It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When a child imitates a parent, it is often considered cute and funny. When a child wants to grow up to be just like mommy or daddy, that's just about the nicest compliment a parent can receive. If you have any doubts, just ask one father in the heating and cooling business.

Floyd Irons has a feeling that his son, Forest, will follow in his footsteps someday and become a "heat and air man." Nine-year-old Forest, a fourth-grader at Magnet Cove Elementary School in Magnet Cove, Ark., likes to work with his dad whenever he can.

"Forest goes to work with me on certain jobs where he is capable to go with me," said Irons. "If I am doing a re-duct, he is handing me what I need. He is real inquisitive about it."

Floyd Irons is the residential new construction foreman for Northside Heating & Cooling in Benton, Ark. His boss is Brian Nalley, who was voted as one of The News' "Best Contractor to Work For" winners for 2000.

Daddy Loves His Job

If Irons didn't like working with his hands and being a problem solver, I doubt that young Forest would be inspired to follow the same career path. It's clear that father and son enjoy the same work, as well as the same hobbies. Irons loves to hunt and fish; his son loves to hunt and fish. Irons likes to turn a wrench; his son likes to turn a wrench.

"He likes to do what I like to do," Irons said. "I love this job - wouldn't trade it for the world. I've done a lot of things, from truck driving to oil rigging, but it seems like heating and air is the most productive work. I love the challenge and change. Every house is different. I love working with my hands and fixing what is broken."

Irons has been in HVAC for 10 years, the last six months with Northside. His affection for the HVAC trade is greatly influenced by Nalley and the environment at Northside.

"There are a thousand companies down here, and I could have worked for any of them," he said. "But Brian was the most straight-up. He is a man of his word and that is what I like about him."

Not only that, Irons has fun doing what he is doing, too.

"My Dad once told me if work is no fun, then stop doing it," he said.

Irons thinks that Forest is having fun helping because he enjoys what he is doing, too. "Forest has good mechanical skills," he said. "He builds things with Legos and his motor skills are very good. All he wants to do is to hunt, fish, and work in heating and air."

Schoolwork Comes First

Irons said that Forest enjoys his classes at Magnet Cove Elementary, and Forest's schoolwork takes precedence over his future HVAC career and hunting and fishing with his dad. The picture shown at right is something Forest worked on as part of a class project.

Needless to say, Irons was moved when he saw the artwork. "That drawing tickled the heck out of me," he said. "I got a real charge out of that."

One of the Magnet Cove teachers who knows Forest very well is first-grade teacher Charlene Barnett. Barnett said that Forest has made great strides in improving his reading and writing since he entered the elementary school.

"Forest was always drawing in my classroom," she said. "And he really knows how to take things apart and put them together. He is a very special boy, very sweet. He has never given me any problems."

Barnett also acknowledged that career paths are very important - even to children in the early elementary grades.

"It is important for children to understand that they must stay in school and learn skills," she said. Barnett noted that children are encouraged to talk about their parents' jobs. One of Forest's classmates wants to be a policeman because his father is one, and Forest leaves little doubt what he wants to do.

"Forest wants to do everything his dad does," Barnett said.

"He idolizes his dad. If young children have a good relationship with their dad, they tend to want to be just like him."

"I plan on doing this the rest of my life," said Irons. "Forest said to me, ‘We are going to do this together, Dad,' and I replied, ‘Yes, son, someday we will.'"

Now, if we could only bottle the good messages coming out of the Irons' home and spread them across schools from Maine to California, we might put a big dent in the HVAC technician shortage.

John R. Hall has created a PowerPoint presentation titled "Getting Fourth Graders Interested in HVACR." If you'd like a CD-ROM of the presentation, please send a request to the e-mail address listed below.

John R. Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1294, 248-786-1390 (fax), or

Publication date: 08/16/2004