Friday, March 5th, 2021

Shopper Client Stories


New Chesapeake-based facility revolutionizes the workplace

by Marianne Chalk

Owner Buddy Smith designed Russell’s Heating and Cooling’s new facility to be a place that brings employees together and streamlines the work process.

Owner Buddy Smith designed Russell’s Heating and Cooling’s new facility to be a place that brings employees together and streamlines the work process.

Company meetings often involve minute-to-win-it games, shuffle board, or a few strokes on a putting green. Leisure time between assignments may be spent back at the office, just hanging out in a hip new space dedicated to building a culture of community.

This is a typical work day at Russell's Heating and Cooling's new 22,000 square foot facility- a work space modeled after those found in the high-tech industry. "We wanted this place to have a wow-factor; to be something really cool," owner Buddy Smith notes with a smile. "My desire is to have employees engaged and enthusiastic about work."

The facility, located at 1100 Executive Blvd. in Greenbrier, is actually the creation of its employees. "Many staff members worked diligently to prepare the environment," Buddy says, beaming with pride. "Their skills contributed to this wonderful outcome. It was a lot of work, but definitely worth it."

Wood floors and wooden wall accents grace the gray-blue reception area and flow throughout the building. It is a blend of an intimate office space with an open-floor design. "This is a place to bring employees together," Buddy continues. "For example, all customer service representatives are now in one large space. This environment allows the work process to be streamlined and cohesive. Everyone is working toward the same goal. Our ability to communicate has been improved. Ideas can be shared more easily by writing them on white boards located throughout the work space- and sometimes, someone might share a friendly message or draw a funny picture for their colleague," Buddy adds with a laugh.

The environment, though fun and relaxing, successfully keeps employees happy and focused on Russell's core principle of providing outstanding customer service. To provide that service, Buddy insists on cutting-edge training for all employees.

"Education and training are offered through live in-house labs," Buddy explains. "We bring in expert instructors, we sabotage equipment and then teach our employees the correct methods for diagnosing the problem and fixing it. We typically spend over six figures annually on training, and that will continue. A dedicated pro-active training program is a must if a company is to have the knowledge required to purchase, sell, install and repair new equipment. From a liability and customer service perspective, ignorance of how a piece of equipment operates is dangerous, so we spare no cost in training our people" In addition to in-house training, employees also enjoy the benefit of traveling to Phoenix, Arizona for training in soft skills, as well as business practices and management.  

Buddy Smith considers cutting-edge in-house training for his technicians <BR>as essential to providing first-rate customer service.

Buddy Smith considers cutting-edge in-house training for his technicians
as essential to providing first-rate customer service.

The vast majority of employees with Russell's Heating and Cooling were previously involved in other trades. "We're always looking for exceptional people," Buddy discloses. "Being articulate and detail oriented is a real plus and serves as a great foundation for additional specialized training. For decades, we have been meeting individuals where they are and training them- providing them an outstanding career opportunity. Our company has been growing 15 to 20 percent annually over the past six years. We want that trend to continue."

That the company now has a highly trained staff of 70 is evidence of its commitment to its customers and its employees. "We value both," Buddy insists. "And we treat employees like family. I want them to be comfortable and happy." Part of this philosophy includes expressing gratitude for jobs well done by giving rewards such as occasional trips, dinners and gift cards.

"We wanted this place to have a wow-factor;
to be something really cool.
My desire is to have employees engaged
and enthusiastic about work."

- Buddy Smith

Besides providing a positive workplace environment, Russell's new location offers other benefits. "We are now in close proximity to our suppliers, which means increased efficiency," Buddy notes. The additional square footage also provides a larger warehouse. An expanded parking lot outside of the building is another improvement.

Russell's Heating and Cooling has a long history of extraordinary customer service. The business was started 41 years ago by Buddy's parents, Russell and Audrey Smith. In 1992, Buddy joined the company, learning everything about the business from the ground up- including all aspects of servicing and installing heating and cooling systems. He became the general manager in 1999, purchasing the business in 2009. He now focuses  on sales, marketing and customer service.

Buddy remains committed to the foundational values established by his father. "My dad always cared about people," he asserts. "I learned those values from him, and I instill them in my staff."
This culture of caring is evidenced in a new streamlined process available to customers for scheduling maintenance and repair service. "Clients can now make appointments online any time, day or night," he states. "We also have a new policy: our "Service Today or It's Free' guarantee. This is essentially same-day service. If our staff can't meet a need on the day requested, then the diagnostic fee is waived. Our new policy takes customer service to the next level."

Because every worker is a representative of the company, each has an important role in  meeting the  needs of customers. "I am proud of my staff," Buddy boasts. "In all circumstances, our customers compliment our employees for their organization, knowledge, courteous attitudes and cleanliness. Even when challenges occur- such as difficulty in determining the problem with a particular piece of  equipment- customers praise the high quality of our service."

Although cooling systems may be the focus in the midst of summer heat, other systems are also serviced, maintained and installed. These include commercial and residential tankless and standard water heaters, and generators. "We work within everyone's budget, creating financing plans in order to meet all essential needs," Buddy explains.

"Russell's Heating and Cooling will be responsible in all aspects of customer service," Buddy pledges. "This includes courteous and knowledgeable customer service from all representatives and field staff. Even with all of our recent expansion, we remain committed to our foundational values. Our continued growth is only the result of caring for others. We look forward to forging lasting relationships with both customers, old and new, and with our staff."