Joe Kronenwetter spoke a simple truth when he discussed how he and the folks at Rescue Air Heating and Cooling make the work schedule.
“It’s not based on what they can give the company,” Kronenwetter said, “it’s what we can give to them.”
With one sentence, Kronenwetter brought an Ask Me Anything panel of technicians to a key focus: The importance of culture to a company.
The AMA webinar was hosted by Tom Howard, ServiceTitan’s Vice President of Customer Experience and the owner of Lee’s Air in the Fresno and Central California area. Howard interacted with a panel of techs who offered insight and expertise from every-day experience in the field.
The panel was comprised of union electricians Noreen Buckley and Greg Anliker; Kronenwetter, whom ServiceTitan’s Jackie Aubel described as “a jack of all trades” at Rescue; and Jason Jones, a residential tech who specializes in restoration.
“Ask Me Anything: A Panel of Top-Performing Technicians” was the sixth in a series of eight in ServiceTitan’s Growth Series, a masterclass for the trades. Registration, which remains open, gives registrants access to recordings of previous sessions as well as the final two installments.
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The topics of the hour-long webinar ran the gamut. Jones spoke of how he didn’t necessarily believe in performance pay, offering that a company’s investment in every employee would lead to superior performance. Buckley said a minority-owned company would appeal to her. Forced get-togethers of all employees were frowned on while informal events that build camaraderie were supported. Offering continuing education to employees was a plus.
But even though Howard and the panel covered a variety of topics and issues, the questions and the focus often returned to company culture.
“The culture,” Kronenwetter said, ”is everything.”
“It’s not really lunches or donuts,” Buckley said. “It’s, are you a team? Are they teaching you? Are they asking you? Are they stretching you? You see the care that they want you to grow as an electrician.
“I think that’s why we’re all here, right, is to learn and to grow. So seeing that and being part of that culture is what makes me want to be with a company.”
Howard related the story of visiting Ben Davis, owner of Express Plumbing Service in Idaho. Howard noticed the video games in the shop for employees and paid attention to what he thought was a good culture. But it was later that night that he realized exactly what had been built.
Howard and Davis (with Davis’ wife and daughter) went out to dinner, and after finishing Davis invited Howard to his house. Howard figured why not. Upon arrival, Howard found six or seven of Davis’ employees at the house.
“(Davis) wasn’t even at his house and his employees were inside,” Howard said. “We go in and they’re playing pool, like they own the place. We hung out until 10, 11, maybe midnight. I was blown away, and I said, ‘You guys are doing this because it’s a party, right?’
“He said, no they probably do this three or four nights a week, and it’s not always the same people.”
That kind of camaraderie and team-building can be priceless. So is the attention to truly following through on the words “family-oriented,” which shows in the benefits a company offers, Buckley said.
“You get 401(k), you get sick time, you get vacation time,” she said. “But what is your parental leave above and beyond what the state offers? If you’re pregnant is it disability because that’s the minimum of the state? Or do you follow through when you say that you’re a family-owned-and-oriented company, and think of the whole family and what that means?
“Medical leave in times of Covid. What did the company do for parents, men and women, who had to figure out how to be home with their kid and work? That’s not a catchphrase, that’s actually walking the walk.”
Kronenwetter said merely paying attention to an employee’s life makes a difference.
“I do my scheduling based on my guys’ days off,” he said. “I know that they’re gonna have ‘X’ amount of weekends through a given month, even through the season, then build our availability kind of backward.
“That’s been really good for these guys. I know they like it because when they worked at other places that wasn’t the case. We get worked like we’re dogs and treated like we’re robots. We have a life. We have families.”
Anliker spoke of the importance of consistent work, even through shoulder and “off” seasons. A belief system that flows from the owners through every employee leads to pride in simply doing good work each and every time. Kronenwetter agreed.
“When you do that quality of work, the reviews kind of follow that,” he said. “And with the reviews, you’re going to stay busy year-round.”