Company lunches, holiday parties, and a well-stocked supply of cold water, ice cream treats, and coffee? Yes, the employees enjoy all of those and more at Joe Mascetti’s pair of ACCA-member companies — Swift Services Heating Cooling & Electrical in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and A+ Heating and Cooling in Southport, N.C.
Part of that is just good sense.
“We know that the summer season, especially near the south beach, is exhausting for all our employees,” said Scott Stewart, marketing director.
However, while cooling amenities and social gatherings are very visible perks, the word that comes up in talking with Mascetti’s employees is “opportunity.” That theme seems to be a thread behind the scenes, from training to job advancement to pay structure. Add a company-wise emphasis on good internal and external communication, throw in a pattern of acquiring smaller companies, and those keys drive the success of A+ and Swift Services.
Those priorities stem from Mascetti’s own experience. He spent the first 10 or 15 years of his HVAC career in service.
“I learned how to communicate and how to fix the system,” he recalled.
Then he spent about that long again learning management, sales, and business. He developed some opinions about what works and what works even a little better than that.
The Money and More
Beyond a review and raise structure, Mascetti’s companies start to stand out a little more with their bonus strategy. The bonus structure is open to the office staff as well as the technicians. Installers have bonus and stipend opportunities every day. Management expanded a monthly employee award to choose one from each department in 2020 “because it was 2020, and we felt everyone needs an extra boost of positivity,” said Stewart.
HE CAN RELATE: Owner Joe Mascetti started in the industry as a helper. Moving from service and communication skills up through management and operations helped him to build a strong two-company organization serving customers along the South Carolina/North Carolina coast. COURTESY OF SWIFT SERVICES
Employees can also tap into an additional truck stop and spiff system. Technicians move up through tiers as they sell more, which in turn raises their future potential income.
“Similarly,” Stewart added, “for the office staff we have a tiered reward system based on memberships sold and tune-ups scheduled.”
While that structure can create appealing take-home pay, employees find meaningful compensation further up the paycheck.
“For me, 401k is a really big thing, because it allows you to plan for your life,” said Kacie Blais, who is the office manager at Swift. “A lot of jobs, you work, and you dedicated years of your life, and you have nothing to show from that.”
Blais and her coworkers have it better than many on the 401k front. Shane Bedgood, Swift’s general manager, explained that not only do employees get a full match on the first 3% they contribute to their 401k plans, but the organization continues a partial match up through a 5% employee contribution of their gross pay.
Meanwhile, “I’m almost 50,” said Robert Saiu, a technician at A+. “I look at the insurance packages as really beneficial. It gives a lot of peace of mind.”
Stewart detailed that the company pays half of employees’ health insurance and offers dental, life insurance, and supplemental insurance that addresses accidents, cancer, and long- and short-term disability.
Workload and Growth
Mascetti’s team also works to avoid off-season employee churn. Technicians will organize the warehouse in slower times, or even help with data entry or cleanup in an extremely mild winter such as 2019.
FULL FLEET AHEAD: Technicians organize the warehouse in slower times. COURTESY OF SWIFT SERVICES
“For the most part, though, we maintain three to four installs every day, year-round, or have multiple duct cleanings so that we never need to worry,” Stewart said.
In the office, Kacie Blais is looking to bring on a couple more people to handle weekends and after-hours calls. Swift and A+ have used a 24/7 answering service, and upping their own staff does cost a little more, she acknowledged.
“But it’s easier for the client to be able to interact with someone directly,” she said. There is benefit in the customer dealing with someone whom they know “knows how we do things, how we schedule, how to make sure they’re taken care of.”
Kacie worked for a couple of years at a company Mascetti acquired. She was then promoted to office manager. Whether an acquired company has been vehicle-heavy or employee-heavy, or sometimes database-heavy in assets, Mascetti has integrated those strengths into A+ and Swift’s operations.
When Stewart mentions that half of the A+ staff has been there for more than four years, the number is deceptively low because significant growth over the last few years has pulled down the overall average.
Opportunity and Communication
“A lot of this industry is based on workload,” Bedgood said. “They use the people for the position that they need at that time. But one of the things we do here is we look at opportunity, and the more successful we make our employees, the more we’re successful in return.”
AWARDING AND REWARDING: Mascetti’s companies use assorted bonus and spiff programs alongside other employee recognition. Here, Swift Services installer/tech Josiah Kidman (left) receives the Employee of the Year award from general manager Shane Bedgood. COURTESY OF SWIFT SERVICES
Mascetti noted that one component of this strategy is developing their maintenance techs into service techs. A training and meeting space contains two units to work on (on the clock). Techs can take advantage of other paid classes to advance skills and certifications.
One big element is sending at least five techs annually to Arkansas for training on diagnostics and other skills to take that next step. Overall, the transition is about a two-year program, and ultimately, Mascetti said, “the ability to move up is on them.”
“There’s always open doors,” echoed A+ technician Saiu. “Which way do you want to go? Do you want to stay where you’re at for a while? Do you want to move forward? That’s a beautiful thing, especially when you have a company that’s growing.”
Saiu represents a sweet spot between training and communication priorities, serving as a mentor for the newer maintenance techs.
Saiu explained how the team develops a knowledge of each tech’s skill sets and makes sure that everyone understands that they are free to call on anyone they need to in order to solve a problem.
On the hiring side, Bedgood likes to ask applicants to “tell me a little about yourself,” to gauge their ability to communicate and have a conversation. Troubleshooting is important, he said, but “we want to be the type of company that’s going to educate and communicate with you, and let you know we’re definitely looking out for your best interest.”
Worst-Case Success Story
This combination of skill, culture, and attitude paid off last July. The heat index crossed, and eight employees were out with COVID or other illnesses. At that point, a hurricane knocked out power at the company’s offices, and the phones started ringing and didn’t stop.
“This would have been the last straw for many employees at most companies, and they would have walked,” said Stewart. “Here at A+, we did not lose a single employee during those two weeks of insanity.”
Managers were going out and doing repairs. The office manager became the dispatcher.
“The marketing and human resources leaders became customer service representatives to get the calls answered,” Stewart recalled. “Even the owner helped take calls and went to several installs to make sure all staff was hanging in there.”
That may be an extreme example of what fuels the success at A+ and Swift, but it’s a good one.
“We all we all have our hands full on a daily basis,” concluded Saiu. “But if we didn’t pull together, we wouldn’t be able to achieve the things we do.
Swift Services Heating, Cooling and Electrical / A+ Heating and Cooling
OWNER: Joe Mascetti
LOCATION: Myrtle Beach, SC and Ocean Isle Beach, NC
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 12
BULK OF MARKET: Residential
TOTAL SALES FOR 2020: $12 million
TOTAL EMPLOYEES: 70
TOTAL SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND INSTALLERS: 19 technicians + 8 install teams / 5 comfort advisors / 5 electricians
AVERAGE HOURS EMPLOYEES SPEND IN TRAINING: 41 hours
BENEFITS BEYOND MEDICAL/DENTAL INSURANCE: 401k (with up to 4% match), life insurance, supplemental insurance including short- and long-term disability, vision. Paid holidays. Paid vacation based on tenure, up to 3 weeks.
INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION & CONTRACTOR GROUP MEMBERS: ACCA, local heat pump group
THE ACHR NEWS SELECTED THIS CONTRACTOR BECAUSE: Across the two-company culture of A+ Heating and Cooling and Swift Services, owners Joe Mascetti has found multiple ways to emphasize growth. The companies themselves have grown through outside acquisitions. That, along with successful business management, contributes to an environment where employees can move up the ladder. The company also systematically develops its technicians’ talents.