Like many businesses across the country, Illiana Heating & Air Conditioning hosts an annual Christmas party where employees celebrate the holiday season with their “work family.”
During the 2015 party, Illiana’s employees decided to surprise owner Thomas Krygsheld with the announcement that he had been chosen as The NEWS’ 2015 Best Contractor to Work For in the North Central region.
Krygsheld, who was overcome with emotion, said he has never cried in front of so many people.
“I’m humbled and never expected anything like this,” he said. “It, no doubt, caught me in a very emotional situation. I always strive to make this a place people enjoy coming to. You must enjoy where you work and go in every day knowing you’re appreciated, and we all share that same mindset at Illiana.”
INTEGRITY AT ILLIANA
Employees at Illiana describe many unique qualities about the company and its owner. From Krygsheld’s hands-on approach with technicians to his dedication to learning about each employee’s family, there’s a great level of appreciation from those around him.
“I would say [Thomas] has proven to be an outstanding businessman and owner,” said operations manager Steve Rottier. “The way the company has grown is incredible, and he is always willing to share past experiences and knowledge. It’s always beneficial, and he wants to see us grow.
“There’s always your family life and work life,” he continued. “You can see comparisons between how you see your family and how you see things here. Care and concern are apparent and Tom is never shy about trying to understand an individual’s personal life. He’s willing to help out with everything and will talk about anything, whether it is in regard to work or not.”
Gary Skonecki, a technician who has been with Illiana for 27 years, said Krygsheld has always been a strong, fair, and honest leader.
“He always wants the job done the right way and treats customers with respect,” Skonecki said. “He has concern for his employees at work and is willing to help outside of work, as well. He’s stood by my side as I’ve fought through some personal struggles, and that means a lot to me. That really makes a difference.”
Krygsheld said he invites employees to church activities and wants them to know he is a person who “walks the walk.”
“Fundamentally, we are a Christian-based company, and all managers share that same mindset,” he said. “Not every employee follows down that road, but we use a biblical strategy throughout the company. We treat everyone how they would want to be treated, which results in a lot of open and fair conversation, both negative and positive.
“If I can’t call you a friend, then we probably shouldn’t be coworkers. We make decisions the way we believe Jesus would. We behave honestly, ethically, and treat people how we want to be treated.”
TRAINING AND EDUCATION
Krygsheld believes the company’s dedication to furthering his employee’s skills and training is what differentiates his staff from other contracting companies.
The company pays for North American Technician Excellence (NATE) testing for technicians and gives them a $1 an hour raise for each NATE approval they earn.
“If an employee asks for a raise, I encourage them to take the next step on the NATE ladder and obtain the next available [NATE certification] level,” said Krygsheld. “When people who have not had these types of opportunities get them, their eyes open and they appreciate it.”
Rottier added that Illiana has always been mindful of additional training and will actually change a technician’s schedule to allow him or her to go to a class, get paid for it, and improve his or her knowledge. There are also bonus programs for those who meet or exceed their goals. He believes the structure for performance pay at Illiana goes above and beyond the norm.
“I want guys to look at service as a stepping stone as they get older and their bodies break down a bit,” said Krygsheld. “We always guide guys down the path they are looking for. Not everyone is built to manage, but all have a roadmap to earn more money and advance to the next level. It’s easy to say, ‘I want a raise,’ but we have a procedure in place that helps them recognize what they have to do to get there.”
THE ILLIANA WAY
Illiana also wants to ensure the right type of people are working for the company and encourages employees to give honest feedback once they are in the fold. Weekly meetings encourage everyone to do just that, said Rottier, but informal settings provide similar opportunities.
“Tom is always available to listen to concerns and assist in any way he can,” said Rottier. “I came into this business three years ago, and, for me, he has been somewhat of a mentor. Tom’s always had time for me.”
When looking to hire someone, Krygsheld said the company is looking for a person who will do things the Illiana way.
“We always find it to be a neat thing when somebody does come in here with the right skills and attitude,” said Krygsheld.
“We just hired someone and will have him work closely with our technicians for a few months to ensure he’s trained the way we want him trained — the Illiana way,” continued Krygsheld. “We allow him to ask questions and get any training that he needs. We look for people with great personalities, which can come from anywhere.”
Those who do join the company receive numerous tangible benefits to go along with the welcoming work environment.
Illiana offers a Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA with a 3 percent company match, a Sales Performance Incentive Fun Fund (SPIFF) program that offers bonuses for performance, company-paid long-term disability, life insurance, and the aforementioned automatic $1 per hour raise for NATE certification.
As for the future of the company, Krygsheld is slowly winding down his role at the top and is beginning to embrace a semi-retired lifestyle.
As Tom takes a step back, the other managers have a role to play and are coming together to make sure everyone is on the same page,” said Rottier.
“Some of our future is cloudy, some of it is clear,” said Krygsheld. “It’s no secret that I’m nearing retirement. My son-in-law and son are both in the business, which is helpful.”
Eleven years ago, Illiana moved from Illinois to Indiana because, according to Krygsheld, the company wasn’t earning enough money per household in Illinois to continue as profitably as desired. Illiana built a 7,000-square-foot building three years ago and has worked hard to plant roots in the area — roots that Krygsheld hopes will continue to spread under his son’s leadership.
“The boys have plans, and, interestingly, at this stage in my life, I’m pushing the boys forward instead of pulling them,” said Krygsheld. “We’ve closed some old territories and tightened up others. We are very attuned to saturating the market in our current area.”
Tale of the Tape: Illiana Heating & Air Conditioning
CONTRACTOR: Illiana Heating & Air Conditioning
OWNER: Thomas Krygsheld
LOCATION: Cedar Lake, Indiana
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 28
BULK OF MARKET: Residential
TOTAL SALES FOR 2014: $3.2 million
TOTAL EMPLOYEES: 17
TOTAL SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND INSTALLERS: Nine
AVERAGE HOURS EMPLOYEES SPEND IN TRAINING: 41 hours or more per year
BENEFITS BEYOND MEDICAL/DENTAL INSURANCE: Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA with a 3 percent company match, Sales Performance Incentive Fun Fund (SPIFF) program that offers performance bonuses, company-paid long-term disability, life insurance, and an automatic $1 per hour raise for North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification.
INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION & CONTRACTOR GROUP MEMBERS: Illiana Heating takes part in a number of Industry organizations, including NATE and International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) through their education and certification programs. Illiana’s primary industry organization for the past five years has been the Service Nation Alliance (SNA).
THE NEWS SELECTED THIS CONTRACTOR BECAUSE: Illiana’s employee satisfaction level, charitable efforts, strong opportunities for growth, and ability to nurture long-lasting customer and employee relationships helped earn the company Best Contractor to Work For honors in the North Central region.
Publication date: 1/25/2016