Ray Isaac (left), president of Isaac Heating & A/C, Rochester, N.Y., discusses last year’s “Best Contractor to Work For” award with Erik Knaak, the company’s vice president of service.
It used to be that colder temperatures and leaves changing color were the most recognizable signs that autumn was upon us. For most people living in seasonal climes, that's true. But for the HVACR contracting trade, another familiar sign of autumn's arrival is The News' annual "Best Contractor to Work For" contest.

Starting on Monday, Oct. 11, The News will begin taking entries for our "2004 Best Contractor to Work For" contest, which recognizes companies that encourage a safe, secure, and fulfilling work environment. In case you are new to The News or the HVACR trade, here are some particulars about the contest.

Any HVACR contractor in the United States or Canada can be nominated for the contest. The nomination must come from an employee of the contracting firm. The contest is open to all contractors regardless of size, markets served, union or open shop, etc. Remember, we are not looking for the biggest contractors; we are looking for the best contractors to work for.

Nominations can be made directly at the News' Web site, www.achrnews.com. Click on the "Best Contractor to Work For Contest" link and fill in the information. Entries can also be faxed or mailed to The News. The deadline for nominations is Dec. 13, 2004. Sorry, no extensions.

All staff editors of The News will act as judges and select the winners from each region. The winners will be visited by a News editor and have their story featured in the Feb. 7, 2005, issue, which will be circulated at the International Air Conditioning, Heating Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo). Winners will also receive a special plaque and recognition at the 2005 AHR Expo in Orlando, Fla.

Owners Cynthia and Mark Schneider were happy to accept the award for their region on behalf of Pacific Aire, Ventura, Calif.

Added Rewards

If you think that the rewards end after the plaque is awarded and the stories appear in the Feb. 7 issue, think again. Former winners of the "Best Contractor to Work For" contest have used the award to boost employee morale, attract new employees, and to impress customers. But don't take my word for it; here are some comments from winners of last year's contest:

"I view most awards as recognitions for things that you have already accomplished - nice to have on the mantle and boast about, but not much in the area of constructiveness and feedback," said Ray Isaac, president of Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning, Rochester, N.Y. "The ‘Best Contractor to Work For' award, however, is an accomplishment in and of itself.

"It means that as an employer and partner with your employees, you are doing things right, making good decisions in the areas of hiring and employment, and ensuring the long-term success of the organization."

Former winner All Seasons 500, Huntsville, Ala., includes father-and-son combinations (from left) Jerry and Jonathan McBride, and Chris and Jim White.
Donna Lanier is the customer service manager for All Seasons 500 Heating & Air in Huntsville, Ala. She noted that her company "bragged" about the award in advertisements and in its company newsletter. Lanier said the most important part of winning the award was the boost in employee morale, and her company let the community know about it.

"The award shows customers how friendly we are, not only to the community, but to our employees," she said.

All Seasons 500 Heating & Air belongs to AirTime 500, and the contractor group honored the company with a special photo plaque, which was presented at the AirTime 500 spring meeting earlier this year. That plaque hangs alongside the "Best Contractor to Work For" plaque in the entrance to the building. "We've gotten a lot of positive comments from our vendors," said Lanier.

OK, enough said. Perhaps it's time to give your employees a nudge. If I owned a contracting company, I just might leave this column in a prominent spot. But that's just me.

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

Publication date: 10/11/2004