ACHRNEWS

It's A Team Effort At Cyngier Heating And A/C

February 20, 2002
Co-owner Peter Cyngier still manages to get out in the field on occasion.
CLEVELAND, OH — What do you get when you mix a doctor of inorganic chemistry, a native British citizen, and a no-heat call on Christmas Eve from a “Mrs. Klaus?” You get Cyngier Heating & Air Conditioning, a company with a staff of 18 people (including 13 service techs and installers) that specializes in residential and light commercial hvacr service.

You also get the winner of The News’ “Best Contractor to Work For” contest from the Midwest/Great Lakes region of the United States.

Cyngier Heating & Air Conditioning is owned by Dr. Roseann and Peter Cyngier. Roseann holds a doctorate degree in inorganic chemistry. She is very active in the community and in professional women’s organizations. Her background enables her to give speeches and seminars on both inorganic chemistry and the role of women in nontraditional professions. So how did she come to be a co-owner of a heating and cooling business?

Enter Peter. He came to the U.S. 25 years ago from England and began working in the hydronic heating trade. Peter learned the trade by riding with a local Cleveland contractor’s weekend “on-call” technician — for no pay at all. He later offered his services — free of charge — to a local realty management company for six months. If they liked his work, they could hire him on after the six months. They did, and that is how he got his paying start in hvacr.

He met Roseann while both worked for The Standard Oil Company. The rest is history. They began the company 21 years ago as a commercial service contractor and acquired a residential service contractor in 1989 to “round out” the company.

Roseann had to choose between working 50 to 60 hrs a week as a research chemist or to find a way to control the amount of hours she is away from home. “I can train monkeys to pour orange juice and change diapers, but I wanted to raise my kids,” she said.

The Cyngiers have six children — three of their own and three they adopted from a Russian orphanage. Even though they put in long hours running the business, they control when they can schedule time for soccer games, scout meetings, musicals, etc.

The two complement each other very well. “I am not a paperwork person. I can’t do what Rose does,” said Pete. “I like to be the fix-it person.”

“Pete is excellent at what he does,” added Roseann. “He knows service like the back of his hand. But now we have taken him out of the truck and he runs projects.” The current “big project” is refurbishing a neighborhood of homes near Cleveland’s Hopkins Airport as part of a soundproofing program.

Service tech Frank Esposito put it this way: “Roseann energizes the business. She is very ambitious. Pete has a wealth of mechanical knowledge. They are a great combo.”

So if Pete is out of the truck, who is working in the field?

The staff at Cyngier Heating & Air Conditioning includes (left to right) Paul Gilley, Mark Riddick, Frank Esposito, Tom Kerper Sr., Gary Pindor, Linda Thrane, Sam Arafat, Roseann Cyngier, Peter Cyngier, Jarrod Bukszar, Jim Myles, Bruce Lance, and Tom Kerper Jr. (Photo Copyright Zoe Enyedy.)

TECHS HAVE THEIR SAY AND THEIR PAY

If you listen to the Cyngier service techs, you’d get the impression that Pete still works the field — and he often does.

“When Pete comes out to the job, he doesn’t act like a boss,” said Esposito. “He is open to our ideas. He is not afraid to grab a wrench and help out. He is like one of us.”

On the day of The News’ visit, Roseann was handing out bonus checks and certificates of training to some of the techs. She also read a thank-you card from a customer. On this day, all of the techs were given time off with pay to talk about their company, pose for pictures, and enjoy a luncheon buffet.

Since all of the techs drive their trucks directly to the jobsites each morning, the presentation of the award was a good excuse to get them together for a social event. Of course, the Cyngiers are big on special gatherings, like the annual Christmas party, where more bonus money is dispersed and the winner of the “Employee of the Year” award is announced.

“The employees vote on this award. We do not choose the winner,” said Roseann. The 2001 winner was dispatcher Linda Thrane.

“The favorite benefit here is the Christmas party,” said Roseann. “That’s when our employees have received gifts from tools to extra paid vacation days, depending upon our company’s success that year. It’s a way that Pete and I reinforce our appreciation for the Cyngier team.”

All of this special attention brings the crew closer together.

“It’s like a big family here,” said service tech Bruce Lance.

“The work environment is at least as important as anything, even wages,” said Roseann. But she was quick to add, “However, one ambitious tech earned over $60,000 last year, with a lot of overtime and service selling.

“Those who give 200% are compensated as such.”

Cyngier Heating & Air Conditioning lists several benefits above and beyond the normal insurance coverage. Examples of some benefits employees receive include:

  • Uniforms and matching jackets;
  • Company-sponsored picnics and soccer game outings;
  • Lunch with the boss on anniversary of hire date; and
  • Two-dollar bills equal in value to their age on their birthday.
Pete is very outspoken about the need for better compensation for the field workers.

“The problem is that the industry in general keeps the prices down because many in it don’t understand profit,” he said. “I’ve tried to get more money for our techs, so I made a business decision in 1989.”

The decision? The company took the bull by the horns and turned to flat-rate pricing.

“Flat rate is win-win-win,” said Roseann. “It’s a win for the customer because they know the diagnostic charge and know what the parts will cost to be replaced. It is a win for the employees because they can go out to their truck for a tool or part and not be scrutinized by the customer for taking too much time or worry about the homeowner standing over their shoulder.

“And it’s a win for the company because we can hire the guys and train them right.”

Another way the Cyngiers supplement compensation is by offering spiffs and commissions to service techs who sell equipment. And Roseann is outspoken about this issue.

“Why would I spend a lot of money on training someone and not allow them to use their knowledge to make recommendations to the homeowner as to what their options should be?” she asked. “Guys like Frank [Esposito] and Sam [Arafat] have the knowledge to estimate ductwork costs and sell add-on air conditioning, if necessary. They can sell whole jobs. It is worth the investment to train these people.

“Sometimes, if we get salespeople out there, we start the bidding wars. And then we get the ‘Dateline’ shows that tout companies giving free estimates, which results in customers being confused over choices.”

Training is an ongoing focus at Cyngier, with each tech receiving up to 40 hrs of training per year.

“Our training is substantial, as we want each team member to improve skills,” said Roseann. “The company commitment to advancement in the ProTec certification program leads to loyalty among employees.

“Support for certification in refrigeration, asbestos and lead removal, and state licensing for hvac, electrical, and plumbing helps personal improvements in skills and abilities while opening doors for more opportunities.”

The Cyngiers stress honesty and empowerment. They want their employees to do the job right, and give them the flexibility to do so. Installer Gary Pindor left Cyngier in 1997. He has since returned. “I worked for another local contractor who was more interested in quantity of sales calls and not quality,” he said.

“This is not production line work,” said service tech Sam Arafat, the senior member of the crew. “They allow us to take the time to do the job right.

“And there is no one breathing down your neck.”

Roseann repays the loyalty of the crew by keeping them as busy as possible. “I’ll do whatever I can to keep the business going and everyone working, in spite of the weather this year!”

Her attitude and the company’s attention to detail have earned Cyngier the Carrier Distinguished Dealer Award for 2001. Roseann said it is important to promote the Carrier name. The company has added Carrier Distinguished Dealer patches to their employees’ uniforms.

“Brand loyalty avoids customer confusion and still offers many choices to customers,” she said. “We sell only Carrier furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, humidifiers, and air cleaners.”

The Cyngier techs are Gary Pindor, Frank Esposito, Sam Arafat, Paul Gilley, Jim Myles, Bruce Lance, Mark Riddick, Tom Kerper Jr., and Tom Kerper Sr.

SERVICE AGREEMENTS AND CUSTOMER SERVICE

In 2001, Cyngier had over $1 million in sales, which breaks down as 60% residential and 40% commercial. They do very little new construction, except for an occasional custom-built home. So the company puts special emphasis on service — and service contracts.

“Linda [Thrane] sells our Peak Performance ProCheck Service Agreements before the guys even get the chance,” Roseann said. “A call comes in and Linda is the first contact. She explains the benefits and she sells more than the guys. If she doesn’t, the guys have the opportunity to sell an agreement once they get to the location.

“Service agreements help get us through the slow times.”

Roseann emphasizes the need for top-flight customer service. She asserts that the company “strives to truly exceed customer expectations.”

“Our Red Carpet program and the Roses-N-Ribbons show how our genuine concern for customers sets us apart,” she added. “For example, in the Red Carpet treatment, our team leader invites the customer to stand on our red carpet.

“Then he introduces himself, gives the homeowner a photo business card, and introduces the whole crew for the job, while assuring the customer that they will receive the Red Carpet treatment from Cyngier. The job is briefly reviewed and the work is started.

“Upon completion, the equipment and its operation are explained, the warranty manuals and company information are given to the homeowner, who then signs off on the job, noting that it has been done to their satisfaction. More business cards are distributed for referrals once the homeowner is impressed with the cleanup and the day’s activities.”

A good atmosphere, good compensation, and a good business model — it’s no wonder that Cyngier Heating & Air Conditioning is one of The News’ “Best Contractors to Work For” in 2001.

Oh, and Mrs. Klaus? She is the proprietor of the neighborhood funeral home and she really was without heat on Christmas Eve. The folks at Cyngier were more than happy to help out.

Sidebar: Just The Facts

Name: Cyngier Heating & Air Conditioning
Owners: Dr. Roseann M. Cyngier, Peter Cyngier
Location: Cleveland, OH
Years in business: 21
Bulk of market: 60% residential, 40% commercial
Total revenue for 2001: Over $1 million
Total employees: 19
Total service technicians and installers: 14
Average hours employees spend in training: Up to 40 hrs annually
Benefits offered beyond medical/dental insurance: Benefits include a salary deduction plan that allows employees to set aside $6,500 annually as tax-deferred income toward retirement; photo business cards; bonus plans; tool purchase plans; uniforms and matching jackets; picnics; and soccer game outings.
The News selected this contractor because: The owners show outstanding enthusiasm for their jobs and great consideration for their employees and customers. They are genuinely interested in everyone’s well-being and encourage each worker to be successful, while providing secure employment in an educational environment.

Publication date: 02/25/2002