People power

Many owners cite the work ethic and the good deeds of their employees when explaining their company’s success.

And while no owner would dare say his or her employees have no impact on the bottom line, few could admit to having the role Scott Robertson has in hand-picking the people who work for his company, Robertson Heating Supply.

Robertson not only attributes his company’s success to his employees, he believes so strongly in the impact each person can have that he personally takes part in the interview and selection process of each employee. And with 240 positions, including 100 he labels as key management, that’s a big responsibility.

Robertson, who majored in personnel management in college, has been president of the family-owned company since taking over from his grandfather in 1991.

“Over the years, we have built the company with people who are high on integrity and honesty — down-home type people who are customer-friendly,” he says.

He says finding the right people takes more time and requires more of a commitment from managers, but the results are worth it.

“Our top managers understand that an employee’s attitude will far outweigh what we can teach,” he says. “We can change or improve an employee’s knowledge of a job or of the industry, but we’re less likely to be able to change your attitude or work ethic.”

Maintaining a turnover rate of less than 5 percent is just one of the benefits the time-consuming search process offers.

Robertson Heating Supply’s sales jumped from $55 million in 1994 to nearly $80 million last year. And with a fully automated distribution system in the works, including a distribution center in Alliance that is completely bar coded, Robertson expects sales to continue to rise.

The company was founded in 1934 by John Robertson, Scott’s grandfather, out of a warehouse in Alliance. Since then, the plumbing and heating wholesale company has expanded into 27 locations in Ohio and Pennsylvania, including two retail lighting centers in Columbus and Belden Village. Since 1994, the company has acquired two wholesalers and opened three wholesale outlets in Wooster, Sheffield Lake and Toledo.

Robertson says most of his family still works for the company on a part-time basis — including his father, Ed, as vice president — while he and his sister, Sue Neil, a corporate secretary, work full-time. How to reach: Robertson Heating Supply, (330) 821-9180

Connie Swenson