While hitting the road the last few years to interview winners inThe NEWS’“Best Contractor to Work for” contest, I have noticed an underlining theme. Usually, the winners treat their employees as humans, not strictly numbers.

The beauty unfolded before my eyes - again - when I visited one of the 2006 contest winners last month. (By the way, look for the Fantastic Five to be featured in next week’s issue.) I witnessed an employer who is much appreciated and liked by his/her employees. The workers were quite upfront regarding their fondness toward the owner and the owner’s management.

It was as if watching a well-oiled machine. Better yet, a happy, well-oiled machine. I was kind of jealous, actually. I don’t ever recall working anyplace where everyone got along.

This owner does not even worry about the bottom line. This owner believes if you take care of inside and outside customers, the rest will come. The exact words were: “If we take really good care of the employees, and take really good care of the customers, we’re all going to do well. We’re all going to make money.”

One could not argue with this owner, as the company recorded over $5 million in sales last year. Just as important, over a year’s time, this owner has not had to replace an employee who left for more money or exited due to being unable to get along with the owner or fellow co-workers. Noticed and well-paid employees stay. Better yet, they want to come to work.


One can hear the grumbling already. Many will speak of goals, financials, and numbers as being at the center of a great contractor. Agreed, numbers are very important in a business. But, up to a point, when does all this numbers tracking become inhumane? Paying too much attention to numbers tracking, we can lose track of our employees.

There are some contractors who are guided by the almighty dollar, employees be damned. Some disguise it under “opportunities.” (Example: If Contractor A has 20 service calls on Monday, and 12 are services to 12-year-old systems, the “opportunity” for Monday would be 12. Come Tuesday morning, Contractor A wants to know if the company met its goal of cashing in on the dozen opportunities from Monday.)

Such tactic and/or business philosophy may work. But is it not short term, as employees eventually - quickly? - bail. I am not so sure customers appreciate such tactics, either. I call it pressure selling and it rubs me the wrong way.

Bottom line: Owners should spend more time with employees than with numbers. If one must, get a trusted accountant or bookkeeper or hire a faithful person who is strong in finance to handle the numbers side of the business. For some, that just may be your spouse. Agreed, one should never forget finances - but it’s happy and faithful employees who will not only keep your business afloat, but ahead of the competition.

There is staying power when you:

• Provide abundant employee training, a solid paycheck, best-that-one-can-afford medical and dental benefits, plus laughter.

• Go out of your way to honor or reward workers. (Don’t think of it as time wasted or nonproductive. Not only does it make workers happy and proud, it shows that you care, that your workers are not just numbers.)

• Have unscheduled surprises. (Go ahead. Take an evening to go bowling with the crew. It’s called team building.)

• Invite a single worker over for an evening meal at your house. (Watch that employee not only quickly gravitate toward you, but your business goals, too.)


There are numerous ways to be “human” - and, here comes a shameless plug.The NEWSwill host an important educational session (“Ways to Find and Retain Qualified Technicians/Employees”) at the 2007 Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigerating Exposition. Come hear our knowledgeable panelists, the winners of our 2006 “Best Contractor to Work for” contest, who will provide helpful “human” insights. Discussion is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. sharp in Room D174 inside the Dallas Convention Center on Jan. 30.

In the long run, if I had to choose, I’d far rather work for a human contractor than a numbers contractor. It’s something your future workforce is examining, too.

Publication date:01/22/2007