Appreciating New Yorker’s Work Ethic

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I recently went on vacation to South Florida to visit family and take in the sun before winter takes full hold of us in New York. But as one addicted to work, I always find myself talking to locals about real estate related topics, regardless of where I travel. And, as if work had to find me, I ended up sitting in on a meeting my uncle set up with an air conditioning company that had botched an HVAC job at his vacation condo.

Now, my uncle happens to live in, of all places, Germany — arguably the most perfectionist-driven and regulated construction and business place on earth. So, naturally, he was it his wits end with a contractor that: was way behind an agreed-upon timeline, did a poor job and appeared to be playing games on price.

In Germany, according to his stories, this company would not only never find customers, but would be charged with business misconduct, heavily fined and forced to close down. In the end, they negotiated corrections at no charge and the contractor ended up making things right, and my uncle was happy.

This post, however, is not about the botched job, but about my conversation with the owner of the AC firm. He explained to me that in the 17-plus years he’s been installing air conditioning systems in South Florida, he has never encountered — not once — anyone as detail obsessed and as demanding of perfection as my German-brainwashed uncle. He did not think my uncle was unreasonable or crazy. To the contrary, he thanked my uncle for “lessons in business” and for tips that, in the future, may help him differentiate himself from the competition.

 

Drastically different window views from a condo in South Florida and one in Long Island City is one set of contrasts. Work ethic (on average) may be another.

In all the years he’s been doing this, he found clientele always focused on the cheapest, fastest possible fix, not long-term, best quality solutions. So, he built his business cutting corners, finding acceptable, but not necessarily good ways, to install and repair AC systems, all while providing best value. And, more interestingly, he complained to me how difficult it is to find dedicated perfectionists, workers proud of their craft.

He had grown up in Upstate New York and was raised in the construction business that demanded high quality craftsmanship first. Yet, in his opinion, to find employees with the same mentality as folks up in the Northeast, he’d have to, well, import them toFloridafrom the Northeast. “Here Down South everyone is laid back and focused more on their leisure than their work. Good way to live, not good for business.”

Sure, it’s just one story and we have bad contractors up here in New York as well. Yet hearing him say that 15 percent leakage of ductwork is considered standard made me cringe and made me glad the real estate I sell and rent is mostly leak-free, built of masonry and steel, and the ductwork made of aluminum sheet, not flex cardboard covered with aluminum foil like they do it in South Florida.