GRAND RAPIDS — Sometimes it’s better not to know.
Randy Seaman, president and CEO of Seaman’s Air Conditioning and Refrigeration of Grand Rapids, knows that — and for the second time in as many years.
The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) recently honored his company with its 2002 Commercial Excellence Award for the second consecutive year, the first time the association has given its top prize to the same firm in successive years. The award paid tribute to Seaman’s for its high-quality workmanship, high ethical standards, sound business practices and betterment of the industry.
This year’s award was déjà vu all over again for Seaman, as Assistant GM Patricia Van Kuiken entered the firm in the competition both times and didn’t tell him either time.
“The first year, he was totally in shock. He felt it (the award) was beyond our reach forever and we surprised him with that one,” said Van Kuiken. “This year they did it differently. All he knew is we were a finalist and he didn’t know that until five weeks ago.”
ACCA President Larry Taylor called Seaman to tell him that his firm was one of only three companies that were up for the group’s most prestigious award.
“He was surprised because he didn’t know that we were entered,” said Van Kuiken. “He was speechless.”
Seaman confirmed that by telling the Business Journal that he was shocked both times.
“It’s certainly a nice, warm feeling to know that the team members, the people that you have working with you, are also as proud of the company as the owner is,” he said.
And he said knowing that is worth more to him than the awards.
“It certainly is, just having your own people with you on the same team. Everybody is working together to keep the customer satisfied, and to do the best they can and learn as much as they can,” said Seaman.
“We really talk quality, quality, quality all the time. You keep saying that all the time, and you wonder how people are taking that. But when they get together like this and present the owner with this type of an award, it certainly says a lot about them as a team,” he added. “That was the biggest award.”
Van Kuiken said she put the company into the competition because the employees feel that Seaman’s is a “fabulous” firm to work for, a sentiment that drove their effort and largely comprised their entry.
“We really are happy to work here. It’s not like other jobs. It’s not like other companies. And with all of us believing in this, I asked everyone to write something that reflected why they thought this is such a great place,” said Van Kuiken, a seven-year veteran of the firm.
“I put a paragraph up front saying ‘Let us tell you why we feel Seaman’s deserves this, not only once, but twice,’” she added. “We did it because we believe in this company and what it has done in the Grand Rapids area for 41 years now.”
Don Seaman, Randy’s dad, founded the firm in 1961. Randy began his career there in 1973 and took over the company following Don’s retirement in 1988.
“Business is good. It’s the same thing for us. Take care of the customer and do what the customer needs to have done. Be happy for the customer and yourself,” said Seaman of the firm’s philosophy.
The ACCA referred to Seaman’s constant drive for excellence as the clincher in repeating this year. The association noted that Seaman’s holds monthly training sessions to review and solve any technical glitches and service problems that may have arisen, and that the firm also hosts specialty-training sessions that focus on specific installation and repair techniques.
The ACCA also compared the atmosphere at Seaman’s to that of an extended family.
“We’re a team here. There is a very, very thin line between management and the people that are doing the work,” said Seaman. “They’re the ones with the ideas. I’m just the one who kind of puts things together. They know what needs to be done. Actually, I’m just happy to be on their team, to tell you the truth.”
Based in Arlington, Virginia, the ACCA has a member network of over 9,000 heating, air conditioning and refrigeration contractors and 68 state and local chapters across the country.
Seaman’s topped Gillette Air Conditioning of San Antonio, Texas, and Temperature Inc. of Memphis, Tenn., for the 2002 excellence award. And the winning may only be beginning.
“We’ve put him up for a couple more awards this year,” said Van Kuiken. “I don’t know where all this will go, but I believe in the company.”