North Central / Regional Reports

Establishing Loyalty With Employees and Customers

April 4, 2001
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GRAND RAPIDS, MI — There are just some work environments that employees never want to leave. One such environment exists in a small commercial contracting firm here, in the second largest city in Michigan.

Seaman’s Air Conditioning & Refrigeration, Inc., with its 32 employees, has created a family atmosphere that promotes growth, training, education, and loyalty.

By building a reputation of being an honest and fair company, owner Randy Seaman has worked hard to avoid technician burnout during the busy season while keeping customers content — and coming back.

“We build relationships with our customers through our outside sales/service staff,” said Patricia Van Kuiken, human resources controller for Seaman’s. “Our customer service training is key to building long-lasting relationships that build trust and loyalty with our customers.”

Organization is key to the firm’s efficiency.

“During busy times, we prioritize our dispatching,” said Seaman. “We also have two service technicians on call for after hours emergency service. In doing this, we make sure that any one technician never gets too overloaded with work, and always has someone to call in case they run into a situation they do not know how to handle.”

In addition, technicians say Seaman has been known to personally visit technicians on days that are particularly long and hard with beverages and treats in tow.



Two technicians fulfill one of Seaman's contracts to remodel an old industrial building into apartments.

Employee Participation

Its self-described participatory management style allows all employees to put their opinions into the mix on matters that affect them and their livelihood.

“All major decisions that are made within the company are done as a team,” said Van Kuiken. “In the last year, every employee has had a vote on health insurance changes, 401k, hourly rates charged to customers, and what the truck charge should be. This is just to name a few. Through this kind of participation, we feel we are able to better maintain our work atmosphere and retain our employees.”

Doug McGregor, service technician, said that at one point in time he left Seaman’s, but the grass was not as green on the other side as he thought it would be.

“I looked around for positions in other parts of the country, like Florida,” said McGregor. “But it just is not the same. The companies I found were not what I had been used to here, and I ended up coming back. I am happy here.”

Located on the outskirts of the city, the company’s headquarters is now in a quiet industrial/commercial area, but that wasn’t always the case.

“We used to be located in a really bad part of the city,” said Van Kuiken. “We would come into work and find we had computers and supplies stolen. Then we just outgrew the building and decided to move into a better part of town.”



Honesty And Integrity

In business since 1961, Seaman’s is a family-run operation that has continued to draw technicians in with its cordial working atmosphere and expertise in the field.

Probably most telling is a phrase used by Van Kuiken in nominating Seaman for the Air Conditioning Contractors Associa-tion’s (ACCA’s) “Contractor of the Year” award.

“Our president, ceo, founder’s son, is a humble and modest individual,” she said. “He continues to praise all employees for our achievements. As employees, we understand what ‘team’ means, and how collectively we have contributed in our successful growth. We also recognize that effective leadership largely contributes to success.

“Our president, Randy Seaman, demonstrates through his vision for our future, consistency and fairness in his management, quality service for internal and external customers, and above all, honesty and integrity. All of these core values are the guidelines of this company.”

When Seaman’s won ACCA’s “Contractor of the Year, Category 2,” no one was more surprised than Seaman himself. He had not known that his employees had entered him in the contest.

“I was speechless,” said Seaman. “After all, what do you say when you win an award from an association like ACCA. I was proud — and not a little surprised. I would not have entered myself, and it is an amazing feeling to have your employees nominate you.”

This report provides information for contractors living in the Midwest/Great Lakes region of the United States. This includes Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. If you have information from this region, please contact Paula Liegl at 248-244-6454; 248-362-0317 (fax); or lieglp@bnp.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 04/09/2001

Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Doug McGregor, service technician for Seaman’s, is not only good at his job, but he works in some of the cleanest surroundings imaginable for a service technician.

Now, this does not mean that his work uniform does not get dirty, but his service van never does.

Not only is the van carpeted, but he puts down hand towels where his pedals are so that any dirt tracked into the truck on his shoes is rubbed off on the towel and not on his vehicle.

In addition, the van is paneled in wood and lined with shelving hand-made by McGregor himself. There is a small refrigerator, a microwave, and even a laptop with a printer so he can print out invoices for customers.

The whole company knows who has the cleanest truck — it is a source of pride and humor.

Seaman’s president Randy Seaman showed off McGregor’s van, joking, “You might want to make sure your feet are clean before you get into that van.”

After all, keeping a car clean is hard to do, even if you don’t work out of your vehicle.

When asked why he keeps his van so clean, McGregor laughed and said that it was not only a work vehicle. Keeping up the company image among its customers is important, and McGregor knows that perception is an important part of keeping customers coming back.

“I own this van,” he said. “I pay the company lease for it, and I get to keep it when it is finished. I put the wood-paneled drawers in because it is mine, and I use it for non-work purposes as well as personal. I want it to be presentable at all times.”

Publication date: 04/09/2001

Web Date: 06/18/2001

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