Carol Papesh has a flair for accounting . . . and construction . . . and HVAC . . . and job costing . . . and estimating . . . and human resources. Oh, and she’s also a devoted wife and mother who has successfully walked a path of family and career. To say "she can do it all" would be cliché, but I can't resist: she can do it all! Carol Papesh was born to thrive in a career that has anything to do with making things or people better. She's a champion manager, teacher, and encourager, who believes in giving people the same opportunities to excel and contribute as she's had over a 30-year career.

A Father's Influence and Natural Gifts
The roots of her interest in construction are easy to trace. Her father was a sheet metal fabricator, whose life revolved around building, and the satisfaction of seeing a job well done. She eventually found that she wanted a career like that; to be part of the process of taking a tract of land and developing it into something that would help others live, work, prosper, and explore their own ambitions.

Today, her dreams come alive every day as the chief financial officer for Conditioned Air, Naples, FL, a leading HVAC contractor whose management team, and 160 service, installation, and office employees are as equally committed to quality and professionalism as she.

When you talk to Carol Papesh, you feel the positive vibes and confidence she brings to every day and every challenge. Starting with a career development plan early on in life that combined on the job training with formal study, she’s moved with ease from one responsibility to the next, inching progressively higher up the food chain. Her pleasant, lively nature belies the pressure that must come from helping to manage a leading HVAC contracting business with thousands of customers.

For her outstanding achievements over a lifelong career in construction and HVACR, Papesh has been named the Contracting Business 2010 HVACR Woman of the Year.

Glowing Words
Theo Etzel, president of Conditioned Air —Air Conditioning Contractors of America's (ACCA’s) 2010 Residential Contractor of the Year — provided us with a glowing nomination that listed Carol's many contributions, which started from day one.

"Her strengths were evident from the start. Here dedication to detail and sound business practices helped mold the efficiencies and direction we enjoy today. She came to us as our controller, reporting to the CFO. Upon his resignation, she stepped up to the challenge."

Etzel says he relies on Papesh's judgment and forthright opinion in making management and leadership decisions.

"She's not a 'yes' person, but someone I can count on to challenge a decision during the process with insight, and responsible and practical questions, Etzel says. "Carol's integrity is beyond reproach. She commands the respect and trust of all our personnel."

Conditioned Air — which serves Florida's Lee and Collier Counties — practices open book management and, in line with that philosophy, Papesh prepares and communicates monthly financial reports to key employees. She oversees the human resource department, and, on the lighter side, chairs the company's Joy Committee, which offers opportunities for employees to have fun through various activities. In addition, Papesh oversees the company's adherence to government regulations.

Papesh knows the importance of continuing education, at every stage of a business career, and regularly participates in management and leadership refresher training. One of her key memberships is in Ancora, a leadership training organization (theancoragroup.com).

Likely to Succeed
Carol Papesh graduated from high school in the top 10 of a class of 615 (a sure sign of things to come). She attended Miami University of Ohio for a short time, but found it a bit too small, quaint, and secluded. She wanted to learn in more active surroundings, as is found in "real world" experiences. Instead, she studied accounting at a Cleveland-based community college while learning on the job at Dunbar Construction Co. She supplemented her education with courses through the Builders Exchange and Mechanical Contractors of America (MCA). "I kept on learning as much as I could about contracting and the business side of it," she says.

In 1979, Papesh was named controller at E.B. Katz Co., a Cleveland mechanical contractor. Her duties included managing human resources, bonding, and safety and insurance programs. Papesh is forever grateful to her mentor at E.B. Katz, Elton Katz.

"Elton Katz gave me the guidance and opportunity to learn all that I could," she says. He's the one that saw my desire and drive to succeed." In 2000, Papesh became controller at Castle Heating and Air.

She and her husband, Jerry, and children, Andrew, and Marie, moved to Florida in 2004.

Data Transfer Not So Big After All
One of Papesh's major leadership projects involved converting the company's computer system to SAWIN Pro Software. Four months of planning went into the conversion, as Papesh and Chief Operating Officer Keith Walker went over every detail of the endeavor. Saturday work was required during the project, but as usual, Papesh found a way to make a large and tedious project of data transfer a less stressful experience. Theo Etzel (an excellent chef) prepared lunch, and a massage therapist was brought in for 10-minute sessions.

The most significant challenge was in obtaining buy-in from the employees. "We needed to explain why this was the best thing for the future of the company. If we had stayed with the other system we were using, we wouldn't have been able to grow as significantly," she says.

HVAC Consultant to Builders
Describing the difference between a larger heavy construction company and an HVAC business, Papesh say the volume of jobs dwarfs the 15-to 20 jobs she may have worked on at Katz or Dunbar.

Conditioned Air's track home division, which installs systems in hundreds of new homes each year, is a huge piece of the pie. The company's replacement department will tackle 500 to 700 projects annually.

New construction in existing homes will add another 150-200 annual jobs. But apathy never sets in.

"Each home is as important as the next," Papesh says. "We have many employees and thousands of customers. Every day there's another Mrs. Smith or Jones and everyone is as important as the last."

Conditioned Air brings an HVAC consultant's input to the table, to ensure the comfort systems in those new homes are properly sized and commissioned.

"If the homeowner is unhappy with the air conditioning, they're going to call us, not the builder. The comfort system must be up to codes and standards.

"That's one of the things we bring to the table, and many of the builders like that. We have a reputation for making comfort right."

Carol Papesh is certainly right for Conditioned Air, and she's right for the HVAC industry. Her advice to other women in the HVACR business is to keep your eyes and ears open.

"Continue to learn everything you can. Don't get intimidated. Women can be just as successful as the men," she says. "Hold your head up high, don't get flustered, and you'll be successful."

And she's the living proof. Congratulations to Carol Papesh, our 2010 Woman of the Year!