We Learn a Lot From Our Dads

April 1, 2008
Many of us became HVAC professionals because of our Dads. For decades, HVAC Dad's have handed down their passion to serve others by bringing us into the trade. If that's your story, I'd encourage you to take some time to record the events and memories of how your father wielded his influence on your profession.

Many of us became HVAC professionals because of our Dads. For decades, HVAC Dad's have handed down their passion to serve others by bringing us into the trade. If that's your story, I'd encourage you to take some time to record the events and memories of how your father wielded his influence on your profession.

History is remembered because somebody took the time to write it. If it's not recorded, it simply vanishes. In the long run, the value of writing family history may be the one of the greatest contributions you may make to those who will follow you. Write the obvious. It's the everyday events recorded in today's context that will become irresistible to our posterity. May I offer a real life example from my life about my Dad?

Walt Falke
April 21, 2008. My Dad's eighty years old today. It's because of him that I'm in the HVAC business. Growing up, we heard daily tales of compressor failures, cracked heat exchangers, and relay replacements at the dinner table.

There were always wire nuts and sheet metal screws mixed with his change as he emptied his pockets at the end of each day. I knew what refrigerant oil smelled like when I was young, because that's what Dad smelled like when he came home on a hot evening.

Slowing Down
Now that Dad's 80, he slowed down some. He was recently feeling a little tired late in the afternoons. He did some research and spoke with his doctor to find that he was over exercising. For the last 35 years or so, about five days a week, Dad has exercised on his Nordic Track Ski Machine from 5 a.m.to 6 a.m. Now he knocks out his exercise routine in 30 minutes. He's surprised how much energy he gets from a half hour more sleep and 30 minutes less exercise. When should the rest of us start sleeping an extra half hour and reducing our exercise routine by 50%?

Work Schedule
He's still down at the shop by 7:00 a.m., and still puts in a full day. Although he admits slipping home for lunch and taking a nap ... and maybe two naps on an extra tough day. Now and then he might even play hookie for a day and will find something else to do besides work.

Dad likes to sell and spend his work days taking care of "his old girlfriends" as we all call them (Don't worry, his wife Afton isn't the jealous kind.) These are customers of his that are now replacing many of their units for the third time and won't think to call anyone else but Walt.

A few weeks ago I was speaking with Mom, I asked how Dad was and she replied she was a little worried about him. "He has so much going on, it's difficult to slow him down," she said. The conversation came into perspective when we compared her current concern to most wives of 80-year-old men who are having trouble with their oxygen bottles. We had a great laugh.

Tough as Nails
Last summer, Dad was out doing an estimate and climbed on a roof to inspect a unit. He took a tumble, hit the ground and cracked 10 of his ribs. The doctor was amazed he was still alive. We were all amazed when he went to a meeting down at the Church the next evening. By the way, yes he did get the job. But he's been grounded. No more ladders on Walt's truck. Soon he was all healed up and returned to his daily routine.

Years ago when I asked him why he wanted to buy the company where he had worked for nearly 25 years, he shared a dream and a vision with me. "Someday," he said, "I want to be successful enough that whenever I want, I can check the next day's service tickets, find a favorite customer, and then stop by on the way home and take care of their problem. Then I'll forget to send them an invoice ... Just for fun."

A Teacher
Dad loves to offer training at the shop to all the guys on Friday mornings. You can imagine how much he has to share with 50 years in the industry. His teaching style is light and jovial and usually filled with some great stories from the past as well as the present. "Good training is always practical" he taught me one day years ago.

I remember a service call he took me on when I was about 15. He was pleased with the way I could anticipate his needs and have the right tool ready when he needed it. We were driving toward home in his huge noisy service van, almost to the Nulaid Egg Farm. He slowed down, got real serious and explained the birds and the bees to me until we turned onto Falke Street where we lived.

I guess he is an amazing teacher. He explained the entire subject to me in less than five minutes! Fortunately, this was only the first of many valuable conversations on the subject.

I'm Becoming Him
I was driving last week and looked at my hands on the top of the steering wheel, they looked just like his. My veins were sticking out like his do and I've got a few hand wrinkles just like his and my hands aren't as thick as they used to be, they're thinner like his.

When I was younger and my wife would say "You do that just like your Dad." I used to take that as a poke in the ribs, now I take it as a complement. This morning as I bagged the garbage in the garage, I felt myself doing it with the same attention to detail that Dad does it. It's hard to explain, but I did it how he would do it.

My laugh is becoming like his and I rub my bottom lip with my tongue when I use a screwdriver, just like he does. When I'm tired I stand like he does and something's happened to my butt, it's disappearing just like his did. We both have a heck of a time pulling up our pants every few minutes. All his life, at the end of a meeting, he straightens up the chairs and cleans up a little; I've adapted that trait too.

Life's not perfect, it was tough being in business together. But if you'll take a few minutes and look back on the years, I hope you also can list a few of your Dad's traits that are built into your genes. While you're at it, record a couple of Dad experiences that tend to tug on your heart strings. Recording our family history helps each of us know who we are and why we do what we do.

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute a training company specializing in measuring, rating, improving and verifying HVAC system performance. You can contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800/633-7058. Go to NCI's website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, technical articles, and downloads.