Seaman's employees have some fun at a company summer picnic.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Randy Seaman is proud of his 38 employees. He is proud because each one is an integral part of the Seaman’s Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration team. And rather than take credit for his company’s most recent award — The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) 2002 Commercial Contractor of the Year — Seaman prefers to credit his team for the honor.

“Our people are the ones who have made the company successful,” Seaman said. “I don’t sit in an ivory tower making decisions for them. They are the ones making the decisions and doing the best they can do.”

Seaman’s is a commercial-industrial contracting firm that has been in the family in this western Michigan community since 1961. Seaman’s father started the business, which Randy, his sister Shirley, and brother-in-law Pat Murphy purchased in 1985, when the annual sales volume was $800,000. In 2002, Seaman expects to top the $5.8 million mark.

But stats and sales charts don’t tell the real story behind the company’s success.

Seaman's service tech Ken Hewitt, a six-year employee, services a customer's condensing units.


“What makes our company grow are the people who believe in the same philosophies and core values,” Seaman said. “We don’t have a big division; we are small enough to work as one team.”

Unlike many of his peers, Seaman does not have a difficult time recruiting people to join his team and remain with the company.

“It’s not easy to get in here,” he said. “We have at least three interviews and conduct a personality profile for each interviewee. We want to hire someone who is honest and fair and who treats others with respect — not just customers but fellow employees, too.

“We have very little turnover. Some of our people have been with us for 15 or 16 years.”

Seaman said he usually finds future employees right out of tech school, or who are working for residential contractors and would ultimately like to move into commercial work. It doesn’t take much advertising to bring in prospects.

“We only have to run a small ad in the newspaper because our name carries a lot of weight,” he said. “The people that know us push for us. If we are looking to fill a position, we put the word out to our employees and they spread it quickly.”

Perhaps a lot of people know that the company cares about their futures, emphasizing training and self-improvement.

“We do a lot of training, including some Dale Carnegie courses for managers,” Seaman said. “I want to make everyone as successful as they can be by offering as much training as possible. We also have people enrolled in full apprenticeship training.”

With proper training comes fewer complaints and callbacks — something that Seaman is very mindful of.

“We usually average a 99% success rate on our first calls,” he said. “I’d like to see zero callbacks, but mechanical parts have a mind of their own and we can’t control that. I’d like to go out and personally resolve complaints with customers; we just don’t get a lot of complaints.”

Seaman added that he has lost some customers because they haven’t measured up to the standards he sets for his company. “I’ve had to fire some customers because we couldn’t keep putting band-aids on their problems,” he said. “They wanted work done too cheaply.

“Our customers are very good customers. They expect to get the job fixed. [But] whether the problem is equipment or personnel, we try to fix the customer.”

Randy Seaman and Patricia Van Kuiken, assistant general manager, flank the ACCA award in the company's lobby.


Seaman said he is proud of the ACCA award and “shows it off” a little by using the words “award-winning” on arm patches, decals, and signage. He said that some of the salespeople may mention it when making sales calls. But he doesn’t rest on those laurels.

“The award was great because it was from my peers and it makes our people proud,” Seaman said. “But we don’t brag about it.”

Maybe it’s Seaman’s pride and confidence in his employees’ workmanship that provides enough reassurance of a job well done. But maybe it is his pride in the profession that is most telling about his success.

“This industry has a lot of growth possibilities — you can go to so many places,” he said. “This industry touches so many other different industries and professions.

“You shouldn’t think about the industry as an eight-to-five job. This is a career. Our people enjoy this trade and what it can do for them. They all have pride in their craftsmanship, what they do, and being part of a winning team.”

Publication date: 06/10/2002