ACHRNEWS

Contractor Has the Magic Touch

January 26, 2009
From troubled youth to successful business owner, Rich Morgan definitely has the magic touch. Michele Morgan, CFO, is the financial whiz behind the company, said her husband, Rich.

MESA, Ariz. - As a self-described “troubled youth” in New York, Rich Morgan never dreamed that 20 years later, he would own a thriving HVAC contracting company whose staff would nominate him for The NEWS’ Best Contractor To Work For contest. Employees at Magic Touch Mechanical, the West Region’s winner of the contest, couldn’t say enough good things about Morgan and his wife (and chief financial officer), Michele.

That’s probably why Morgan does not have a turnover problem with his current employees, several of whom have been with the company since it started 11 years ago. Nor does he have an issue recruiting new people, which is confirmed by the overflowing folder of applications on his desk. His theory behind hiring employees is to find those people whose personalities best fit with the company, then train them on everything else they need to know about the HVAC industry.

Indeed, paid training is one of the main reasons why employees like working for Morgan. As David Chase, installation manager, stated, “I didn’t start out in this industry, but Rich gave me a shot at a better career choice by providing all kinds of training opportunities.” Having recently obtained his NATE certification, Chase hopes to be part of Magic Touch Mechanical for many years to come.

TRAINING, TRAINING, TRAINING

Morgan has always felt training was important, but he had an epiphany several years ago that made him decide to place an even greater emphasis on it. “I had a technician who was a great employee, and he left in order to go to a company that offered more training. As a result, I decided to start focusing more on training.”

Now Morgan requires all employees in the field to receive NATE certification and Master Heat Pump Council certification, as well as attend numerous other training courses. The company provides more than 100 hours of in-house training each year and also participates in various manufacturer and distributor training programs. Employees are also rotated through training with ACCA, the Heat Pump Council, Blue Energy Institute, and courses offered by the local utilities.

Operations manager, Jim Watson, creates a training calendar at the beginning of the year to make sure everyone has the opportunity to receive all the training and certifications that are available to them. All employees are also signed up to receive online training, and technicians take turns conducting classes for the rest of the group. The company pays for all the training, as well as the time it takes to attend class. As Watson noted, “I like the continuous education. Education is very important to keep us on top of our game. Whatever we need, Rich makes sure we get it.”

Installation manager David Chase used to work in logging and automotive repair before he came to work at Magic Touch.

Weekly meetings are held specifically for service technicians and installers, and then regular group meetings include everyone in the company. For customer service training, Morgan is a big fan of Lennox’s online training program, HVAC Learning Solutions, which covers all the basics on how to handle customers. (His sister, Laura Morgan, and sister-in-law, Robin Morgan, are the good-natured customer service representatives who handle the phones at the company.)

“We have a very large budget devoted to training,” said Morgan. “While we give first consideration to applicants who are trade school graduates (many current employees are graduates of the Refrigeration School Inc.), I hire for personality, not skill. You can’t change someone’s personality, but you can train them to gain the skills they need to do their job well.”

For Chase, training was the inspiration he needed to move from working in logging and auto body repair to making a career in the HVAC industry. “I wanted something that would keep me busy year-round,” he said. “I had a cousin in the business who liked it, and eventually I found Rich, who helped me get my EPA certification and NATE certification. He and Michele definitely look out for the people who work for them.”

It’s all in the family, as Rich’s sister, Laura Morgan, handles the delicate job of customer service relations.

LAST STOP FOR EMPLOYEES

After paying for all that training, Morgan is not interested in losing his staff to other companies. As he noted, “We invest heavily in our employees, and they are the face of our company. We want Magic Touch to be the last stop in their career, the company where they will work until they retire.”

An extensive benefits package helps keep employees happy, and it includes everything from a $1,000 sign-on bonus to generous health and dental benefits. To make sure he has the best benefits package around, Morgan regularly calls his competition and asks about the perks they offer their employees. Then he tweaks his benefits accordingly to make sure he has the best package to offer.

One benefit that Morgan will never offer is commission-based pay - he simply does not believe in it. “Paying commissions to technicians for selling parts can lead to dishonesty, which is why we use performance-based pay as an incentive,” he noted. For example, bonuses might be paid if a job is installed more quickly or an extra tool might be the reward for achieving NATE certification.



Parts manager Patricia VanZandt likes her flexible schedule at Magic Touch, as it allows her to attend school full time.

Flexible hours are the benefit that keeps parts manager, Patricia VanZandt, happy - she also enjoys the camaraderie of her co-workers. “I’m a full-time student and a single mother, and Rich and Michele let me work around my schedule. They’re very involved in all aspects of the company, and because it’s not too big a company, we’re very close knit. I love what I do here. I get to see my cousin and brother (who also work at the company) and drive a big truck. It’s great.”

Technicians working long hours under the brutal Arizona sun also appreciate the flexibility. Phoenix is primarily a heat pump market and one of the few places in the country that locates residential units on the roof, while most air handlers and ductwork are located in attics that can reach 150°F during the warmer months. While overtime is abundant in the summer, technicians have the choice of whether they want to avail themselves of it.

“Some technicians want as much overtime as they can get,” said Morgan. “Other technicians are content with putting in their eight hours and calling it a day. We are happy to accommodate both scenarios because then everyone is happy.”

This may cut down on the volume of sales, but Morgan is more concerned with quality installations. “Our focus is on high-efficiency systems and designing comfort packages for our clients by looking at all the aspects of a complete comfort system, including the equipment, duct design, filtration, and air quality. Our philosophy is, if you are just going to change out the box, you’re doing a disservice to the client, the environment, and your company.”

Weekly meetings are held specifically for service technicians and installers, then regular group meetings include everyone in the company.

It is this type of attitude that appeals to Watson, who said he can see lots of potential at Magic Touch. “Rich doesn’t compromise on business. He looks after customers and employees, and he’s easy to work for, which is why I stay. I can see myself here for a long time because there’s a lot of room for advancement. Rich and Michele trust me, and I can see this business really taking off.”

Looking after employees involves more than great training and benefits, though. Morgan embraces an open-door policy and encourages everyone to feel comfortable offering suggestions for improvement. “I can give many examples of employees making a suggestion that is now company policy, because it was a better way of doing things,” he said. Watson agreed, noting, “You can always approach Rich and voice your opinion. It’s always welcomed.”

Having fun is also encouraged at Magic Touch, and company picnics, dinners, and parties are regularly enjoyed by the staff. In November, Morgan bought 70 seats for the last Diamondbacks game of the season, and all the employees and their families enjoyed rooting their team to victory.

Morgan is understandably proud of the company he built from the ground up, and he’s looking forward to many more successful years. “The bottom line is, our employees are our company. We treat them like they are No. 1, they treat our customers like they are No. 1, and we all reap the benefits and enjoy the rewards.”

Just the Facts: Best Contractor To Work For

CONTRACTOR: Magic Touch Mechanical Inc.

OWNER: Rich Morgan

LOCATION: Mesa, Ariz.

YEARS IN BUSINESS: 11

BULK OF MARKET: Residential and light commercial

TOTAL SALES FOR 2008: Privately held information

TOTAL EMPLOYEES: 18-20 average

TOTAL SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND INSTALLERS: 10-14 average

AVERAGE HOURS EMPLOYEES SPEND IN TRAINING: 100-plus

BENEFITS BEYOND MEDICAL/DENTAL INSURANCE: $1,000 sign-on bonus, seven paid holidays, paid vacation (one week after one year, two weeks after two years, three weeks after five years), paid training, retirement package, performance bonuses, overtime, new vehicles that can be taken home, lockers, uniforms, cell phones, boot/shoe allowance, and tool allowance (large tools provided, company pays 50 percent of other tools that employee can keep).

INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION & CONTRACTOR GROUP MEMBERS: ACCA, AZ Electric League, AZ Heat Pump Council, Blue Energy Institute, Service Roundtable, Home Comfort Professionals Network, APS Qualified Contractor Program, Trane Comfort Specialist Program, Lennox Premier Dealer Program.

THE NEWS SELECTED THIS CONTRACTOR BECAUSE: Its family-oriented approach to running the business makes employees (some of whom are, indeed, family) feel a sense of ownership in the company. Outstanding training opportunities ensure all staff can reach their full potential.

Publication date: 01/26/2009