When Glenn Howe’s extended family gets together, neither he nor his three brothers nor his son will bring up the subject of sheet metal. The reason? They are all sheet metal workers – Glenn’s son is the fourth-generation to choose this line of work – and long ago their wives made the rule that it was an out of bounds subject at gatherings.
Even after 27 years at Northern Weathermakers and 17 years in the industry before joining our team, Glenn, who also serves as a field foreman, loves his work. “Customers are so grateful when you repair or replace their heating or air-conditioning system. There are always lots of smiles when we walk out the door.” There is also a big sense of accomplishment, he says, when you’re building a system from the ground up and it takes a team of employees to complete. Topping it off is the company’s business philosophy from the top. “Quality comes first. No shortcuts. Even if it costs more. That’s how we get lifetime customers and word of mouth follows,” says Glenn. “I did a job a few weeks ago for the same contractor I worked with on my first job in 1991.”
Little League and the Library
Glenn’s employment at Northern Weathermakers has been memorable in other ways, too. “I’m fortunate that I’ve never had an injury on the job,” he says. In addition, his supervisors over the years have reported that he’s never called in sick.
One of the best jobs for Glenn was the build-out of the HVAC system at the Bartlett Public Library years ago. Not only was it an ideal commute – it’s two blocks from his house — but at the time, he was managing his son’s Little League team and their field was in front of the library. He scheduled practices to begin as soon as his workday was done.
After hours, you’ll find Glenn busy with hobbies introduced to him by his dad when he was young. “I don’t play golf well, but I play fast. And I like to play on different courses. Typically I hit a dozen different ones during the year.” His favorites include the St. Andrews Golf and Country Club in West Chicago, the Blackstone Golf Club in Marengo, and the Whitetail Ridge Golf Club in Yorkville. This past summer he was invited to play at the famous Cog Hill golf course in Lemont, where many national championships have played.
Fishing + Family = Happiness
Glenn’s other pastime is fishing. In the summer he fishes on Lake Michigan out of Kenosha. In addition, every September for the past 40 years, Glenn, his brothers and a few friends have rented a cabin in Ontario and gone fishing for a week. They only keep what they consume for lunch – a mix of Walleye, Lake trout, Smallmouth Bass and Northern Pike – and the rest they catch and release.
Ariel Rodriguez started playing music as a kid – piano, drums and any other percussion instrument he could lay his fingers on. Self-taught, he inherited his love of song from his dad, a songwriter who also built guitars from scratch. “My dad was a builder. Music was a hobby for him. He didn’t believe in a music career for me. He told me I had to do something else to support myself,” explains Ariel.
For Ari, the “something else” he opted for was engineering. After college he became a licensed stationary engineer and spent the next 18 years working for large companies in the region. Two years ago he joined Northern Weathermakers as a sales engineer and project manager.
As part of the sales, design and build team, Ari helps conceive, design, and manage the installation of HVAC/automation systems for commercial clients. “I super-enjoy the engineering part of what I do. It’s creative work and a challenge to the mind.” Upon completion of a project, Ari serves as a customer relationship manager to assist with ongoing needs.
A recent project Ari was excited about was for a Chicago area software company. He met with the owner in the spring to discuss the efficiencies and cost-savings of installing an automation system in their 40,000 square foot building. Once the client gave the go-ahead, the Northern Weathermakers team moved quickly; about 105 days later, the project was complete.
Ari attributes his success in the field to two “golden rules”. First: Do it right the first time. Second: Listen.
“It’s probably the most undervalued skill in any business. There is no template for people. Some of us get so tied up in a response that we do not give a person a chance to really express themselves. I am a true believer in the power of listening to my customers to really get an understanding of who they are, what they need, and what they want.”
Ari is personally a big supporter of automation controls. Next winter he plans to automate a building he owns. “I want to make sure the boilers and exhaust systems are always running properly. You can automate anything and operate the system from your smartphone or tablet,” he explains.
“I could be in Japan and remotely check the system in the building to ensure that there are no leaks, no alarms, the power is on, and so on. I will be able to control the temperature and humidity and monitor my system from anywhere in the world via an internet connection! Once I set this up, it will be a great way to demo the technology to our customers, too.”
After hours, music continues to play a big role in Ari’s life. Ten years ago he invested in a recording studio in Bucktown, offering musicians a way to record and produce their music. One of the company’s special achievements was when he was hired to travel to Hollywood to produce and engineer a video and single for Snoop Dogg and Lilana that was later picked up by Nestle. He has also worked with other well-known bands in different genre as well as recorded voice-overs and produced web content for several politicians.
Two years ago, Ari married the sister of one of his longtime friends. (If you have the opportunity, ask Ari about his proposal in the Dominican Republic.) “My wife, Rosangela, is the greatest thing that has happened to me.”
Given that Ari is only “knocking 40”, we’re certain that there are many more great things to come in the life of this talented team member.
When John Pegues first joined Northern Weathermakers as a service technician, he learned the true measurement – and ultimate compliment — of his job performance was when a customer called for service and said, “Send that [John] guy again.”
It’s been almost 20 years, and John is still servicing a lot of the customers he took care of in the early days. This includes retailers, nonprofits, churches, park districts, government buildings and corporations, primarily throughout northern and western Cook County and Lake County. Some customers are so comfortable with John that if he is unavailable, they’ll wait a few days until he personally can service their HVAC system. “The appreciation and loyalty are a two-way street,” explains John. “My customers know I’m going to be straight with them and do what’s right. If I have to deliver bad news about equipment that needs to be replaced, they accept it. It’s why they continue to want to work with Northern Weathermakers.”
Tackling a Tough Job
On occasion, that work is unusually challenging. A few years ago, for instance, John and Rob Weaver, another senior service technician, were put in charge of handling a “freak failure” – a barrel gasket had to be replaced on a very large chiller. It was an in-depth, expensive repair – yet far less than the cost of replacing the equipment — and took the duo almost three weeks in inclement weather to complete. “We conquered it,” says John. “It was very satisfying.
The Trip of a Lifetime
In February John and his wife Kristine spent 10 days feasting while enjoying a cruise in French Polynesia. It was a bucket-list kind of trip they heard about on the radio. It was spectacular in every way, from the ship itself to the beauty of all the islands, to watching the sun set over the turquoise water. And while their sons, ages 7 and 11, were not with them, they were able to enjoy the experience vicariously. “My wife only took 1,100 pictures,” John says wryly.
Food, Glorious Food
How does John unwind during a typical work week?
“I like to eat,” he says with a laugh. So every week John and Kristine seek out a restaurant they’ve read or heard about or enjoyed previously. It might be a new eatery in downtown Chicago, a bistro near their Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, home or an award-winning venue in Milwaukee. He says he’s a picky eater but given the breadth of his favorites – from a dry-aged prime steak to seafood to good old-fashioned barbecue — it sounds like it’s more a matter of having discerning tastes. Case in point: ask John where the best place is for barbecue and he’ll tell you it’s in his own backyard.
“I know everyone claims their barbecue is the best, but mine truly is. Especially my brisket.” For the record, states John, sauce has nothing to do with what makes it so good.
A few of John’s favorite restaurants include The Shanty and Captain Porky’s in Wadsworth, Bacchus in Milwaukee, and Wine Knot in Kenosha.
When Henry Gonzalez was 17 years old, he enlisted in the marines. He then spent 13 weeks in boot camp in San Diego. He rose at 4:30am daily, ran, trained, marched, took classes and practiced gun drills. It was as challenging as it’s reported to be: of the 35 marines in his platoon, 10 dropped out during the training program.
And even though Henry recalls a moment when he thought, “What did I get myself into?!” his commitment never waivered. After graduating, he served in the Corp’s infantry for four years, based in Camp Pendleton. His most memorable experiences include a 9-month deployment to Japan, Korea and the Philippines.
A few years after Henry returned to Chicago, he met Sallie, the friend of a member of the dart team he captained at a neighborhood bar. Henry and Sallie became fast friends – best friends – and after six months began dating. Nine months later they married. “Everyone said it wouldn’t last,” Henry recalls with a laugh. Next month Henry and Sallie will celebrate their 24th anniversary. They have raised three sons, now ages 22, 19 and 13, and a daughter who is now 15.
Henry and Sallie continue to carve out quality time together. For the past 10 years, for example, they have spent one weekend a month in Milwaukee. Baseball At first they selected the destination to visit Potawatomi Casino. “That got boring, so we started to explore the downtown area,” explains Henry. We enjoy brewery tours, listening to bands, and just having our Date Night.”
Henry’s favorite time of year is Spring, a.k.a. Little League Baseball season. He’s coached since his eldest son was five years old. He coached his daughter’s team, too (she stopped playing after a few years because “she wanted to earn money, now she works in the concessions stand”) and just finished coaching his youngest son’s team. But this was his son’s final season, so Henry will now hang up his clipboard and whistle. At least for a while. “My 22-year-old says once he has kids, he’ll bring me back out of retirement.”
For the Northern Weathermakers team, it’s fortunate that Henry isn’t thinking about retiring from his day job anytime soon. Some days are especially hectic for the service coordinator; he may field dozens of emergency calls from customers who are upset because they suddenly have no air-conditioning or, in the winter, heat. But with 25 years of industry experience – the past two with us — Henry remains calm and empathetic and is quick to figure out which technician can be dispatched, and when, alleviating the customer’s concern. “No emergency is too small, they are all important to us,” he explains.
There are many new wireless solutions available today. Wireless products can be used to retrofit old pneumatic controlled buildings into new with digital control. They can create multiple zones where only one zone previously existed. The addition of wireless temperature sensors can help improve comfort within a building by providing a larger temperature sample size. Many of these new wireless products can communicate to a collector box which can be integrated into an existing building automation system. Even VAV and plant controls have gone wireless; there are solutions available that these controllers can communicate wirelessly to an existing BACnet automation system.
Lighting solutions have gone wireless as well. New wireless products are available that can detect occupancy and motion, utilize daylight harvesting, and provide push button controls to control commercial lighting applications. These new wireless lighting solutions can also integrate into an existing building automation system.
The average savings when implementing a new system is 28%. Recently we installed an entire wireless network throughout a floor in a Chicago hospital to control patients’ room temperature as well as control the adjacent corridors, nurses’ stations, and offices. We integrated this new system into the hospital’s existing Building Automation System.
We also recently installed wireless valve actuators and thermostats in a two-story office building in an oil refinery. The new wireless system enabled control to each individual office. The wireless gateway was integrated into the property’s new Building Automation System. We created custom logic in the front end to make wireless thermostats direct acting and reverse acting.
These are just a few of today’s wireless solutions being implemented into buildings. There are many other wireless applications available; chances are one of them would be a perfect addition to your building.
N-control is committed to being on the forefront of all new HVAC and building automation technology. Let us know how we can help you take control of your building and increase your comfort while lowering your operating costs.
Adam Klenotich began his career with our organization as a Northern Weathermakers service rep. Five years ago he transitioned to a Building Automation Systems special with N-Control. To learn more about the return on investment from a Building Automation System, call Adam at 847-509-2164 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many people today are trying to “cut the cord” in all aspects of their life.
Homeowners are getting rid of hardwired cable and satellite TV providers and home and building security has gone wireless.
Entire IT departments have gotten rid of servers in lieu of cloud-based storage. Every public setting now has a Wi-Fi hot spot. Wireless technology is here to stay and is a part of our everyday lives.
In this email, Adam Klenotich, Building Automation Manager of N-Control, a subsidiary of Northern Weathermakers, writes about how this trend is impacting the HVAC industry as well. See the article below with examples of how customers are significantly reducing their expenses. I think you’ll find it interesting.
A little more than 40 years ago, a 20-something named Giorgio Bernardi showed up at Northern Weathermakers to ask for a job. He had several years of unrelated experience — laying bricks and doing construction work — so he wasn’t a candidate we were too interested in hiring.
But Giorgio wouldn’t give up. So, after showing up at our office two more times, our then-president said, “OK, Bernardi, I’m going to hire you because you are so persistent!”
It was clear from the start that Giorgio Bernardi was excited about his work as a service technician. He was “like a sponge,” he recalls. “I couldn’t absorb information quickly enough.”
Giorgio was hungry to deepen his knowledge of HVAC, and attended many training classes offered by our vendors. His passion for our industry was felt by residential and commercial customers alike. (When Giorgio started, our service team of 12 handled all customers. Today, we have separate service teams for our commercial and residential divisions.)
One of the reasons Giorgio is so well known by his customers is his approach. “The first thing I do when I am on a job is present myself to the customer,” explains Giorgio. “I’ll ask if the equipment is working ok, whether they have any issues I need to address. I also make sure I talk to my customer after I’ve serviced their equipment, to let them know if I have any concerns.” Take the Highland Park Library, for example, a customer Giorgio has serviced for 34 years. “The director isn’t necessarily interested in the details, but I always want to present her with what I find.”
There are still a few residential customers Giorgio continues to service due to his longtime ties. One homeowner of a large property with four furnaces, for instance, insists that Giorgio visit with her each time he makes a service call. “The Mrs. likes to see me. And she always gives me a bottle of wine from Tuscany. She must know I’m Italian.”
In 2013, Giorgio almost retired. “My knees were killing me,” he recalls. Then he had surgery to replace one knee and felt so good he had surgery to replace his other knee. Now, he says, he can easily go up and down ladders and stairs. “There’s nothing stopping me now. I’ve told them I have no intention of retiring.”
When Rob Weaver was in 8th grade, he spent his weekends working on a nearby farm. His job was to pick up the 6,000-7,000 eggs laid daily by 15,000 chickens. Rob’s careful handling of the product eventually led to a full-time job after high school gathering and grading the eggs.
After a few years, Rob went on to earn a degree in Applied Science at Harper College, with plans to find a job that made use of his interests in science and technology. In 1987, after a 10-year stint with a small refrigeration company in northern Illinois, Rob joined Northern Weathermakers.
Today, as a senior service technician, Rob is like a doctor on call. He never knows when he’ll get an emergency, or what it will entail. With a mix of “patients” such as nursing homes, churches, office buildings and large retailers, he is always prepared to handle a variety of challenges.
“Every week is different,” explains the veteran employee. “That’s one of the reasons I like what I do so much.”
Last month, for instance, a routine week included a maintenance check in a three-story office building in Niles; the installation of a 1+ million BTU boiler in a nursing home in Evergreen Park; and, along with a co-worker over a two-day period, the cleaning of an air handler “the size of two buses” in the corporate office of a national retailer.
Rob’s attention to detail, good work ethic and attitude have made him a good influence and role model for our new service technicians over the years. “Half the job is getting along well with your customers and supporting them. The other half is being a good technician, knowing how to do the work,” he says. “I tell the younger guys, if you can do both, you’ve got it made.”
Building trust has been a big part of Rob’s success in the field. “If I can keep a customer’s HVAC system going, I will. At the same time, I may also tell them to budget in the next year or the year after to replace certain parts. They trust me to follow through with the job in the right way.” Customers also report that Rob’s old-school, my-word-is-as-good-as-a-signature approach, is refreshing.
At one point, Rob’s expertise and talent – no surprise – led to a promotion. He spent part of his day in the office as the go-to guy for the service technicians and the rest in the field serving customers.
But after a few years, Rob missed all the face time with customers, so he went back to working full-time in the field. His customers were thrilled. His connection with many of them is so strong that when they have an emergency, they reach out to Rob on his cell phone, bypassing our dispatchers.
Even in the middle of winter, when snowy conditions, traffic and accidents make for a very long workday – such as a two-hour trip to Evergreen Park from Rob’s home in Beach Park last month – Rob is where he wants to be.
“I see my customers 4-10x a year. I’ve watched employees get promoted and move up in their career – from the retail side to the corporate office, for example, and from the stockroom to the floor as a manager. I’ve attended a number of customers’ anniversary parties and other celebrations over the years. It’s almost like you’re a member of their family,” Rob says.
We’re grateful Rob is part of Northern Weathermakers’ family and look forward to his continued service for a long time to come!