Founded in 1946 by Joe Hamros, Commercial Service is the oldest heating company in town. Laughlin said. It offered some of the earliest air conditioning units available, which froze ice in the evening and blew air across the ice to cool it down throughout the day. Under Hamros’ ownership, however, the company remained a one- or two- man operation for the first few decades of its existence.
That all changed when Jules Sonneborn—Mike Sonneborn’s father—purchased the company in 1973. The younger Sonneborn, a business school graduate, took over the company in 1975 and immediately began developing relationships with big players in town.
Today, the company services and installs HVAC units for both commercial and residential buildings with the former accounting for about 70 percent of its business, though the company’s residential division has grown exponentially in the last few years according to Laughlin. As of January 2013, the company also merged with longtime partner R&S Plumbing to offer plumbing services.
Over the years, Commercial Service has developed a reputation as a company that treats its customers, its employees and the community right, Laughlin said. Many of the company’s employees have stayed for 20, 30 or even 40 years, he said, “and you care about them like family.”
Giving back to the community has always been important to Commercial Service leaders as well. Since partnering with Habitat for Humanity
in the late 1980s, the company has installed the heating and cooling systems for 105 Habitat homes. It also supports the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bloomington
and the Monroe County YMCA
, which are causes close to the hearts of Rink and Sonneborn, respectively.
Laughlin praises Rink as a natural born leader whose people skills make him ideally-suited to step into Sonneborn’s shoes.
“He’s one of the busiest guys I know, but he always makes more time than anybody to talk to you about your day, about your family, about your kids,” he said. “It says a lot when the busiest guy in the organization, the guy running the organization, puts that kind of emphasis on that one-on-one time with employees and clients.”
Going into the future, Laughlin predicts the company will continue to keep that emphasis on having a personal touch in the future, even as it pursues “responsible growth.”
“Making sure we know our clients, making sure we know our employees—I think that’s an important part of the business that we run,” he said.
“We could easily be a company two or three times as big as we are, but those of us who are looked to as leaders believe very strongly in a personal connection with our clients and employees and I don’t think we want to lose that. When we talk about growing, that’s one of the things we’re very mindful of.”