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Luke Heiar, Harker Heating & Cooling Inc.

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Luke Heiar, co-owner/CFO, Harker Heating & Cooling Inc.

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1.   What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

The most challenging part of being a medium-sized business owner is having to manage large-company problems with small-company resources. For instance, a large company usually has an IT department with highly trained individuals, while a typical small company only has a few computers and cell phones. We have to manage a growing network and changing technology without having a single full-time IT person on staff.

Because the issues we face are often unique to a business of our size and industry, most solutions have to be created from scratch, without training or resources. When you recognize a problem and construct an effective solution, it kind of feels like you really built something or even invented it. When I see a process I created still ticking away five-plus years later or when someone from a different company says, “Wow, how did you ever think of that?” I get the greatest feeling of job satisfaction.

2. Who do you look up to or admire in business and why? 

To paraphrase Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar speech: “My hero is me in 10 years.” At first it sounds narcissistic, especially coming from a Hollywood actor, but the more I thought about it the more I realized what he was getting at. It is not, “I am the only one great enough to be my hero,” but rather “I admit I am flawed and want to improve. I am going to create a better, however imaginary, version of myself 10 years from now and try to become that.”

I actually think most people do this in one form or another. That brief moment of daydreaming each morning as you look in the mirror, imagining yourself with that new job or new house. That sets you on the right course for the rest of your day.

I find this works well for a couple of reasons:

First, 10 years is always 10 years away; even when you are 98 years old. That means you never stop trying to improve.

Second, you can only aspire to be someone else; however, you can actually become yourself. That creates a stronger drive to improve.

Finally (and most pessimistically), people are flawed. Remember when everyone loved Lance Armstong? When you pick a person to admire, even in a purely business sense, you risk picking up their bad traits, as well, no matter how perfect or nice they may seem. Also, what happens if that person does get busted for some serious stuff? Do you burn all of their books? Find someone else? Was all of that time wasted? I think you are better off investing in yourself.

3. What has been the high point of your career so far?

I am not going to lie, the past seven years have been pretty great. Since the economy got out of the dumps we have experienced consistent and healthy growth in both the residential and commercial markets while improving customer satisfaction.

One award we achieved that stands out from the rest is our 2013 Operation Fresh Start (OFS) “Employer of the Year” award. I have always felt that the best value we can give to the community is to offer high-paying jobs with great benefits that only require a high school education. OFS helps get disconnected young people prepared for the workforce or college.

4. Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

I would tell myself, “You will never grow out of being a dork. Stop wasting time and money on trying to be cool and just embrace it. You will be happier and more confident accepting this. Also, buy a bunch of Netflix stock.”


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