Roger Grochmal always giving it his all

By Adam Freill

In trying to find a few words that capture the essence of what has made Roger Grochmal a pillar of the Canadian mechanical industry for the past 45 years, terms like hard work, dedication and caring come easily to mind, but it is his willingness to share that stands out the most.

A contributor to every edition of Mechanical Business since Day 1, Grochmal has always been willing to share the knowledge that he and his team at AtlasCare, a mechanical contracting firm located west of Toronto, put into serving their customers.

“There are no unique secrets in this industry. If you look on the internet, it’s all there,” he explained during a recent chat at his office in Oakville, Ont. “It is not the knowledge; it is the ability to implement that knowledge. Failure to implement is what hurts companies.”

Of course, there will be some company owners who are able to implement some of the systems and ideas that he is more than willing to discuss, and Roger is very good with that.

“Canada is a big country, and there is plenty of room for good contractors to operate. I would always want to operate in a market where my competitors know what they are doing,” he says.

“If they understand their cost structure, price their work properly, and hire and train quality people, it is good for all of us.”


Finding an escape

When Roger isn’t filling his time at the office, a conference or industry event, you might find him sketching, painting, reading or out on a golf course or in a river.

He’s a member of a fly-fishing club on the Beaver River, near Thornbury, Ont., and does his best to get on a river whenever an opportunity, and season, presents itself.

“I fish all over the place,” admits the avid fly fisherman. “It’s really relaxing.”

Sometimes he’s even been known to mix golfing and angling. “I throw a fishing rod in the golf bag and take it with me. You never know what will happen,” he says.


Drafted into the trade

The first in his family to get a formal post-secondary education, Grochmal claims, “I didn’t choose this industry; it chose me,” as he was recruited by Trane Canada shortly after finishing his degree in electrical engineering at University of Alberta.

“Once in, however, I was all-in, and I committed my future to it,” he adds. “I always felt that I had an obligation to do whatever I could to make the industry a better place for all of us.”

It probably didn’t hurt that his first steps into the industry were as part of a six-month training program at Trane’s facilities in Wisconsin with an international group of fellow sales engineers. “We had six months of fun in Lacrosse,” he laughs.

After a couple of years at Trane, Roger took an opportunity to be part of a management development program at Black & McDonald. “They would bring you in and you would learn about the whole business, and the expectations of the owners,” he says.

That one-year program turned into nine years with the firm, where he learned to run their service business in Ontario, and was able to glean knowledge from such mentors as Bill and John McDonald and Doug Kitchen.

“I have always had coaches and mentors,” says Grochmal. “You can’t do it all alone, especially now. I don’t think I’ve ever worked a year without a coach, partner or mentor in my entire working career. It kept me on the right path.”


Empowering your people

A company is only as strong as its people, and the better a job that your people do to take care of your customers, the better it is for the company, and the people within it, yourself included. It’s a cycle that has some fantastic benefits for everyone when a company manages to get it right.

So, how do you empower your crew so that they know what to do, and how to represent your brand and reputation, no matter what challenge comes up?

“The only path is to have a well-articulated and understood set of values,” says Grochmal. As companies get larger, it is very hard to put a prescriptive path to follow in all situations, so he has found that the best path forward can often be found by asking a simple question: Is it good for the customer and good for the company?

“You can really streamline a lot of things if you can answer that question honestly.”


Roger Grochmal
Chairman & CEO
Oakville, Ont.
Age: 69
Joined the industry: 1973


Roger Grochmal’s Keys to a Successful Career
• Never stop learning. It is a lifelong activity.
• Work hard. It won’t go unnoticed.
• Network. Get to know your competitors, suppliers, customers and employees.
• Get involved. Volunteer your time. Join trade organizations. Be active in your community. People notice.
• Always have a mentor. Everyone needs someone to “check their backswing.”

“I’ve had to deal with a lot of loss. I’ve lost two wives and a brother, so you learn to embrace each and every day. I stay close with my family and enjoy every moment for what it gives me. You have to enjoy every day. There is no rehearsal in life.”

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