictly a mechanical contractor at that time, and we received a call out of the blue because they needed an air balance done. Later, they relocated their company to Temecula, changed its name to MMJ and started offering some general contracting services. We work with them continually. They’ll call and say: ‘Hey, we have a project for you.’ This isn’t bid work.”
One of the calls from MMJ connected Inland with a job related to the Fort Irwin Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) training program. “The military built a faux city in the desert a few miles from the base,” David says. “The buildings look like they are in Afghanistan or the Middle East. They simulate battles there to advance our soldiers’ knowledge and ability to protect themselves. We did the HVAC systems testing and balancing for the support buildings that house the special effects computers.”
Laura Jones, David’s wife, says Inland’s relationship with MMJ Construction has grown into a family friendship. “After Judy and Debbie moved their company, they started Freedom Ranch & Rescue Inc., an animal rescue farm serving the Temecula/Murrieta area. David and I have two daughters, Madelyne and Holly—and Holly loves horses! So, she wound up volunteering at the ranch. When we spotted a pregnant miniature horse during a visit, Debbie told us she was our ‘tip’ for a shooting range project Inland had done with MMJ.”
“I’m not sure we needed a tip like that,” David jokes. He smiles broadly as Laura adds: “This is what we mean by a ‘forever client’—our lives are interwoven beyond doing some balancing work.”
Services Delivered, Promises Kept
An urgent situation led to Just Everything Heating and Air, Inc. becoming another one of Inland’s forever clients.
This last detail is significant because The Claremont Club is a sponsor for the Living Well After Cancer program. “As a breast cancer survivor, I was part of a group who went through a 13-week program to rebuild our strength, health and confidence,” Laura says. “We had access to nutritionists, trainers and the club’s facilities free of charge. This was such a gift. We make a cash donation each year so others can have the same opportunity. We were at The Claremont Club one day and I heard a trainer say: ‘Hey, Jimmy Cole, how are you?’ This world is so small that when you build good relationships they tend to filter out into the community.”
Gratitude and goodwill intersect with Inland’s operations in other ways.
“City of Hope is an important organization for us, too, because Laura and both of her parents received treatments for cancer at this hospital,” David says. “We have completed several jobs on the main campus in Duarte and these have had a deeper meaning for us because of our family’s experiences there.”
Taking Unexpected Opportunities in Stride
David says Inland takes special pride in testing and balancing HVAC systems across a full range of facility types: from food trailers to hospitals, hotels, retail stores, restaurants and schools. “Our Office Manager, Diana Alley, is often the first person who customers speak to, so we particularly value her ability to provide the service they deserve,” he says. “Diana began working for us when we needed a knowledgeable, trustworthy office manager. She’s been that—and more. Managing the front office of a construction company can be challenging and she has ridden the ups and downs of owning a business with Laura and me.”
David pauses and smiles, remembering one of the more unusual requests that they have received.
“Once, the first thing someone said to me after I answered the phone was: ‘I need to get a hood balanced for my trailer,’ ” he recalls. “Well, those words don’t typically go together, so I asked for more details.” That’s how David learned that the person on the other end of the line worked for California Cart Builder and had just completed constructing a custom trailer for California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) that would be stationed in Santa Barbara. The city health inspector was requiring the kitchen hood to be certified for commercial use.
“So, this turned out to be totally legit,” David concludes. “CPK used top-of-the-line captive air equipment for its restaurant on wheels.”
A Soft Spot for Small Businesses
David says Inland frequently receives calls from small-business owners who are just trying to open their doors when the health inspector tells them they need their mechanical systems tested, balanced and certified.
“I have a soft spot for other small- business owners,” David says. “I’ve been kicked and learned the hard way at times, too. One day, a lady called and said she was trying to open a taco stand. The landlord had told her the building where it was to be located was move-in ready. It wasn’t. When we got there, the mechanical systems were dilapidated. We do a lot of work with Thermal-Cool, so I called the company’s Estimator, Cory Hampton, and asked him to help her out. He met with her and gave her a spoken price for replacing the swamp cooler and kitchen hood. Once Thermal-Cool got everything up and running, we tested the equipment and made sure all systems were working the way they were supposed to so she could start selling tacos.”
Thermal-Cool has also recommended Inland to its clients. “They brought us in to test and balance the HVAC and smoke-control systems in the AC Hotel Beverly Hills in Los Angeles,” David says. “We typically do the smoke-control systems work on a time-and-materials basis because so much depends on the subcontractors who are installing the drywall and doors making sure everything is tightly finished and sealed. We got involved early and did one full pass before bringing the fire department’s inspector to the site. Once all the trades had passed their tests, we went in there and in one day got complete sign-off for our scope of work. At that point, two of the floors in the hotel weren’t built out. A competitor was awarded the testing and balancing for these floors at a later date. This meant he had to inspect the work we’d done because he was tying into the systems we’d tested and balanced. He called me after finishing that job and said: “The numbers that were on your report were a dead match. You guys did an incredible job.’ This came from someone we bid against on a daily basis.”
“We don’t have a vested interest in the projects we undertake. Our role is to test and tune these systems to make sure they work properly.” David Jones, Owner, Inland Air Balance, Inc.
Striking an Ideal Balance
According to Diana and Project Manager Albert Granillo, the long-term loyalty Inland has earned from clients is a natural outgrowth of the company’s compassionate culture.
“Life is hard,” Laura adds. “We all have stories behind the scenes, so we try to accommodate employees when they have challenges come up in their lives. I’m not in the office very often because I teach kindergarten, but this is what David and I discuss at night. I can’t stress enough how important putting family first is to us.”
“I was still recovering from breast cancer when I started working here 12 years ago,” Diana says. “So, I had to coordinate my medical appointments with my job responsibilities. I take care of my mom now and have a grandson with some medical issues. David doesn’t make me feel guilty when I have to take time off to help my family. He is loyal to us and we are loyal to him.”
Albert agrees. “Taking proper care of my family is incredibly important to me, too. Together, my fiancé and I are raising five sons who are under the age of 10—and one of my sons has a disability. I feel like I can do my job better because I work for a company that understands my personal situation.”
Striking the ideal work-life balance is no small feat. Albert is currently orchestrating the firm’s work for a major, multifaceted project.
“The Perris Union High School District is seeking ‘Safe Schools for All’ certification from the State of California to demonstrate they’ve met standards that address COVID-19 health and safety concerns. We will begin by checking the air circulation rates for all 600 classrooms in the district to establish a baseline. Then we will provide recommendations for achieving the new requirements. Once the district’s mechanical contractor, F.M. Thomas Air Conditioning, completes the repairs or improvements, we’ll remeasure the air change rates, make sure there is proper outside air ventilation into the classrooms and verify the building pressure is correct.”
Regardless of the personal trials they’ve faced, Inland’s leaders and employees remain optimistic and on the lookout for fun, creative ways to help others.
“If kids are selling candy or Girl Scout Cookies, David places a large order to help them raise funds,” Diana says. “Each year, we buy and send out boxes of See’s Candies as Christmas gifts, and we keep some on hand, too.”
“If the guys have a report to deliver, we’ll tell them to take cookies with them to give to the client,” David adds. “Who can resist sharing a box of Girl Scout Cookies in the middle of a busy workday?”
Looking back on the past 17 years, Laura and David say the relationships they’ve formed with clients, subcontractors, friends and employees are the true measure of Inland’s success. “Our company is a small family,” Laura says. “It’s rewarding to be where we are right now because we made it through some rough times together.”