Atlas Butler Heating & Cooling can trace its roots all the way back to The Ramey Mfg. Co. of Chillicothe in the 1800s. The secret to its longevity: treating its employees and customers right — for hundreds of years.
Atlas Butler is currently one of the largest HVAC companies in central Ohio with 135 employees — 20 of which are military veterans — and 65 work vans and trucks.
“I’ve been at Atlas Butler for 15 years, but I’m still not in the top 10 in seniority,” said Greg Benua, human resources director. “People stay here because they love working here. The longest term employee [comfort advisor Jerry Jackson] started back in 1969. It’s a place where somebody can truly build a career. There are always opportunities for progression at Atlas Butler.”
Those career advancement opportunities, along with great benefits, charitable donations, and employee happiness, are just some of the reasons Atlas Butler has been named The NEWS’ Best Contractor to Work For in the North Central region.
It Starts at the Top
Mark Swepston began working at Atlas Butler in 1976 and became president of the company in 1985, a position he holds to this day.
“Mark is a very honest leader, the best one I’ve ever had,” said Lee Marcum, field technician. “He likes to know what is going on, and he stays involved but doesn’t take things personally. If people have ideas, he loves to hear them. Mark is at meetings paying attention and always learning. He is very engaged with everybody in the company.”
Benua echoed similar sentiments about Swepston’s reliability and the time he gives to each of his employees. “Mark is a great leader,” said Benua. “He is very philanthropic, very involved in the community, and is known throughout central Ohio. Everyone is aware of the great things he does. He holds everyone accountable, but trusts you and does not micromanage anyone. He trusts the hiring process.”
That hiring process is a clear strength for Atlas Butler. The company features the Atlas Butler Academy (ABA), which is a personalized way to train individuals interested in learning the HVAC industry and give them an apprenticeship. The ABA has graduated nearly 60 people so far. Those apprentices will work in the field as help for their first year and then go to class for four hours in the evening until graduation.
Standing Out in Central Ohio
Central Ohio is a competitive HVAC marketplace with several contractors offering their services to prospective customers. With that in mind, it becomes even more important for Atlas Butler to differentiate itself from the competition.
“The biggest thing setting us apart from other contractors in the area is that we do what we say we’re going to do,” said Swepston. “Everybody brags about doing a million things, and then they don’t complete the simplest things. Showing up on time and doing the little things are most important. If somebody here promises something and doesn’t do it, that’s just not acceptable. Do what you promise to do and stick to it.”
Employees at Atlas Butler know the expectations Swepston has, but also know they can turn to their boss for guidance and leadership whenever it is needed.
“If I have an idea or comment, I know it can be heard without fear of retribution,” said Marcum. “At any time, I can voice my thoughts. There is a pretty good explanation for policies and why things are the way they are. Other businesses in the past were top down, and if employees didn’t like things, then they just had to deal with it. That’s not how it is here. The office is very supportive of us in the trenches.
“There is no formal suggestion box, but it’s very clear there’s an open-door policy,” said Benua.
“If anyone ever believes things could be better, we want them to please speak up because the management group is very open. It happens consistently, where people come in and talk and express themselves on a casual basis. It’s just a conversation in the morning to talk; it offers us an opportunity to brainstorm.”
“There’s an open-door policy with everything we do,” said Swepston. “No one is ever turned down when they come in to ask questions. Hopefully, everyone will follow the policy throughout the company. It’s not a hard thing to do to talk to me.”
Atlas Butler’s policies have clearly stood the all-important test of time, but this is not the only time The NEWS has publicized the company’s excellence. Atlas Butler is an ACCA Excellence in Contracting Award recipient, AirTime 500 Training Company of the Year Award winner, and has received the Carrier Distinguished Dealer Award.
Swepston is hoping that the company continues to grow and maintain its reputation in the future. His goals are for steady growth in the next eight to 10 years, and for profits to increase by 15 percent on an annual basis.
SIDEBAR: Atlas Butler Heating & Cooling
Owner: Mark D. Swepston
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Years in Business: 93
Bulk of Market: Residential
Total Sales for 2013: $21 million
Total Employees: 135
Total Service Technicians + Installers: 90
Average Hours Employees Spend in Training: 41 or more
Benefits Beyond Medical/Dental Insurance: Atlas Butler provides short-term disability, life insurance, 401(k), tuition assistance, company contributions to a health savings account, associate product discounts, personal bonus hours for perfect attendance, access to long-term disability, AFLAC availability, and a legal plan
Industry Association + Contractor Group Members: ACCA and ASHRAE
The NEWS Selected this Contractor Because: Atlas Butler has a long history of success in the central Ohio market, numerous employee benefits, and an apprenticeship program that goes above and beyond what most contractors provide for trainees
Publication date: 1/26/2015