Marty Rosica, owner of Hawks & Company
Originally published: 09.01.16 by Terry Tanker
Terry Tanker sat down with Marty Rosica, owner of Hawks & Company in Deptford, N.J., a 2016 Tops in Trucks Fleet Design Contest winner. The two discussed training the next generation, developing core values and being an entrepreneur.
1. How did you get involved in the industry?
I came into the industry right out of high school. I went to a technical school and learned a trade and started as an apprentice in the residential field. I went from residential into commercil, and then into commercial HVAC sales. I worked for some of the big union firms — $70, $80 million companies.
2. How big was your territory?
I sold basically from Boston down through D.C. — sold facilities management as well as facilities services and mechanical services. The network of companies is vast. I wanted to come back home. Travel was not for me. Plus, I always wanted to own my own business.
3. How did you learn how to run a company?
I took an entrepreneurial class at the local community college, which consisted of learning how to build a business plan and understand the financing needed. I had all the fundamentals, and then they introduce you to a commercial lender. It was great. I’m entrepreneurial by nature, so I love to try new things. I love to startup new things.
4. So, you started Hawks & Company?
Actually, it was a happenstance that I found Mark Hawks, the gentleman from whom I bought the business. I knew nothing about his business. I knew the HVACR business, but I didn’t know his business.
5. How do you get kids interested in HVACR?
I tell them to create their own experience ... this is their thing, not my thing. It’s worked for me. They need to know they can make of it what they want.
6. So they’re interested — then what?
You find the ones who either went to technical school or came out of the public vocational-tech environment, and have an interest in a trade. But I’m not hiring them for what they know. I’m hiring them for all of their potential and what I’m going to make of them. That’s why we have core values on our wall. I hire for that before I hire for technical capabilities.
7. How important is company culture when it comes to recruitment and retention?
It’s especially important now because of this generation of Millennials. Millennials need to be amused on a regular basis, they need to be appreciated and hugged, and they need to be challenged.
8. Let’s say today you need another service tech — what is your first move?
If I need a seasoned technician, I’m talking to my guys in the field. Otherwise, I’m going to take him out of the technical schools.
9. What’s your relationship like with the schools?
I have a great relationship with the instructors. I’m partnered with three counties where I go and I do site visits. I also invite them here. We have a training room in which we do our in-house training. I invite the kids to come here with the instructors so they see our operation.
10. How do you develop that relationship?
First, you have to make sure you define what it means. It doesn’t mean you call the school in April and say, “Hey, I’m going to need two helpers this summer, can I have your best guys?” That’s not the way you get it. You have to go there and help them.
11. What challenges did you face?
I went in there and found out it’s all residential based. They have a 3-ton condenser, a furnace, and a water heater — all stuff you find at your house. That’s great, but my company does commercial work. They don’t have any of that stuff. But you know what? The building they’re in has commercial equipment all around them.
12. So, you essentially helped them start a commercial HVACR curriculum?
I said to the schools, “You pay someone to come in and maintain this equipment. Why not train your own students with the help of an outside company?” This was my way in — to go make this agreement, negotiate it and train their people on their equipment. It reduces their cost because students are doing it and the students are thrilled to death because they’re working on big stuff. What I’m doing is a small price to pay.
13. How do you conduct in-house training?
It’s almost impossible to do from June through August, but the other nine months of the year we’re pretty hot and heavy. Every week we provide dinner and the guys come in … they spend two and a half hours and it’s great. We use our existing customer experiences, a case study from when a guy got stuck on a job and he was able to talk about it … we do it a ton of different ways.
14. What kind of support do you get from your peers in the business?
I belong to an ACCA mix group — the Masters of Achievement — there are 11 in our group and we’re all commercial companies. We have a common thread between all of us, which is great. We have a brethren and loyalty to each other that is unbreakable. It’s awesome.
15. You all share similar issues?
I don’t call it sharing; I call it accountability … that’s what we provide to each other. I walk out of our meetings and I’ve got pages and pages of notes and can’t wait to come back to talk to my team.
16. Has the group helped with your branding?
Yes. I didn’t know if the brand name was good or not when I bought the company, I just knew that when you run the risk by changing the name, you run the risk by losing whatever identity was there for all the goodwill that you bought. The mix group helped me make this company into a brand.
17. How did your winning Tops in Trucks design fit into the branding?
Everything starts with a brand of: if I’m going to touch this organization, it’s always going to be a three-step approach. The first step is, splash the colors, splash the logo, splash the name. Keep it light. Put logos, it’s all about the logo. The second splash is a little more detail, a little more content oriented, same exact format with the logo and the color and everything. Then the third one is the big punch, and then you get the follow up. That’s our method to our madness when it comes to branding. It doesn’t directly relate to the trucks all the time but it relates to our logo and the coloring.
18. How did you develop your core values?
I have a local business coach who introduced me to the Rockefeller habits, which is a business model. It has operational, financial and strategic components to it and it starts with a foundation of who you are and what your beliefs are. That’s the core values.
19. What is your management style?
I don’t have a college degree — I have a technical school degree. I came through the industry and that’s where I like to go back and apply my expertise. You don’t need to be college educated to be an entrepreneur and do the right thing. Surround yourself with smart people and you’ll be in good shape.
20. What’s your favorite thing to do?
I like to challenge employees when it comes to their job description. It’s easy for me to say, “How would you do it?” We have some new people here now and I’ll even say, “I’m not going to give you the road map on how to do this.” Some like that, some don’t.