Worth its Weight in Gold Watches

January 29, 2007
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John Marrinucci, chief operating officer for Worth and Co., said the company is not an easy place to hire into. “To get in here, you basically get referred.” Feature photos by Richard Bell Photography.

PIPERSVILLE, Pa. - When you hear of a company that gives its employees gold watches when they reach a significant milestone, what year do you think it is - maybe 1950? Try 2006. A gold watch honoring 10 years of employment is just one of the things that earned Worth and Co. The NEWS’ “Best Contractor to Work for” in the Eastern region.

Nestled in the rural Delaware Valley area, just around the corner from Apple Butter Lane … Worth isn’t located where you would expect to find a rapidly growing commercial contractor. In fact, the company has blended old traditions, new corporate cultures, and a strong drive to get things done to expand its market.

The company’s loyalty to its employees, propelled by owner Stephen Worth, causes it to do things like giving out gold watches after 10 years of employment, and $5,000 travel vouchers after 20 years. The company has been recognized four years in a row as being one of the “Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania,” the results of which are based primarily on an anonymous employee survey.

Qualified servicers and installers are at the heart of the company’s success. Being able to grow its customer base with new clients, such as those in the area’s pharmaceutical industry, helps keep Worth’s people employed year-round. Conversely, the company’s growth depends on the techs’ ability to get things done right and on time.

TECH RETENTION

The company keeps a mix of technicians that is lean enough to keep everybody working, yet rich enough to limit overtime and keep on-call duties to a minimum.

“We try to minimize overtime, and we schedule company events throughout the summer, including a company picnic and a trip to Dave & Busters in Philadelphia,” said Stephen Weihing, the company’s human resources director. “We keep the on-call requirement at a minimum, with each technician required to work one week on call three or four times per year.”

“The on-call schedule is a major advantage,” said service tech Jim Moscariello. “I never feel like I’m overwhelmed.”

“We have enough mechanics to support the workload,” confirmed technician Ken Medykowski, who added that stress comes with any job, but that Worth seems to do what it can to help minimize it.

The workforce balance is under constant scrutiny. “We typically recruit from within,” said Weihing, “asking for referrals from our employee base, for which we pay out $500 after the new hire reaches their six-month anniversary. We also use a specialized Website for the mechanical industry.

“Retention is really the key, though,” he continued. “We strive to make our company stand out with respect to pay and benefits. We also provide training throughout the year for all technicians.”

Chad Goodwin, prefabrication employee, Worth and Co.

Each technician is evaluated annually. “We try to gauge what the market is paying and keep our rates above our competitors’,” Weihing said. “Generally, employees who seek out additional training are more likely to receive promotion opportunities and/or larger increases.”

The owners “allow us to make decisions and act as we see fit, keeping the best interests of our customers always at the forefront,” Weihing said.

“We do not cut corners, and we do all we can to ensure a safe working environment. We are very sensitive to the needs of each employee, soliciting feedback via our Employee Satisfaction Committee and frequent surveys.”

Moscariello has been with the company for a little over three years. He moved from another company to Worth to get into larger commercial work. “There’s more opporunity for advancement here,” he said.

“I talked to people who worked here,” said Medykowski, “and this place goes beyond other companies. It’s hard to explain. They aren’t a typical air conditioning company. You can grow in different areas. If you’re an employee here, you won’t have to be in just one position.

“If you get your work done, it’s a relaxed atmosphere,” he said. “Smaller companies can still have more stress. The family atmosphere is unusual considering the size of the company. I’m not just another employee.”

Technician decision-making independence is emphasized “big time,” Moscariello said. “We have full support for helping customers out. They feel like we have a good relationship. A lot of our customers wind up being friends.”

Brian Douthit, welder, at work in the prefab shop.

GROWTH INITIATIVE

Having outstanding customer relationships has been part of a company growth initiative. “They’re always looking to the future,” Moscariello said.

“The growth of the company surprised me,” he added. “Eight years ago, there were only 100 employees.” Now there are 470. The increased workforce supports the company’s market growth.

Worth and Co. is not an easy place to get hired into. “To get in here, you basically get referred,” said John Marrinucci, chief operating officer.

Matt Rafferty, manager of the Mechanical Services Division, started as a mechanic in the HVAC industry 25 years ago. Eight years ago he came to Worth as a salesman. “Once John [Marrinucci] got here, we took on a real business development focus with customers. Some of my customers are very good friends now.”

The company’s four divisions are Mechanical Services, Plant, Residential (multifamily), and Mechanical. “We are making inroads into vertical markets, such as pharmaceutical,” said Rafferty. “Delaware Valley is the world leader in pharmaceuticals. Small to mid-size companies are our goal.”

Along with its traditional values, the company embraces planned change. “We need to bring in people with credibility,” said Marrinucci, referring to employee Jimmy Richard as “the master planner.”

“Our company has a bias for action,” he said, “something that other companies would die for.” This tendency ensures that good ideas are put into action.

The move to prefabrication and preassembly in the prefab and sheet metal shops is one change being carefully planned. “We have learned that 42 percent of labor hours in the field are material handling-related.” The company has been working on creating a prefabrication product book for a year now.

Medical gas certification class is part of the training required to expand into certain types of specialty work.

BALANCE AND RETENTION

Areas like the prefab shop are another way the company works to keep its staff during slower times. “We hate to lose any employees,” said Rafferty. When staff layoffs are sometimes necessary, a general notice goes out “in case people can work anywhere else in the company.”

“We run a lean crew, hiring only when absolutely necessary,” said Weihing. “We have a large amount of preventive maintenance work, which we try to schedule during slower times. We also supplement installation work when needed, if other divisions within the company need help.”

If people go to the prefab shop, they have the privilege of working with an experienced field foreman, Barry Angstadt. Putting together sections of systems in prefab, so they can be installed onsite as single units, is something he obviously is very enthusiastic about.

While The NEWS visited, he showed us a 150-piece unit for a bathroom sink installation, and an aluminum platform for a laundry plant. “You get 25 percent labor savings by prefabbing and pre-assembling stuff,” he said.

This system makes life easier in peak seasons. “In the summer we do a lot of schools,” said Marrinucci. “That’s when our workload peaks. Jimmy [Richard] plans it, Barry [Angstadt] makes it, and we can minimize the number of temporary people. It works out fine because we can actually order equipment earlier and discover potential problems. We’re educating the engineers, too.

“It’s a more cost-effective job.”

The company does its fair share of team building. For instance, the Mechanical Services division might rent a go-kart track for an evening. The Mechanical division schedules a deep sea fishing excursion every year, said Rafferty.

“The owner is very generous,” said Marrinucci. “He’s a model of putting the employees first. He’s demanding, but he genuinely cares about the employees and their families.”

Marrinucci summed up the relationship of upper management with the rest of the employees: “The company’s problems are ours and the successes are theirs. This philosophy works if you really believe in it.”

JUST THE FACTS:

Contractor: Worth and Co. Inc.

Owner: Stephen Worth

Location: Pipersville, Pa.

Years in business: 30

Bulk of market: Commercial

Total sales for 2006: Over $100 million

Total employees: 470

Total service technicians and installers: 26

Average hours employees spend in training: Four hours per employee every month

Benefits beyond medical/dental insurance: Vision, life insurance, short- and long-term disability, health advocacy, tuition reimbursement, paid training, 10- and 20-year service awards.

Industry association & contractor group members: Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Building Owners & Managers Association (BOMA), Institute for Real Estate Managers (IREM), International Facility Management Association (IFMA), Home Builder Association (HBA), Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA).

The NEWS selected this contractor because: Worth and Co. goes above and beyond to make sure its employees are well-trained, work reasonable hours, and appreciated. The company’s bias towards action helps ensure that good ideas are implemented.

Publication date: 01/29/2007

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