John Mueller is entering his 40th year working for Jackson & Blanc this month. During that span, he’s worked for three generations of family ownership, from Milt Jackson to Dave Jackson and now for current owner and CEO Kirk Jackson.

“People always ask me why I stayed this long,” said Mueller, the company’s service operations manager. “Everybody that’s run this company, Milt, Dave, and now Kirk, all have the same philosophy, and that’s to do the right thing. It makes it so easy to come to work each day, there’s nothing you have to worry about because when you do the right thing, you’re taking care of business the way it should be taken care of. That makes it easy to work here and it makes our customers happy. You’re not trying to cover up anything. Everyone just does the right thing and everything seems to work out.”

That’s one of the reasons why Kirk Jackson of San Diego-based Jackson & Blanc has been named The NEWS’ Best Contractor to Work For in the West region.

“We’re a company that has grown over the years, and we’ve adhered to a philosophy that we learned from my grandfather; you treat all people the way you want to be treated,” Jackson said. “I know that’s pretty simplistic, but it’s something that’s served us well. As we’ve gone along over all these years, it’s very nice to be recognized for our efforts.”

Family Atmosphere

Jackson & Blanc was founded in 1931 by Milt Jackson and Rene Blanc. The commercial contracting company has since grown to 135 employees.

“(Kirk) is a down-to-earth, approachable person,” said Tim Ellis, project coordinator, who nominated Jackson for the Best Contractor to Work For contest. “He treats everybody like family. He takes time to get to know you and what you do, even when he’s busy. He’s an impressive guy to be around. He inspires you to want to work harder and do better.”

Jackson & Blanc hosts regular lunches for employees at the local In-N-Out Burger, while its Raving Fans program helps customers, and the company, recognize great employees. The company also selects an employee of the month who is given a paid day off in recognition of his or her efforts.

The company also invests in its employees. Its headquarters, which is in the process of being renovated into a LEED-Platinum-certified building, also features a full kitchen, training room, employee lounge, and fitness center complete with weights, aerobic machines, and a shower. Employees who continue their education receive pay increases while Jackson and Blanc offers reimbursement for all costs, books, and tuition for HVAC courses completed.

Pipefitter superintendant Matt Cunningham recently celebrated his 10-year anniversary at Jackson & Blanc. “You feel like a person and not a number,” he said.

Jackson has made it his mission to put a personal touch on things. That’s why he personally handwrites a letter on each employee’s work anniversary and mails it to his or her home — many employees either have them framed or in a prominent place on their desks.

One such letter sticks out to Mueller and he still looks at it each day. For his 37th anniversary, Jackson wrote, “Now you’re just showing off,” Mueller recalled.

“Kirk absolutely believes his employees are what make the company great,” Mueller said. “He never forgets to let people know how much he appreciates them, whether it’s stopping by to chat, at the company Christmas party, or through personal, handwritten notes on your work anniversary.”

Jackson does all this because he wants his employees to know how much he cares about them as individuals. “I believe we have achieved that,” Jackson said. “I’m very consistent about that. I remember when we were small enough that I knew every single person by name, along with his or her family. We’ve grown to a level where that’s not possible — or maybe it’s because I’m older — but I try to meet everybody. I want them to know I care about them, that their future is important to me, and that I take very seriously the fact this business provides them and their families a livelihood. That’s something I take very, very seriously. So when we’re guiding the company through the various business cycles, they know I’m doing everything I can to bring business in the front door to allow them to continue to work here and make a good living to support their families.”

Community Outreach

Not only is Jackson & Blanc big on supporting its employees, but Jackson also believes strongly in giving back to the community.

“Kirk’s a generous guy,” Cunningham said. “The company does so many different things around the holidays. He wants to give back to the community. San Diego’s been awfully good to his family, and he wants to give back.”

At the company’s annual picnic, a raffle is held with proceeds going to Rady Children’s Hospital. The company participated in the 2013 Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego Bootcamp Challenge, with proceeds going to quality-of-life programs for Marines and Sailors aboard the MCRD San Diego. Additionally, the company works with the Armed Services YMCA in San Diego to give away more than 200 turkeys to families of deployed service members who would otherwise be unable to afford a Thanksgiving turkey.

“We have a commitment to giving back,” Jackson said.

Lasting Impressions

Everyone emphasizes a team atmosphere at Jackson & Blanc — and if a new employee doesn’t want to give 100 percent, or has his or her own agenda, he or she won’t last long, Jackson said.

At the end of the day, though, everything goes back to doing the right thing. It’s something Jackson has continually emphasized to his management team and employees.

“In the construction industry, there’s a lot of grey,” he said. “We’re all out there trying to get work, and there’s a lot of back scratching that goes on, but it’s just the nature of the beast. You have to do the right thing in any given circumstance. You have to pick your path and always stay with it. You can never deviate. All eyes are on you all the time.”

And that’s what makes Jackson such a great contractor to work for — doing things the right way for the company and its employees.

“He hasn’t changed,” Mueller said. “He’s always been that way. He’s a personable guy who sticks to his core principles.”

Just The Facts: Jackson & Blanc

Contractor: Jackson & Blanc

Owner: Kirk Jackson

Location: San Diego

Years in Business: 82

Bulk of Market: Commercial

Total Sales for 2013: $40 million

Total Employees: 135

Total Service Technicians and Installers: 110

Average Hours Employees Spend In Training: 41 or more

Benefits Beyond Medical/Dental Insurance: 401(k) plan offers 5 percent company matching while union benefits are fully covered in the employee’s contract.

Industry Association & Contractor Group Members: ASHRAE, IFMA, MCAA, MSCA, SMACNA, USGBC

The NEWS Selected This Contractor Because: Jackson & Blanc offers a wide range of employee-perk programs while maintaining a family atmosphere in the office which fosters hard work and team building.

Publication date: 1/20/2014

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!