After years of working in various occupations – including customer service, landscaping, and sales – Victor Grigorenko has finally found a job that feels like a perfect fit. As an HVAC apprentice for Precision Air in Portland, Oregon, he has embraced working with his crew and learning all manner of skills related to heating and cooling repair. Learning a trade is proving to be a popular career choice for young people, and Grigorenko is heading for all the certifications he needs to establish himself as an independent technician that will allow him to have the life he wants to lead with his fiancé.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I held several different jobs but none of them really fit me. I was talking with the owner of Precision Air, who went to the church I go to, and it got me thinking about doing HVAC work. He offered me an apprenticeship and I decided to jump in. I have two uncles who are in the union for HVAC, and they were excited when they learned I was interested. They have been very encouraging. It’s really been everything I could have wanted in an occupation. The work is interesting to me. I’m fascinated by the technical aspects of things, how it all works. Right now, there are some “dirty jobs” where you go into a crawlspace or attic, but those are not too bad. But moving on in the industry, it can get a lot more technical and less about physical labor.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My schedule differs depending on the customer. Some of our customers want us there early, and some want us there a little later. Regardless, I usually head out to the supply house around 7:30am. I clock in and start my workday by picking up the equipment needed for the jobs I’m doing that day. From there, I drive to the job site and meet up with the crew lead. He supervises me in the work that I do. I am working and learning at the same time. We mostly do installations of new furnaces or AC units, swapping out old for new, though sometimes there are jobs we have where there is no pre-existing system, so we have to install a brand new furnace or AC. Furnace and AC jobs can take all day long. Every now and then we will have a few jobs in a day where we are running a gas line or putting in an appliance or water heater, and those go quickly enough that we can go from one job to the next.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We run into challenges all the time in the work setting, for example, how we might run the exhaust from the furnace to minimize clutter so it’s not an eyesore. There are also issues that come from code regulations, like finding a place for an AC unit in a house that is tight on space. We can’t place the AC under the window so we need to find a place with room enough to fit it. It can be like solving a puzzle to find the best option that fits within regulations, and creative thinking enters the picture to problem solve like this.
What’s one trend that excites you?
When I started working with the company, I was buying work clothes that would durable and warm. A company that caught my eye was Carhartt. They make work boots, clothes and gear, mostly for tradesman. I bought a bunch of Carhart work gear that I liked, and a month later I find out that is starting to be a popular brand of wear in general.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I try to stay busy. If I’m not doing anything, I can get bored and my time starts to drag. Once I’m done with something, I move on to the next thing so I’m not standing around. It’s a habit that keeps me productive at work.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would advise my younger self to be persistent in whatever I am doing, even if it’s something I don’t like. Stay persistent, because things change all the time. If you are doing something you don’t like, you’re not going to be doing it forever, but you will be developing positive characteristics that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Work in the crawlspace is not too bad as long as it’s not dirty.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Double check everything. Every now and then you overlook something, and those errors can be bad for any repairman. Always doublecheck all your work before the job is done.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Organization, whether you’re an employee or whether you’re running your own business, is super important. When someone is disorganized it can affect the whole process. If things are missing, it takes time to keep the process going. If the company is organized, and you have the materials you need when you need them, it allows for a quicker job and more efficient workflow.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I was learning how to braze, a soldering technique, I was taking significantly longer than others, but it would always be leakproof and it would be a good solder. But then I decided to try a different technique to do it faster, and the way I was doing it actually burned a hole in the copper line. It was a disaster. That was one failure that I encountered. I cut the copper and put the couplings on there and had to redo the whole thing.
Now I take my time to do the solder even though I take a bit longer, but at least the job is getting done right. It helped me understand that you have to go at your own pace. I want to get things done quicker. It takes time and practice to get quicker, but I can’t hurry the process by trying to take shortcuts.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I don’t know how practical it would be, but I have an interesting idea for an app. I’ve been talking to some of my friends, and sometimes we set our alarms for the morning a little bit earlier and instead of waking up right away, we want to snooze a couple of times. My idea was to set up an app that would be like an alarm app that would let you to snooze, but it would penalize you, like charging you a dollar each time you hit it. That would discourage you from trying to snooze, and instead encourage you to wake up quicker. The charges would be distributed to your friends or to a savings account that would make you think more about why you’re waking up in the morning in the first place and help build good habits.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought my fiancé a pair of Nike Ace Air Force 1 shoes. It was a surprise and she really loved them.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We use Housecall Pro. It has just about everything we need for work, like job site, job address, job description, supplies we need to pick up, customer information. We clock in on it and clock out. It’s all on the app.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki. It’s a good book for financial health and knowledge. It helps you understand the importance of saving and investing.
What is your favorite quote?
“Keep calm and carry on.”
• Productivity at work is important.
• Have a positive outlook on life.
• Keep going until you find the occupation that is right for you.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.