A visionary and a gentleman. Those are the terms that best describe 2008 Contracting Business Hall of Fame inductee Elliot Sokolow. “Elliot Sokolow has had a long history of industry service and pioneering innovation,” says Matt Michel, CEO of the Service Roundtable. “Beyond that, however, he’s one of the gentlemen of the industry. He’s always been open and approachable, willing to listen and offer suggestions.”
Elliot Sokolow started Florida Heating & Air Conditioning, a mechanical contracting business in Ft. Lauderdale, FL in 1970. More than a quartercentury later, he was instrumental in the formation of American Residential Services (ARS), when in May 1996, Florida Heating signed a merger agreement with ARS as one of its founding companies.
“Elliot launched the consolidation movement, leading to the first structural change in the industry in decades,” Michel says.
Following the initial public offering of ARS, Sokolow was employed as director of software development and implementation, and later became senior vice president and director of residential operations, heading a division with more than 4,000 employees operating in 56 cities in 17 states. He also served on the board of directors of ARS.
In May 1999, ServiceMaster acquired ARS and Sokolow chose to pursue other investment interests in real estate and business. In January 2006, one of Elliot’s investment companies joined with two other ARS employees to reacquire the new construction air conditioning operations of ARS in Southern Florida, and brought them under the umbrella of Engineered Air LLC.
Throughout his career, Sokolow has always been actively involved in HVAC industry activities, having served as president of the South Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association, and vice president of the Florida State Air Conditioning Contractors Association. He was elected to two consecutive terms as national president of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America in 1992 and 1993.
Jim Isaac, the 1990 ACCA president, calls Sokolow a visionary.
“He’s a very smart guy,” says Isaac, who is semi-retired after many years of service as CEO of Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning, Rochester, NY. “He made money by doing a quality job in the new construction segment of the business, and that can be difficult. I really admired how he was able to do that.”
“He was a gentleman’s gentleman,” Isaac adds. “He used to take his main builders’ customers and their wives on a cruise every year. He put the whole thing together himself. You can imagine the impression that made on his customers and their wives.”
Chuck Meyer, president of Engineered Air LLC, the Margate, FL-based company where Elliot serves as managing partner, has known Sokolow for 36 years. What is his lasting legacy to someone who has known and worked with him for so long?
“Elliot’s overriding quality is a sense of fairness,” Meyer says. “We have two very different personalities, and for us to do what we’ve done together over the years is a testament to him. He’s a brilliant guy, and really has touched many lives throughout this industry across the country.”
Meyer says Sokolow’s greatest contributions came through his association with ACCA and the consolidation movement, and his involvement in ACCA MIX® Groups.
“Through those meetings, smaller contractors received the benefit of having access to information only larger contractors had previously. It made the industry a lot stronger and smarter,” Meyer says.
Welcome to the Contracting Business Hall of Fame, Elliot Sokolow, visionary and gentleman.