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Heart of the matter

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  • | 11:00 a.m. April 29, 2016
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Writing a book is no small endeavor, so you've got to wonder how Theo Etzel found the time.

After all, Etzel is a supremely busy man. He's the president and CEO of Conditioned Air, growing the company to $45 million in revenues last year. “This is personal to me,” Etzel says. “It was a labor of love.”

The 192-page book, “Invest Your Heartbeats Wisely” (Greenleaf Book Group Press, $19.95), took two years to complete. Etzel enlisted the help of a ghostwriter, a professional who has written other books of this nature. “I hired her to get it organized, and she knows the publishers,” he says, declining to disclose her identity.

Etzel estimates it cost about $30,000 to hire the writer and work with the editor and publisher at Greenleaf to print the first edition of 4,000 hardback copies. “I like things done well, professionally,” he says.

But Etzel wasn't starting from scratch. The entrepreneur is well known in Naples for his talks on management with groups of CEOs such as Vistage and Ancora. “I had notes on the topic,” he says.

Etzel says he devoted many early mornings to writing and editing, driven by a desire to write down his management philosophy for an audience that includes his family. “Part of it was legacy,” he acknowledges.

But clearly the book is aimed at other critical audiences, too. Those include prospective customers and employees of Conditioned Air as well as a guide for others in an industry that has seen its share of shady operators.

Etzel, who tells readers in his book he hates being called “boss,” offers management guidelines based on biblical principles. Much of it is common sense, but it is a refreshing break from the data-driven management books that populate the bookstore shelves today.

Readers gain insight into how Etzel runs Conditioned Air and sets it apart from less scrupulous competitors. In practical terms, for example, he explains how the company's technicians don't earn commissions on equipment they sell and have no sales quotas that might tempt them to charge customers for unnecessary parts. Instead, they're paid a high hourly wage and earn rewards for positive customer feedback.

The message: “This is how you should expect us to treat you,” Etzel says. “This is not all about the buck. You can run a company based on the Golden Rule.”

It's a great recruiting tool, too. Prospective employees who read Etzel's book may be encouraged to apply, an important tool now that their skills are in high demand. “This is who I am and this is what I believe,” Etzel says.

Heartfelt management
Here's a sample of the management advice you'll find in “Invest Your Heartbeats Wisely,” a new book by Theo Etzel, the president of Conditioned Air in Naples.

Listen more, talk less.
Practice PRIDE: Personal responsibility in daily leadership.
Allow people to fix problems themselves to learn a new skill.
Think bigger than just the customer's immediate need.
Be sure to communicate the “why” of what you do.
Never forget that, as a leader, your No. 1 priority for your company is to earn a profit.
A sound exit strategy and a plan for succession are critical for the health and well being of your company.
Hire people who are smarter than you.
Show team members the results of their efforts.
Be aware of signs of burnout in yourself and others.

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss


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