How does your business look now, compared to five years ago? What is the staff size? Work loads? Staff satisfaction?

This may be an interesting year for The NEWS’ Best Contractor to Work For (BCTWF) contest. How many companies have not had to make some sort of reduction or entrenchment that could affect worker satisfaction? And in a recession where basic employment has been called “the new raise,” restoring and maintaining employee confidence can be an important business strategy.

Last year’s winners showed creativity and initiative when it came to making sure their internal customers were able to keep working steady hours. They also shared a strong sense of family, even when they weren’t actually related, and mutual trust and respect. These characteristics are shared by every winning contractor this contest has honored over the years. Picnics and parties help, but they are not likely to be necessary.

At Fire & Ice Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrical Inc., Columbus, Ohio, CEO Scott Merritt said, “If you provide a learning, motivational atmosphere, you will find that you have motivated employees who want to learn. And if you don’t, you obviously wouldn’t have any of that.”

Steve Allen, owner of Cool Check Air Conditioning Ltd., Etobicoke, Ont., said he learned how to treat people from his father: with respect.

In Rock Hill, S.C., Brothers Air & Plumbing offers a generous vacation policy, profit sharing, an open-book approach to how the company is doing. The goal is to be a place where people like to work.

In Phoenix, James Donley, founder and chairman of Donley Service Center, and son and president Mike Donley, regularly bring in new members to the Donley “family” through a hiring process that measures their ability to fit in. “The keys to hiring good people are to make hiring important, make it a management-based process, and communicate well,” said James.

Repeat winner Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning, Rochester, N.Y., is still a family business with great compensation, benefits, and training opportunities. Its latest claim to BCTWF fame came from the decision to put employees first, even over customers. This kind of prioritization “frees you to make decisions that are in the best interest of the company,” said president Ray Isaac.

Could your company be one of our regional winners this year? Well, what makes your company a great place to work?

On a Mission

Winners will be announced in The NEWS’ AHR Expo show issue Jan. 23, 2012. Because the expo is in Chicago, and because we like The Blues Brothers (both the characters and the original movie), we’ve incorporated some of those references into our contest info.

You may recall this line from The Blues Brothers movie: “We’re on a mission from God.” In this year’s contest, we’re on a mission to find the best.

As they say, God is in the details. What are the details of your company’s plan to attract and retain the best employees possible? Have you adopted a new management style to improve employee confidence? Has the company initiated more schedule flexibility to take advantage of current communication technology?

Get Ready

By now, you should have a few ideas of why your company should be entered in The NEWS’ 2011 BCTWF contest. If you are an employee who believes that your company’s work environment encourages growth, opportunity, recognition, education, and a winning attitude for all employees, nominate your company as one of The NEWS’ 2011 Best Contractor to Work For.

Four U.S. contractors and one Canadian contractor will be chosen to represent the best of the best. Entering is a snap. Visit our website and click on “Best Contractors Play It Solid” on the top of the page. Or go directly to When you have completed the form, click “submit” and you will have officially entered your company into the contest.

We’re on a mission to find the best! The deadline for entries is Nov. 28.

Again, to enter the BCTWF contest, go to

Could your company be one of our regional winners this year? Well, what makes your company a great place to work?

Publication date: 11/07/2011