Damon Martin, a veteran skilled tradesmen shares his tips on Success.

Damon Martin, a veteran skilled tradesmen shares his tips on Success.

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Well guys, today is another installment of the skilled trade rescue podcast. And today I have Damon Martin on the podcast, super excited to have him here. He’s the actual working technician in the field. And as we’ve been trying to do part of the series is to kind of get the word out as to what’s going on in skilled trades, and maybe share some things, some mindsets and habits here about what folks like Damon are doing to be successful. And I’m hoping to inspire those of you who maybe not be destined to go to college, or maybe have gone to college and looking for something more hands on. So I’m trying to serve the market out there and hear from real people rather than me sitting here and prognosticating about how great skilled trades are. So, Damien, welcome to the show today, man. Thank you. Hey, that’s awesome. So you are give us a kind of a little bio on your the company you’re with and what you’re doing and how long you’ve been in the skilled trades and just share with the audience a little bit about your history.

Okay, well, I’ve been doing heating and air conditioning for give or take 22 years now. I got started actually in the military serve in the Marine Corps, my MOS was 1161, which was basic refrigeration mechanic. It basically instilled a desire to succeed, desire to move. It’s my military time is the reason why I have the demeanor that I have, where where my job is concerned. Now where my job is concerned, I work for a company named store services out of Shreveport, Louisiana, I work remotely out of well, basically from my house and Brownsboro, Texas. I’ve been restore for 13 years, and some months. What else I do. I do the everything from chiller work boilers, air handlers, VAs systems, I also do building automation and controls. My current status at the company is a field bas technician. On the singer level. I found in my career that if you have the mindset of I’m going to go into heating and air conditioning, I’m just going to work, say residential, or I’m just going to specialize in one aspect of the trade, you’re not going to get very far. The at least with the heating and air trading, I’m sure it applies to other trades. But if you have the mindset of limiting yourself, you’re going to limit yourself in more than one way. So that’s that’s my deal. You know, once again, being military, the Marine Corps also served in the Navy served in two different branches. But being in the Marine Corps really instilled a desire to be the best I do. Doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I’m gonna be the best at it. I have worked as an electrician, I’ve worked as a plumber. I’ve worked in obviously the heating and air trade. I’ve worked as a carpenter in my life. But this is where I belong.

So just for you folks out there that don’t know what VA S stands for. That’s building automation systems. And so tell us about that. Because I think you’re probably the first building automation specialists that we’ve had on what is that particular tab? What’s that scope all about?

So as a BAS technician, after the installs, you’re the one that comes in when customers having problems. You diagnose using various tools to include a laptop, various software packages. Once again, you got to be open you can’t say I want to specialize in one brand. You know you need to be open to be able to work on multiple brands because you have multiple customers, right if multiple needs. I’ll show up on a site check in with my site contact. He’ll take me to the piece of equipment not functioning correctly. I’ll plug in make a connection to the local controller. I may get on their front end It just depends on what the problem is. And I’ve been doing it so long that I can generally right off the bat know where I need to be. And then I go through programming, I go through points, I look for false alarms. And then because I also have the mechanical background, then I turn to start diagnosing the actual, say, air handler or the actual chiller. Right. But that’s, that’s a generalized scope of what I do. Right now. 98% of my work is with one of our largest clients. And I’m pretty much here all the time at this point. Because they just, it’s a big, big building with a whole lot of moving parts. And they need somebody that can help their maintenance people keep everything running smoothly, right.

Yeah. So you know, that’s really interesting, because this, this is a key thing that I want guys to know, out there is back. Back in the day, very few pieces of equipment were processor controlled, controlled by basically mini computers. And over the last, I don’t know, what do you say daemon decade or so we’re seeing the proliferation of processor control and all kinds of aspects of the of the trades in general, but especially in the HVAC business.

Right. Now, we’re, where we’ve got technology right now that would blow your mind. I’m able to turn on and off water fountains for customers that they want.

Right? Right. So you’re working. So you work for a service contractor. But your assignment is one particular customer. So you’re sort of like an extension of that of your customers facilities department. Right?

I wouldn’t say that, because I do still work for multiple customers, okay, multiple different locations, it’s just that this particular customer needs me the most. Okay, that now they’re going through a transition, and I’m here to help them through that, right.

Hey, guys, quick announcement, if you have not stopped into our website, at skill trade rescue.com, please do that on the homepage. Here, you will see that we have the Join the movement email list. If you haven’t signed up, please consider doing that we have some amazing guests lined up for the podcast, I’m going to be getting the stories out of successful technicians and business owners in skilled trades. These are not just HVAC people there’s going to people be from across the skilled trade spectrum. And my hope is that I’m going to be able to draw out of these people the things that have worked in their careers amazingly well. And the things that if they had a chance to talk to their younger self, what they would tell them not to do. So I want to share all that stuff with you. And if you sign up, you’re going to be the first to know when we dropped those new podcast episodes. Also coming soon we have the BDS T workshop. It’s a five day automated email workshop. However, you’re going to give content to us through that workshop, you’re gonna get one on one feedback from our instructors, instructors, and we’re looking to better your career. I’ve been teaching the BST process for many, many years, about two decades one on one, and I’m going to be trying to do that to the masses through this workshop. It’s totally free. All you got to do sign up. As soon as you do that, you’ll get alerts on your email, as soon as these new podcasts come in, as well as the BSD workshop. So if you check it out, I will put a link to the website on the show notes for this episode today. So check it out. Okay, and that, you know, that’s another thing too, is that if you’re if you get obviously you’re there at that particular customer, you’re it sounds like you’re their primary guy, right from your company at that. Yeah. And that’s actually a key thing. Because if, if key customers for the contractor that you’re working with, get the idea that you really know what you’re doing. You could get assigned projects like that. So you get it, you know, you develop a relationship with this customer at a much higher level than a typical technician. Right. Yes. Yeah, you know,

relationship with this particular customer’s very strong, right? And he believed he believes in me. He’s never questioned me, except for when we first met and started working together. Right. You know, he had questions now if I tell him, he’s just like, go with it. You know?

That’s a that’s a great place to be man. It really is. Well, cool. So tell me about Uh, one of your biggest success stories like something that really that you’re really proud of that has occurred or that you’ve done as part of your your HVAC, skilled trades journey some of the time.

Yeah. Bob, seven years ago I was sent to southern Louisiana to do an overhaul on a 1982 model train CB HB chill. It was only as a two wheeler, right. I had never even seen one never formed a maintenance on one. But I was at that point in time, the only one qualified to do that do that. We had a big, you know, thing and the guy that was supposed to do it took vacation. They sent me I get down there. My boss shows up to give me a quick, you know, quick rundown of how this machine works. Keeping in mind it hadn’t even been upgraded to DVC controls. It was still running Maddox. Yeah. So it was all new to me. At the end of the day, I completed the overhaul. The customer said the chiller had never run that smooth. And now they look at us for they’ve got two more of them. And they don’t want to change them out. He’s chillers around the 22nd storey of his building. So they don’t want to do change out. They want to keep the ones they have run and they trust us to keep them running.

That must have made you feel good, man. It did. It did. Yeah. Now what do you declare an overhaul? Is that the you tear down and compressors and just completely go through this thing? What roughly what was the scope of this overhaul that you did? This particular one

actually had a wider scope than what our normal overhaul process was? Right. So we did, we open both the evaporator and condenser Barrows. Cleaned the tubes got any current out there to do any current testing. We did tear down most stages that compressor, we took it down all the way from the evaporator to the condenser, the whole compressors and become a part we ended up having to change replaced some gaskets inside of the actual motor as part of this overhaul, and then the rebuild. clean everything up, you know, immaculate? You know, like painters say half the work is in the prep or three quarters of the work is in the prep. Yeah. So we spent a few days just cleaning flanges getting everything ready to go back together. We broke 23 bolts taking it apart. So they those all hadn’t be drilled and re tabs. Oh, yeah, it was it was the machine hadn’t been overhauled since 1993. And I think this was 2016 when

you can still find parts for those things, huh? Yes,

yes, it’s a gasket sets. But, you know, there are differences, but train keeps that old stuff because they know they still have the chillers out in the field.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Okay. Now what were they using this chiller for game? It was it was really? Yeah. Okay. Are you doing much stuff with process chillers? Or is it mostly nowadays? Are you doing much with process? Or is it mostly comfort, comfort stuff?

We’re mostly comfort stuff nowadays. But I just moved to Texas three years ago. And prior to that, I lived in Louisiana and one of my main customers there was actually up in Arkansas. And process cooling. They made aerospace foams.

Oh, wow. Okay.

Their loop temperature was negative 11 Celsius. Wow. So I had been you know, it was my task to keep that machine running because they did not back up.

Right. Right. Wow. So what what kind of habits I kind of touched on this in the opening Damon what kind of habits speaking to the new technicians out there do you find most important and I understand the one getting work getting to work on time and you know, that kind of stuff but putting that aside for a minute you know, what, what’s the secret sauce to becoming successful in in your, you know, in skilled trades in general like what’s your what’s your key things that you have found that have served you well and have really contributed to your advancement in your career? What types of things are that

one They would be just keeping an open mind. Don’t Don’t ever say I only want to do this, right? You want to know everything about your trade. Right? You, you, you have to be open to moving from department to department, as needed by your company, of course, and in some cases begging for it. Learn this, I gotta learn that. Okay, mentality will get you far I trained many of younger or young in the train, I should say, I’ve got one with me today that I’m training. They these two guys really impressed me. They never late and I hate harping on that, because that’s like real low on my priority list. But never like they always asking me questions. I can’t stand working with a new guy. And he’ll not ask me not one question about what we’re doing or why? Because that just shows me he doesn’t really want to learn it. Right? Right. You know, at that point, you start wondering if you’re wasting your time. So these guys are constantly asking me questions which cost somebody has me thinking and even kind of double guessing myself from time to time, so that a lot of it is mentality, you know, not to have the right mentality.

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That would be my biggest one.

Are you training a lot of guys these days so you say your training too. Now? Is that something that your boss is is leaning on you to bring up these these new guys?

They not Not really. It’s just that this job that I’m on, there’s so much to it that I couldn’t do it by myself. Right? It had to send. And when they do that they want to send like the apprentices are the junior technicians to be held for a senior, they’re not gonna send two senior guys on one job. That’s that’s a waste of time. But in the process, I take it upon myself, right to pass on my knowledge to them.

That’s so good. Damon, that is you know, it’s really interesting. You touched on this. Whenever you get in his situation, I found this when when you have to you have people just hammering you with questions, which is very motivational for, especially if you like if you have a heart of a teacher, which it seems like you do. It makes you smarter, right? Because you have to explain things in by verbalizing things that you already know and having to share with these guys. It keeps you sharp. Have you noticed that? Yes. Yeah.

myself a bunch just by explaining through a process, right. I’ve learned that my best teaching style is when I’m working on a chiller minutes, like a one man thing. I’m sitting there constantly talking to myself, so he hears me. That’s myself through the process. He’s picking up on this. And then the next children, I kind of step back and see if he’ll take control. And you know, everyone I’ve trained so far will step in there and take control until they get to the point where they’re telling me. No, you’re not doing this. You need to just be here to make sure we don’t make a boo boo.

All right. All right. Yeah, you know, one of the things that maybe you run into this, but when you’re, you know, at the top of your game, if you will, and I have a feeling and that’s kind of about where you are. We’re always learning stuff, but when you’re, you’re, you know, pretty competent in what you do. You’ve got you’re competent and confident in what you’re doing. There’s two types of apprentice technicians. The I used to call them the Klingons. You know, you’d have the ones that would they ran into a problem, so they immediately get on the phone with you. And you quickly turn into kind of like a crutch. I used to have that happen all the time. And I finally wised up, I finally wised up. And I would start answering questions with questions. You know, I would say something like, I don’t know, what do you think? And then, and then just shut up and see what they say. And after a while, they get the message. Right? Right. And then you have the guys that there, you have the guys that will only ask a question if they truly don’t know. Right, and that’s a different different animal altogether.

For the ones that just won’t ask questions, because they’re afraid to that you think badly about?

Yeah, yeah, you really, you really have to play to the crowd, man. You know, when you’re teaching guys, it’s uh, that’s awesome. So what’s the labor market like out there in Texas now? So you know, now that the pandemic is, is winding down, or whatever it is. Did you guys see any any slowdown through the pandemic, as far as job opportunities and stuff are gonna stay pretty? You guys are essential workers and you guys got your hours in?

Yeah, it pretty much stayed pretty level. But then after afterwards, you know, after that initial big scare that everybody was gonna die. It wouldn’t the Fridays for our trade, the workload, huge rain, we actually had to go on a hiring spree to get more. Yeah. Because they did go, you know, some odd months without calling us or not calling us but without doing the essential maintenance is they would call if they have something go down. Right. But, you know, they, most of our customers have stuff breaking on a daily basis. Right. That’s unfortunate. But, you know, it keeps us busy.

Yeah, that’s, that’s what I’m hearing nationally. Damon is it? Everybody stayed busy, because in general, in trades didn’t matter what trade it is. And he’s skilled trade, especially if you’re, you know, at the top of your game. Everybody remained busy throughout the pandemic. And then, once once the pandemic started to subside, you’re right, there was a lot of deferred maintenance, stuff that you know, because there just wasn’t enough people in the buildings. Right. So, you know, they, as soon as things started getting back to normal again, the workload just skyrocketed. So, you know, everybody that I know, is super, super busy right now. And they just can’t get enough hands to, you know, to man the ship, right.

Well, and I know, I know, our we get an applied labor report, we get to see it every month, breaks it down by area and by technician. I can’t remember what mine was last time I saw it. But this thing includes when you take PTO time that goes against unapplied labor. Right, I’m still staying in the 90 percentile area a pinata.

Wow. So let’s say you get somebody who’s, you know, decided to go into the trades. And you know, maybe they go and get a certificate course or, you know, they get some basic education about refrigeration. Are they going to get snapped up pretty quickly? It’s, I mean, is there a high likelihood that that person is going to get employed? Oh,

yes. Yes, for sure. Okay, well, we’re always hiring. We never we, in 13 years, I’ve worked here we’ve gone on one hiring freeze, and it didn’t last for a couple of months.

Yeah. Yeah. And what if you don’t mind me asking in Texas. So in general, you know, what, what are apprentice technicians first year guys and women? What are they starting out at now roughly in Texas,

depending on who you go to work for and what aspect of the trade, whether it be commercial, industrial residential, company is commercial, industrial and industrial. The apprentices if I’m not mistaken, start around 15 an hour. Okay. That’s that’s the guy that just graduated school. And then then they come to work for us, and we put them through a five year school. Okay, that’s it’s five years of incident. NCCE are training. Right. So then they get that on top of their trade school. certifications.

Are you guys union? No, you’re not. Okay. So what happens? Let’s say they get their five years in. What’s the NIT? You don’t need to be specific your company just in general. What’s a journeyman, in? In Texas down they’re making now?

Oh, gentlemen, not that I couldn’t tell you. I mean, I wouldn’t even be in the ballpark. Okay. I never went through a journey men’s program myself, literally have a Department of Defense.

EPA card? Well, let’s just say what’s top wage, I guess would be a better way to ask that. What’s, uh, what’s the top wage for senior HVAC? Commercial tech in Texas? Probably in the 40s. Okay. And then you got benefits on top of that? Yes. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, one of the things I’ve been, I’ve been hands on for months, actually, years now is all of the media, the, you know, the media skilled trades is a is a dirty, smelly thing that you know, you only do when nothing else works out, right. I mean, that’s the way it’s been fun. And everybody quotes the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you know, the, that’s, that’s like the gold standard on what skilled trades makes right. And it’s nowhere close to accurate. Just nowhere close to it. You know, so I haven’t looked, but I’ll bet you if I looked up your market in on the Bureau of Labor Statistics sites, and put in journeyman HVAC technician, it would probably say something in the 20 to $30 range, which is just nuts. It just doesn’t exist, you know, but

Yeah, cuz I mean, somebody who has been known at this long and has made it his life’s goal to learn every aspect of the trade. You’re getting offered is in the 20s and 30s. You’re doing something wrong, and you’re gonna be

Yeah, yeah, for sure. Well, very cool. So what what are you? What do you think that we need to do as an industry to attract new talent? Because, you know, you’re looking at me, I’m an old, you know, gray haired dude. And, you know,

it’s not exactly brown anymore. Yeah.

So you know, we’re getting old, right? And, you know, I’m out here in the Northwest. But I have these conversations all the time, you know, that. You look at the typical HVAC, actually skilled trade track, electricians, plumbers, doesn’t matter. You know, you’re at a stoplight, and you looking at that van next year, with the ladders on it, chances are pretty good at you’re gonna see somebody with a little more salt and pepper. Right, you know, so what, what can we do collectively, as, you know, the, the exiting crew to help, you know, attract more men, women to skilled trades in general. I mean, if you put your head around that at all.

For one thing is we need to get rid of the persona that this is, you know, dirty, nasty, extremely hard work. Right. It may have been back in the 80s. In the 90s, when I first got into it, know him still wasn’t at that point. And now, I mean, we have once again, we have stupid technology. We got we got stuff that one man can lift the 6000 pound compressor motor and move it not do for safety purposes, you would never do that. You would always have same thing for having put that up. But uh you know, it’s, it’s not like it used to be Yeah, you get hurt. You get crazy. You have some you have water. So we gotta get we gotta get rid of the idea that it’s just hard grueling work with no tech. And no, no, thanks. They these career fields probably get the most thanks. And Pat’s on the back than any other kind of industry. Yeah, you know, it’s just they like my house is I mean, I got out and drove in the snow to go take care of a customer. You don’t snow in Texas very often. So people here don’t know how to drive on. But I went and took care of the customer and they give me a exceed need award for

right. So yeah,

I guess More more of the advertising here. You always see lawyers offices and doctor’s offices and whatever on billboards, but you never see. Joe Schmo moves electrical, or, you know, Martin Seaton in there. You see that so much?

Yeah. Now you’re right. You’re right.

College program. Because down here, a lot of people are actually getting associate’s degrees in heating and air conditioning technology

through community colleges. Yes.

And, you know, bringing bringing that up, because, well, me personally, I have two college degrees. I have an Associates in it, and a bachelor’s in business. Wow. But you see what I’m doing for my living?

Yeah, that’s interesting. So did you do that right out of the military, use your GI Bill to go back to college,

I waited six years, I got I got injured no three and got sent home. And I waited until 2009, just to make sure I had the right mindset to devote to college. And then I started and three, three years later, graduated with my bachelor’s.

That’s so fascinating. So I want to hear about that. So you have a degree college degree? Obviously, you hit a crossroad somewhere, what what made you go into the trades versus? Well, I’m sure you can apply some of your, your college to what you’re doing now. But what what made you go into the trades versus, you know, like a white collar thing that you could have done with that degree?

Well, I was I was working, I was actually working for my current company. Before I even began, coach, oh, I started your store in January of oh nine, and I started school and that towards the end of that. So I was already working here. And I had already built a respect for the owner who’s since passed away. He greatly missed man, very technical person. But I’ve grown a certain level back for him. And his son was the VP of the company at all upper management. I had gotten such a huge amount of respect for them that I had already made up my mind, it didn’t matter if I graduated or not. I was going to stay at store. Right? sided to use my education for their benefit, then good to go. I would do it, but I will still be in the trades. Right? That’s fast. People just don’t impress me. Yeah, they they want me to be to clean shaven and stuff.

That’s fascinating. Because, you know, that’s, that’s sort of a theme that a lot. I’ve done a couple podcast interviews with military guys. And I and that’s a fascinating question to hear the answer to, because I’ve had several guys that, you know, like you was in the military, and they get out and some have injuries, some don’t. But they, they serve their country. And then they they’re at a crossroads they’re going okay, so I can, you know, I can go in, use my GI Bill and get, you know, get a college education. So they’re typically they can get through that with their GI Bill without a ton of debt. So that’s good. But it’s, it’s surprising to me that, you know, a lot of guys out of the military are choosing you go into the trades for various reasons, you know, some want to work for family businesses, some just didn’t want to be a suit and tie it sitting in a cubicle somewhere. You know, it’s so interesting to you know, to hear that.

A lot of us getting out of the service, though, we’re used to the, the more grueling environment, right workloads. So, you know, my MOS was refrigeration mechanic, but when I deployed, I actually deployed as a logistics NCO. So I was working outside of my MOS. So you know that that brings back to the keeping an open mind to learn new things, right. I was working on logistics shop with MOS and refrigeration, learning about logistics, preparing all the gear to ship to Kuwait. And in preparing the gear that came back when I did preparing it to come back. So open mind gets you so far in multiple aspects of life. It’s not just your career, right? Your personal life

Yeah, no, that’s that’s that’s a life lesson right there, man. That really is. Wow. So hey, we’ve been we’ve been on this about little over half hour now did it go by quick?

Did even watching the time?

Yeah. Hey, so I it’s totally okay if you don’t want to but do you if we have a newbie somebody out there that’s thinking about getting in skilled trades wants to send you a quick email? Would it be okay for just Do you have an email you’re okay with sharing with the world out there case these guys have questions. Yes.

By all means I’ll speak with anybody that I’ve given my phone number.

No, no, you don’t want to do that. I’m not

going here but even person want to talk? Yeah. But my email is Damon Da Mo n 3270 zero@gmail.com

Awesome. That’s great. Yeah, that’d be cool. I appreciate you sharing that it’ll go out there and, and, you know, we need more guys like you that are willing to get on and share their their adventures. It sounds like you’ve you’ve you’re on you’re living the dream, dude. Pretty much. It How are you like in Texas?

Love it. Wife and I’ve had our pet actually been talking about moving over here since about Lord 2012 Maybe? Uh huh. I just still had a bunch of family left in Louisiana and didn’t really want to get away from them. Yeah, so soon after coming home. So we didn’t we just kept putting it off. And then when my mother passed away, that was it. It was yeah, that was 2013. And we moved over, we ended up moving to 19.

Well, that’s awesome, man. All right. Well, thanks for joining us payment. I’m gonna go ahead and actually, before we go, any final parting words for the next generation out there just parting words.

Just give it your own. Up, you can try and fail. That’s perfectly okay. It’s not trying. That’s the bad thing that gets you in trouble.

So that is it. I hope you enjoy this episode. I very much look forward to continuing to connect with you. Please don’t hesitate to send me messages on LinkedIn. I’m on there all the time. Or you can reach out to me on my email. I’m at M King at process tiller. academy.com And until next week, when I give you the next installment I wish you a great week, and I will connect up with you again soon. Take care. Bye bye

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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