Directly out of high school, Greg Johnson joined an apprenticeship and became a certified sheet metal technician through the Virginia Apprenticeship Council. Shortly thereafter he became a licensed Virginia HVAC journeyman and gained his OSHA 30 certification.

In the fall of 2004, he began serving as an apprentice for Howell’s Heating and Air. Two years later, he was appointed sheet metal fabrication supervisor — a position he held for more than four years. He then moved on to hold the same position for ColonialWebb.

“During my time as a supervisor, I learned that not everyone responds the same to information,” Johnson said. “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it that really matters. I also learned that you have to genuinely care about the people who report to you. When you get to know the individuals on your team, you find out what makes them tick. This is the foundation of building a strong team and a great culture.”

After 12 years in the industry, Johnson began considering a different career path.

“I wanted to get into sales,” said Johnson, now 32. “It just happened that I heard NB Handy, a distributor of HVAC and roofing products, had an account manager position open up at its Richmond, Virginia, branch.”

Johnson’s account manager at the time also served as the general manager for the Richmond and Norfolk branches, which created a bit of uneasiness for Johnson.

“When I told him that I was interested in the position, he became very nervous because NB Handy has a strict policy of not recruiting from customers,” Johnson said. “He informed me that if I was serious about it, I needed to let my fabrication manager know that I was applying for the position, and he would follow up with my manager. I was scared to death, because I was about to tell my manager I was applying for another job with no guarantee that I was going to be awarded the position. After several interviews, and several candidates later, I was offered the job.”

Johnson believes his experience is one of his greatest assets.

“With my experience, I can provide some insights or recommendations that my customers may not have thought about,” he said. “It’s my job to try and make their jobs easier.”

Johnson said anyone working in the HVAC industry should be required to spend a couple of weeks inside a sheet metal shop.

“If you can spend three weeks in the field and in a sheet metal shop — one week on a construction site, one riding with a service technician, and one in a sheet metal shop — do it,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be three weeks straight, just as long as you get out there. You’ll gain a large understanding of what your customers really do and why they ask for certain products. You’ll also have more of an appreciation of what your customers have to do to make a living.”

When not on the job, Johnson tries to stay active. He’s completed a half and full marathon and even participated in two amateur MMA fights. For the last three years, he’s served as the head wrestling coach for his alma mater, King William High School. In the last three years, the team boasts two top-10 finishes at the state tournament. He and his wife, Sarah, will celebrate their 10th anniversary in October, together they have a 6-year-old son, Eli, and are expecting another child very soon.

Publication date: 09/05/18

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