SEATTLE, WA — Paul Pollets has been in the hvacr industry for more than 30 years, but his own business, Advanced Radiant Technology (ART), is only in its third year. In that short amount of time, ART has established a reputation in the Seattle area for quality service.

Pollets says that he knew the business would be successful if it could make it past those first three years. Now that the time has passed, ART is still going strong, and Pollets can attribute its success to many strict practices including professionalism, fair treatment to customers and employees, and a comfortable small business atmosphere.

These are also the same qualities that make Pollets one of the seven winners in The News’ 2000 “Best Contractors to Work For” contest.

Advanced Radiant Technology specializes in designing and installing hydronic and radiant floor heating systems. Most of the company’s business comes from the residential side, especially newly built homes.

Benefits of a Small Business

Radiant heating, according to Pollets, is still a niche market. This allows the company to stay small and still do enough profitable business. And Pollets proves that there are a great many advantages to being a small business.

The ART “headquarters” is in the home of Pollets’ business partner, Sheldon Balberman. According to Balberman, the company may one day move into a separate building, but for the time being the arrangement works fine. The company can store most of its overhead in the company trucks or in Balber-man’s garage.

ART also has a small staff. Currently there are two technicians who help with installation and service. ART keeps its employees busy by offering maintenance contracts to existing customers.

Also, the contractor uses European products in a majority of the company’s installation projects. Pollets says that this is more expensive, but it allows him to offer customers top quality in their radiant heating. It also gives his technicians a chance to challenge themselves with new and interesting products.

Paul Pollets helps his technicians move a boiler to be placed in a newly constructed home.

Techs Make The Company

Jeff Nadeau has been with ART for about two and a half years. With his third year fast approaching, Nadeau will be one of the first employees to receive an ownership benefit.

Each employee that has been with the company for three years will be offered a percentage in the LLC. This is non-voting stock, but Nadeau essentially will own a small part of the company.

“This lets the technicians feel that they are more a part of the company,” said Pollets. After five years, the technician can gain up to 5% of the company.

“It’s nice to have the ability to control a little bit of your destiny,” said Nadeau about the ownership benefit.

Pollets’ other current technician is Justin Joos, originally from Salt Lake City, UT. According to Joos, opportunity is very limited where he is from, and he heard about ART through a friend.

After Joos was hired for the job, he enjoyed several benefits. First, Pollets gave Joos a signing bonus of $2,000 for coming to the company and staying more than six months. And second, Joos was offered money for relocation.

Besides these benefits, the company’s technicians are eligible for two weeks’ vacation after two years of service, seven paid holidays, and five sick or personal days per calendar year. There are also raises for every license and certification that the technicians earn.

“They are all working towards their plumbing license,” said Balberman. He also says that by offering raises for certification, the technician’s credentials go up.

Finally, technicians receive a commission for every unit they successfully sell.

Making Better Techs

With the benefits Pollets offers, finding technicians would seem easy. But with radiant heating being a niche market, it can be difficult. It also makes it more difficult because Pollets says that he is very picky when it comes to service techs.

“It’s easier to find individuals who can do the technical work,” said Pollets. The hard part is finding a tech who can also focus on sales and project a good image.

Pollets trains all of his employees by taking them out into the field, but he also makes sure that they receive training in “people skills,” such as proper communication with the customer.

“Tradespeople are not necessarily good businesspeople,” said Pollets. “They need to know timeliness and responsiveness.”

This, according to Pollets, includes maintaining the proper appearance and being able to communicate clearly with customers. Image is very important to the company. Each employee has a shirt with the company logo, and Pollets makes sure that his technicians look professional when they meet with customers.

So far, this has paid off for ART. A great deal of business has come about due to word of mouth. Satisfied customers have referred others to the company or have been so pleased with the service, they request Pollets’ work again.

“We have never missed a deadline,” said Balberman. “We are trying to reverse technician stereotypes.”

This mission to create better technicians has not only been beneficial to Pollets, but also to his employees. “Professionalism is one of the highlights,” said Nadeau. He also explained that Pollets has been able to challenge him as a technician and make him a better person.

Both Nadeau and Joos say that the atmosphere is enough to keep them working there. Although they have had offers to work at other companies, and for more money, both technicians say that they would not be able to find the professional attitude and commitment to service they find at ART.

Besides all the financial benefits, Pollets’ technicians are growing with the industry and learning something new all the time. “He has a very fast knowledge of hydronic equipment,” said Joos. “Because he works in the field, he knows the frustrations and gives you the freedom to fix things independently.”

Sidebar: Just the Facts - Advanced Radiant Technology

  • Name: Advanced Radiant Technology
  • Owner(s): Paul Pollets, Sheldon Balberman
  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Years in business: Three
  • Bulk of market: Residential hydronics
  • Total revenue for 2000: Just over $1 million.
  • Total number of employees: Four
  • Total service technicians and installers: Two
  • Average annual hours employee spends in training: Training is ongoing. Technicians learn in the field with Pollets before starting on the job. Training also continues throughout employment to keep on top of soft skills and changing technologies.

  • Benefits offered beyond medical/dental insurance: Employees who stay with the company for at least three years have the opportunity to gain a percentage of non-voting ownership. After five years, employees can receive up to 5% ownership. For new employees, ART offers a $2,000 signing bonus as well as a payment for relocation, if necessary. There is also an opportunity to make extra money through commission on each sale a technician makes. As for time-off, employees receive two weeks of vacation after two years of service, seven paid holidays, and five sick or personal days for each calendar year.

  • The News selected this contractor because: Advanced Radiant Technology is the kind of business that looks to satisfy not only its customers, but its technicians. Contractor Paul Pollets realizes the importance of keeping technicians happy and comfortable. This not only includes the numerous financial benefits and advantages, but the opportunity to become an all around better technician. Pollets promotes professionalism and a strict policy that is intended to reverse the industry stereotype of technicians. While Pollets raises the image of the industry, he is also creating repeat business among clients with ART’s top-notch customer.
  • Publication date: 02/26/2001

    Web date: 06/18/2001