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PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMART—Building a Future Together

January 2020

Healthy labor-management cooperation is vital to our success ...

PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMART—Building a Future Together

JOSEPH SELLERS, JR. ANGELA SIMON Co-Publishers KAARIN ENGELMANN editor@pinpmagazine.org Editor-in-Chief

4 Photo credit: 617MediaGroup


January 2020 - Volume 14, Number 1



 Contractor of the Year winner Kevin Gill Sr. believes healthy labormanagement cooperation is vital to the industry’s success.

6 SHOUT IT LOUD  The National Task Force’s Brand Ambassador program is gaining traction and helping to recruit the industry’s best.

8 THE EVOLUTION OF CHOOSE BIGGER  Chapters and Locals in Colorado, Mid-Atlantic, and California are adapting

Choose Bigger to suit their local markets, and they are getting results.

JESSICA KIRBY jkirby@pointonemedia.com Editor POINT ONE MEDIA INC. artdept@pointonemedia.com Creative Services

Partners in Progress is a publication of the Sheet Metal Industry LaborManagement Cooperation Fund. All contents ©2020 by the Sheet Metal Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Fund, P.O. Box 221211, Chantilly, VA 20153-1211. Find Partners in Progress online at pinp.org or at issuu.com/ partnersinprogress. An archive of all issues is available and printed copies may be ordered for a minimal fee. For comments or questions, email editor@pinpmagazine.org.


The residential market is ripe with opportunities, but requires a completely

new approach to customer service by contractors and trasdespersons alike. S HE E T M E TA L | A I R | R A I L | T R A N S P O R TAT I O N

14  PARENTS ON BOARD The results are in: 90% of parents would support their child’s choice to pursue a skilled trades career.

SMACNA & SMART Prioritize People

The importance of making people our priority has been on my mind as the Partners in Progress Conference gets underway in less than a month at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on Feb. 25-26. We’ve been getting together for conferences like this for almost 20 years, and the biggest takeaway is that when we allow ourselves to lose focus on the importance of people, positive relationships, and communication, our industry suffers. (Find previous conference materials at pinp.org/conferences.) That’s what you will find in this issue of Partners in Progress—stories about investing in people, from our current workforce (page 4-5) and potential apprentices (pages 6-10 and 14-15) to our customers (pages 12-13). You’ll hear more about these topics—and other best practices that chapters, Locals, cooperation trusts and committees, and training centers across North America have developed to better compete in the current market—by attending the Partners in Progress Conference and bringing along leaders and future leaders who have not attended recently. SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr. and SMACNA President Angela Simon will both be there to provide a message about the importance of going All-In in terms of cooperation if we want the signatory sheet metal industry to thrive. Additional messages will cover going All-In for recruiting and innovation, promoting women and diversity in the workforce, expanding markets with technology, and empowering and inspiring upand-coming leaders. Particularly, don’t miss our State of the Region break-out sessions, developments in health and safety, and the SMACNA/SMART Leadership Forum. Our keynote speaker on the last day is Herm Edwards—Arizona State head football coach, former ESPN football analyst, and NFL head coach and player—who will talk about doing the little things and executing vision. Another important part of this conference is the Strive to Succeed Challenge. It’s intended to push us forward in our labor-management relationships and encourage us to work together to delve into the needs and opportunities of our local markets. As a bonus, those who participate (local SMART unions, SMACNA chapters, and their contractors) and complete tasks in each of four areas will receive $1,000 to use towards marketing for business or workforce development in their areas. Phase 1 involves tasks such as completing the 2019 State of Cooperation Survey, registering for the private portion of the Partners in Progress website, fundraising for the 2020 Partners in Progress Conference charity (Project 150), submitting the goals of your labor-management trust/committee, posting to social media during the conference using the hashtags #pinp2020 and #allintosucceed, and identifying as a group one

detailed, specific goal to work on following the conference. (See details of the challenge online at pinp.org/pinp20/striveto-succeed-challenge.) Areas that make it through Phase 1 can receive an additional $2,000 to use towards marketing efforts in their local area by actually building a plan and submitting it to us via email at pinp@smacna.org. The plan can involve one of the following:  Make an application for an ITI training grant,  Develop a digital marketing plan,  Negotiate a market recovery agreement,  Create/update a recruitment and retention plan, or  Develop a joint labor-management strategic plan. More and more areas are getting involved. Do you feel overwhelmed about where to get started? Watch a webinar with tips by visiting the Strive to Succeed Challenge page on pinp.org or at vimeo.com/386330815. We’ll see you soon in Las Vegas! ▪

RECRUITMENT TOOLS AVAILABLE The SMACNA/SMART Best Practices Market Expansion Task Force has developed tools to aid your local recruiting efforts. You (SMACNA and SMART members) are invited to participate in a webinar series. The next webinar is April 13 at 2 p.m. Eastern time (11 a.m. PST). Please join us to learn what is available. We have developed several resources designed to support your recruiting efforts. These resources have been developed nationally and can be customized for your local area to supplement your recruiting efforts. This webinar covers:  A new PowerPoint deck to use promoting your apprentice program to schools and prospective apprentices.  New Brand Ambassador materials that can be used on social media to reach friends and family.  Updated Guidance Counselor Toolkit with collateral for guidance counselors, parents, and students, designed for those who might be good candidates for the sheet metal trade (including Spanish language option).  Details on how your local area can customize the resources for your own needs. Additional information will be available in upcoming issues. Partners in Progress » January 2020 » 3

INVESTING IN PEOPLE By / Natalie Bruckner Photos courtesy of 617MediaGroup

“Surround yourself with the best people and treat them the way you want to be treated.” This is the business philosophy that Kevin Gill Sr, president of McCusker-Gill Inc. in Hingham, Massachusetts, has lived by since he purchased and incorporated the company back in 1991—and it’s a philosophy that has served him well. In less than 30 years, Gill Sr., the recipient of the 2019 SNIPS Sheet Metal Fabrication Contractor of the Year award, has managed to build the largest sheet metal operation in the Greater Boston area. “The McCusker company was owned by another mechanical contractor, the Fred Williams Company, and most of the sheet metal work it performed was direct for Fred Williams,” Gill Sr. explains. “When I purchased the company in 1991, we had around 10 employees.” In its first year of business, McCusker-Gill did around $1.2 million in revenue, and a year later, the company was awarded a project at the Boston Public Library. “That really put us on the map,” Gill Sr. says. “It was worth about $450,000, which would probably be a couple million dollars today. We purchased our first coil line in 1993, and by 1995, we had become the largest sheet metal contractor in the Boston market according to working hours logged.” The company quickly outgrew its 7,500-square-foot facility and moved to a 25,000-square-foot facility just south of Boston. “We experienced considerable growth during the dotcom bubble, when we remained the largest sheet metal contractor in the Boston market by a considerable margin,” Gill Sr. says. A few years later, in 2015, the company once again outgrew its facility and relocated to a 60,000-square-foot facility where Gill Sr. introduced a new coil line along with several other new shop and office upgrades. 4 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org

Today, the company averages approximately $75 million in annual revenue, has a staff of around 200 employees, and remains the largest sheet metal contractor in the Boston area. One ingredient to the company’s success is its progressive approach, as Gill Sr. believes in investing heavily in new products, technologies, and systems. However, the area where Gill Sr. invests the most is people. Whether that’s indirectly on the production side, with new production equipment to ensure staff have what they need to manufacture ducts as efficiently as possible; on the safety side with investments in new equipment and training; or, perhaps most importantly, directly in time, by listening to staff and ensuring lines of communication remain open from their very first day with the company. “We invest a lot of time and resources into the apprentice recruitment process and really try to identify the best candidates for apprenticeship,” Gill Sr. explains. “Throughout the apprenticeship program, we proactively try to pair apprentices with mentors that can help them learn the trade. We rotate them through the shop and field, and also through different types of projects to help them get exposure to all types of work. We solicit feedback on our apprentices and try to identify the next generation of emerging leaders. We invest a lot into the development of those apprentices, including sending them to many of the leadership, supervisory, and foremen seminars that SMACNA offers.” As a result, the company sees little to no turnover. “We treat our employees very well because we believe good morale is vital to our success,” Gill Sr. says.

This approach isn’t exclusive within the company either, he adds. It’s a philosophy that applies to labor-management relationships, as well. Establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship is, Gill Sr. says, essential to the success of his business and the industry as a whole. “Healthy labormanagement cooperation is vital to our success. We are extremely proud to be a union sheet metal contractor and that our employees are able to earn a fair wage with great healthcare and benefits. Our customers know that when they hire us, they are getting skilled and qualified labor and that the work will be top-notch. “We share many of the same objectives as our labormanagement partners, and it’s really important for us to find common ground and to work together to achieve collective goals,” he adds. “We have a great apprenticeship program, and we rely on our local JATC to continue to supply us with skilled and trained workers. In booming markets, our labormanagement partnership helps make sure all of our labor needs are met, and in slow times, it can help us to find ways to make sure we keep people working,” Gill Sr. says. It’s an attitude that is mirrored at Local 17, which represents more than 2,700 skilled and licensed workers throughout Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Bob Butler, business manager at Local 17 (who worked for Gill Sr. from 2000 to 2002 before becoming an agent), echoes this approach to labor-management cooperation, which seems to be helping the industry flourish in Boston. “We have a good relationship with our contractors,” Butler says. “We have an understanding that we need each other and, while we may have our differences of opinion at times, it’s a partnership, and we are in this together.” It’s not just lip service, either. The numbers speak for themselves. In 10 years, Local 17 has seen one, maybe two grievances, which tells a compelling story. “We talk ... a lot,” Butler says. “Whether that’s about work coming up and jobs we can bid on both inside and outside the Boston core, or ways to get creative and ensure we continue to thrive even during downturns. There is a lot of respect between labor and management because, after all, business is business and we will still have a beer after hours,” Butler says. Local 17 and McCusker-Gill Inc. are currently demonstrating partnership in action with a new initiative that focuses on their shared ambition to expand opportunities for contractors and their workforces in and around the area. Together, they are moving beyond jobs in the healthcare sector and breaking into the residential market. “There have been a lot of projects within our jurisdiction where items such as boiler flues, HVAC louvers, and lab exhaust equipment have been assigned to trades other than the sheet metal workers,” Gill Sr. says. “We have partnered with our Local to protect this work and keep it within the sheet metal worker’s scope. We have worked cooperatively

“Healthy labor-management cooperation is vital to our success,” says Kevin Gill Sr., president of McCusker-Gill Inc. and successfully to achieve this on many projects in the past several months.” Both Gill Sr. and Butler know this will take time, education, and outreach, but this is nothing new to them. They say that you just need to look at their current discussions over the prevailing wage challenges in the area and how contractors and the union are working hard to close a loophole to create a level playing field for all. “Our partnerships help us set the standard for excellence in New England’s building trades,” Butler says. “It’s especially great when these partnerships and the skills of Local 17’s hardworking men and women are recognized nationally.” For Gill Sr., this cooperation extends beyond labormanagement, and includes SMACNA contractors working together to learn from one another. “We really value our fellow SMACNA partners, and we rely on those relationships tremendously,” he says. “Our strong relationships with contractors in other markets allow us to share information freely in a mutually beneficial way. When we encounter a new challenge or scenario, we have several SMACNA contractors in other parts of the country that we can reach out to for guidance.” When McCusker-Gill recently moved to the new facility, Gill Sr. asked SMACNA who the leaders in prefabrication were and toured multiple facilities across the country. “We incorporated ideas that we saw into our own final shop layout,” he says. “Today, we routinely host SMACNA partners from other parts of the country who come to see our operation.” Looking ahead, Gill Sr. and Butler agree that maintaining and growing the union market share will continue to be an ongoing challenge both locally and nationally. They say ongoing cooperation from both sides will be the key and will eventually result in achieving common goals that benefit all sides. ▪ Natalie is an award-winning writer who has worked in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, the United States, and Canada. She has more than 23 years experience as a journalist, editor and brand builder, specializing in construction and transportation. When she’s not writing, you will likely find her snowboarding, mountain biking, or climbing mountains with her rescue dog. Partners in Progress » January 2020 » 5

Shout it

LOUD Brand Ambassadors program is gaining momentum with


By / Jessica Kirby  Photos courtesy of General Sheet Metal The SMACNA-SMART National Task Force is several months into its Brand Ambassadors program, and momentum is starting to build. The program launched in October and is aimed at identifying the industry’s best as brand ambassadors who can champion various parts of their careers using social media (see: issuu.com/partnersinprogress/docs/pinp_ august2019_final). The program’s first campaign, My Job is My Gym, promotes the physical benefits of a career in sheet metal with a photo contest and promotional t-shirts, using the hash tag #MJMG. To launch the pilot, educators, union representatives, and contractors were invited to participate in introductory webinars outlining the program’s purpose, materials, and potential for customization. John Wright, business representative for Local 20 in Evansville, Indiana, participated in a webinar to gain awareness about recruitment efforts and because he hopes the program will help the Local gain more applicants. “Recruitment efforts in our location take many forms,” he says. “We have done TV, radio, job fairs, and presentations at our local facility to Ivy Tech and a high school technical center. We occasionally need more people, but we have been successful finding manpower most of the time.” He hopes the Brand Ambassador program continues to encourage suitable recruits and inform potential candidates about available career possibilities in the signatory sheet metal industry. “Specifically, I hope the campaign lets people know what the union can provide,” he says. “I hope it generates a good and 6 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org

plentiful list of applicants for apprenticeships and, potentially, draws skilled workers from the non-union sector to the union.” The program has been picked up in a few locales but it will take some time for it to gain serious traction, says Lisa Bordeaux, a consultant to the SMACNA-SMART Best Practices Task Force and expert in recruitment efforts aimed at young people. Bordeaux designed the Brand Ambassadors program and says it has received some good initial interest, including several t-shirt orders from contractors and Locals. “The program’s success is dependent on individual organizations and their ability to get people excited about the campaign,” Bordeaux says. “We need people to share what they like about their jobs and how that affects their lives.” Support is available from the national office, which provides the materials and supports participating organizations. In Portland, Oregon, for instance, the Task Force has completed outreach in coordination with and on behalf of Local 16, bringing materials and resources to the local school. Carol Duncan is CEO of General Sheet Metal (GSM) in Portland, Oregon. Her team has taken on the MJMG campaign, donning shirts and posting photos of the crew in action to social media. For Duncan, the decision to take on the campaign was made as a way to take a fresh approach to recruitment. “The Brand Ambassador challenge is different from anything we have used before,” she says. “It encourages our current bargaining workforce to reach out to their peers and engage them, showing them the great opportunities and large varieties of work that are possible.”

Charissa Schubert has been with Local 16 for six years and a foreperson at GSM for one year. She loves building parts in the shop and watching her work come alive on the job site. “Being able to drive by with my kids and say, ‘Hey, your mom made that’ is a pretty cool feeling,” she says. Her career in the sheet metal industry had proven diverse and challenging in the best possible ways. “One of the biggest lessons is learning how to work with the materials and their tolerances and different people in the construction industry,” Schubert says. “It’s a whole lot different than selling suits, which is what I did for 13 years before this career.” She would love to see the MJMG campaign gain more traction because a career in sheet metal is—though physically and mentally tough—very gratifying. She wants young people considering a career in sheet metal to know it’s important to do their research and talk to experienced men and women to see if it is the right choice. “If you love to be challenged on a daily basis, this is the job for you,” she says. “I wish I had started this career right out of high school. I have always loved building things, so if you feel the same, check us out. Local 16 feels like a family to me. They have your back and want to see you succeed.” GSM’s Molly Cloutier has been a sheet metal apprentice for 1-1/2 years. The MJMG campaign sums up an important part of why she loves her career in sheet metal and why she recommends it to others who love working with their hands and thinking outside the box. “This career is best suited for someone who is not content sitting at a desk or running a cash register all day,” Clouthier says. “There is something for everyone in this field and so many opportunities to grow and challenge yourself.” She adds that her career definitely supports her efforts to stay physically and mentally healthy. “Staying in shape is important to me, and I love that I can build muscle while working,” Clouthier says. “It’s like getting paid to go to the gym!” Most importantly, she loves inspiring women to take a risk and make a change in their lives. “This campaign has created quite a bit of buzz in my circle of influence,” Clouthier says. “I need to take more pictures of the hard work I put in on a daily basis, emphasizing the strength and power created every day at work.” Portland has seen a tight labor market for the past three years, prompting GSM to strengthen existing efforts to build the company’s brand and culture with retention and recruitment in mind. And those efforts are working. “We’ve been one of Oregon’s Top 100 companies for 10 out of the past 12 years,” Duncan says. “We have teammates on workforce boards, and we participate in pre-apprentice programs and career fairs at high schools and colleges.” Historically, Duncan has found the company’s best teammates came from referrals from current employees. “I do think that the ambassadors are having fun with the challenge,” she says. “The photos speak for themselves.”



She would like to see even more activity from her group and others and is hoping a new year brings fresh momentum. Strengthening the workforce into the future is a moving target requiring a constant eye on new strategies. “The generation that is retiring now came directly from high school,” she says. “When the shop classes were removed from the junior high schools and high schools, we lost our direct line into the trades. It took decades to for us to reengage recruitment efforts at the level required to replace those retiring, not to mention doing so in an extremely busy economy.” Once MJMG has run its course, the next Brand Ambassador campaign will be related to a “craftsperson by day, artist by night” theme and showcase the things people do related to their craft outside of daily life. In the meantime, Bordeaux encourages more activity at the organizational level, particularly in places experiencing a labor shortage. “Over 88% of the people who responded to our survey said they learned about the trade through talking to their friends and family,” Bordeaux says. “Part of the reason we want people to promote the trade through their social networks is that we know they are using those social networks to connect with their friends and family. If we can get people who look like our best targets to post on social media, the odds of attracting those individuals goes up significantly.” Bordeaux will be discussing the Brand Ambassador program at the Partners in Progress Conference (February 25-26 in Las Vegas) during Tuesday’s general session. She and Paul Pimentel, who leads research and communications for SMART, will be doing a more focused breakout session on marketing through social media on Wednesday. Visit pinp.org/ conferences/pinp20/ for details. Jessica Kirby is a freelance editor and writer covering construction, architecture, mining, travel, and sustainable living for myriad publications across Canada and the United States. She can usually be found among piles of paper in her home office or exploring nature’s bounty in British Columbia’s incredible wilderness. Partners in Progress » January 2020 » 7


CHOOSE BIGGER By Cairine Caughill Photos courtesy of Nehlsen Communications

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Choose Bigger, the multi-faceted digital marketing program originally developed for recruitment in the Wisconsin market, is being picked up by regions in different areas of the United States. The program includes banners, brochures, videos, Google advertising, an email follow-up campaign, career fair displays, social media, and a website—all providing targeted recruitment information for students, parents, and counselors. But the regions who have picked up the campaign—including Colorado, Mid-Atlantic, and California—aren’t simply using it as it was originally developed. The program is evolving to meet local needs. As Matt Sanchez of Nehlsen Communications points out, “The basic concept doesn’t change. It’s how we deliver that messaging and how we strategically approach and care for each individual area.”

“For decades, it’s been a very male-dominated industry,” says Kurt Snyder, SMACNA Mid-Atlantic. “We’re starting to see more people coming in to the trade from different areas, but we’re really short on women. We’re trying to break that stereotype.”

Colorado Nathan Cooper, executive director for SMACNA Colorado, was enthusiastic about the Choose Bigger program because it moves the sheet metal industry away from the ‘word of mouth’ recruiting that has traditionally dominated recruitment efforts. Cooper believes the online focus is a good fit to reach a generation that is constantly plugged in. “Knowing that young people are usually no more than 24 inches away from their cell phones, we needed a way to connect with them so we could be the answer to their question, ‘What should I do for a living?’” The campaign’s digital focus allows Nehlsen Communications to track who is viewing the various materials and clicking on links. As the Choose Bigger data began rolling in, it was clear that Colorado’s higher than average percentage of veterans were connecting to the message. SMACNA Colorado and Local 9 decided to buy related Google ad words so they’d be the first thing these veterans saw. They’ve also made sure that some of their advertising features people in military uniforms ‘Choosing Bigger.’ Jon Alvino, business representative for Local 9, feels that Choose Bigger resonates with the veterans because “it’s meeting them where they’re at.” For example, Colorado has streamlined the entry process, which includes foregoing the entrance exam for veteran applicants. “We want to always jump at that opportunity to recruit those recently discharged members because we know that nine times out of 10 we’re going to get a winner with those folks, and they’re going to hit a home run for us,” Alvino says. “They’re coming from a background of discipline and accountability, and that’s what we need in the trades.” Alvino believes the program will only be a success with both sides working together. “It’s imperative because it relies on our shared vested interest,” Alvino says. “Our contractors aren’t union because they have to be; they’re union because they want to be, and our members realize that. And our members are union, not because they have to be, but because they want to be, and that attitude is what ends up being our success at the end of the day.” Cooper recognizes the value of the strong relationship between the contractors and the union. “What I appreciate about Local 9 is that they are willing to join in this partnership with us,” he says. “Attracting better employees to sheet metal

contractors in Colorado helps the union, and attracting more and better prepared members into the union helps contractors.” They share the cost of the Choose Bigger program through the JATC, but went one step further by hiring John Stone, talent acquisition coordinator, to handle all inquiries into Choose Bigger. “We agreed to bring on a position that would be shared between SMACNA and the JATC,” Cooper says. “He is working to respond to all of the people who have inquired about the apprenticeship program through Choose Bigger, and he is exposing prospective applicants, students, and counselors, to what we do. That is probably one of the most progressive arrangements I’ve seen out there in the country.” Mid-Atlantic Kurt Snyder handles marketing and communications at SMACNA Mid-Atlantic. He’s adamant that “old school recruiting” doesn’t work anymore. “Choose Bigger is really the modern, updated way to get better people in the industry just by using technology to communicate with people who rely on technology every day,” he says. The region has started using Choose Bigger to reach out to women. “For decades, it’s been a very male-dominated industry,” Snyder says. “We’re starting to see more people coming in to the trade from different areas, but we’re really short on women. We’re trying to break that stereotype. We’re trying to recruit female engineers, young females right out of high school, and at those different stages of their life and career.” They’ve been doing robust Facebook advertising to pique women’s interest because they’re noticing that women bring unique skills to the table. Snyder explains, “They have more patience. They can take a step back and reassess. We’ve also seen that, in some cases, the stability of the company that has a lady in charge is a little bit more even-keeled. They don’t make rash decisions, and they look at things differently. The business keeps growing and they keep expanding their perspectives.” California Chris Walker, executive vice president for CAL-SMACNA, has a vision for Choose Bigger that elevates sheet metal and demystifies it, but the plan is more than that. California is creating a strategy that shows there are two pathways into the industry. “One is non-college,” Walker says. “We’ll put you through the apprenticeship program, and it’s Partners in Progress » January 2020 » 9

“We have a great product, but we’re not necessarily attracting as many candidates as we want,” says Michael Mooney, president and business manager of Local 18 in Wisconsin. “By getting the best candidates, the employers are getting the best employees and the unions are getting the best members. It’s a win/win.”

a terrific future. The other is a college pathway that requires a Bachelors degree in arts or science and leads to various positions on the management side. We explain to the recruits the kinds of personality traits that tend to favor those positions.

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We direct students to some of the campuses we’ve partnered with and the programs they offer that could lead them to a job in our industry.” CAL-SMACNA’s rollout will occur in April, but Walker admits it’s been a challenge to develop the college pathway. “It’s not as easy as the trade side because we’re not counselors,” he says. “The best we can do is provide resources and promote awareness that there are two ways into the industry. We’re going to give interested applicants a lot more on the trade side, but we don’t want to avoid the management side because there’s a huge need out there. Those businesses are competing with general, plumbing, and electrical contractors.” Gary Myers, vice-president of marketing/business development at Intech Mechanical, thinks this two-pronged approach is the right one. “As a business owner, I need people to come into our industry from every level, and it’s not necessarily only a tradesperson in the field,” he says. “I need engineers, administrators, and project managers. I need all kinds of people coming out of high school saying, ‘Why do I want to get into construction?’” Dion Abril, executive administrator, Western States Council of Sheet Metal, Air Rail and Transportation Workers of California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii, views Choose Bigger as a benefit for both SMACNA and SMART. “This is an opportunity for CAL-SMACNA and all the contractors to highlight what they do,” Abrial says. “It’s an opportunity for them to grow their membership and provide work for our members, too.” The power of Choose Bigger as a marketing tool lies in its ability to evolve to meet the needs of the specific area, bringing the sheet metal industry into the forefront and sharing the news about the great opportunities with qualified candidates everywhere. As Michael Mooney, president and business manager of Local 18 in Wisconsin, where Choose Bigger began, points out, “We have a great product, but we’re not necessarily attracting as many candidates as we want. By getting the best candidates, the employers are getting the best employees and the unions are getting the best members. It’s a win/win.”▪ Cairine Caughill is a freelance writer based in Toronto, Canada. When she’s not writing, she enjoys travel, baking, lively discussions at her book club, and spending time at the family cottage in the Muskokas.

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Join SMACNA and SMART at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada to strengthen the industry and win more work!

Join your colleagues and counterparts to fortify your current relationships in a setting far away from the typical workday pressures! ♦ Learn valuable insights from world-class speakers familiar with the construction industry ♦ Strategize with other industry leaders on ways to gain more market share ♦ Enjoy the sights and sounds of the world famous Las Vegas



Partners in Progress » January 2020 » 11

Developing Trust With Home Service Customers in Three Simple Steps By / Danielle Putnam President, Women in HVACR

One of my trainers told me a great story the other day. He was doing ride-alongs with a company to train their technicians on our system. The customer had a plumbing issue, and he had called every company in town to see who would get there first and who would get the sale. My trainer and our customer were first on the scene, and they began to diagnose the issue. They had to dig up part of the yard to find and solve the problem, which was that a pipe had slipped out of a joint. By this time, the customer had already paid the service charge to at least one other company that was elsewhere diagnosing, but the customer was not comfortable with any of the other technicians. When it was my trainer’s turn to present the prices to the customer, the customer sat down in the dirt, a little defeated. While the others had spoken to the customer while hovering over him, fighting for the sale and pressuring the customer, my trainer sat down in the dirt beside the customer, took a deep breath with him, and then presented his options. My trainer closed that deal. Get On The Customer’s Level Yes, sometimes this means literally. In job interviews, many experts recommend “mirroring,” where you note the body language of your interviewer and mimic it. If the interviewer leans back, you lean back. If they fold their hands, you fold your hands. It’s an easy, 12 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org

“When you describe the effects in terms of the whole system, your customers understand that the issue is more serious than just a part. This builds value in their minds.” non-verbal way of building rapport and establishing a connection. Whether you are providing an estimate or in the home doing the work, it is no different for residential HVAC customers. Take note of their cues, such as sitting down in the dirt, and meet them where they are—sometimes this means physically and sometimes this means emotionally. They are already frustrated with the situation and uncomfortable with having a stranger in their home, so emotions run high. Let your body language put them at ease and if their body language reveals panic or discomfort, give them something calmer to mirror, too. When you consciously decide how to portray your body language, their subconscious will pick up. Don’t Overwhelm the Customer with Unwanted Details Sometimes you will come in contact with customers who are technically inclined, who ask tons of questions, or who want to

know exactly what is going wrong, even if only to research it later to fact check you once you leave. Often times, they are only asking questions because they know their husband or wife will want some answers once they see the bill, and they want to be able to explain it. But the grand majority of the time, customers want their issue fixed, and the moment they pay, they have gifted you their problem so they don’t have to deal with it anymore. If your instinct is to go into details and use technical jargon, the customers that don’t know what you are talking about interpret that you are talking down to them and trying to school them. They know you are the expert. That is why they called for help. Most of them only need to know what had to be done, that you could fix it, and in the end, that you did fix it. You don’t have to prove yourself the expert with detailed explanations unless they ask. Assure Customers That You Don’t Think They Are Dumb This makes me think of the quote credited to Albert Einstein: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” You almost never go into a job expecting the customer to be as much an expert in your trade as you are. After all, if they were an expert in your trade, they likely wouldn’t be calling you. Many customers are inclined to assume that you think they are stupid if they don’t understand what needs to be fixed. If your customers voice this, reassure them that you don’t think they are stupid. Sometimes resistance comes out of embarrassment, so giving them a boost of reassurance will put them at ease. Build Intrinsic Value In the age of Google and Amazon, it’s so easy for customers to rush to research the price of a part if you say a specific part has failed. When you tell them the price of the job, they are often floored because in their minds, they know how much the job should cost—they just saw it on Amazon. Explain the work in terms of system functions, not just part functions, so they can understand that you will leave things working from beginning to end, solving every problem in the system along the way. When you describe the effects in terms of the whole system, your customers understand that the issue is more serious than just a part. This builds value in their minds. It helps to avoid sticker shock when you explain to them the prices of the work you will be doing. Leave Your Mark Once you complete the job, look around and do a little extra. From deep cleaning your worksite, to helping hang a picture or refilling the pet’s water bowl, a little extra nugget of service will speak volumes to your customer. We call this “wow factor.” Make sure to leave your logoed sticker on the customer’s equipment so the next time they have a problem in the home, your name is the first one that they see. Building Trust=Solving Their Pain The theory behind trust is good, but putting it into practice is what makes it great. The combination of empathy and solving your

customer’s pain is what will make the difference in building return customers that trust you. It all boils down to these three simple steps: Step 1: Don’t sell what they don’t want. Nobody likes feeling like someone is trying to sell them something. Hear their pain, communicate that you understand their pain, and do not push them away by trying to convince them to buy something that they don’t want. Low pressure=high return. Step 2: Always focus on the primary concern first. We all know that if we dig deep enough, we can find thousands of dollar’s worth of upgrades, fixes, and replacements in our homes. To build trust, focus on why you were called out to do the job first. Once your customer sees that you solved their pain, they will look to you for all of those upgrades later. Step 3: Provide options so it’s their choice, not an ultimatum. Who wants to feel backed into a corner? The worst feeling is knowing you are stuck and that you have no options. How many times have we needed work done and felt like we had no choice but to do it and to pay more than we could afford? Give your customers options so their spending is in their hands and they can feel confident that they made the right choice once you leave. ▪ Danielle is president of both The New Flat Rate, a home service menu-selling system designed to put profit directly into the hands of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC contractors; and Women in HVACR, a non-profit member-based organization providing professional avenues for networking and educating women while encouraging more women to enter the trades. For more information, email danielle@menupricing.com or visit www.thenewflatrate.com and www.womeninhvacr.org. Partners in Progress » January 2020 » 13

Parents On Board

High school students and parents report high interest in skilled trade education and career opportunities but reveal more information is needed to inform their decision By / StrataTech Education Group When it comes to making post-graduation decisions, the most common reason high school students do not consider attending a trade school is not knowing about the options available, according to a recent survey commissioned by StrataTech Education Group, a student-first company that offers schools with technical career education programs. StrataTech conducted the survey to explore the attitudes and beliefs about trade schools and skilled trade careers among young Americans and their parents. 14 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org

“For decades, students and parents have believed a fouryear degree is necessary to succeed in life, but we believe differently,” said Mary Kelly, president and CEO of StrataTech Education Group. “When it comes to secondary education, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for all graduates. We’re optimistic this research shows perceptions are shifting and there are opportunities to strengthen pathways to skilled trade opportunities.”

The survey included 2,000 respondents, half of which are current high school students and half of which are parents to current high schoolers. Major takeaways included: Today’s students and parents are interested in trade school education, but more information is needed. Parents and students most commonly reported their high schools promote four-year universities (73%) and two-year college programs (45%) as post-secondary education options. While 70% indicated their high school currently offers classes that align to the trades, only 32% reported their high school promotes trade school education as a potential path following graduation. While slightly over half of the students (51%) shared they have considered attending a trade school, several cited several barriers to making that decision, including: • Not knowing about the options available (33%) • Expense (31%) • Lack of confidence in their ability to perform a skilled trade (26%) • Pressure from the community to attend a four-year university (23%) Today’s parents would support skilled trades careers

The survey also revealed optimistic opinions among parents, indicating that they view trade schools as a credible career path for their child and one they would support their child pursing through post-secondary education. • More than 9 in 10 (93%) said they would support their child’s choice to pursue a career in skilled trades; • 62% said they would emotionally support their child’s choice; and • 57% indicated they would offer major financial support to fund a majority of the education with 47% reporting they would offer limited financial support, such as letting their child continue living at home while pursuing a skilled trades certification. Today’s students turn to personal research

The survey also aimed to uncover student opinions about the sources they believe are most important to informing their decisions

“Most respondents also shared for profit (82% parents/73% students) and trade or vocational schools (82% parents/73% students) are just as credible as traditional college.”

about their next steps following high school graduation. Personal research ranked as the highest (28%) followed by parents/family members (23%) as the most important sources. For personal research, students largely reported turning to online sources (59%) and social media (43%). Trade schools and for-profit schools are viewed credible

The majority of parents and students largely agreed a four-year bachelor’s degree is required to secure a good job (70%) and offers a good return on investment (75%). Similarly, most respondents also shared for profit (82% parents/73% students) and trade or vocational schools (82% parents/73% students) are just as credible as traditional college. Quality of life ranks as the most important variable

When asked to select attributes that are important to them in a career, most respondents selected stability (69%) and quality of life (69%). Although when asked about what is most important, quality of life outperformed stability (26% vs. 20%). For more information about StrataTech Education Group, please visit www.stratatech.com. ▪ Methodology: The survey was fielded using the Qualtrics Insight Platform with the panel sourced from Lucid. Respondents included 1,000 high school students and 1,000 parents to high school student across the United States. This article was reprinted with permission from StrataTech Education Group.

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Partners in Progress Vol 14 No 1  

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