Charlie Greer is well known in air conditioning and plumbing, primarily as a consultant and industry trainer for salespeople and technicians. While many people start as technicians and later become salespeople, Charlie, in typical fashion, did it in reverse. Charlie cut his teeth in the industry as a salesperson working along side Tom McCart at Ron Smith’s Modern Air Conditioning. At Modern, Charlie established himself as one of the top replacement sales people in the HVAC industry, eventually becoming the company’s top producer and later, its sales manager.
Charlie believed air conditioning technicians and plumbers could perform better in the field. Since technicians and plumbers tend to be skeptics when management comes up with new ideas to help them, Charlie decided to prove it. He worked on the truck. He became a plumber and an air conditioning technician to gain credibility, to increase his effectiveness. Charlie will do just about anything to increase effectiveness, to get through to the people he’s trying to help.
In his training, Charlie would often ride along with plumbers and technicians to coach and demonstrate. He wasn’t coaching and demonstrating the technical aspect of the jobs, though he did pick up quite a few tips through the years that he willingly shares. Charlie was showing field service personnel how rewarding it could be to help people solve their problems. It was rewarding to see the customer’s reaction when a long-standing problem or irritation was fixed. And, it was financially rewarding both for the technician or plumber and for the contractor who employed him.
Charlie paid his dues in the field and embarked on a career to share his knowledge and approaches with others. To some, it might appear to be a glamorous life. It wasn’t. It was living in hotels, working long hours, and doing whatever it took to help his clients. From time to time, former clients would seek Charlie's input on the possibility of becoming consultants themselves. After he sent them a long letter describing the duties and requirements, most had second thoughts.
The problem with Charlie’s consulting work was that he could only reach a few people at a time. Charlie took a year off from travelling and plunged into video, learning the ins and outs of video production and editing. A former actor, Charlie already knew how to perform before the camera.
The result was the “Tec Daddy” DVD training program for technicians. Literally thousands of technicians have benefited from this landmark production. There’s nothing else like it. Tec Daddy has become an integral part of the training programs for many contractors.
Tec Daddy wasn’t Charlie’s first foray into training via media. He created the air conditioning industry’s first audio sales training program, "The NO EXCUSES! Workshop on Residential Replacements." He later added "Overnight Success in P.M." Recently, Charlie updated and expanded the sales training with a new CD program, “The Slacker’s Guide to HVAC Sales.” The Slacker’s Guide is not only one of the best audio CD programs on HVAC sales that’s ever been produced, it’s one of the best audio CD programs on sales that’s ever been produced.
Despite a busy training and media production schedule, Charlie finds time to write. He pens a monthly column for Contracting Business Magazine. While it’s undoubtedly good PR, Charlie’s not paid to write. It’s not something he does for money. It’s something he does to teach, to help, and to serve the industry.
People like Charlie seldom get the credit they deserve for all of the things they accomplish. This is because much of it is behind the scenes and much if it is private. Not many people know, for example, the pivotal role Charlie Greer played in the formation of the air conditioning industry’s consolidation movement. Similarly, not many people know the myriad of ways Charlie has helped individual contractors, technicians, and plumbers. That’s the way Charlie wants it. While Charlie is certainly flamboyant and promotional, he is also incredibly humble.
Few people know the real Charlie Greer. When Charlie produces media or delivers live training he’s performing. He’s playing a role. It’s theater. He’s so good at it some mistake it for the real Charlie. The real Charlie is the individual who chooses to play the role because it makes him more effective, it helps him stimulate positive change, it helps him make a difference.
Few people see the real Charlie. Few people see the man who agonizes about the people he couldn’t help; usually because they wouldn’t let him. Nothing offers a window into Charlie’s soul better than his relationship with his colleague, rival, and friend, Tom McCart.
Charlie and Tom were colleagues at Modern, but were competitors as well. Each tried to outsell the other. After Modern, both became consultants and sales trainers. Though each downplayed it, they were fierce competitors. Charlie’s training program was called, “No Excuses.” Tom’s was, “No Secrets.”
They were fierce competitors, but also friendly competitors. They didn’t see each other as enemies. Their relationship was like two brothers. One brother may fight the other, but is also the first to rush to his defense.
Upon learning that Tom was diagnosed with ALS, Charlie immediately dropped everything and rushed to see his friend. Tom was fighting depression in the face of fate's death sentence. He was near suicidal.
Charlie and Tom spent long hours together. Charlie tried to shake Tom out of his malaise. He reminded him of reasons for living. He highlighted the things Tom still had to offer. He pointed out ways Tom could still contribute to the world. According to Tom's wife, Diane, when Charlie left, Tom had a new outlook on life.
"It only took one visit from Charlie," said Diane, "And Tom was refocused."
Near the end of his struggle, Tom credited Charlie with saving his life.
"Ah, I just showed up," said Charlie.
"You did more than that," said Tom, "And you know it."
Charlie and Debra Pre-Greer, his finance, visited the McCarts regularly during Tom’s illness. They ran errands. They made themselves available 24/7. Charlie became the first person the Diane would call if she needed help because Charlie lived nearby and always rushed to help. There were many calls in the middle of the night. Each time Charlie hurried to help.
Diane says Charlie helped Tom physically, financially, and most of all, emotionally. Charlie started marketing Tom's books, providing a much needed revenue source as the bills piled up and the health insurance was canceled following a heart attack. When Diane and Tom insisted on paying Charlie a commission, he acted offended. He wasn't doing it for the money.
At Tom's funeral, Charlie Greer offered a eulogy. "I lost my best friend," he said. And Charlie Greer, known for his tough guy, hard nosed persona in the plumbing and air conditioning industries, proceeded to lose control. He turned away from the podium, took a moment to collect himself, and somehow finished. This is the real Charlie Greer, who few people ever see.
Charlie is someone who cares deeply about his clients and friends. Because he cares, he pours himself into the products he offers. He performs so others might achieve more. He cajoles, nudges, taunts, and applauds to help others become more successful.
Charlie is a true Servant Leader.