Reminding Us How To Live

[Editor's note: This letter is in response to Mark Skaer's editorial "What's Next? Uniform Fashion Show?" Sept 26.]

We all know of ruthless bean counters who lose the corporation because of strict attention to detail and not enough to relationships. And we know of the playboy who is great on relationships but doesn't pay attention to the financial details until he discovers that his company is being reclaimed by its real owner (the bank.)

Many of us eat stuff we wouldn't feed our dog. We have a precision-tuned, self-repairing body, but constantly take it for granted. We wouldn't think of having our show dog (or horse) on a diet of potato chips, corn dogs, and beer, or putting vegetable oil in our racing car. But we don't think twice about mistreating our bodies and minds.

We are made up of what we eat and what eats us. Once we accept the fact that we can change and improve (You can change without improving, but you can't improve without changing) by taking care of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual sides of us, our businesses, families, and communities will follow wherever we lead.

Most of us already know this; we just need to be reminded every so often. That's why we need these kinds of seminars at our conventions. They help us to be focused on what is really important in our lives and why we have a business in the first place.

Elmer L. Stutzman
Service Manager
Goshen Plumbing & Heating Inc.
Goshen, Ind.

The Potential Ramifications Of Techs Taking Home Work Vehicles

The Oct. 24, 2005 edition of "The Panel" [titled "Should Techs Drive Right To The Job From Home?"] addressed the pros and cons, from a business standpoint, of having HVAC technicians take company trucks home at night so that they can go directly to their first service call each morning. However, the discussion failed to address how this business strategy might put the technician in violation of homeowners' or community association rules regarding commercial vehicles.

Like them or not, homeowners' associations are a part of life for many people. And in spite of the excesses and occasional pettiness, homeowners' associations do serve a purpose to maintain property values and to provide a basic framework for resolving differences between neighbors.

The issue of commercial vehicles is becoming more prominent as more contractors in various trades allow, or require, their employees to take company vehicles home overnight. As a former board member for a homeowners' association, I learned first hand that many people do not want commercial vehicles being parked outside in their neighborhoods. (The exception being police vehicles, which, in spite of their appearance, are perceived as a benefit because they might deter crime.) The service tech who is asked to take a vehicle home at night is put in a sometimes awkward position, knowingly violating a homeowners' association rule and risking his standing with some neighbors because he is following the rules put in place by his employer. And while those neighbors might not say anything to the technician, they are certainly willing to contact homeowner association board members to point out the violation of the rules.

The power of homeowners' associations [HOAs] varies. Some have the ability to levy fines, and they have done so to address residents parking commercial vehicles overnight on a regular basis. Other HOAs cannot issue fines, so they repeatedly send letters to the offending residents, hoping to get them to alter their arrangements. HOAs have also organized boycotts of contractors who have their employees take vehicles home overnight.

In a case where it was determined that a contractor "required" an employee to take a company vehicle home overnight, a homeowners' association contacted the contractor directly to inform him of the violation of a deed restriction and to threaten legal action on behalf of a resident that was attempting to sell his house and felt the presence of a commercial vehicle would reduce his sale price.

While HVAC and other trade contractors will scoff at this notion, realtors will back it up. And failing to consider how a business strategy impacts this aspect of a technician's personal life is just bad management.

There are a couple of steps that a contractor can take so that an employee is less likely to violate deed restrictions:

  • Provide vehicles that will fit inside a standard garage. Pickups with built-in tool and parts storage are generally low enough, but avoid putting racks on top of a truck or van. If the vehicle is parked inside the garage on a regular basis, neighbors will rarely complain.

  • Use removable magnetic signage on vehicles. Obviously, company vehicles are marketing tools, and a contractor wants to promote his services any time a vehicle is on the road. However, having one to two less-conspicuous vehicles in a fleet can help if a technician has particularly sensitive neighbors.

  • Provide a removable canvas cover. It's an expense, and it's an inconvenience to put on and take off, but neighbors are less offended by a blank canvas cover than a painted service truck. The canvas covers can also help to deter theft.

    Having an employee take a vehicle home overnight might make sense from a productivity standpoint. But if that practice has a negative impact on an employee's personal life, it might not be the best business decision.

    Glenn McLaren
    Government Sales/E-Commerce Manager
    Friedrich Air Conditioning

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    Publication date: 12/26/2005