Managing Editor, Heather Langone spoke with Beth Rovazzini, owner of B&W Plumbing and Heating, about the recent changes in the HVACR field and her strategy for enduring the ebbs and flows of an ever-evolving industry.
1. Where do you find the most inspiration daily?
My faith in Jesus -
2. Who was your mentor?
My mother. My parents met in high school and married young. Neither went to college. She ran the business side of the company with no college education. She was self-taught. If she needed to learn something, she went to the library. She was and still is my biggest inspiration. She taught my brother and me that there is always a way to figure things out.
3. Are you a cat or a dog person?
I'm a dog person. We have three right now, a Schnauzer, who comes to work with me every day. He is a rescue. And we have two Maltese puppies
4. What is your favorite thing to do with your family during your downtime?
Travel in the RV. We've been RVing since 2018. This past weekend, we went with a few of my grandkids to Prophet’s Town State Park, near Purdue. And we're going to another park this weekend with some of my other grandkids. We love it!
5. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
It would be the ability to allow people to see themselves as others see them. Young people think their defects are noticeable to everyone. We see these young people as gorgeous and talented. If I could do anything, it would be to give them true insight.
6. Did you always know you would take over your family business?
No, as a kid I didn’t play with furnaces along with my Barbies. When I went to college, I was planning on getting a degree in Russian history, but my dad encouraged me to get a business degree. After graduating, I worked in the family business on the accounting side. We’d have regular monthly meetings to go over the statements. That’s how I learned that my parents’ retirement goals included a plan for me to buy the business. I had a brother that was two years older. It had always just been the four of us. When I was 21 and he was 23, he died in an automobile accident. His death changed the dynamic of our family. From that point on our family became closer and there was no question I would buy the business. And I did.
7. How do you inspire young people to work in the trades?
By giving them opportunities to see what it's like to learn a skill and be competent at it. When they learn how to install a furnace or fix that flapper, it helps with self-confidence and opens up the possibilities for a future in the trades.
8. How have you been affected by the supply shortage?
We’ve had to purchase more inventory. But we haven’t been greatly affected, but we’ve had to be a lot more flexible. It’s gotten better though.
9. Do you have a contingency plan to buffer against a recession?
Yes, we do. But one thing in our industry, there are some things that you can't predict, you just do what it takes. It just means having to pivot. And in some ways this business is recession-proof.
10. Where do you see your brand in the next five years?
We’d been looking at this. The pandemic accelerated it. In March, we took on a partner to help us with a five-year rapid growth and expansion plan.
11. Are there plans to have your family members continue when you retire?
No, I don’t have kids who want to be in this industry. However, I have no intention of retiring. I may change my hours or take time off, but I’ll keep working. It’s a privilege to work.
12. How do you see the HVACR industry evolving over the next decade?
Regulations – the people making the decisions have no idea what they're doing in some cases. A few years ago, they wanted to get rid of 80% gas furnaces. In our area, many people who have gas furnaces, don‘t have a way to put in a 98% furnace or a flue or limit condensation in their houses without an extreme remodel. These people are older, in houses that were built in the twenties. Some of these changes are detrimental. With more of this, we need to make sure to keep our seats at the table.
13. How do you keep your seat at the table?
Join organizations. We’re active in the HCC. I don't have time to go to Washington and lobby. But HCC does and they have lobbyists. I think it’s also important that we educate young people on these important issues. It will create a domino effect.
14. Do you have tips for combating economic ebbs and flows?
Don’t give up. Be open to other ideas and be open to change.
15. Would you say you are seeing more women owning and operating HVACR businesses?
No, not in our area. It’s difficult to attract women. I’m not giving up though. There’s an entire labor pool out there. We keep at it. *The Hispanic Chamber has been active here and sponsors a group of women welders.
*For more information on the work being done by The Hispanic Chamber, go to https://weldingguild.com/
16. How do you continue to recruit not just women, but young people as well?
I'm working with a local adult education school. I think that's a great way to attract people not just high school students, into the industry. We plan to recruit for plumbing in the fall and HVAC. This will be our third year working with them.
17. Early on, did you have to prove your merit as a woman in a male-dominated industry?
Not as much as you might think. This is a competency industry. Early on, I’d walk into job trailers, and it would be dead silence. That's a little off-putting but once they’d see that I could do the job, they didn’t care.
18. If you could improve anything about your business this year, what would it be?
More people. I’d add more people, more qualified people, and more trucks.
19. What would be your best advice to a young graduate who wants to be a technician in the H V ACR field?
Be teachable and be available. For the young guys who are, the senior guys will fight to put them in the trucks. I’ve seen it.
20. How do you create an environment that helps to foster new generations to join and stay in the industry?
I’m working on that all the time. I’ve partnered with high schools and adult education. And we offer Friday breakfasts, an opportunity for senior folks to sit down with some younger folks and bond in an informal setting. I'm fortunate that we have many extremely experienced people who are willing to share their knowledge with recruits.