In this latest edition of NAESCO’s ongoing Member Spotlight series, we talk with Perfection Group President John Albrecht on the key to Perfection Group’s long-term success, why the company prides itself on its family atmosphere, the biggest areas of business growth in the COVID-19 era, and how to keep employees and clients satisfied.
1. Perfection Group is celebrating 70 years next year - congratulations! What would you say have been the keys to your organization’s long-term, sustained success?
First and foremost, the key to our success is the family atmosphere we have cultivated over the last 70 years. Perfection Group’s 240 employees are not just numbers, but rather, they’re our friends, co-workers and family. We genuinely care about our associates, and our relationships with them extend outside the walls of the office.
At the end of the day, we have to do what is right for our business. But I firmly believe working with friends is an advantage, not a hindrance. My father always told me that there are three things a company needs to do to thrive: hire the best, pay them well, and then get out of their way. When expanding our team, we rely on references from employees, making every aspect of our business personal.
COVID has proved to be a unique challenge, raising questions about how we virtually train and causing us to miss out on company outings and time spent physically together. However, it has taught us to be grateful for our company’s continued success, and we are glad that our relationships can still thrive in virtual settings.
2. What are some of the biggest leadership lessons you've learned throughout your career?
In my 28 years at Perfection Group, my most important lesson in leadership has been to truly trust my employees. Several years ago, I was moved to head up the Mechanical department. There were team members reporting to me who had been with Perfection Group far longer than I had. When it came to decision-making, I often felt that I did not have enough information or context to make the tough calls. I quickly learned from my father that the best course of action is to ask your team what they think and for their recommendations – the best answer then tends to present itself.
Leadership means making the final call using the counsel of others and then taking full responsibility for the outcome. Our employees know what to do, and we empower them to act on those decisions. Leadership means never throwing people under the bus. If the wrong decision is made, leaders need to react calmly and appropriately and move on to what will work. It all comes back to trust.
3. Perfection Group is a family-run company. How has being family-run benefited Perfection in its approach and success?
a. We understand that, despite its small size relative to the typical ESCO, Perfection Group has been and continues to be a thriving firm. In addition to being family-run, to what do you attribute this success? Does Perfection Group have certain specializations that make it an especially attractive service provider in niche markets?
We have three sides of our company: Construction, Service and Green Business. Having three sides to our business is an advantage because it allows us to stay with the customer longer, providing ongoing service. Family runs at the heart of our business. The perfect example of this was when we gave a large presentation for a contract with Clinton County a few years ago. After the meeting, my dad wrote his cell phone number on his business cards, handed them out, and told people to call him directly. In the small community we were working in, that simple act was a game-changer and spoke to our commitment to our customers.
4. How would you describe your company culture and values?
Perfection Group’s most important core value is integrity - do the right thing for yourself, your fellow associates and your customers. For example, Perfection Group installed an HVC and water source pump system in a Spec building. Five years later, while the building was fully leased, the owners discovered that the system was not keeping up with the building’s needs. We did our research and realized we had put in the wrong cooling tower. This was discovered 5 years past warranty. However, we replaced it at no cost because we knew it was the right thing to do. We took responsibility for our actions.
Our company culture is built around a family-like atmosphere. We enjoy spending time together in and out of the office and go on outings like golf, bowling, afternoon Reds games, skeet shooting and more. This is critical to keeping our employees happy, engaged, and connected. Simply put, replacing people and knowledge is very hard. Perfection Group’s best assets are our people, and what we invest in them pays dividends on the job site and in our corporate culture.
5. You have some employees that have been with you for 40 years – What are actions you’ve taken to help recognize employees and make them feel valued?
When the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders went into effect, we implemented a policy called “Hero Pay.” We know that our workers are also frontline workers, and we wanted to compensate them extra wages per hour for their dedication during uncertain times.
We give out awards during our two semi-annual meetings. We recognize employees who are providing “Legendary Service.” These employees get a gift card and public recognition from their peers. We also have tenure awards for every 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 years with Perfection Group. You’d be amazed by the number of folks who’ve been with us for decades!
When someone retires, we give them a plaque and thank them for their service in front of the team. At the end of the day, people want to be recognized for their hard work, and it is so important to do so on a regular basis.
6. What are your recommendations for bolstering employee engagement and loyalty?
First, give recognition where recognition is due. Second, foster an engaging corporate culture. It seems simple, but place the golden rule at the center of your operating motto: “treat people how you want to be treated.” Do the right thing by your employees and your company. Sometimes, organizations feel the need to decide between profit and people. That is a false choice; it is not either or, but rather, it’s both. In order to have better profit, you have to put people first. Investing in employees helps the long-term success and sustainability of any business.
7. What's next for Perfection? What do you see as Perfection’s biggest areas for growth?
a. Has COVID-19 required Perfection Group reevaluate its priorities? Its target markets.
We are focusing on growing the Green Business and Service arms of Perfection Group. With an increased spotlight on energy savings investing and sustainability issues in general, prioritizing growth in the Green Business arm is coming naturally. Despite the industry-wide challenges created by COVID19, we are on track to have our most successful year to date. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to maintain a growing stream of business during these difficult times.
We are remaining cautiously optimistic for next year, and above all, we are concerned for the welfare of our employees. We are working now to ensure that proper plans and precautions are in place for a possible resurgence of the virus later this year.