Roy’s Air Conditioning, Inc. in Conroe began in the late 1970s as a small shop specializing in the repair and installation of air conditioners, but now meets the most demanding of air conditioning and heating challenges.
The company originated with Roy Gore, according to owner Paul Lamp, who went to work for Gore in 1982 while still in high school. “I went to work for him as a helper,” Lamp recalls. For the next few years, Lamp says, he worked part time for Gore, and after graduation from high school, found additional employment in other occupations, including stints as an emergency medical technician and a medical equipment salesman.
Then, in 1989, Gore was recovering from hip surgery and made Lamp an offer he could not refuse: Gore would sell Lamp the business and come to work for him. That arrangement lasted for four years, Lamp says, until Gore moved to Athens, Texas. Lamp speaks about Gore with a respectful, warm tone. “He’s spoiling grandbabies up there now,” Lamp says. “I always say Roy was the best employer and employee I ever had.”
From its humble beginnings, the company has grown not only in size, but also in its capabilities and service area. The company employs six technicians and a dispatcher, and always keeps a technician on 24-hour call. Lamp sometimes fills that role. “I’m not asking my guys to do something I’m not willing to do,” he says.
The company has achieved a Class A license, Lamp says, the highest licensing possible granted by the state to companies in the air conditioning industry. The license means the technicians are qualified to work on an air conditioning installation regardless of its tonnage capacity.
The service area has also widened beyond Conroe. “Our main service area is Lake Conroe, Conroe, The Woodlands, and Willis,” Lamp notes. “We don’t do a whole lot in east Montgomery County. Some of the addresses we have are Cleveland addresses, but they’re in Montgomery County.” About 70 percent of the company’s new business results from referrals, he says. Residential work accounts for about 60 percent of his business, most of it for air conditioning, with light commercial jobs making up the remaining 40 percent.
In recent years, the air conditioning and heating industry has focused on producing more efficient, safer, and environmentally friendly products for consumers, Lamp believes. However, that has also escalated prices, especially for furnaces. Lamp does not care for advertising that promises to include a furnace at no extra charge with the installation of an air conditioner. “The stinking furnace is almost as high as the rest of it, so you know they’re having to boost the price somewhere to pay for it.” Shaking his head in disgust, he adds, “There’s just too much honest business out there to cheat people.”
Too many times, Lamp says, homeowners incur expensive problems with their air conditioning units because they fail to take two simple precautions: regularly changing the unit filter inside the house, and cleaning the coil on the unit condenser outside the house. “Most people don’t realize how much money they lose with just a dirty filter and a dirty condenser coil outside.” He says a homeowner should use a garden hose to wash the condenser from the top down two or three times a year. “It’ll save you a fortune.”
The Lamp family has deep roots in Conroe and the county. “I’ve lived here all my life,” he says. His brother Mark owns an automotive electric service company in Conroe, and his mom, Bobbie lives on Lake Conroe. Lamp’s father, the late H. W. “Kix” Lamp, was a former principal of Anderson Elementary School in Conroe. His grandfather and uncle were also long-time residents of the area.
Like his father, Lamp is a deacon in the Conroe Church of Christ. In fact, it was through the church that he met his wife Leah in 1993. At that time, Lamp was in charge of the church baptistry and one day was alerted by a church official that a baptism was scheduled for the evening service. “I went up there to make sure there weren’t any cricket bugs or anything floating on the water,” he recalls. “I stayed for the baptism, and that was the first time I met her.” About six months later, he asked her out to dinner. The couple married in January of 1994 and now have three sons and a daughter, all attending school in Montgomery. Drew, the eldest son, is now a technician in the family business, Sam is serving as a Youth Ministry intern this summer at the Kaufman Church of Christ in Kaufman, Texas, and Joe is now a senior in high school and a volunteer fireman for the Magnolia Fire Department. Daughter Tori is in the seventh grade.
Lamp enjoys devoting whatever spare time he has to his church and family activities. “We’re real active in the church,” he says. “I can’t imagine not growing up in the church.” He and Leah also enthusiastically support any activities their kids are involved in.
Although Lamp voices few complaints about his business, he acknowledges it is not entirely free of problems. One downside, he says, is that weather extremities drive so much of the demand for services. For instance, while September can usually be counted on to be the busiest month for air conditioning services, February is often too mild to require professional assistance to keep homes and offices warm. “There have been times when I’ve threatened to take the whole month of February off,” Lamp says. “That’s our worst month.” In 2009, the winter and a slack economy ganged up on the company, but Lamp managed to avoid laying off any employees. Grinning at the memory, Lamp says, “I’m living proof that the Lord takes care of idiots. Let me tell you, that’s the only way I’ve been able to stay in business, by my trust in Him.”
Another aspect of his profession that troubles Lamp is the practice of some companies to put sales above consideration about the customer’s needs. “Some of these companies are so sales oriented that their technicians earn commissions on sales and it’s all about the numbers,” he says.
On the plus side, Lamp says, “I am a ‘people person.’ I enjoy being in people’s houses, seeing needs people have. It gives you an opportunity to help people. You know, sometimes you’ll go into a home on a service call, and you’ve got an elderly person living there by themselves, and you realize they’re living from Social Security check to Social Security check. One of the benefits of owning a small company is that you can help those people, change those numbers where it doesn’t cost them so much.”
His technicians are sensitive to spot and advise him of such situations, he says. “Sometimes they’ll call and say, ‘Boss, these people don’t have any money, but this person really needs the help.’ I’ll take care of it, somehow.”
As far as future business plans are concerned, Lamp says, “I really want to add another technician, and I’d love to continue to grow.” Chuckling, he adds, “I’ve got four kids. I’ve got to stay in business.”