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The Ingredient to Business Success: Engaged and Motivated People

Aug 11, 2021

Headquartered in Roseville, Minn., Schwab-Vollhaber-Lubratt, Inc., better known as SVL, has specialized in commercial HVAC systems design, installation and sales for over 50 years. The company serves engineers, contractors and building owners in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, and its growth and success are reflections of its intense focus on customer relationships — despite being in a price-driven business. When customers work with SVL, they know they can expect its team to go the proverbial extra mile to make them happy, in addition to providing premium equipment, expertise and value. But that’s an outside-in perspective.

What sets SVL apart from other organizations in its market is an understanding of the connection between what a company promises (e.g., exemplary customer care) and how that promise is delivered. And that’s engaged and motivated employees.

Jim Lubratt, President of SVL, commented: “SVL has a vibe. It’s an atmosphere that yields enthusiasm, engagement, a sense of ownership and purpose. It’s central to our success.”

SVL’s Vice President of Marketing Ashlei Rolloff refers to it as “shining out.”

It’s no surprise then that SVL was recognized by its employees as a Top Workplace for 2021 in the annual Minneapolis Star Tribune poll.

As an authorized Daikin Applied sales and installation representative, SVL exemplifies Daikin’s own focus on “People-Centered Management.” In simple form the philosophy is that the cumulative growth of employees, via opportunities and environment, correlates directly to organizational growth, competitiveness, and vitality.

Constant Communications

While it would take a lot of real estate to detail all the underpinnings of the culture at SVL, there are a few common characteristics at the core. The first of these is a plethora of two-way communications — from employees to management and in reverse.

Officially, there is a quarterly newsletter that provides company updates and industry news. Similarly, there is a quarterly email from SVL CEO Todd Vollhaber, noting company status, project activities and other items of interest. There are also monthly social events and sales meetings, a summer picnic, and a holiday party. Yet, most of the communications occur in the cafeteria, hallways or via the open-door policy.

As SVL Partner Charlie Vollhaber points out, “SVL has a small company feel and employees feel connected. Everyone has a shared sense of accomplishment and pride. The communications help employees know what’s going on and how their jobs are contributing to the larger goal. It also enhances the sense of family. Accordingly, they feel vested and invigorated.”

Encouraged Empowerment

Another SVL success factor, according to Jayda Hepper, a sales engineer, is empowerment. “SVL gives us the latitude to try new ideas and processes,” Hepper said. “We can also take on new tasks.”

A perfect example of this culture of encouragement occurred when a marketing employee expressed an interest in developing video expertise and capability, given the growing use of video promotion on social media. Rolloff was on board and, with the support of management, urged the employee to take videography training. SVL also invested in the requisite equipment. Consequently, the marketing department has grown to not only cover the production needs of SVL, but also the marketing services needs of other dealers and distributors.

Inside Sales Representative Addi Ewer summarizes the underlying attitude as such: “We do what we do as a team to support and inspire one another.”

Training, Growth and Recognition

Finally, employee growth and development at SVL is continually endorsed. In alignment with the Daikin People-Centered Management philosophy, a company will grow and prosper when its employees grow, refine their individualities, and are given opportunities to realize their full potential. Employees at SVL are encouraged to take advantage of supplier-based and other related education and training to grow and develop in their careers.

The professional and personal milestones, and accomplishments that stem from these learning activities are widely shared through the newsletter, management emails and monthly gatherings. While more business-specific recognition may be given to a team, there’s a general understanding that everyone at SVL contributes to the company’s success. Verbal recognition is often done quietly and personally between colleagues and by management. As a result, employees at SVL feel valued.

A combination of communications, empowerment, growth and recognition form the essence of SVL’s culture, and is central to its ongoing success as a workplace and as a commercial HVAC solutions supplier. Congratulations on being recognized as a Star Tribune Top Workplace for 2021.