I am known around The NEWS’ offices for my “half-baked” ideas. It’s a term I use for new ideas that have not been fully thought through yet.

In truth, it’s a bit of a defense mechanism. If a coworker takes one such idea and either improves or implements it, I somewhat take credit for the finished product. Now, if that new idea falls flat, you will hear me telling everyone within earshot that I had told them it was a half-baked idea, thus distancing myself from the failure. Pretty good, huh? Go ahead and try it out around the office.

If you visit this page, you will see our Top 40 Under 40 list. This was a half-baked idea about a year ago. I had heard consistently that the average HVAC worker was in his early 50s and there was a lack of younger people joining the ranks. However, whenever I traveled to industry events, I would inevitably meet at least a couple of younger folks who were “all in” with the HVAC industry and accomplishing great things in their careers.

We wanted to highlight those folks.

And, I must say, the response was overwhelming. In order to manage expectations, this was launched as the Top 10 Under 40 contest. Being that this was the first year of the contest, and sometimes this industry can resemble the cast of the movie “Cocoon,” I wanted to make sure we could fill up the list with the nominations we received. Well, the nominations came flooding in and we received north of 100 responses. Not only are there a lot of talented young people in this industry, but their coworkers appreciate them and realize how important it is to recognize them.

The list features an assortment of contractors, distributors, service technicians, engineers, educators, etc. Each has interesting stories about how he or she arrived in the HVAC industry. The common denominator was each was ecstatic to be in this industry. The takeaway for me is the perception of the HVAC industry obviously does not match the reality. Once the HVAC industry gets ahold of this young talent, it does not let go. The younger generation realizes what a great industry this is in terms of the people, room for advancement, and the paycheck.

As Dan Lauterhahn, master distributor for Packard Inc., told me: “It might not be one of the glamour jobs coming out of college, but our businesses need engineers, bright marketing people, and good leaders. People might be thinking about finance or a Fortune 500 company, but there is a great opportunity at a lot of HVAC businesses.”

It’s the industry’s job to get the word out and harness the young talent that arrives. Programs like Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International’s (HARDI’s) Emerging Leaders Task Force is a great place to start. It was there that nine respected HVACR industry mentors and other leadership professionals shared their expertise with some younger folks in the industry.

It’s a version of paying it forward, but, instead of helping just those getting the mentorship, you’re helping the entire industry. And, who knows, maybe one of these individuals will make you a quality monetary offer to purchase your business when you are ready to ride off into the sunset.

So check out the inaugural Top 40 Under 40 list. And, look around your office. Do you have any young folks who deserve some recognition? If so, there’s always next year. With the amount of nominations we received this year, you can bet this will be an annual list.

Not bad for a half-baked idea.

Publication date: 8/17/2015

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