Lynn Tomasek – Brothers Plumbing, Heating & Electric
You won’t find employees hurling freshly sharpened axes through the air at just any company. But at Brothers Plumbing, Heating & Electric, a Denver-based team of HVAC, plumbing and electrical experts, that’s exactly how they kicked off a new quarter in 2022.
Every quarter, Brothers introduces a special focus and holds a contest tied to that theme. During that particular quarter, the theme was “Bad Axe Start to the New Year,” and employees earned points through performance-based metrics. Then, they all went axe-throwing.
Other quarterly themes have included pirates—employees earned pirate coins based on performance and then got to pull gift cards out of a treasure box at the end of the quarter—and the theme for the third quarter of 2023 was The Mighty Ducks. For every three Home Care Club memberships an employee sold, they could pull a small yellow duck from a duck pond for a chance to win gift cards.
“We really try to have a little bit of fun—you know, spin the wheel, pull from a box, go on a company outing—and we also tie in our company events,” says President Lynn Tomasek.
To build a strong company culture, Tomasek and her team also have culture days with different themes—a Denver Nuggets theme, for example, after their hometown team won the NBA championship—as well as dress-up days and food days, such as a National Donut Day celebration. They celebrate the different departments within their company, as well—National HVAC Day fell on a recent Thursday, for example—and host lunches for new employees and their managers.
Brothers also holds a quarterly meeting called Jamboree, at which leadership provides breakfast for team members, does team-building events and hands out key performance indicator-based recognitions and employee-nominated awards.
Sharpen and shine
Brothers has grown considerably since Tomasek started helping with the family business during her youth. Today it employs 90 team members who serve the greater Denver metro area.
To give the company’s efforts a guiding focus, Tomasek and her leadership team set a theme for each year. This year, their theme is “Sharpen”—a complement to last year’s theme, “Shine,” Tomasek says.
“After you shine a knife, you sharpen a knife,” she explains. “It’s really all about putting forth extraordinary effort to sharpen our tools, so that we can be better and stronger and so that we can slice through our challenges no matter what.”
According to Tomasek, the company also uses SHINE as an acronym for Success Happens with Intentional Nonstop focus on Excellence. Under the “Shine” theme, she says one of the things her team focused on was making surface-level changes. For instance, they added decor throughout their headquarters tied to inspirational themes aimed at strengthening company culture.
Now, after a major move—the company moved to a new 25,000-square-foot headquarters that’s more centrally located—the COVID-19 pandemic and the rollout of a new software application for better tracking and increased efficiency, it’s “time to sharpen our game,” Tomasek says.
“We kind of got a little dull and rusty through the transition of those three big things,” she says.
So, Tomasek and her team are implementing new policies and procedures, including standard operation procedures training, introducing more training materials and rolling out a new platform for those materials and for checklists and other tasks. The goal is for everyone to get the same information consistently.
They’re also improving their marketing and their communication with clients, and plan to install new phone systems for their client care department this fall.
Making the trades an attractive proposition
The company has several employees who have worked for Brothers for more than a decade, and annual celebrations honor those long-serving team members.
Making work a fun place to be is part of Tomasek’s strategy to attract more young blood to the company. She’s also promoting from within while implementing a tool account program in which Brothers pays for the tools its tradesmen need to advance in their profession.
“The trades are a good place to be,” Tomasek says. “You don’t need a college education to make over $100,000 a year. Somebody who has an aptitude for mechanical ability, working with their hands, they can start in our warehouse, and then progress to an apprenticeship, and then progress as a technician. Through the course of a couple of years, they can learn and progress in their careers without going into debt.”
Once candidates are hired, Tomasek and her leadership team strive to keep them, inculcating Brothers’ three core values of family, care and excellence and introducing an additional piece last year: the “be” principles for success. Those consist of “be remarkable,” “be better,” “be committed,” “be driven” and “be brotherly.”
The upshot, Tomasek says, is a win-win-win: Brothers provides services that are good for the company, good for its clients and good for the community.
Rising through the ranks
Founded in 1980 by Tomasek’s father and his brother as a family-owned company, Brothers now includes Tomasek, her brother and her sister. The three of them bought the business from their father when he retired in 2015, and they’ve been running it on their own since then.
“We all worked in the business growing up,” she says. “We filed and did yard work and detailed trucks and worked in the warehouse and played in the office. We did ride-alongs with our dad. So, we grew up in the family business from a very young age.”
A 2000 graduate of Montana State University-Northern, where she studied small business management, Tomasek joined Brothers as the human resources and marketing manager that same year. She held the role for the next 14 years, growing her skillset in various directions until, in 2015, she ascended to her current role.
“I love what I do and who I work with. Not only do I get to work with family members, but I work with others who feel like family, too,” she says. “It’s my passion to help people grow and excel in all areas of their life, not just in their careers, and it’s so rewarding to be able to positively impact so many people’s lives through this journey.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. VII 2023 Edition here.
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