Angie Snow, a former elementary school teacher turned HVAC shop owner, is a great example of a business owner that works just as hard for the service technicians she employs as they do for the customer. Angie and her husband, Ryan, own and operate Western Heating & Air Conditioning, a residential/light commercial/maintenance HVAC company based in Orem, Utah. Women technicians and installers are welcome here, and other HVAC companies are taking note of their innovative philosophy. Want to work for this company or one like it? Come prepared with a great attitude and a willingness to learn.
WHAT IS YOUR COMPANY’S PHILOSOPHY ON HIRING?
There is a need for quality contractors in the HVAC field. We’ve been trying to raise the bar. We have a lot of competition. Some of the biggest challenges is creating glamour in HVAC. It’s not a very glamorous industry! No child ever says, ‘When I grow up I want to be an HVAC guy.’ Nobody ever says it because it’s not a glamorous industry. If we raise the bar and let people know more about our industry, that’s something because there is such a need for people who have the ability to work with their hands.
IS THERE A DEMAND FOR TECHNICIANS AND INSTALLERS IN THE HVAC INDUSTRY?
Yes, it’s a problem among contractors all over the country. It’s really hard to find good help and people who are qualified to work in the industry.
HOW IS YOUR COMPANY OVERCOMING THIS CHALLENGE?
What we are doing to overcome this challenge is that we are hiring people with zero experience and helping them get the education they need and training them in a way we would like to have them trained and then helping them grow within our company.
Where there is challenge, there is also great opportunity for those who want to go into the trade. I look at it like they are like doctors. They are coming in and diagnosing equipment, going through checkups. We need to look at it like that. Doctors are specialists in their field and technicians are specialists in their field. They have the ability to make a lot of money. There are less and less people in the trade who have the ability to fix and diagnose. The amount of money you can make, there’s a lot of opportunity there.
WHAT KIND OF EMPLOYEES ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
I’m looking for anyone with a desire and an attitude; somebody that fits into our culture, aligns themselves with our values. We have a reputation and a strong belief in honesty and integrity. So, for me and my company, we are looking for someone with a great attitude who is teachable and moldable.
DO YOU EVER FEEL AS THOUGH YOU’RE TRAINING TECHNICIANS TO WORK FOR SOMEONE ELSE?
It’s a challenge for me because that keeps me on my game as an employer to make sure I am offering the best benefits, a good work environment, and taking care of my employees’ needs and their families, knowing there is an opportunity that they can be recruited by someone else. I hope I am giving them enough that they want to stay. That challenges me as an employer to make sure I am offering the best to my employees.
DO YOU THINK YOUR COMPANY’S PHILOSOPHY IS UNIQUE IN THE INDUSTRY?
I hope we are not an exception to the rule. I know there are a lot of contractors trying to offer their employees more. Successful companies realize that’s what they need to do to get and keep employees.
YOUR COMPANY REGULARLY HIRES WOMEN. WHAT ARE YOUR WORDS OF ADVICE TO A WOMAN THINKING OF GETTING INTO THE HVAC TRADE?
My words of advice: Try it out! There is still a bit of stigma, but more women are coming in. We had a female applicant come in a couple of years ago, and my service manager was painting a picture, saying, ‘You’re going to get dirty there’s going to be spiders, you’re going to be getting your hands dirty every day.’ And she said, ‘I know! I’m ready for that!’ It’s important to let them know it’s not an easy job, but the rewards and the growth and the places you go within the industry and the money you can make is great. It’s important be upfront about the pros and the cons.
HOW DO MEN ACCEPT WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY?
It varies from man to man. We hired our first female technician a little over 5 years ago for a maintenance position. She had just finished schooling. It went back to the attitude—she was willing to learn and change, and she fit in with what we were doing.
When we first hired her, we got a lot of push back from our make technicians. That made it hard on her, and they pushed her and made her work. She had to prove herself that much more. But she had the right personality and had been in other male-dominated industries like truck driving and bus driving, so she was used to push back from men. It takes the right kind of woman to be able to hold her ground with the men, and she did well. She was our trailblazer. Now, when we hire women, the men are open to it. It’s a most accepted thing now in our company.
Now there are men everywhere asking me, ‘How do you get women to work for you? How do you do this?’ It’s simply about getting the message out there – we want women! And there’s a need for men to see women in the industry.
HOW ABOUT CUSTOMERS? DO THEY RESPOND WELL TO A FEMALE TECHNICIAN
Yes and no. At first, it was a little strange for many customers, but then the word got out about her, and people were requesting her and wanting her to come. Especially those moms with small children, moms home alone, and older women; they felt more comfortable with a woman in their home. Our first female tech is a great communicator, and it was a natural fit for her to move into sales for us.
Customers who don’t like it? Older men. It’s hard to them to have a girl come in and do work for them. They often stand over her shoulder, but she’s gotten used to it. Some come around, but some don’t.
HOW DOES YOUR COMPANY FEEL ABOUT CONTINUING EDUCATION?
Continuing education is so important to us. It’s something we highly believe in, especially when technology is changing and with home automation. Our techs must be up on their game. We are always looking for training from our vendors and suppliers. During annual planning, we take a lot of time and plot out the training for our techs because it’s a big part of what they’re doing. We pay for all of their training, and if there’s any training they feel like they want, we work out a negotiation where we will pay for it and then we expect them to work for us for a period of time. We invest a lot in them.
HOW DO YOU COMPENSATE YOUR TECHNICIANS?
We’ve tried several methods of payment – performance-based pay, task pay, but the employees seem to prefer hourly pay. With that, we have a lot of different spiffs, commissions.