We had the good fortune of connecting with Sheryl Bishop and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sheryl, as a parent, what do you feel is the most meaningful thing you’ve done for them?
Dream big and pursue with persistence. I was a late bloomer professionally. It took me 11 years to finish my Bachelor’s degree because I simply couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. Then I got interested in the space program and settled on a career in social psychology to explore what made the best kind of person to work and live off-earth. I was pregnant with my second child when I applied for graduate school at UT Austin with only a freshly earned Bachelor’s degree in hand. No one thought I would be accepted. I registered as a special student and drove 1.5 hours twice a week to Austin for classes. My persistence and tenacity paid off and I was admitted. It was a theme that has served me well my entire life. It supported me through a 30 year career as a behavioral researcher in extreme environments and let me travel all over the world studying teams climbing mountains, wintering over in Antarctica, walking across glaciers and deserts, diving the world’s deepest caves and, yes, spending time in space. When I retired from the University of Texas Medical Branch after 30 years, dreaming big and persistence helped my husband and I start two family businesses, Legendary Party Rental and SouthCoast Heat & Air, with our retirement funds in 2016. The last four years has tested our resolve many times. Flooded by Hurricane Harvey, adapting to the disruptions of a worldwide pandemic…our children and grandchildren have witnessed the real challenge of big dreams and the need for persistence firsthand. And they have become stronger and more resilient individuals for the experience. Whether it is exploring how to make a home in space or how to make your home here on Earth the best it can be, we’ve put our dedication to fulfilling big dreams to work. I believe the best example is the one that you live yourself.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I don’t think anyone in the Texas coastal plains will say it’s been an easy time to be a business owner for quite some time. As if the string of natural disasters (Hurricane Ike in 2007 and Harvey in 2017) wasn’t enough, the impact of disruptions from COVID-19 is still unfolding. In 2016, I had the opportunity to retire from the University of Texas Medical Branch after 30 years as a behavioral researcher and educator. My husband and I decided to take our retirement funds and start two family businesses, Legendary Party Rentals and SouthCoast Heat & Air, to provide a legacy for our kids and a steady retirement income. We told the kids that there wasn’t going to be any inheritance, so they better work hard to make the businesses succeed! Three of our four kids quit their current jobs and along with a wonderful son-in-law, joined us in the adventure. We decided right from the start that we wanted both our businesses to be centered around trust. We had recently had a new air conditioning system put into our home and, in the end, had no confidence that we had gotten the appropriate system for our needs. Replacing your AC system is one of the most expensive repairs to your home and to not feel that the decision was the right one at the end of the day was just unacceptable. It was that experience that led us to choose to enter the heating and air conditioning field with our own company. We were steadily building our reputation and customer base when Hurricane Harvey flooded the region. Like so many others, we lost our home, most of our belongings as well as multiple personal and business vehicles. Living in an RV on our driveway with our kids camping out in the gutted house, we regrouped, relocated our businesses into newly created offices in the large barn on our property, and started the long process of rebuilding ourselves and our community. More than ever, it was clear that needed improvements in how the HVAC industry had been traditionally run were overdue. There were vast differences between quotes from different companies for the same repair! Like our own customer experience, there was no way for a customer to feel reassured that they were getting a correct and accurate diagnosis much less a fair price for the proposed fix. We joined industry leaders and implemented new transparent pricing policies with fixed labor prices for different categories of repairs. Diagnosis processes were photographed and videoed to share with our customers and our techs were trained to take the time to show the photo evidence and explain exactly what was needed. Our salespersons designed three solutions – good, better and best – for a customer to review and fit to their budgetary and personal preferences. In all things, we strove to put the critical information into the hands of our customers, provide explanations and answers to ensure they understood everything and then strove to make their choices become reality. That sometimes meant going above and beyond traditional financing approaches, helping customers seek additional funding from warranty companies or even working with other organizations and manufacturers. We wanted to be the customer’s advocate and enabler to achieve superior indoor air quality. We often joke that keeping your AC running is second only to buying food here in the Houston area. But it’s not that much of a joke! Doing things differently takes time to work. We’ve listened to our customers about what has worked well and where we can make improvements. The implementation of COVID-19 restrictions has made the task a lot harder. The disruption to lives, employment, jobs, communities, finances and the economy permeates everything. Production of parts and equipment have been affected making it more of a challenge to meet demand. Customers struggle to balance immediate repair expenses against furloughs and layoffs. The volatile weather patterns and multiple storms have frequently disrupted schedules that require access to outside as well as inside ac and heating systems. The need to wear masks and provide for social distancing has added physical demands on our techs in attics that can exceed 150-160 degrees in the summer. But we persist and continue to dream big. We believe in what we do. We are striving to change the face of the HVAC industry one customer at a time. We’re certainly not alone in this quest. As the momentum builds, we are convinced that true transparency pricing, good-better-best custom solutions and customer focused service will become the hallmark of the ac company you trust and those you don’t. And we intend to be in the trusted group!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The Houston metro area has a huge diversity of things to see and do, albeit somewhat more limited under COVID-19 practices. For those who have never had the opportunity to visit NASA Johnson Space Center, and actually touch a vehicle that has orbited the earth, a day at JSC is a must. Evening margaritas on the Kemah Boardwalk watching the parade of boats and yachts promenading out to the bay and back at sunset combines the best of Texas cuisine and Gulf Coast ambience. Similarly, there would have to be at least one dinner at Guido’s on the Seawall in Galveston and a walk along the beach at sunset. Another favorite would be treating my guest to the amazing beef fajitas at Lupe Tortillas! Accompanied by proper margarita’s over ice with salt, of course! For something unique, a visit to the Railean Rum Distillery in San Leon and their pirate bar and guild will certainly go down in the most memorable category for the visit. We would also squeeze in a visit to the planetarium and Natural Science Museum, especially if there were kids involved. A day at the beach will provide plenty of seashell treasures, sunshine and saltwater to satisfy both physical and psychological needs for restoration. Another great option is to visit the Rain Forest and Aquarium at Moody Gardens. You can even watch 3D movies on the largest movie screen in Texas. So much to do…so little time!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Without a doubt, our family! We have a huge family (over 50 individuals covering four generations) that provides an extensive network of encouragement, support, assistance, and resources. Within that amazing network, are four individuals that were willing to change careers and take the gamble to start our family businesses with us: Sons Devin Bishop and Kenneth Tobey, Daughter and Son-in-Law Alayna and Joseph Spurbeck. As we made the transition from our professional careers in IT and academia into the world of small business ownership, these four took the leap with us. They have dedicated long hours of effort, energy, inspiration, hard work, and commitment to helping our businesses succeed. They have made our big dreams their own and demonstrated the same persistence and dedication to success we have tried to exemplify all our lives. When we say we are a family business, we mean it. From the greater clan to the immediate circle, our family is our strength.
Other: www.legendarypartyrentals.com; https://www.facebook.com/legendarypartyrentals