CCN profiles Les Gatfield to commemorate his 40th anniversary at Airefrig Australia.
Most employers would agree that finding honest, loyal and hardworking employees is priceless. Bill and Waverley Treby, the owners of Airefrig Australia are no exception.
Little did they know when they hired Les Gatfield to be a storeman at their company in 1977, he would prove to be all that and more for the next 40 years that followed.
Prior to joining Airefrig Les worked as a leading hand for Brown Build Industries after a stint in the Australian Navy. As the storeman at Airefrig Les joined a team of five people and was involved in stock control and purchasing.
It took less than a year for Les to develop an interest in refrigeration and air conditioning. He commenced studies at night school to obtain his certificate in refrigeration and air conditioning, while he continued working full-time and raising a young family with his wife Penny.
Les transferred into the office, where he worked in stock control and started assisting Bill in sales. The move to sales saw Les out on the road building the Airefrig customer base and when Airefrig Supplies became the WA distributor for Daikin Australia in 1978, Les was put in charge of the division.
The Daikin days at Airefrig proved to be highly successful for both Les and Airefrig with sales continuing to grow in Western Australia. By 2001 Daikin opened its own office in WA.
As a result Airefrig's focus returned to refrigeration and expanding its presence in the eastern states. It was at this time that Les was appointed sales engineer.
When the role of systems & inventory manager opened up in 2004, Les took on this role and became an integral member of the national purchasing team.
As Airefrig developed the Enthalpy range of condensing units, Les assisted in development, diagrams and testing and continues to be a large part of the testing and quality control in the company today.
In his 40-year career at Airefrig Australia Les has been a member of AREMA, served on the board of RACIRB and for a time he was also the secretary of AIRAH. Les Gatfield talks about four decades of refrigeration.
CCN: What was your first impression of Airefrig?
Les: I had decided I didn’t want to work for a big company, so when I got the position at Airefrig I was happy that I had found a job with a small family business. I immediately enjoyed the work and the people I worked with.
CCN: What’s the best thing that has happened to you since you started?
Les: Starting at Airefrig is the best thing that happened. A highlight would be earning the role of running the Daikin division and the places that it took me has been amazing. I think that taking on the Daikin distributorship was also the best thing for the company. It encouraged and showed Airefrig how big they could be and was a large learning curve in how to manage larger scale accounts. It lead to growth in so many other areas.
CCN: Why have you stayed 40 years?
Les: It’s been so interesting and it’s been a lot of fun. Especially in the early years. It’s taken me to places both physically and mentally that I never thought that I could go. I didn’t know that I had it in me to do all that I have, but at every turn I have always given as much as I could and given to Airefrig the best I could. I will be forever grateful for the friends and associates that working with Airefrig has brought me over these years, many of whom are still in my life.
CCN: What is the biggest change to the industry since you started?
Les: The ongoing changes to refrigerants and the global decision to phase out HCFC’s and CFC’s. The impact that these changes have made to refrigeration and the application of refrigerants has been the biggest change.
CCN: What do you see as the biggest changes to come?
Les: The changeover to alternative refrigerants. Because the changes relating to refrigerants are ongoing this is still the biggest change for the future.
CCN: How do you define success?
Les: It’s different for everyone. But being happy with whatever you’ve achieved personally in your life is a measure of your success, and I’m happy.