WARREN, Mich. - The road to success has been a long and bumpy one for Gary Marowske, president of Flame Heating Cooling Electrical. It is a company that primarily serves residential customers in suburban Detroit. What started as a company founded by his father in 1949 has morphed itself several times. Some of the bumps in the road included a utility company buyout with an eventual buyback, and a struggle to maintain profitability while digging out from piles of red tape generated by the ill-fated business decisions of its utility company owner. All of the while, Marowske has continued to make employee relations a top priority and offer some of the best working conditions and career paths in the highly competitive metropolitan Detroit HVAC market.
Because of Marowske’s dedication to his employees under some very adverse conditions, he was chosen as The NEWS’ Best Contractor to Work For in the North Central region. “After we bought Flame back from the utility company [Michigan Consolidated Gas], we noticed that a sense of pride had gone away from the company,” said Marowske. “I wanted to restore pride and help employees, because it isn’t just the employees who need support, it is their families, too.”
One example of Marowske’s care for his employees involves Frank Lang, who works in the purchasing department. “I was out of work for a year, undergoing cancer treatment,” Lang said. “Gary was always in contact with me. I never feared that my job was in jeopardy. He was very supportive.
“Gary also approved a plan that Flame employees made to help an employee on disability leave to save his home. We raised funds to help pay the mortgage and Gary helped by contributing too. Today, that employee is back to work.”
Flame employs between 56-60 workers. Technicians average 10 years of continuous employment with the company. More than 25 percent of these technicians have worked for Flame for over 17 years. There has to be many reasons why employees stay - and there are.
KEEPING EMPLOYEES INVOLVED
Having room for advancement is a key reason why service manager Matt Marsiglio has been proud to wear the Flame logo. “I started as an installer, moved into sales, and then into service,” he said. “There is always room for advancement through the ranks.”
While rising through the ranks, Marsiglio and fellow employees have taken advantage of the many training and educational opportunities available to them. One of Flame’s employee benefits includes paid training and schooling for new hires and current staffers. This training takes place at any local college or at Flame’s very own newly established Flame University. With an average of 40 hours of training each year, Flame employees can advance through the ranks while maintaining the highest professional standards.
“We expect all of our techs to become NATE certified,” said Marowske. “We only have one on staff who isn’t NATE certified, and we expect him to be within six months. We will pay for the first NATE examination, too.”
Training and certification top the list of employee benefits but there are many other reasons why Flame Heating Cooling Electrical was chosen as a Best Contractor. Job security is a very important factor, too. The company starts each year with a guaranteed number of maintenance calls. These calls include commercial maintenance customers (up to four visits per year) and residential maintenance customers (two visits per year). “With this growing number of maintenance calls we not only stay busy, but it allows for new hires to have a good training foundation by performing these routine inspections and cleanings,” said Brandon Przepiorka, Gold Plan (maintenance agreement) administrator.
Despite a poor Michigan economy, Flame’s sales were up 10.1 percent in 2007. Job security is a safe bet for now.
Along with job security comes the opportunity for additional income. There are plans in place for employees to earn extra money while performing their routine duties. “Our spiff programs are a way to earn over and above a regular salary,” said Marowske. Additional commissions and contests can push a technician’s extra earnings to an average of $5,000 per technician.
The push for extra spiffs is part of the competitive nature in the Flame workplace. Employees routinely push themselves and others to be the best and most informed workers in the metro Detroit HVAC trade, which translates to great customer service. “There is a lot of pressure to do the job the right way,” said Tom Smith, comfort consultant. “Everyone knows they have to step up to the plate. If I didn’t have people behind me doing quality work, I wouldn’t be able to do my own job.”
A PROFESSIONAL, CARING ATMOSPHERE
Marowske believes that treating his employees right results in great customer relations, that is something in which he and his employees take a great deal of pride. And that goes right down to a person’s grooming. “We don’t allow beards or mustaches that go below the lip,” he said. “We maintain that same policy for everyone.”
Not many people seem to object - Marowske said that no one has quit in the last three years. “I’m sure a lot of other contractors do what we do, but we believe we really do the things that need to be done to keep employees happy,” he said.
Flame has an employee suggestion box and employees are also encouraged to make suggestions during weekly staff meetings. Suggestions are discussed and solutions offered the week after each meeting. Marowske said his door is always open to employees and he sets up personal meetings to discuss issues that go beyond the workplace. “I try and help employees with their financial planning because I know that Flame not only provides security for my own family, but it provides security for our employees’ families.”
Marowske stays in constant contact with his employees via regular e-mails and text messages, updating them on company goals and sales figures. “We are very open with our employees and share a lot of information with them,” he said.
Przepiorka summed up the reasons why he feels that Flame Heating Cooling Electrical and president Gary Marowske deserves this award from The NEWS.
“Over the years, Flame has learned that if its employees are happy, then the customer tends to be happy as well,” he said. “Flame has learned to teach its techs to be professional, confident, careful, responsible, and knowledgeable.
“We work as a team rather than an individual; therefore creating an environment where coming to work is not just a job but rather a benefited pleasure.”
JUST THE FACTS:
CONTRACTOR: Flame Heating Cooling Electrical
PRESIDENT: Gary Marowske
LOCATION: Warren, Mich.
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 58
BULK OF MARKET: Residential HVAC sales and service
TOTAL SALES FOR 2007: $8.1 million
TOTAL EMPLOYEES: 65
TOTAL SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND INSTALLERS: 40
AVERAGE HOURS EMPLOYEES SPEND IN TRAINING: 40 hours per year
BENEFITS OFFERED BEYOND MEDICAL/DENTAL INSURANCE: 401(k), vacation and personal time, holidays
INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION & CONTRACTOR GROUP MEMBERS: Comfort Institute, Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Michigan Chapter, North American Duct Cleaning Association (NADCA), North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
THE NEWS CHOSE THIS CONTRACTOR BECAUSE: Gary Marowske had to endure a great deal of sacrifice to bring back the good name of Flame after the former owner had strayed away from what made Flame popular in the marketplace: care for its employees and customers. Marowske felt that pride in the company was lacking and he instilled an open door policy, coupled with good pay and benefits, training and education at no cost to employees, and a professional atmosphere that encourages employee feedback and accountability. Flame has once again become “the contractor to work for” in metropolitan Detroit.
Publication Date: 01/21/2008