Two generations keep contractor open, running and successful
LONG ISLAND CITY, NY – From a business standpoint, the Weickert family has been through every major economic downturn in American history. But a long history in the sheet metal industry has kept the family and their determination afloat for nearly a century.
Hans Weickert opened his specialty copper roofing and tinning company in 1923. By the time the Depression and World War II took their toll, the company folded, but Weickert took the misfortune and opened Craft Sheet Metal with a partner in 1946.
Three generations worked at Craft Sheet Metal, including brothers John and Tom Weickert, who left to open Weickert Sheet Metal (now Weickert Industries) in Long Island City, New York in 1982. Their children – Lisa, Tom, Chris, Stephen and John Weikert III – grew up in the shop, sweeping, cleaning and doing menial labor during the summers. That bond built the team that operates Weickert Industries today.
With John and Tom Weickert at the helm, their children run the day-to-day operations, including on-the-job functions such as installation, measuring, fire life safety and testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB), which is the balancing of air to make buildings comfortable and safe.
“We’re all active on every project, every day,” said Stephen Weickert. “About 20 percent of our personal time is used balancing or installing a specific project with the other 80 percent leading and training the team.”
Lisa Weickert, the only female out of the five cousins and the first female hired by the company, is a former nanny and kindergarten teacher. Although she knew a lot about the company, including the work performed, she wanted to learn every aspect. She has completed courses and certifications through the International Certification Board (ICB) as well as attends the annual ICB/TABB (Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Bureau) Conference and learns as much from her family as possible.
“As long as I’ve been alive, the company has been in existence and a part of our family culture. All five of us used to come in during the summers. I broke the mold of females typically working in the office and got out there with my brother and cousins to learn the trade and perform identical tasks,” Lisa Weickert said. “When I came to work for Weickert full time, I got out there on the job site and took advantage of ICB classes and certifications. Pretty much anything I’m qualified to take with ICB, I try to sign up and do.”
The five cousins adopted a lean construction management style, developing processes and systems for all parts of Weickert Industries. Together, they divide and conquer, focusing on their goals while maintaining efficiency and working to promote air balancing in the sheet metal industry.
“We really honed in on the lean construction idea. Every project focuses on the value we can bring to the client,” Stephen Weickert said. “We can provide value to the customers from all aspects.”
Their management style is largely based on trust, which also was forged in those summers in the shop.
“Working with family is extremely difficult. We make it look easy,” said Stephen Weickert, with a laugh.
“We keep work and personal separate, but the personal helps keep that trust,” added Lisa Weickert. “A lot of our closeness had to do with this company. It has always been a part of us. Steve, Tom and John’s kids will come in when they don’t have school and count screws. It’s exciting to watch the next generation.”
The Weickerts, as well as many other signatory contractors with SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association), rely on certifications from ICB/TABB (International Certification Board/Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Bureau) as a statement the technician, supervisor and contractor demonstrate the highest level of professional expertise. ICB/TABB is the first program to gain ANSI (American National Standards Institute) accreditation for certification in the testing, adjusting and balancing industry.
Those certifications are supported by the National Energy Management Committee (NEMIC), a not-for-profit organization jointly funded by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and SMART. NEMIC identifies opportunities, seeking to create or expand employment for SMART members and programs that assist SMACNA contractors.
For additional information on ICB/TABB, visit the website at www.icbcertified.org.