When Luther Morris sold his air conditioning company to Dewey Jenkins in 1990, there were 12 employees, and business hours were 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Today Morris-Jenkins Heating and Air has about 265 employees and the phones are answered until midnight.
“We pioneered with Saturday Service, then we pioneered with Sunday service, then we pioneered with evening service, and the industry followed,” says CEO Jenkins. “We’ve changed the expectations of our customers.”
The core values of honesty, integrity, fairness and respect are taken so seriously they are repeated out loud by employees at the beginning of every staff meeting. “Our employees don’t always have to be the same,” says Jenkins. “We simply want them to buy into our culture. We have messy desks, we have clean desks, we don’t try to make everyone into everyone else.”
A foundational management technique is to discover where an employee excels, and focus on that strength. “If we do that we see tremendous improvements, and they like what they do. We haven’t all been blessed with the ability to do everything well, but we’ve all been blessed with the ability to do something well. If we focus on that, they are going to perform at a high level,” says Jenkins.
Lead customer service representative Cathy Rushing has been training new customer reps for the last 10 years. “We are like one big family,” she says. “We get along really well, and we fight sometimes, and then we make up.” She appreciates the excellent benefits, flexible hours, and that the departments work together.
“We try to be respectful to each other, even during the most hectic times, and there are hectic times,” she says, referring to hot days when the phones light up. “We want everyone to be able to recognize when a customer really needs an appointment, or if they just need to change the battery in their thermostat. Then they will call us later and thank us.”
In response to a shortage of HVAC technicians, the company established Morris-Jenkins University, an eight-week technician training program. Participants are paid while they are trained. The university started as a way to grow the business with qualified personnel, and it has the advantage of introducing employees to the company culture the first time they enter the industry.
After 20 years, Jenkins cut his work schedule down to five days a week from six. He knows every employee by name. “It’s extremely important that our employees know that I value what they do,” he says. “I don’t think they can accept that unless they know that I know them.”