Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Genesis of the Battle Against Mediocrity, .... My Particular Art

I was born in the summer of 1964, well before most homes had air conditioning, to two fine parents.  My dad, a tradesman and an excellent craftsman, my mother, a home-maker and full time mom at that point.  We, my sister and I, grew up very middle class.  We were proud of our parents, dad was held in high regards in his field and our mom went to nursing school during my elementary school years and became an RN.  Those couple of facts, I believe, are the basis of what and how AirTight operates.

The core of what we do is labor intensive work, coupled with the analytical responsibilities of trouble-shooting and a keen understanding of the sciences of electricity and mechanics.  Very blue collar, like our roots.  My wife’s, same as my roots.

When I got out of High School in 1982, I already knew what I wanted to do.  My dad as mentioned above was considered very good within the mechanical arena and I knew I wanted to follow suit.  He,  and then I, worked for McKenney’s, Inc. in Atlanta, GA, a unionized shop.  Due to their affiliation I went through a four year plus apprenticeship program.  This program was considered the “high bar” for many union trade schools within the US.  My dad was also an instructor there, so learning was never far away from me as my young brain soaked it in.

I learned from some of the best mechanical service tradesmen of the day at that school and upon graduation, returned to teach there as my way of giving back what I had learned.  Following technical school, some time at Clayton State College prepared me for the more of the business side of the leadership role, what an excellent time.  I learned so much from so many there, not to mention an Executive Management program at Georgia Tech that put me side by side with some really seasoned business veterans.  I was very fornunate to have found that program and able to attend.

So then fast forward 15 years to Charlotte, NC ... I was transferred here by my previous employer, by that time had bought into the company as a small stakeholder and as a division manager running a group out of the Atlanta headquarters and home office.

North Carolina and the word union have never and most likely never will coincide within the same sentence, much less work in real life.  It goes way back to the textile days when the folks here were brain-washed into thinking all unions were bad and that premise has never gone away. Within 18 months of moving to Charlotte, it became clear to me that AirTight needed to be formed, and so it was.  The first two years we remained a union shop and had access to the apprenticeship program, albeit a hell of a lot less robust than the Atlanta version I was a part of as a youngster.

After two years, our men voted to get out, saying they believed in AirTight more so than the union, in regards to who would care for them long-term.

At that point, I knew we had to create our own “Apprenticeship-type” program.  Through the local technical colleges and our first ever employee, Denny Baumgart, who was at a previous company with me as well, we have created a model that works.

AirTight hires a youngster, limited or no experience and pays for their school that they attend at night for the theory portion of their education and then they work full time for AirTight during the day.  It works for us and allows us to grow our own talent and allow these men to have a real career without having to suffer through the lack-luster educational environments that are so pervasive within our industry.

My right hand woMan is Shonda Ruland, our VP of Operations.  Shonda has been here side by side with me for nearly 11 years, she carries the same mantra as I do to her team, which is all of our Production Coordinators, admin, billing, AP, AR, etc…  The career path for our internal team is of high cognizance as well, we want all AirTightans to feel as they definitely have room to grow within the company.

The combination of my technical mindedness and psycho-obsession with details, followed with Shonda and her having at least the same degree of neurosis (in a good way) that I do ( with the deep, deep technical bench strength we have from Denny, now VP of Technical Services, our automation team, the many factory certified techs, AirTight Energy Group, etc… Makes for a strong Battle Ship.

We couple all of the above with the business philosophies from influences like: Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Jeffrey Gitomer, Mitch Joel, etc.  Some of these people we are actually friends with, like have lunch together  kind of friends, some of these people I only know about by reading ( their work, but all influence us daily … hourly. 

We are small, lethal and laser sharp with our focus.  Shonda is a LARGE part of what you see and is available for discussing this, as I am as well.  She can do a class for your team, sometimes having an outside looking in perspective works very well.  We could come to your place or you can come to ours,  we can do a day in the life with each other’s crews, we can talk about what it takes to deliver WOW! service, etc…

These actions mentioned above could be a catalyst to take our interactions and customer care to a whole new level:  We would welcome it.

Bottom line is, we are a service company.  We take great pride in going the extra mile.  We would do it even if no one noticed!

I hope this gives you a bit of insight to AirTight and me, really, it is the same mindset, one just has 34 mouths to feed vs. one.

All of these words are meant in a voice of, “We aren’t perfect, but we are damn sure striving for excellence!”.