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Respect: The building block of a healthy workplace

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PHOTO/CHRISTOPHER HOLLAND
From left: Albarell Electric’s Mike Conkey, president, Mike Albarell, owner, and Curt Hoyak, executive vice president. Recognize and give credit to employees for their contributions, Albarell management says.
PHOTO/CHRISTOPHER HOLLAND From left: Albarell Electric’s Mike Conkey, president, Mike Albarell, owner, and Curt Hoyak, executive vice president. Recognize and give credit to employees for their contributions, Albarell management says.

Trust, respect, specialized skills and training as well as drive are essential ingredients to maintaining a cohesive, responsive service contracting team.

Jim Deiter, vice president of Deiter Bros., a heating, cooling, energy and security business in Bethlehem, said mutual respect is the glue that binds solid working relationships.

“It is absolutely the most fundamental building block of any healthy workplace culture,” he said. “Every team member’s role and responsibilities are as important as the next person’s.”

Mike Albarell, CEO of Albarell Electric Inc. in Bethlehem, said trust is a two-way street and employees must have a safe route to share their concerns.

“Finding skilled people willing to learn and [who] want to grow within the company,” is essential for building a strong, committed team, Albarell said. Managers also should encourage a free exchange of information and listen to what employees have to say.

Both Deiter and Albarell credit their fathers for help, support and guidance along the way and for establishing strong, family owned and operated business legacies, which continue to thrive in the Greater Lehigh Valley.

Deiter also credits several uncles with forming his approach to business.

“They were a product of that wonderful old-school, blue-collar Lehigh Valley industrial heritage that could fix anything and put a lot of pride in their work,” Deiter said.

ALBARELL ELECTRIC inc.

Mike Albarell, CEO

Bethlehem

 

<What are the key ingredients in creating a great workplace culture?

Trust and develop trust. Management should have a pathway for employees to discuss issues. Trust and respect are a two-way street.

<What has been your recipe for success?

Finding skilled people willing to learn and [who] want to grow within the company. Encourage a free flow of information.

Listen to what they say and encourage them to offer new ways to better our company. Recognize and give them credit for their contributions.

<No one starts out as a master chef or top executive. Who has helped you along the way, and how?

God – having faith in my religion. Trying to do the right and fair things in business and in life. This has and still is a key principle of our business.

My father – giving me the opportunity to progress in the business. Making my mistakes and letting me learn from them. Accepting my ideas on change to improve our business.

U.S. Army – as a tank platoon leader and battalion maintenance officer, it prepared me to work with people from all backgrounds. To motivate the individuals into a team to achieve our given objectives, I learned to listen to what they offered as advice and listened to them.

Many had more experience and years in the Army and had good ideas on how to accomplish our goals, especially in the maintenance arena, which in many ways is similar to my 52 years working in our electrical contracting business.

<What is your company’s training strategy/approach?

As a union contractor, all field journeyman have successfully completed five years of apprentice training conducted by the Joint Apprenticeship Training School. Individuals accepted into the state-certified school’s program are required to complete both on-the-job training hours and instructional classroom hours, and all graduates must successfully pass a local journeyman’s test in order to receive a journeyman’s license and job classification.

The company is also a member of the National Electrical Contractors Association. NECA is one the nation’s largest trade associations in the United States that represents the $130 billion/year electrical contracting industry. NECA supports the industry through advocacy, education, training and research resources.

The education segment is extensive – providing training programs using classroom, online and research resources as a means to cover countless topics of interest ranging from safety, project management, human resources, progressive business practices, technology advances and techniques.

<What’s on the menu the next year or two for you and/or your company?

For as much as we are experiencing a very vibrant construction market, it is not without the challenge of increased competition. Volatility in key commodities, accessibility to skilled workers and keeping pace with technological advances in both materials and equipment will be areas of concern and opportunity.

And, like many other long-standing companies, we also look to transition the business to the next generation of new leadership and ownership while still maintaining the company’s 80-plus year history, reputation and reliability of service in the markets we serve.

 

NOTE: Mike Conkey, Albarell president, and Curt Hoyak, executive vice president, assisted with the responses.

DEITER BROS. HEATING

COOLING ENERGY

Jim Deiter, Vice President

Bethlehem

<What are the key ingredients in creating a great workplace culture?

Mutual respect. It is absolutely the most fundamental building block of any healthy workplace culture. Every team member’s role and responsibilities are as important as the next person’s.

Sure, we have an operational management structure, but we do not have any internal communications hierarchy. There’s a difference. We welcome an open exchange of communication from all members of the team, complimentary or critical. It’s all constructive, and everybody has a voice worth listening to.

<What has been your recipe for success?

Next year, Deiter Bros will have been in business for 90 years. Throughout every minute of those nine decades, we have been taught to always keep the customer first. Always.

As a family business, this customer-first discipline is imparted to you at a very early age, and in Deiter Bros. case it has become part of our company DNA. Every innovation, new product or service, or expansion decision always starts with the question: How will this benefit our customer?

Do whatever it takes to earn our customers’ trust and satisfaction today, and there will always be a tomorrow. And we’ve had a lot of tomorrows since 1929.

<No one starts out as a master chef or top executive. Who has helped you along the way, and how?

We are now in our fourth generation of family ownership and management, so there has always been an abundance of mentoring to ensure that we stay on track with our traditional quality of service and value.

For me personally, my most important mentor has always been my dad, Jim Deiter Sr. He is still active in the business, and his experience in business and life has been invaluable.

I’ve also had the benefit of learning from several uncles, including my Uncle Phil and his father, Uncle Herbie, who was one of the original Deiter Bros.

They were a product of that wonderful old-school, blue-collar Lehigh Valley industrial heritage that could fix anything and put a lot of pride in their work.

<What is your company’s training strategy/approach?

For HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] technicians, every employee learns the “Deiter way” from our veteran technicians as well as industry training schools. This is augmented with a series of weekly Deiter Tech classes in our own training center to keep all of our service team members up to speed on the latest innovations and techniques in the HVAC and energy industries.

Like all tech-driven industries, things change rapidly, and it’s imperative to stay abreast of all the emerging technologies, products and improvements.

We also invest significantly in off-site training opportunities from industry-leading manufacturers like Lennox and Generac, as well as intensive multiweek certification curricula offered by top professional associations in the industry like the Pennsylvania Petroleum Association, Air Conditioning Contractors Association of America, National Propane Gas Association, National Comfort Institute and many others.

<What’s on the menu the next year or two for you and/or your company?

2019 will be Deiter Bros.’ 90th year of continuous service for the families and businesses of the Lehigh Valley, so we have a fair amount of celebrating to do.

We are currently planning a series of specials and events to enjoin the whole Deiter family of customers and community in this anniversary celebration. In fact, we are inviting and incenting all to share their coolest ideas and feedback online.

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