CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Russell's Heating & Cooling, headquartered here, was named as the number one place to work in the second annual Top 25 Places To Work in Hampton Roads rankings. Russell's was featured on the July 5 cover ofInside Business.

A panel of judges with expertise in human resource management and employee satisfaction reviewed all nominations and assigned points in each of four categories: culture/personality, family-friendly environment, compensation, and employee development. The ratings were then averaged, and a total score for each company was determined. The nominees were then ranked according to the highest scores.

Russell's employs 33 people. "It's easy to love working somewhere where you make six figures and people are giving you accolades all the time, but for people to love to work at a company that does this type of work really says something," said Buddy Smith, president of Russell's. "The work environment consists of crawling under houses and in attics and many times dealing with customers who are uncomfortable and unhappy."

Russell's has improved the work environment by using incentives such as often treating the office employees to Starbucks coffee and bagels from Panera Bread, or giving technicians a $50 credit on their tool account for each week they are on call. The work environment is also financially rewarding - all employees in the field are eligible for generous spiffs and bonuses, in addition to the already high hourly compensation that is given.

Joseph Lacroix, one of the Inside Business judges, said, "Russell's was the clear winner of the contest because of the company's commitment to its employees and the strong connection Smith has made with his workforce."

Smith added, "People have a really good time working here. There's always someone laughing in the office ... we have a really casual work atmosphere where the job always gets done but not without some fun as well."

Russell's, founded in 1977, is a family-owned business with annual sales of over $3 million. Russell's was also named Small Business of The Year for Chesapeake 2004 by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

Publication date: 08/30/2004