This year, they have been named the winner of The News’ fourth-annual “Best Contractor to Work For” contest for the Midwest/Great Lakes region.
According to EMS owner Alan J. Guzik, the experience of winning any award is “very humbling.” “There is nothing more gratifying than being appreciated for your work,” he said.
This year’s winner from the Midwest/Great Lakes region was selected for a number of important reasons, including its comprehensive in-house training program for technicians, titled Environmental Technician Training University (ETTU), and for its commitment to the personal and professional success of its employees.
EMS employs a total of 26 workers, including 19 service technicians and installers. EMS is 100 percent commercial, and its market is divided between service, mechanical systems, and building automation systems.
One of the cornerstones of the EMS foundation was instituted the same day that Guzik opened the doors 23 years ago. “When we went into business in 1980, our goal was to be the best,” he said. “And I wanted to be a place where our people could work 52 weeks a year.”
It is a philosophy that has been handed down to Guzik’s two sons, Alan and Joseph, who help run the company. Guzik’s right-hand man and eventual successor is Marc Mapel, the company’s chief operations officer. Mapel said he started out as a service technician with EMS 14 years ago. His career has been one big learning curve.
“I have learned endless things about sales, service, and management,” he said. “Working here has been an opportunity for me to grow. Before I came to EMS, I was a service tech for another company for seven years. I learned more in one year here than in seven years at the other job.”
He said that his five senior technicians have developed several training aids, including the “Ten Commandments” of a professional service technician (see sidebar). In order to make it into the “elite” circle of senior technicians, one has to be invited by existing members.
There are many reasons for this, perhaps the most important one being that a senior technician must display a number of leadership qualities — including those of a teacher.
“If a technician goes to a local class [taught by Carrier or Copeland], I expect them to be able to come back and teach the class,” said Guzik.
It also helps when there are adequate training facilities. EMS has a well-equipped, 1,300-square-foot training center with a lab that, in Guzik’s words, “supports the training program nicely.”
“Training has a lot to do with our success,” added Mapel. “We probably do more in-house training than anyone in our area. When I came here I was amazed at how much the company teaches.”
Mapel said that he prefers to teach someone from scratch, avoiding bad habits that might have been picked up at other companies. Guzik agreed, saying that the training program is well ordered and systematic.
“The first lesson in our apprenticeship program is to teach soft skills,” he said. “We also teach our people to sell. When we are in a customer’s business, we are on their clock, and if a service tech can sell, it cuts down on administrative costs.”
Guzik introduces apprentices to the HVACR trade by having them study Heating and Cooling Essentials by Jerry and Ladonna Killinger. “We can do the whole book in 22 weeks, covering two chapters a week,” Guzik said. “This type of training is less intimidating than using larger, bulkier textbooks.”
Guzik said that a well-trained technician cuts down on the likelihood of callbacks, adding that EMS’ warranty and callback costs are less than 1 percent. “I can afford to run a good training program because of the money saved by fewer callbacks,” he stated.
“You won’t see our phone number on our trucks or find us in the Yellow Pages,” he said. “All of our customers are PM customers. Our guys like this because we seldom get emergency calls.
“We get our customers from referrals. We like to bring on clients and extend our services to them. Our drive is to do factory service — warranties and startups.”
Guzik prefers to talk a lot about the company training programs and PM programs, but there are other things that keep employees happy and goal-oriented at EMS.
The benefits package includes the “basics” such as paid health care, company vehicles, tool accounts, cell phones, awards, regular performance reviews and yearly wage increases. Beyond that, EMS offers a profit-sharing retirement program, employee appreciation events, parties, and birthday and anniversary recognitions.
Marianne VanGieson, EMS’ secretary/treasurer, summed up what it is like to work for Guzik.
“Alan has stuck by me,” she said. “He let me make my own choices as to what I was going to become and always told me it was up to me to set my goals and achieve them. His dedication to my education and achievement — because of my goals — has made me a good leader, employee, and friend. Today I have new challenges and even more to learn than I ever thought possible.”
That same philosophy is at the heart of Mapel’s approach. “I am firmly committed to the guys who work for me,” said Mapel.
And EMS customers appreciate the treatment they receive, too. On the day The News visited EMS, one of its best customers stopped in to watch the award presentation.
Keith Roberts and Robert Davenport from Huntington National Bank talked about their relationship with EMS.
“EMS is more than just an HVACR contractor, they are a problem solver,” said Roberts, Huntington Bank Regional Facility Manager. “We measure our contractors like we measure our employees, and EMS rates at the top. We put out bids for our HVACR work, and EMS is always very competitive — even after 20 years of working with them.”
So what will Guzik do when he is ready to step aside and slow down a bit? “I have eight grandchildren,” he laughed. “And I have an enormous collection of political items that I started collecting back in 1948. I’d like to research the possibilities of selling the collection.”
1. KNOW that you must ALWAYS use the appropriate safety gear.
2. KNOW that 95 percent of all unit failures are from some form of dirt or contamination.
3. KNOW that you must ALWAYS check the disconnect.
4. KNOW that you must ALWAYS double-check the wiring.
5. KNOW that water freezes at 32 degrees F and 0 degrees C.
6. KNOW what the water pressures and temperatures are.
7. KNOW what the flows are.
8. KNOW that compressors don’t pump liquids.
9. KNOW what the superheat and subcooling is.
10. KNOW that you must look beyond the SYMPTOM to find the CAUSE.
Owner: President/CEO Alan J. Guzik.
Years in business: 22
Bulk of market: 100% Commercial/Industrial
Total revenue for 2002: $3 million
Total employees: 26
Total service technicians and installers: 17
Average hours employees spend in training: 100-plus hours per year
Benefits offered beyond medical/dental insurance: Paid education (both on the job and off), profit sharing, paid holidays, paid vacations, accident-free vacation days, and weekly breakfast meetings are offered. Company vehicles, a tool allowance, and a uniform allowance are also provided, as are cell phones and pagers.
The News selected this contractor because: The company addresses one of the biggest concerns of contractors across the country: training. The company believes that a well-trained technician is the key to customer satisfaction.
Publication date: 03/10/2003