Investing in Employees & Employee Empowerment is HB McClure’s Secret to Success


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HB McClure located in Harrisburg, PA started off as a family owned business founded in 1914. Throughout the century, McClure has operated in Central Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, Carlisle, Hershey and York) and Northern Maryland (Baltimore, Carroll, and Howard Counties) and continues to be the company that customers can rely on when it comes to keeping their HVAC and plumbing systems operating efficiently.  

 Empowering their Employees is a Building Block to Success 

 In 1914, HB McClure was founded by Herbert Basset McClure and started out as a plumbing, boiler installs and outhouses business. The company had a total of 6 employees in 1946 and throughout the years, have grown quite significantly since then increasing to a whopping number of 1800+ employees with operations provided in the Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest parts of the United States and the Virgin Islands after forming HB Global, LLC in 2017 to manage their exponential growth.  

 Every year since becoming employee owned in 2010, HB McClure has grown by 40%. It is estimated that employees who have been with the company since 2010 will now have an average of $200,00 in their retirement account simply by being an employee owner.  

 “At HB McClure, our CEO has a stated personal mission,” said Vice President Adam Smith. “I want our employees to retire as a millionaire.” 

This particular mindset has sparked interest and excitement for their frontline employees and has also proven to be helpful for their younger employees who do not see the importance and value of their retirement being that it is too far away from where they currently stand.  

 “This is just one of the ways that helps our younger employees see and understand these kinds of results,” said Smith. “Once they hear their coworkers talking about the results of their retirement account it suddenly starts to become real when they hear those numbers.” 

 In addition to empowering their employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), HB McClure also follows open book management where they provide access to financials and financial literacy training to those who are interested.  

 “Simply being an ESOP alone does not provide empowerment,” said Smith. “By building financial literacy from the ground up and providing feedback loops, this enables our people of all levels to provide an input that can positively impact our business.” 

 According to Smith, being open to receiving feedback alone is not enough when empowering their employees. It is also important to learn how to manage that feedback and help employees understand that you’ve heard them. 

 “Whether you’re doing that or not, it’s all about closing that feedback loop and to help them understand that we’ve heard them and explain what direction we’re going,” said Smith. “That’s a big part of helping our people feel empowered.” 

 Through these strategies and expectations, HB McClure has continuously grown and continues to provide many opportunities for their employees while challenging them in numerous ways.  

 “The amount of growth in our business is one of the things that challenge our people,” said Smith. “It is definitely empowering to see each other progress and grow while receiving new opportunities.” 

 Investing in Employees Comes Back Around 

 In addition to empowering their employees, HB McClure’s mission also focuses on making their company a great place to work. By having a workplace that creates a culture around employee empowerment, this motivates technicians to pridefully represent the company and can even lead to growth through employee referrals.  

 “Our greatest spokesperson is our employees,” said Smith. “The segment of employees who have been referred through our other employees is our highest retention.” 

 Like many other companies, finding talent proved to be difficult. HB McClure has done referral games with their employees and deliver prices for those who are referring new employees. Through this, employees are also able to establish targets of what they want to accomplish and what they must change in order to see their results. 

 “It’s worked out really well for us,” said Smith. “I think that’s the best way for us to recruit our folks in.” 

 In addition to employee referrals, HB McClure also provides training for their employees through HB University, an in-house university that provides technical, essential and leadership training. Through HB University, every employee has taken leadership classes in order to improve their leadership skills and understand themselves better. In the event that a technician does not have all the skills nor the experience, HB University will continue to build them into leaders regardless if they are office or field leaders.  

 “This is our commitment in order to create a skill workforce for the future,” said Smith. “By investing in our employees like this, people will view us as the leader in the market.” 

 The implementation of HB University has also helped HB McClure down the road as one of the major challenges the company had to face was the ongoing skill labor shortage. Through the university, the company is slowly gaining highly-skilled technicians in the workforce.   

 “Even though we haven’t fully overcome the skilled labor shortage because it takes time to develop talent, we are almost 5 years in and have been helping us grow,” said Smith.  

 The Challenge of COVID-19 

 Like many others, HB McClure faced a few challenges because of the effects COVID-19 has made. As the pandemic started, HB McClure was going through changes as they were splitting their residential and commercial business. However, the president and CEO of HB Global pushed through and committed to protect their employee owners who were impacted by COVID-19.  

 “This gave a sense of security and a peace of mind for our 1000+ employee owners at that time,” said Smith.  

 In addition to financial security, HB McClure conducted virtual meetings every single day regarding the changes made due to the pandemic in order to help their employees understand the situation that they are currently in.  

 “We were getting engagement from both frontline and office employees and we made sure to hear what they had to say,” said Smith. “We made sure it was a two way continuous feedback.” 

 In order to help other businesses, HB McClure has also held some webinars to provide assistance for businesses that may need help when it comes to proper communication with their employees and learning how to engage with their clients amidst a pandemic.  

 “Our goal here is to try and collaborate with our clients and employees to make sure they feel connected even while working from home,” said Smith.  

 Have a Balance 

 If there is one thing about HB McClure that sets them apart from other contractors is that they are a company that provides a different style of leadership. For those who are looking to grow and improve their business, Smith advises to provide your employees a certain type of empowerment and autonomy that gives employees the chance to learn from their mistakes. 

 “What we see a lot in businesses today is that owners start to outgrow their businesses and do not have the same infrastructure as HB McClure,” said Smith. “These types of owners are the only decision-makers and their employees can miss out on the opportunities to think and learn through those decisions.”  

 According to Smith, providing more purpose to work and empowerment enables employees to run your business as their own. 

 “If you aren’t super open to change and aren’t flexible, it is a recipe for disaster,” said Smith. “The speed of change right now is much more than pre-COVID. In order to survive, you need to learn how to thrive in these kinds of environments.”  

Wingel Caburian

Posted In: ACCA Now, Commercial Buildings

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