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On HVACR Employee Appreciation & Development

During this time of new employee drought, the employees you have retained need ongoing recognition, and thrive on career development.

"Culture" is on the verge of becoming an overused word, but let’s give it one more look, to see how it matters to the survival of an HVACR business.

This lesson in culture comes from Louis Hobaica, president and co-owner, with his brothers Paul and Mike, of Hobaica Services, Phoenix, Ariz. The Hobaica brothers are continuing the legacy of excellence started by their late father, Paul Hobaica. My visit to the company and meeting Mr. Hobaica in 2011 as our “Contractor of the Year” are among the highlights of my tenure on Contracting Business. CLICK HERE for their story.

Louis is on our editorial board, so I asked him to put down some thoughts about best practices that have made Hobaica’s a crazy success. Our digital January edition HERE contains the majority of his suggestions. For this column, I'm covering the culture-related ideas.

It’s Most Important
Louis Hobaica doesn’t mince words: “Culture is by far the most important aspect of your company. Your team is your company’s personality. They are the greatest ambassadors of your company . . . good or bad, it’s your choice,” he begins.
This is a major reason why the technician shortage is so critical: the front liners are your ambassadors, and if there are too few to go around, then you may suffer loss of goodwill with customers. You will also want to promote longtime field employees but can’t do so if they’re still needed out there.

Hobaica says employees must always come first, and should be treated as your #1 Customer. I don’t think I’ve heard that one before, but I like it. Since so much can roll downhill, your treatment of your employees is likely to be reflected in how they treat your customers. (By the way, have you ever truly realized how essential it is to have top of class employees interacting with your customers? Do you know the damage one wrong word or action can do to your company’s reputation, as well as theirs?)

“How you treat your employees is how they will treat your customers, so make it a great experience,” Hobaica writes, adding that it’s very difficult to train for personality, but easy to train for skills, so hire for personality, by bringing on board individuals that align with your culture.

What Does ‘Team’ Mean?
Your team is your cadre of like-minded service individuals, trained for specific skill sets. Hobaica advises business owners and managers to create regular team interaction, to continue developing your team relationships. But go beyond an occasional barbeque, to provide ways the team can play outside of their comfort zones. I always think of softball leagues, if busy summer schedules will allow it. Or bowling, or other types of group events.

Incentivize, and Then Some
Then, there are the all-important incentives, because, yes, money matters. But Hobaica says to provide incentives to your team aside from their regular pay, because it’s important to create memorable experiences, such as:

  • Awards and other recognitions
  • advancement opportunities
  • ongoing training
  • vacation time
  • personal days
  • birthdays off
  • paid vacations for the entire family
  • spiffs
  • gift cards
  • health insurance retirement plan. (If you need help structuring any of those financial items, please get in touch with a financial services pro who can help bring you into the 21st Century in this regard.)

Empower Your Team
Then, allow your team members to be “in charge of the customer” during every experience. Their customers are their “accounts.” Holding their hands, and requiring them to get approval for everything they do deters from positive attitudes and productivity. Yes, do establish expectations and communicate them, and provide coaching, to keep frustration at bay, eliminate or reduce mistakes.

It's so important to listen to your team. But since an “open-door policy” often conflicts with other manager duties, Hobaica suggests you establish a fail-safe method of hearing employees’ ideas and concerns.

Thank you, Louis, for these great tips! Best Wishes in 2019 to Hobaica Services, and to our many faithful readers and online visitors!

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