My business is family owned and operated since 1946. It was started by my father and his 4 older brothers. I started at age 8, sweeping floors and running drive cleats every Saturday. My summer vacations were spent in the shop with my father (the shop foreman at the time) learning how not to loose digits in the many pieces of machinery. My father passed when I was 13, and my uncles and many cousins took over in my HVAC education. By the age of 18 I was finishing high school and ready to begin my career when I was informed by my uncle, "You can't work here unless you have a college education. No if's, and's, or but's." So I went to 4 years of college majoring in small business management. I set up my classes so I could always have at least a half a day of work. (You get used to having money in your pocket!)
I graduated college with a Bachelor's degree and finally went to work . I was given a van, some gauges, and an old Motorola radio. "Get going!" my uncle said as he ushered me out the door. "Call in on the radio if you can't figure something out!" I worked and learned like this for 2 years. Once it was decided that I liked service and install better then tin knocking, I signed up for Local Union 420's apprenticeship program. I graduated the program as an MES serviceman. I worked in the field for the next 22 years.
Eventually all my uncles have passed or retired, and the business has been left in the hands of myself and my 4 cousins. We each have our own divisions of the business we run. I run the crews who pipe and wire equipment in all new housing, commercial, and retrofits. I also do service when things get really busy.
The business has grown, and my reponsibilities have changed. I am now in the office a couple days a week (depending on work loads) to help oversee the ordering of equipment, and layout and manufacturing of custom ductwork for all of our retrofits, amongst other things.
When the business was at its peak a few years ago, we were employing 30 duct mechanics, 15 pipefitters, 5 servicemen, 2 shop men, 2 apprentices, and 4 in the office. Needless to say, it isn't that way at the moment. We have our own sheet metal shop and amke all the duct we use (except round and spiral).
I try to keep up with my guys as far as new equipment education and training. I am NATE and IGSHPA certified. I still go out and crawl around crawl spaces and in attics with my men. I wouldn't ask them to do it if I wouldn't.