Leadership. Self-sufficiency. The ability to perform well under pressure. Knowing the value of teamwork.
Those are qualities that make a great Marine. They are also qualities that make a great HVAC technician, says Riley Flatt.
And he should know. Flatt is both: currently enlisted in the Marine Corps, and owner of Semper Fi Heating and Cooling in Malta, Montana.
“A friend I served with in the Marine Corps reached out to me to start an apprenticeship program with the HVAC company that he was working for at the time,” Flatt related. “The next HVAC company I worked for really solidified my love for the trade.
“I’ve noticed many veterans are in the trades, and that is one thing that makes it easier to relate with them,” he continued. “The stress in the trades can somewhat mimic stress and pressure that the military teaches you to handle. We have an employee who is a veteran. Being able to relate to him and understand more about what helps him learn efficiently and effectively comes naturally.”
This fall, the dedication and entrepreneurial spirit landed Flatt some recognition and some extra funding for the company. Business management platform Jobber just announced the winners of its Boost by Jobber grant program, and one of the 30 winners was Semper Fi.
Boost by Jobber is tailored to home service entrepreneurs. It’s a program that helps launch, grow, and strengthen small home services businesses. The winning small businesses were selected from thousands of applications and received funds ranging from $1,500 to $20,000, for a total of $150,000 awarded.
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Training For The Task
Flatt plans to use the grant money to get ahead in employee training, something employees appear to be eagerly anticipating.
“We are a young company with unlimited potential,” he said. “Our employees like seeing the growth in themselves as well as growth in the company.”
Right now, Semper Fi has one work pickup and a work van. Training is a combination of online work and field application.
“We operate in a small agricultural community and surrounding areas. Everyone knows the business owners in the area, so it is important to deliver excellent customer service,” Flatt said. “Getting employees out in the field seems to be the most effective way to train. Our company trains employees for residential and commercial jobs. They must be well rounded since we are in a remote location.”
A Company That Gives Back
The owners of the veteran-owned company also plan to use the grant money to grow and better assist a wider range of the small, below-the-poverty line community they are based in.
Flatt provides training, jobs, and customer discounts to veterans. His company has worked with their community to help raise money for various members through a fund to give a free furnace to someone in need each year, and worked with Montana-based nonprofits to help with mental-health-related community events.
He also works with local high schools in an internship program to help raise awareness for the trades and to bring students back to the community. The program allows students to take a semester to get to know the basics of what HVAC is all about and the opportunity to begin to learn trade fundamentals.
“When we talked with the school guidance counselor, we found that many students are interested in going into a trade instead of the traditional college route — but do not know where to start,” he said. “I think allowing the students hands-on learning as well as seeing what goes on behind the scenes after we complete a job gives them a well-rounded idea of what a future in the HVAC industry could look like for them.”
“We are very hopeful that this next year will bring a few students that are interested in staying on with us,” Flatt said.