Getting the Basics, Making a Profit

I felt compelled to write some thoughts concerning John Hall’s column in the Feb. 5 edition ofThe News.

The first has to do with the individuals we recruit for our industry. I don’t believe we are going to overcome the trend of parents encouraging their children to aspire to go to college. In fact, when we look at the amount of information there is for young people to learn at this time, compared to when I was in school in the 1950s, I think it’s necessary for a young person to have at least two years of college just to learn the “basic” amount of knowledge.

In other words, what is magic about 12 years of school being the exact amount necessary to teach the basics? And if 12 years was proper in the 50s, before space travel, computers, the communication revolution, etc., etc., then I believe at least two more years are necessary just for an individual to learn the “basic” amount.

The point is that I feel our industry needs to look at college students, especially those graduating from two-year schools, as prime candidates for us.

Many of these students, although encouraged to attend college by their parents and peers, are “mechanically inclined” and good with their hands. The additional education will also be helpful in their handling of all of the issues of the day.

Secondly, I compliment the last contractor quoted in Hall’s column. He understands the whole situation. Our general/service manager, Roger Zahn, taught me over 10 years ago that in service, the answer is to charge as much as necessary to be profitable. His point was that no consumer is “anxious” to purchase our services as they would consumer items like cars, jewelry, etc.

Therefore, anything they spend on service is really more than they “want” to spend for service. In other words, if you charge $60 per hour, do a mediocre-to-poor job, lose money in the process, the customer is going to be much more upset than if you charge $100 per hour, do an excellent job, and make some profit. Our experience using this philosophy certainly shows that it is true.

Butch Welsch

Welsch Heating & Cooling, Inc.

St. Louis, MO

Catch a Shining Star

In response to the letter submitted by Mr. Stuart regarding his dis-satisfaction with the quality of new technicians [“We Are Here,” Feb. 19], I offer the following:

Having taught air conditioning and refrigeration for a number of years at a well-known vo-tech school in the metropolitan New York area, it became quite evident that the students who graduate from a trade school are not all rocket scientists. This also became obvious to me as a result of having spent 16 years in the trenches both as a technician and a company owner. Just as our industry requires individuals with different skill levels to perform different tasks, the trade schools provide “new technicians” to the field, each with his/her own inherent abilities. If a company is looking to hire a “filter changer,” one can be found through the placement department of a school. If a company is looking for a “shining star,” one who will one day become a lead man in a service team, the placement department is the place to go. It is important to note however, that for every shining star, there are many more that burn much dimmer. Finding such a star, even when scouring the masses of experienced technicians, is no easy task.

If you are unhappy with the quality of the technicians you are hiring, maybe your hiring criteria need to be adjusted. You do, after all, have the choice as to whether or not a certain applicant will or will not become a member of your team. Choose wisely.

Whenever a new technician is hired, the company is making an investment. No argument there. But the investment can pay off handsomely when you have taken that new “technician” and created a loyal and honest employee. One that treats the customers just as you would. One who treats his service truck as though it was his own personal vehicle. One that treats his customers’ belongings as though they were his own (or maybe better).

Taking the “plunge” and paying a new hire $15/hr can also have immediate positive ramifications as well. If a new hire feels that he/she is not making what others in similar situations are making, you may find yourself having to deal with technicians that develop poor work habits from the get-go. These habits include job milking, improper time keeping, and customer overcharging. As a company owner, you are obviously aware of the fact that you cannot stand over your employees throughout the day. Paying a new technician a little more than you feel they are worth conveys to them the idea that you are a good boss and are willing to work with them. This, teamed up with the mutual respect that you should both have for each other, is the first step in creating a shining star of your own.

Gene Silberstein Whitestone, NY

Being Frank About Philly Frank

Frank Hierholzer [“Philly Frank and the Raiders of the Lost Spark,” page 177, Jan. 29 issue] is a national treasure in this industry! He represents the heart of our trade. We all need a touch of his style of humor. Keep it coming, guys!

Brian Storkey Service Foreman Carmichael Engineering Ltd. Mississauga, ON, Canada

Publication date: 03/26/2001