A Service Pro You Should Know: F. Michael Hess

By his own admission, F. Michael Hess started “toting tools” at 14 years old. “I was fortunate to connect with a man who does the same thing in the residential heating and cooling field. I loved it,” Hess recalls. “I was working in sheet metal trailers and reading ductwork before I could drive a car. I just enjoyed what I did.”

pro q4 2022 pkgPresident and Owner, 1-2-3 Equipment Solutions, Richmond, Va.That early exposure ultimately led Hess to a career in the foodservice industry. After working for other service agents and other companies, Hess started his own firm in January 2017. “I fought the transition into the commercial side, and once I got into it I said I would never go back to residential. I started in refrigeration and then got into the hot side,” he says.

His bout with drug and alcohol addiction, though, threatened to extinguish his entrepreneurial fire. After righting the ship and diving deeper into his faith, Hess relaunched his career in March 2020 in the form of 1-2-3 Equipment Solutions, a Richmond, Va.-based service agent that today has 27 employees and 18 trucks. Hess freely admits there were a lot of people in his corner. “After a six-month walk of change in another direction, God brought us back from the ashes,” he says. “I tried a few other things, including launching my own coffee shops. When we launched the business, I pledged to myself that I was not going to put myself or the business back in that position again.”

While Hess’ business card carries the title of owner, he remains very hands on by working in the field, servicing equipment. Here, he discusses the evolution of foodservice-related technology, the impact of supply chain issues and more.

How has equipment evolved for the better over the years?

MH: Coming from the field side, it’s a double-edged sword. You have so much integration of microprocessors and solid-state controls that can make the equipment better. But when those components fail, there’s not much you can do to make it work. In the old days, there were a lot more options for temporary repairs that would keep the equipment operational until you got your parts. Now, that does not happen. 

Supply chain challenges have led to historically long lead times on new equipment. How is it affecting what’s happening in the field?

MH: We never want to jeopardize the safety of the equipment, but we are looking at field revisions to get the equipment working until we can get the parts we need. We are also repairing more equipment that we might normally replace. This challenge causes you to be more creative. This is all customer dependent, too. Most of my business comes from national chain locations. They run 7 days a week, 360 days a year. So, creativity wins so long as we can keep the equipment safe and sustainable.