by Mike Murphy, editor-in-chief

At a recent Nordyne distributor meeting I chanced to meet an interesting fellow, Michael Riley, of Riley Sales, Inc., Plymouth Meeting, PA. In addition to being a member of Nordyne’s master council of distributor advisors, Riley can turn a phrase — a bit of the gift of the Blarney, I guess.

He tells prospective entry-level employees, “Show up, you’ve got a job. Show up on time, you’ll get a raise. Show some interest in my company, you’ll get promoted.”

According to Riley, he hires two people for every one warehouse position he needs to fill. Why? He says, “Fifty percent of new hires will simply fail to show up for work one day. Maybe they’ll stay up too late for a Monday Night Football game. Maybe they’ll just decide to do something else. But one morning, they’ll let me down, and I’ll need to hire a replacement.”

It seems a poor statement on our industry to have such low expectations for a new hire’s performance. But, maybe that’s what our industry is coming to. Show up and you’ll get a job. It says nothing about showing initiative, being aggressive, being the best at what you do — just show up and you’ll be better than 50% of the job applicants.

I hope my new-found Irish friend is mistaken. However, I recently received service from an HVAC contractor that makes me take Riley’s show up philosophy to heart.

I called the HVAC company that installed my system when the house was built. I found a telephone number on the furnace, but had never heard from the company in the five years we’ve been in the house. I’m not much different than many other homeowners. If you don’t talk to me, I won’t talk to you.

Joe (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) was called on Saturday to repair a water heater that was tripping out on the limit switch. I also asked if he could perform a furnace check. The appointment was set for Thursday. They agreed to call after 11 a.m., before arriving, so my wife could be available.

It was late on Thursday before the call came. My wife was a bit disgruntled because her entire afternoon had been inconvenienced. It didn’t bother me as much that Joe was late; I wanted to be able to hang out in the basement and learn a bit about his company and procedures. His tardiness gave me the time to come home from work and do just that.

Here’s when I became disappointed. He repaired the water heater, then took a CO reading of 15 ppm, under the burner. That was okay according to Joe. He then proceeded to vacuum the in-shot burners, but didn’t remove the blower cage. He took a few measurements with his Fluke meter, but never checked the airflow. I asked how often the furnace should be checked. Joe says every two years is often enough.

I’d just opened the candy jar for Joe and encouraged him to pick whatever he wanted. The system, installed by his company, had obviously never had a proper clean-and-check. (It wasn’t getting one on this day either.) I would have bought a service agreement, had he asked me. He didn’t notice we need a humidification system for the dry winters. That was an easy sale, too — if he had asked me.

Joe finished the job and charged me $60 for the water heater repair and $35 for the furnace check. He gave me a
discount on the furnace because he was already there. How many of you would have done that job for $95 and ignored the potential sales while you were in my house?

Joe showed up; he got the job. He barely showed up on time; but didn’t impress us. He didn’t show an interest in our home; he earned no extra business.

Gee. Maybe this Riley guy is on to something. Leave it to the Irish!

mmurphy@penton.com