When Michael Giangrandi, founder and CEO of A.J. Michaels started the company in 1978, the business focused primarily on plumbing and heating. “We basically just did boilers and general plumbing work,” says Giangrandi. “Within the year it didn’t take me long to realize that you don’t install boilers in the summertime, so we made the investment and got into the HVAC business within our first year and became a Carrier dealer.” Located in Baltimore, the company has grown into a full-service commercial and residential mechanical contractor and is licensed in plumbing, HVAC and electrical work.
In the early stages of the company, A.J. Michaels relied heavily on electrical subcontractors to wire the boilers that the company would install. “We could work all day on a boiler and if the electrician didn’t want to come at 6:00 at night to wire it then we had a customer with no heat.” says Giangrandi. “We decided to get our electrical license and do our own electrical work. We hired an electrician and have been doing it ever since so we can control our own work and service our customers.”
A.J. Michaels is a Baltimore-area contractor that mainly serves the geographical area that surrounds the city. “We work over in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County and Queens Anne County,” Giangrandi explains. “We also work in Harford and Carol County – basically everything that surrounds the Baltimore area.”
Jim Blake, president of A.J. Michaels, says that much of the commercial work the company performs deals with renovations of older buildings. “We’re often working to fix issues that systems experience when these buildings go through renovations,” says Blake. “It can take a lot of updating for new systems and new technology to work properly. Some of the systems we’re installing have complete WiFi capabilities so we can have remote access to them.”
In in the interest of efficiency, A.J. Michaels is in the process of opening a service office in Annapolis, Maryland. “We’ve been talking about doing this for quite a while,” says Giangrandi. “We have a nice facility here in Baltimore but having a service operation in Annapolis will save a lot of drive time and will just make us more efficient and more cost-effective.”
In relation to the primary business plan of A.J. Michaels, the company has focused on whole-home performance with a goal of increasing the energy efficiency of homes and buildings. In fact, Michael Giangrandi serves as the President of the Maryland Alliance of Energy Contractors. “One of the best ways we’ve identified for increasing efficiency is by providing duct sealing measures,” Giangrandi explains. “Just about every home in the country has 20 percent duct leakage which causes the system to lose 30 to 40 percent of its efficiency. By recognizing that, we can package it together with other measures and make homes more energy efficient. The same can be done on a commercial level as well.”
A.J. Michaels has BPI Certified professionals who will assess homes and conduct energy audits. Beginning with an interviewer with the homeowner, the team discusses symptoms of energy loss and potential sources, and then attempts to remedy those situations. The company evaluates energy bills that provide clues to areas that need improvement. After a comprehensive whole-home assessment, A.J. Michaels provides the homeowner with a scientific, objective view of the situation and establishes the priority of repairs.
Small but mighty
With 48 employees, A.J. Michaels intentionally remains a small business. Performing the work at the level of quality that customers expect requires highly skilled individuals. “We like to be able to take care of our employees,” says Giangrandi. “I’m an independent type of businessman and I like to remain under the radar as much as possible so we can continue to pay our employees what they deserve and provide them with a decent benefits package.”
A.J. Michaels currently performs 50 percent of its business in the residential sector and 50 percent in commercial. While the company tends to focus on smaller facilities when working in the commercial sector, Giangrandi is always up for a challenge when the opportunity presents itself. “Right now we’re putting 200 tons of air conditioning on a cruise ship,” says Giangrandi. “This is kind of a unique job for us but it’s definitely within our scope of capabilities.” The company is planning a nine-week schedule for completion of the job.
A.J. Michaels has worked on more than 35,000 systems while in business. The experience, pride and skill level of its employees and owners has carried the company for 37 years. As the company leads the way for the future, the technology will evolve while the values of A.J. Michaels remain constant.