James Morgan is the president and CEO of Worcester Air Conditioning LLC in Ashland, Massachusetts. He has been leading the company since 2008.
Worcester Air is a commercial union sheet metal contractor that provides design, manufacturing, and installation services of ductwork for heating and cooling purposes in large commercial buildings. Worcester Air Conditioning LLC works to support the needs of hospitals, laboratories, college dormitories, performing art centers to name a few businesses that look to WAC for quality ductwork systems. All of these systems are highly engineered and precisely manufactured. The company works on a range of new buildings as well as renovation work. All of Worcester Air’s work is electronically drawn in 3D CAD. Worcester Air Conditioning LLC works mainly for customers in Boston and Cambridge but also service businesses in Providence, Rhode Island, and for the universities of Western Massachusetts.
What made you choose to go into (industry)?
Early in my career, I worked for two multibillion-dollar corporations and I realized that my interests and skills were more suited to running smaller companies where I could have broader responsibility earlier in my career.
Subsequently, most of the companies that I have been involved with have been middle-market firms and “old economy” products like food manufacturing, beverage manufacturing, publishing, and construction. I have enjoyed the variety of industries that I have had the opportunity to work in. I have enjoyed being involved at a leadership level and having responsibility as a general manager at each organization.
I particularly enjoyed publishing the Shrewsbury Chronicle because it was a startup that I funded on my own. It was one of the few towns in the state of Massachusetts that did not have its own weekly newspaper. We printed stories about local interests, families, team sports, and the youth growing up, and it created a real sense of community in Shrewsbury.
Now, as the president and CEO of Worcester Air Conditioning LLC, to be able to lead a company in a progressive market like Boston has been very interesting to me. It has been rewarding to bring ideas that have been successful in other businesses to the construction industry.
What do you find most challenging about your career?
With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, we were put in a situation where we had to lay off a substantial number of people who needed to and wanted to work. It was heartbreaking for me to have to do that. I am happy to say that we have re-hired all of those individuals who wanted to come back to work, and we are back to being very busy in Boston and Cambridge now. Now the challenge is to continue to create a work environment where people can work safely and continue to develop their careers.
What is one piece of advice you would give someone starting in your industry?
Work, just like sports, is competitive, particularly for young people who are looking to move forward. They face competition just like they would in a game of ice hockey or tennis. In order to stand out and make yourself look different, particularly early in your career, the easiest way to do that is to do a little more than is expected of you, work a little harder, ask a few more questions, and be enthusiastic. When you come across like that, you create an environment where people want to take you under their wing. That is a terrific way to gain the interest of a mentor, and mentors are a great way to move forward.
If you could change anything about your industry what would it be and why?
I think the trades need to figure out a way to coordinate their work together so that projects become more efficient. Now, in many ways, each individual subcontractor is working to increase the efficiency of his own work, sometimes at the expense of the project as a whole, and I think creating a more cooperative, work-together attitude is critical.
How would your colleagues describe you?
I believe I am seen as a collaborative person and somebody who likes to facilitate groups working together. I am competitive. I want to win, and I want to build teams that have a high degree of confidence and are capable of winning.
How do you maintain a solid work-life balance?
It is important for me to spend time with my family traveling or doing interesting things. One good thing that has occurred due to the pandemic is the increase in family dinners that we have been able to share together.
I really enjoy playing sports. When I was younger, up until a couple of years ago, I played ice hockey twice a week. I play tennis and golf, and I try to do some activities outside the office four or five times a week.
What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?
We adopted a software technology called Microsoft Teams. It can be used on multiple platforms. It can be used on a smartphone, a tablet, or a desktop or laptop computer. It allows teams to come together and collaborate using video calls, chat, the ability to post files and photos, and the ability to meet together irrespective of where individuals are. It has been instrumental in allowing us to run our business during the pandemic, and it will continue to play a very significant role in the way we approach our work afterward.
What does success look like to you?
The definition of success for me has changed over my career. Right now, making sure that our company is properly managed and capitalized so that it can be profitable over the long term, not only for its ownership but to be a good workplace for young developing leaders is probably the most important thing to me.
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