Repairman evolves business through social media
Mundelein resident Mitch Byrne started Northeast Cooling eight years ago but struggled with getting clientele. Social media and Google optimization brought Byrne a recent surplus of work. | Ruthie Hauge~Sun-Times Media
North East Cooling & Power Technology Chicago
Where: 412 N Greenview Ave Mundelein
Phone: (847) 409-3332; (312) 880-9540
Website: http://northeastcooling.com; http://powertechnologychicago.com/
Twitter: @refrigerator; @powrtechchicago
Updated: March 26, 2013 3:44PM
MUNDELEIN — Mitch Byrne spent decades getting his hands dirty at work. Now, he’s using those hands to click his way to success online.
Social media and Google optimization helped Byrne grow his Mundelein-based Northeast Cooling, which specializes in commercial refrigeration instillation and repair for Chicago-area small businesses.
That success motivated him to start a second company called Power Technology Chicago — a consulting and sales company.
Without making visits, Byrne gets contracts from companies throughout the country for heating and air conditioning, commercial refrigeration and LED lighting projects.
“People call me and say ‘This is what I want to do. This is what I have. How can I do it?’” Byrne said. “It’s great work because it’s dependent experience and we can provide that service from wherever. This never would have happened before I started learning about the Internet.”
As “green” products become more popular, Byrne said certain terms get more and more Google searches. Byrne said most of his business comes from being active in Facebook and Twitter forums and from a revamped website with Google-friendly terms.
Power Technology Chicago does most of its business on the West Coast. Byrne became certified with multiple corporate manufacturers, which allows him to sell parts anywhere and schedule delivery from depots near the buyer.
Recent big sales came in Washington, where Byrne said state regulations require new construction and renovation projects to involve energy efficiencies.
“Green is trendy nowadays, but saving money is extremely popular,” Byrne said. “Consulting on green hardware is a perfect fit for me because it involves modifying the same machines I already work on.”
Diving into the Internet came at a critical point of Byrne’s entrepreneurial experiment.
The economy was tough when Byrne started Northeast Cooling eight years ago. He said the reduction in benefits and pay at his previous jobs were unbearable and he knew he could work on commercial refrigerators independently at lower rates.
Though he got plenty of referrals from doing quality work, Byrne said traditional advertising in phonebooks and business-to-business magazines was not working.
Byrne met Heather Acton while at a Lake County social networking event in 2009. Acton owns Helio Interactive, a Grayslake-based multimedia consulting firm.
“I don’t know of any other clients who went from providing a non-technology service to building a strong web-based service,” Acton said. “He’s very unique and brave.”
Most of Helio’s clients originally formed as online market places or pay for basic, informative websites. Acton said Byrne is not the norm.
“It’s understandable that a refrigerator repairman nearing retirement wants to advance his line of work and avoid some of the heavy labor,” Acton said. “Nobody has ever done a tweet-the-repairman-thing, and now he’s growing it to an online expert level where people seek him out.”
Mike Altshuler was one of Byrne’s first Twitter clients. Altshuler was the head chef at Clybar Restaurant in Chicago, before it closed in 2011.
Byrne followed Altshuler on Twitter and they forged a casual relationship talking about general needs.
“In the restaurant business, it’s all about who you know,” Altshuler said. “Our owners had their own people, but when something breaks, you’re losing money every second and the focus is on who can get here fastest. I happened to have Mitch’s info and he proved to be the fastest every time.”
Building a brand on social media continues to grow Northeast Cooling, but Byrne said his mission to bring Power Technology Chicago to the same level.
“It takes time to build that reputation, but I’ve done it once,” Byrne said. “I don’t want to be the old man on your kitchen floor anymore. I’m determined to make it work.”