In 1981, Rick Haller started his contracting company out of his garage — one man, one truck. Today, Haller Enterprises has about 350 employees (including two of Rick Haller’s sons), around 200 trucks and five locations in Lancaster, York, Lebanon, Harrisburg and Exton, serving about a dozen counties in south central Pennsylvania. In March, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America named Haller its 2014 Commercial Contractor of the Year. The company motto is, “One call handles it all,” and there is almost no type of contracting work it will not tackle. From commercial to residential, new building to service, the company does air conditioning, plumbing, heating, electrical, geothermal, solar and much more. Haller Enterprises has seen steady growth over the years, even during tough economic times. The company credits much of its success to following a series of guiding principles promoted by its founder (now CEO) and articulated as: Integrity, Excellence, Adaptable to Change, Customer-Focused, Teamwork, Respect, Innovation, Empowerment and Accountability.
Driven By Principles
Working by those principles, it was only natural the company developed a strong training program for its employees. It takes skilled technicians to deliver excellent service, focused on customers’ needs. Adapting to change means keeping up on the latest technology. Good teamwork demands a shared knowledge base. And there are few things more empowering than mastering an in-demand trade. NATE certification has become an important part of that training program. Edward McFarlane, vice president of sales and training for Haller Enterprises, explains, “We’ve really focused on it in the last couple of years. We spend a lot of hours training our technicians, and they’re always asking for more training. NATE is the perfect vehicle to be able to deliver higher customer service while at the same time equipping our technicians with the skills they’re looking for.” Haller has made NATE certification a bar to reach for, what McFarlane refers to as “career-pathing.” “A lot of our installers have transitioned from installation,” McFarlane says. “They’ve sat the NATE exam and transitioned to our service department. Our service department is now over 83% NATE-certified.” In January, the company plans to take it one step further: they want to take all of the installers in one department — over 25 of them — and get them all certified in one day. “Yes, it’s a big commitment,” McFarlane admits, ‘but we’ve seen the difference it makes to both our customers and our team.” From a marketing standpoint, NATE certification is a benchmark for quality, and McFarlane feels it is gradually working its way into the consciousness of the general public. Customers do mention it, even in some cases demand it. And Haller makes prominent mention of its NATE-certified employees in its company literature and on its website.
The Customer Experience
But more valuable is the dimension it brings to the customer experience, even if the customer experience never heard of NATE. “I think when guys feel properly equipped they feel more confident,” McFarlane says. “When they feel more confident, I think the customer picks up on that and they, in turn, are more willing to step up, to take care of the customer.” Within the company, NATE certification creates a standard, a quantifiable knowledge base. “You know, a lot of the training in our industry is done by osmosis,” McFarlane says, “or informal apprenticeships. Ride-alongs.” With NATE, the guesswork is gone, and with it a lot of the attendant stress for both managers and the technicians they oversee. “The industry is changing,” McFarlane says, “and we need to do our best to keep up with that. But there are certain fundamentals that you need to understand to have a solid platform to bolt all the other stuff on. Thanks to NATE, we don’t need to worry.” Those shared fundamentals have proven so valuable for inter-company communication and teamwork that Haller has several managers and executives — people who will never go on a service call or put on a hard hat at a job site — who have been NATE-certified. With that level of dedication, and with its core principles to guide it, Haller Enterprises has decades of success ahead of it.