Friday, December 14th, 2018

S Shopper Stories


RUSSELL’S HEATING, COOLING, PLUMBING & ELECTRIC

Kindness, caring and compassion as guiding principles

by Cristi Sanchez


Buddy Smith, owner of Russell’s Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric,<BR> with his wife, Lauren, and their three children: Liam, Jillian and Aly.   <BR>  Photo courtesy of Cara Rosie

Buddy Smith, owner of Russell’s Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric,
with his wife, Lauren, and their three children: Liam, Jillian and Aly.
Photo courtesy of Cara Rosie

Time is a funny thing. For some, a nine-year span could seem like an eternity, while to others it could seem like just yesterday. For Buddy Smith, owner of Russell’s Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric, the last nine years have been a whirlwind of success and growth for the family-owned business started by his father, Russell, in 1977.

Since Buddy took the reins of the 41-year-old business in 1999, Russell’s Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric has expanded to a sleek new building in Greenbrier with more than 70 employees, and has recently added plumbing services to its line-up. Most notably, in November 2018 Russell’s Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric had the honor of being named as one of Hampton Roads’ top 20 fastest-growing businesses by Inside Business. In fact, the company has nearly tripled in size over the last five years alone.

When asked what is the key to his company’s growth and success, Buddy supplies an emphatic one-word answer without hesitation: “Training.” Surprisingly, the bulk of that training is not focused on the technical aspects of the job. Buddy insists that his employees are trained in people skills.

“We’ve invested a lot—and I mean a lot—of our resources in training our people how to listen to customers and understand their needs and concerns. I believe the best way to do that is to ask good questions,” he states with conviction. “We train our employees in how to ask good questions with the sole purpose of understanding the people they’re helping. It’s important to me that my employees get to know each customer as an individual and to understand their needs.”

With empathy and understanding for his customers, Buddy realizes that heating and cooling repairs can be stressful. “It’s an overwhelming issue for many people, so there’s a lot of fear of the unknown in the process,” he explains sympathetically.

Because of his sympathetic nature, Buddy is able to illustrate for his employees the importance of the human side of his business. “I tell them that I try to see every repair and installation through the eyes of the customer,” he explains thoughtfully.

“I try to imagine the situation through a Navy mom’s eyes,” he continues. “She is new to the area; her husband is deployed defending our country; she’s trying to take care of her kids; she finds out that she has no heat and isn’t sure of who to call for help. Then when she does end up calling a business, she’s left wondering if its workers are honest, decent, and trustworthy. It can be scary. It’s important for my employees to see and understand that we’re dealing with people and not just equipment. Because of that, from the initial phone call to the resolution, we have to be mindful of the fact that this is scary, uncharted territory for a lot of people. We need to respect that and pay attention to it.”

Seeing customers as people and not just as job opportunities is an approach that has its roots in Buddy’s childhood. “It goes back to being a kid and my parents teaching me to be kind to others and to try to understand them,” he recalls with a grin. “That’s the principle I grew up with. I still live by it. We’ve had so many customer compliments on how kind our people are.”


 “It goes back to being a kid
and my parents teaching me
to be kind to others
and to try to understand them.
That’s the principle I grew up with.
I still live by it.
We’ve had so many customer compliments
on how kind our people are.”

 —Buddy Smith


The key to the Russell’s Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric’s success doesn’t solely rest on the care of the customers. Buddy’s care and compassion for people also extend to his employees.

“Care and respect for customers is always number one and of utmost importance, but if you don’t treat your employees with that same care and respect, your company won’t succeed,” he states. “Miserable employees won’t perform their jobs as well. I invest in my people, not just because it’s important for me, but because it’s important to them. It’s just the right thing to do.”

The happiness of Buddy’s employees is evident in the lack of turnover experienced at Russell’s. “We have a very low turnover rate here,” he says with a smile. “I constantly have employees tell me ‘This is the best place I’ve ever worked!’ That’s our objective.”


Russell’s Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric <BR>donated equipment, time and labor to Lennox’s “Feel The Love” charity.

Russell’s Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric
donated equipment, time and labor to Lennox’s “Feel The Love” charity.


In addition to his kindness and caring for his customers and employees, Buddy had the privilege this past summer of extending that kindness and caring to the community by participating in the Lennox-sponsored charity “Feel The Love.”

“It’s an event in which people in need are nominated and chosen by Lennox for a new HVAC system,” Buddy explains. “This year we partnered with them for the first time and donated our time, labor and materials to install a new HVAC system for a woman in Virginia Beach who hadn’t had a properly operating system for almost 10 years. It was a great feeling to know that we played a part in helping someone in need. She was unbelievably grateful. It was truly heartwarming.”

Though training is an integral part of Russell’s success and growth, there are three underlying principles that are not normally associated with a heating and cooling company, but which define the heart of Russell’s: kindness, compassion and caring. Those three principles are the cornerstone upon which the success of Russell’s Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric has been built. They are Buddy Smith’s guiding principles in how he treats his employees and how he expects his employees to treat his customers. They are the reason for the company’s exponential growth over the last nine years, and they are the three principles that will continue to propel Russell’s Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric toward continued success.

“With kindness, caring and compassion as our guides, our focus remains on the customers we serve and not just the equipment we install,” Buddy concludes. “When a business puts people first, it can’t help but succeed.”




Russell’s Heating & Cooling

1100 Executive Blvd.
Chesapeake, VA 23320

757-424-1000
http://www.russellshvac.com