L.D. Lawson, the founder of Lawson Air Conditioning & Plumbing, Inc., was posthumously inducted into the Carrier Hall of Fame this month. This remarkable honor recognizes his devotion to serving in all aspects of his life. To celebrate him and to learn more, please enjoy the following Question & Answer session with Debbie Lawson Davis, L.D.’s daughter and a second generation business owner in Gainesville, GA.
Q. What are your earliest memories of the company and your father, L.D. Lawson?
A. Actually, Daddy cherished his time with his family and rarely brought work home. As I grew up, I knew him to be the kind to help out whenever someone or something needed him. He was always one to do what he could, to use the gifts he’d been given to extend a little TLC to a project or need in the community. His servant’s heart is probably my earliest understanding of him and his work.
Q. When did you know you wanted to continue in the family business?
A. Vince, my husband, actually worked for the company first! We were high school sweethearts and married after I graduated from college with a Journalism degree. Vince had experience elsewhere and when he joined the company he began learning everything he could. I worked as a Marketing Director for the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, then a local shopping center. Five years after we’d married, there as a staffing need and I came in to help. The atmosphere told me it was the right place to be. I enjoyed it so much I never left!
Q. Can you explain the “Lawson Way…”
A. Actually, it was my son Travis who coined the phrase. The “Lawson Way” boils down to 1) Do your best to do it right the first time, 2) Do the right thing and everything should fall into place, 3) Treat customers and coworkers as you’d like to be treated, and 4) If you don’t know something, ask. It’s simple, really. We’ve always made an effort to promote from within, to encourage personal enrichment and seek training opportunities.
Q. What, do you believe, is the most important part of running a local business?
A. If I had to sum it up…integrity and involvement. Daddy lived it, and taught me ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’ Daddy worked so hard to create a sustainable business, we feel a responsibility and an inspiration to preserve the legacy he gifted us. We believe it is the responsibility of our business and of ourselves to give back to the community, whether it’s our time, our knowledge or our support. Vince and I are heavily involved in our church, our community and in service organizations and support our employees in their efforts to do the same.
Q. You have come from a long line of strong and resourceful women. Your father, no doubt, was successful, in part because of the support of your mother Clovie. What can you share about her influence on you and how you support the people working with you?
A. Mother was not a social butterfly, rather steadfast in her support of church activities and of Daddy. She ran the household and made sure Daddy had a respite to come home to each night. Whether it was dinner on the table after a long day or the assurance she had things handled at home, she had a way of knowing what he needed. She was a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother. She truly showed dedication and devotion to those she loved.
Q. Did she work for the Lawson Air Conditioning & Plumbing?
A. She did! At 75 she came in and helped around the office, answering phones and such. We had 14 more years with her after Daddy passed and I remember being inspired by her resilience and independence at the time. I believe she’d be proud that the example she and Daddy set is replicated now as Vince and I eventually look to transition our business to a third generation – our son, Travis.
Q. You have a strong affiliation with Brenau University, which has a history of strengthening education in women. What advice, particularly to young women, would you like to share about leadership?
A. Developing leadership in women is a topic near and dear to my heart. I speak of this frequently with Brenau and other opportunities. I encourage everyone, especially women, to examine what describes you…your roles as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, or friend and know you are not defined by circumstances. What defines you are your life’s experiences. We’re like kaleidoscopes, multifaceted, made of different strengths. Know it’s all the components together making you a unique and effective leader. As a kaleidoscope turns, light shines through different pieces – when life calls for it, your diverse attributes will shine. They combine to create the woman and leader you are.
Q. How have the connections with Mingledorff’s and with Carrier affected Lawson Air Conditioning & Plumbing, Inc.?
A. We’ve most definitely experienced an enrichment, a strengthening from our alliance with them. Mingledorff’s [Carrier equipment distributor] has been an outstanding partner and the only one with which I’d affiliate. We’ve been courted by other manufacturers, naturally, but we recognize the investment Carrier has made in innovation and training in residential and commercial. We’re extremely happy with them.
Q. Speaking of innovation, so many people benefit from the invention of air conditioning – nursing home residents and hospital patients come to mind, especially. What do you think L.D. Lawson would think of the advancement of technology from 1946 to now?
A. Wow. He certainly saw a lot of changes. He was here to celebrate our 50th Anniversary in ‘96. He witnessed innovations in controls and zoning, the evolution of EPA regulations, and an increase in efficiency. I think he’d be most surprised and delighted by the use of Wifi in thermostats, and how efficient and customized the systems can be now, both residential and commercial. The 98% efficient units are more advanced than typical units just 10 years ago.
Q. What are your aspirations for Lawson Air Conditioning & Plumbing in the future?
A. I’m excited to pass the torch someday to Travis. He and his fiance Ashley, who also works for the company, are putting in the work to take the helm. I’m excited to see what changes are coming. The ideals, the ‘Lawson Way,’ are in place. We have growth goals, to expand our footprint and to continue evolving through training and technology.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to express to or share with the Gainesville community?
A. In a nutshell, I’m grateful for the opportunity to celebrate the life and legacy of Daddy – especially with the recent Carrier Hall of Fame induction. Plus, our third straight year of receiving the Carrier President’s Award in 2018 testifies to our current team’s dedication to customer service, training and providing our customers quality workmanship. Vince and I are grateful to create a legacy ourselves and see a whole new generation to serve, to employ and to lead. So blessed.
According to an article from the Conway Center for Family Business, family business leaders focus on the next generation, not the next quarter. They tend to embrace strategies putting customers and employees first and emphasizing social responsibility. Lawson Air Conditioning & Plumbing, Inc. works to embody this every day.
This is part of our “Lawson Legacy” series. For future updates, like us on Facebook!