Specialty contractor in it for the long haul

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The adage, “if you wait long enough, something great will happen,” applies to Dean Gorell, owner of JD Steward Mechanical Inc. Gorell weathered a few changes at JD Steward and waited out a few years of corporate control before becoming, in May 2001, the sole owner of the Colorado Springs long-standing heating, air-conditioning, plumbing and electrical company.

In 1993, Gorell, with a degree in construction management from Colorado State University, started working for Jim Steward as the manager of new resident construction. Steward started the company in 1979 and throughout the years developed a reliable reputation. In 1998, Steward sold the company to Houston-based Group Maintenance Corp. When he retired from the company, Gorell remained. Two years later, Group Maintenance merged with Encompass Mechanical Services, another Houston-based company.

The downside to corporate ownership, Gorell said, was losing autonomy and plucking through thick layers of management. Throughout the corporate ownership, Gorell remained committed to customer service and the company’s reputation, earning his own reputation within the corporate structure. Gorell was promoted to president of JD Steward during the Encompass era.

In early 2001, Gorell challenged a corporate decision to brand all of its subsidiaries with the Encompass name. Gorell was not about to give up an identity that equaled success. “JD Steward was initially set up to do commercial and residential jobs, and I knew a significant number of those jobs would go away if we branded the Encompass name,” he said. “What we did best was going by the wayside, and, unless you had just moved here, there’s a good chance you have heard about our company.”

Gorell won the corporate battle, and Encompass kept the JD Steward name. In May 2001, the corporation was downsizing and asked Gorell if he was interested in purchasing the company. Gorell seized the opportunity, and, in June 2001, JD Steward was once again a privately held company.

JD Steward is a specialty contractor, servicing commercial and residential needs in El Paso, Teller and Douglas counties. Gorell said the majority of his business, which is heavily based on referrals, is replacing home furnaces and installing residential air conditioners.

Being successful is about commitment, he said, and it starts at the top. “We are going to do business a certain way and treat people fairly.” That philosophy spills over to Gorell’s employees.

One of Gorell’s employees has been at JD Steward for 19 years; another for 16 years; and a few have been at the company from seven to 10 years. “I think you have to treat people with respect, compensate them for their skills and remain competitive regarding benefit packages,” he said. “If you treat people fairly, they remain loyal.”

Gorell credits his employees and his wife with taking the pressure off being a business owner. “I am not a one-man shop; this business requires a substantial investment, but I trust my employees,” he said. Gorell’s wife, Jennifer, manages their home and cares for their children, Teresa and John.

When it comes to retiring, Gorell said that “in the end, it’s all about the exit strategy.” However, he said, it also is important to develop a strategy that works for yourself and your family, and maintains the identity that was formed through patience and hard work.

Gorell said he is too young to retire, but the adage will apply when he is ready: “If you wait long enough, something great will happen.”

- Editorial@csbj.com