Building A Business Your Way: 5 Lessons from Jackie Thorson, Thorson Heating in Sioux Falls

Thorson Heating is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, and the business is transforming in incredible ways. Jackie Thorson bought the business from her dad in 2020, becoming the third-generation owner of this HVAC company based in Sioux Falls.

As a business owner, Jackie is driven, innovative, and resilient. She advocates for women in the trades and gives generously back to her Sioux Falls community. It’s safe to say she’s a rising star in her field. Bank Midwest is proud to partner with Jackie and Thorson Heating.

Here, Jackie shares her five tips for building a business bigger and stronger.

1. Follow Your Passions

Blog Thorson Heating Feature 2023 1Jackie always knew she wanted a hands-on job. Initially, her dream job was to be a firefighter. She grew up around her family’s HVAC business, but after high school, Jackie took a summer job going on calls with her dad. After that, she was hooked and wanted to get into the trade.

But Jackie always knew that she wanted to own the business.

“My dad had always been very open that that was an option for me,” she remembers. “As soon as I started with him, he said, ‘If you really like it, and if you wanna stick in with it, this could be a future for you.’ And that was a really big motivator for me.”

Jackie advises business owners to stay true to what they love as they create their businesses. They’ll build a foundation from growing expertise and always enjoy doing the work.

2. Find Education Opportunities That Work For You

Blog Thorson Heating Feature 2023 2As Jackie continued her early career, she found chances to learn everywhere. She worked hands-on with the Thorson Heating team for a few months, then enrolled in Southeast Tech in Sioux Falls. Jackie discovered in her first class that she was the only woman in her program. But that didn’t stop her from applying her HVAC experience and getting the highest score in her first class.

“I guess it was still enough that I had people that wanted to be my partner in class, and it really just changed the game for me.”

After graduating two years later, she had all the technical know-how to thrive as a full-time HVAC technician. But her business knowledge came from classes at Johnstone Supply, hosted by Bank Midwest.

“That’s where I really started to develop business knowledge about the industry, the company’s inner workings, how to improve sales, and our bottom line.”

Look for opportunities to learn about people, the trade, and your business wherever you can find them.

3. Set Your Sights High and Commit to the Vision

Blog Thorson Heating Feature 2023 3Jackie had worked for her dad for 15 years when she started the process of buying the business.

“A lot of that had to do with the birth of my son,” Jackie explains. “That’s always a life changing experience that makes you want more out of life.”

Always ambitious, Jackie started researching her options for buying the business while keeping her dad in the trade. But her financing options kept hitting dead ends. She was determined to build her business her way, so when she finally met with Bank Midwest in Sioux Falls, she learned she didn’t have to compromise her visions. Bank Midwest partnered with The South Eastern Development Foundation (SEDF) to finance her operation.

Jackie advises aspiring and current business owners to stay true to the big picture of their enterprise and find partners that help them achieve that vision.

4. Embrace Change — The Business Is Growing

Blog Thorson Heating Feature 2023 5A lot of change comes with becoming a business owner—new responsibilities, new leadership roles, and, typically, more time. Jackie’s work splits in many ways: installation, consultation, marketing, social media, management, accounting, operations, and much more.

But Jackie advises business owners to embrace this transition and change.

“Every day is different, and we’re always fluctuating. It has been a struggle for me to learn to put down the tools, especially when we get busy,” she says. “I very quickly and easily want to hop in a truck and start running calls because we’re busy, and in reality, I sometimes need to be here behind the scenes.”

5. Think Long Term, Past, Present, and Future

Blog Thorson Heating Feature 2023 4“We’ve been around for 80 years, and I don’t take that lightly,” Jackie explains when discussing the future of her business. “We’ve made that achievement for having good customer service and having a good reputation.”

Thinking long-term is a vital skill as business owners consider the future of their operations. But looking at the long-term successes and lessons from history is also essential.

For Thorson Heating, personable service, excellent work, and being active in the community is a mainstay. Jackie is committed to maintaining that as she moves the business into its next 80 years. She’s already started community service projects, like The Hot Mama Giveaway, and is committed to apprenticing women in the trade.

Ultimately, Jackie is committed to being herself.

“I am absolutely committed to raising awareness to women and trying to bring more women into the trades. And here, the door is wide open for women,” Jackie proclaims. “I’m just still very true to myself. I have my nails done, I have my hair done, and I’m still just rocking it. So there’s no reason why women can’t.”

Looking for more advice for growing your dream business? Want to hear more about the story of Thorson Heating? Listen to Dream, Plan, Live: the Bank Midwest podcast for more tips from the business experts in your community and at Bank Midwest.

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