Jason Kirkman and Adam Wolfe graduated from Elgin in 2001. Both were part of the construction trades program at Tri-Rivers with Mike Hock and Dan Tripp. Right out of high school, Kirkman and Wolfe began conversations about starting their own company.
“In 2003, we started the business, and my contribution was the name,” said Kirkman. “Then I left. I had financial responsibilities and when you start a business, you don’t make money.”
Wolfe notes things were not easy.
“For the first two years of the business, I had no overhead because of being able to live with my parents. I would not be sitting here today if it was not for them,” said Wolfe.
For 10 years, Wolfe ran Commercial Residential Technicians, or CRT, himself. Kirkman worked in hospitals. The two maintained a friendship, and Kirkman noticed there were things Wolfe did very well and thought he could bring something to the table.
Kirkman said, “Adam and I together grew this company to a successful business; we both have our strengths. For the first 18 months back, I did not receive a paycheck. What a humbling experience to have your wife be the sole provider. She allowed me to be in a position where I could invest my money back into the business.”
Kirkman bought half the company back, even though the business had no money in the bank. Wolfe’s mom, Tracy Wolfe, had handled books and payroll. She was able to teach Kirkman.
Kirkman recalled, “She wrote everything out by hand, including checks and stubs. She was able to explain where money was going and help me understand how everything worked.”
“It’s been a long process to get here,” said Wolfe.
In Kirkman’s first year back, the two doubled the size of the company as they were working out of Wolfe’s basement. They knew that arrangement wasn’t going to work long-term, so they purchased a friend’s storage property next to Wolfe’s house. They went on to purchase Store Master on Marion Waldo Road after learning the owners wanted to retire.
CRT was officially part of the storage business. At the time, the two were owner-operators with no other staff. As time went on, they began started looking for opportunities, including buying properties from those retiring. They have become very successful in the business. They rent to individuals and businesses. They even have been able to rent space to places like LifeTalk Counseling.
CRT believes in investing in the Marion community.
“We don’t advertise with anything not local. Even in the beginning, our advertisement was all word-of-mouth. Now our advertisement comes through supporting schools and other non-profit organizations that align with our values,” said Kirkman.
“Our community support goes way back. We have helped families in the community in need of a furnace or hot water heater, donating to causes and adopting kids at Christmas to shop for presents through local organizations. We have even shut down the business for a day to shop. It is a blast,” said Wolfe.
“I believe that what you give comes back to you – not necessarily money, but you feel better about what you have done,” said Kirkman.
Wolfe and Kirkman are hopeful for Marion.
“I think there’s a lot of good in this town. I try to help through CRT, but there are a lot of other people that want the best as well. I think there has become quite an awareness with Think Local First, which has played a big part in helping grow our community,” said Kirkman.
CRT has seven people on staff and uses four trucks. They install American Standard Heating and Air Conditioning.
In their time off, Wolfe races a dragster. He is a dad to three kids: Nathan, Kelsey, and Brayden. Kirkman enjoys CrossFit and Tough Mudder races. He and his wife, Melissa, have Allyson, Kaity, and Paul.