For more than three decades, this Huntley business has grown through one simple principle: treat the customer right and the other things fall into place.
Aaron Poling Sr. has a simple, but effective, business strategy: Treat your customers fairly and they will return the favor.
“Treat everybody the same and be fair to everybody, and they will refer you,” says Poling, owner of A.S.A.P. Garage Door Repair, 11351 Allison Court, in Huntley. “A lot of my competitors will charge everybody a different price for the same job. We charge everybody the same, and that gets you word-of-mouth advertising.”
It’s a philosophy that has fueled growth in this 30-year-old business as it’s gone from a handful of employees to a team of 34 people. Together, they handle everything from residential garage door repair and replacement to commercial work, new construction and wholesale parts.
“We’ve always been into the entire industry,” says Poling, an Elgin native. “A lot of companies do residential or commercial work. We try to service everything. We have three buildings back-to-back. There is a wholesale department that sells to approximately 100 other door companies in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. There is a new construction division that sells to D.R. Horton, William Ryan and a couple other home builders with a separate warehouse. And then there is a residential team with its own residential and commercial installation crews.”
A.S.A.P. sells approximately 150 garage doors a week, Poling says. That rate of sales helps to support 34,000 square feet of warehouse space and a newly expanded, 3,000-square-foot showroom with about 20 garage door models and operational displays. There’s a proactive thinking behind this company that has enabled it to grow from a $750,000 business in 2005 to a firm that does roughly $12 to $15 million a year now.
“The secret to our success is that we do a little bit of everything,” he says. “If one side of the company slows down a little bit, the other side picks up. If interest rates stay high and inflation stays as shaky, that is when we see a spike in retrofit and replacement because people stay in their homes longer. When interest rates start coming down, that’s when we see a rise in new construction.”
Poling hails from a family of garage door professionals. His grandfather, Bob, worked for Overhead Door in Elk Grove Village. His dad, Harold, owned Area Door Service in Elgin, which merged with A.S.A.P. Garage Door Repair when Harold died in 2018. Poling started his own company with a partner in 1993, and his son, Aaron Jr., runs a satellite operation in Eagle River, Wis. Poling’s wife of 36 years, Shelly, joined as a working partner in 2005, doing payroll, bookkeeping and managing the office staff.
It’s safe to say A.S.A.P. is a family affair.
When Poling bought out his partner in 2005 and began expanding the business, it was just a team of four. Since then, Poling has invested his efforts in hiring the right people, instilling in them the company philosophy and providing them the space to do their jobs.
“I have a good management team. General manager Jacob Swanson has been with us since 2004. He started out as an installer,” says Poling, who likens himself to an air-traffic controller.
“Twenty years ago, I hired a business consultant to come in and analyze how we did things. One of the biggest mistakes owners make is they get set in their ways. Who is going to review them?” Poling says. “I had the consultants in three times over a six-year period and the best advice I got was to surround yourself with smart, intelligent people, teach them to think like you do and then let them do their jobs. Trying to do everything yourself will keep you trapped, so you can only grow to a certain point and can’t do anything more than that.”
These days, A.S.A.P. serves a wide swath of northeastern Illinois, with crews that head west to Rockford, east to Chicago, south to Joliet and north into Lake Geneva. It’s able to cover such a wide expanse by offering superior customer service and by keeping a steady supply of the latest parts in stock – including more than 100 garage doors and LiftMaster openers with smart technology.
Poling has developed his own transportation network, including semis and box trucks. A.S.A.P. fills one to two semi-trailers a week from manufacturer C.H.I. Overhead Doors in downstate Arthur.
“I get my product a couple of weeks quicker because I haul my own freight,” he says.
Perhaps the biggest challenge he faces right now isn’t about inventory, hiring or rising costs. Rather, Poling says he’s most concerned with online fraudsters who try to capitalize on his company’s sterling reputation.
“Before, people would look at the sticker on their door and call. Now, we get people Googling us all day,” he says. “These people taking out Google ads are paying for our name and keywords. They are taking advantage of consumers and us. It’s happening all over the country now.”
Poling says he and the International Door Association have been working to get Google and the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on these sponsored ads.
There’s also a degree of buyer-beware. Poling urges consumers to call the showroom directly and look for vans with the A.S.A.P. logo and name. He’s also considered issuing photo IDs to his installers as an added security measure.
What the impostors lack and the A.S.A.P. team brings to bear is training, a strong customer service approach and a team leader who has complete faith in the people he hires.
“No one is required to do a job in a certain time. I pay them to do the job right,” Poling says. “Our office staff find out what the problems are and ask questions. Is the spring broken? Does the door not close? They will take the time to go through it with the customer and troubleshoot. It could be a sensor that’s dirty or misaligned. Customers can fix it themselves and save a service call. And once you do that for someone, they remember it.”
On top of that, A.S.A.P.’s employees are treated equally, he adds. Everyone is paid hourly with no sales commissions. By contrast, some other garage door installers might pay salesmen bonuses, such as $2 per roller sold or $20 for a set of new cables, Poling says. But that’s not necessarily what’s best for the customer.
“Our guys get paid to find the best fit for the customer,” he says. Honesty goes a long way in business, as far as I’m concerned. You don’t rip people off. We’re right next door to Del Webb and all of those seniors. We treat those people like we’d treat our family.”