PITTSBURGH - John Cloutier and Fred Haynes have some things in common. The two commercial HVAC contractors are very successful, and their businesses represent the cream of the crop of the Linc Service Network franchises. Cloutier is president of Nordic Mechanical Services Ltd. (www.nordicmechanical.com) in Edmonton, Alberta, and Haynes is president of Haynes Mechanical Systems (www.haynesmechsys.com) in Greenwood Village, Colo.

Both men sat down to talk with The News during Linc Service Network's 2005 Continuing Education Conference (Con Ed).

Cloutier has been encouraged by the economic climate in Alberta. The area's oil and gas industries account for 82 percent of Canada's total hydrocarbon fuel. And, the discovery of promising veins of diamonds in the mines of Fort à la Corne could elevate Alberta into one of the top positions in world diamond mining.

These developments bode well for Cloutier, who espouses the Linc model. "The Linc system gives us a very stable platform," he said. "The system empowers our people to make a substantial difference."

Cloutier said he has been with Linc for 10 years, starting out before that as a contractor "who knew nothing about service." He said that maintenance work offers a stable and steady flow of work for the company's 47 employees.

Cloutier is also impressed with the training and career opportunities that people have in his company, thanks to his relationship with Linc. "We provide careers rather than jobs," he said. "That is the culture created by Linc. People will work for you if you offer them a career."

Tech Shortage

He noted that the biggest issue facing the service industry today is a lack of technically trained people. "It is a cultural thing," Cloutier said. "Society has attached a stigma to working in the trades."

Cloutier doesn't necessarily see a shortage of technicians; rather, he sees a shortage of tradespeople. That is one reason why he and his manager concentrate on the successes of Nordic's employees.

"We look at employees as internal customers and customers as external customers. This approach has changed the way management looks at people," said Cloutier.

Haynes has been with Linc since 1995. "We joined Linc because it was a consolidation of service and support," he added. "They focus on making service a strong component of our work."

Haynes said he prefers to train his own techs, noting that the techs that are available in his market "come with a lot of baggage." He said, "Techs are only as good as the training by their mentors. Sometimes the things that people have learned must be unlearned in order to build a career at Haynes Mechanical Systems."

Haynes also talked about the importance of building a culture around customer service - establishing a relationship with customers. "If you compete on price, you don't have a customer relationship," he stated.

He also likes to share ideas with other Linc contractors, especially Cloutier. "This is a strong organization," he said. "People are free to share what works and what doesn't work."

Besides the importance of training for his 75-person staff, Haynes also sees another important issue facing his business: selling energy efficiency. "Energy becomes a driver, a way to turn up our business by another notch," he said. "It is a differentiator for us from other businesses and creates a whole new field for us."

Publication date: 05/02/2005