Lean Sigma.

Path of Dialogue.

Partnering for Process Improvement.

A few minutes into the meeting and past the jargon being used in todayís sophisticated corporations, a voice across the table said, ìThatís some of what weíve been doing lately. But, what do you think your readers want to know about Lennox?

ìContractors want to know how they can take information from this article and make their companies better,î a surprised editor replied.

The voices at the table were that of Doug Young, vice president & general manager Lennox North American residential sales, marketing, and distribution; and Harry Bizios, vice president and general manager Lennox commercial. The discussion turned from manufacturing processes and buzzwords to some strategic initiatives that, ordinarily, a manufacturer might not share in an open forum.

Contractors might consider this an opportunity to benefit from the same introspection to which Lennox subjects itself. Following is a brief summary of the conversation between Lennox Industriesí executive management and Contracting Business magazine.

A Strategy You Can Use

The rejuvenation at Lennox started after top management spent a day with Jim Collins, author of the best-selling book Good To Great. The company adopted a clearing-the-decks approach to core business products. Lennox began to create a new strategic focus that allowed the company to examine three things. These questions drove the coming changes: ìWhat are we really passionate about? What can we be very good at? What drives our economic engine?î

The drive behind any companyís economic engine is usually rooted in one of the bedrocks of capitalism ó profit. Lennox is poised for growth in several markets. That helps the top line of the balance sheet.

However, the company demonstrated its ability to be very innovative when times dictated cost cutting measures. Lennox pulled seven people out of their normal jobs to operate in a free-flowing environment with the task of finding cost savings. The team far-exceeded the stated goals without jeopardizing quality in operations.

The Culture & The Vision

The heritage of the company goes back to 1895 when Dave Lennox started business in Marshalltown, IA. In 1904, D.W. Norris and a small group of businessmen bought the company. Relationships were built in a trusting environment that allowed some turn of the century movers and shakers to accomplish their goals. Lennox International Inc. Chairman John Norris Jr., grandson of D.W., still commands attention as he moves in todayís industry circles. Heritage is a cornerstone of the companyís philosophy toward its core businesses.

The vision of a company needs to be communicated internally as well as externally. Lennox had always said the right things that every company in the world talks about ó the things that comprise vision statements. However, the leadership at Lennox spent a lot of time finding out how to wrap their arms around this as a culture, so that every employee would be an agent of change.

When a safe environment is created, where people can be open, with mutual purpose and respect, in such a way as the entire organization feels the same, then the benefits to the company really become attainable.

Building a rock-solid internal support company is key in Lennoxí plan for success with its products and customers. The company wants to ìget the culture rightî in order to get the desired results and provide the support its customers deserve. The strategy is to manage and lead in a way thatís really different. This belief is so strong that every employee signs a Code of Conduct agreement tht, among other things, stresses the value of integrity.

The Lennox leadership team is counting on the integrity developed internally to be equally strong in the partner relationships that exist between the company and its 7,000 dealer customers.

New Residential Approach

Doug Young, is a disciple of the new product approach at Lennox. ìWe made a significant change in marketing, structurally more than philosophically, about two years ago. People were brought here that are very good at product development and brand management. We sought out consumer opinion, more than ever before, because we wanted to know them and what they want. Thatís a key element in providing the right products and services to our dealers who serve the consumer,î says Young.

The Dave Lennox Signature Collection of products represents the best Lennox has to offer as it combines energy efficiency, reliability, air purification technology, and quiet comfort.

Consumer research by the marketing department revealed interesting results. ìQuiet operation and indoor air quality have always been important in this industry. However, in the consumersí eyes, it turned out to be a much bigger issue than weíd thought. We also found that consumers really wanted greater control over their comfort system,î says Young.

Everyone views comfort differently. Lennox concentrated on creating a series of robust products that could be customized to meet individual needs. The companyís research proved that identical solutions wonít work across the board.

With new products for indoor air quality, humidity control, and temperature control, Young believes the company has struck an innovative mix that allows dealers to customize their offering to fit any customersí comfort needs.

Attaboy Dave! Goes Commercial

Harry Bizios, says, ìLennox has often been viewed by the outside world as a great residential company. Weíve been working very hard the last few years to gain the same level of recognition as a commercial company. Weíve been focused on taking Dave Lennox out of the basement and putting him on the roof.î

If some of the recent advances are any indication, good olí Dave may have successfully made the transition. The Lennox commercial L Series, a short-lead time, configure to order product, received a Department of Energy award, in the Fall of 2002, for having the lowest lifecycle cost of a rooftop unit. ìCustomers have consistently rated the L Series as a clear winner over competitive models in more than 100 benchmarking sessions,î says Bizios.

Bizios cited other recent innovations in Lennoxí commercial product lines ó the results of more than 11 contractor design forums. ìWe got a strong message there was significant need for indoor air quality solutions, particularly humidity control. Our new Humiditrol product dehumidifies when thereís a need for humidity control only, and doesnít require a need for cooling to start the dehumidification cycle. The product removes as much as eight times the moisture as some competitive products,î says Bizios.

If Bizios seems quite proud of the Humiditrol product he has a right to be. It won a recent Innovations Award as voted on by Contracting Business readers.

eCommerce Leadership

If your first impression of Lennox Industries were the commonly visited website location, www.Lennox.com., youíd think the company behind the big red L offers some pretty fine equipment.

However, where the proverbial rubber meets the road, or where a Lennox dealership really meets the virtual HVAC industry giant, is at www.DaveNet.com. This is Lennoxí total e-Commerce solution. Whether itís 24/7 real-time ordering, fast warranty claim processing, or an up-to-date, comprehensive product library that you want, Lennox has quietly built one of the industryís best online-based systems for its customers.

ìContractors have shown tremendous interest in DaveNet because itís so much easier to do business,î according to Rob Zimbelman, manager of DaveNet. He says, ìNearly 5,000 dealers have signed up for DaveNet and 15% of orders are being processed on-line at this time.î

The Heritage Factor

The Lennox Residential offering of high efficiency heating and air conditioning products has long been atop many a homeownerís list of desired brands.

Lennox Commercial commands an enviable position among customers who demand flexibility and innovation.

However, what may set this company apart is something its leaders call the heritage factor. Integrity, quality, and innovation are the key ingredients. Of these, integrity is the most crucial element according to top management.

Every company needs something to give it that winning edge. For Lennox, itís the heritage factor. Whatís yours?