News &

30 Mar

Springboard to Success: Apprentice Competition Creates Culture of Excellence

It was 19 years ago when Frank Winiecki of General Sprinkler Corporation told me about an event that would have an enormous impact on my future and the future of our company. Frank was a mentor in the sprinkler world to our founder Marty Hammon. I think this fact alone represents what the AFSA is all about: people, helping people. I was sitting in Frank’s office when he worked me into a lather about the possibility of representing our region and Rapid Fire Protection in the Apprentice Competition at the AFSA 1995 National Convention in Palm Desert, Calif.

Several months later I found out that I had indeed qualified to compete in the AFSA National Apprenticeship Competition along with six other contestants. What I saw at that convention was an association of competitors that were friends. An association of people committed to help each other build successful businesses. An association that really believed in what they were doing, understanding that fire sprinklers do save lives. In poker terms, I was all in. I didn’t have many chips to contribute to the pot at that time, but I knew that I had found what I wanted to do.

Twenty years ago when Marty started our firm with a couple of us young guys that he made partners, he knew that our success would be closely tied to AFSA. The AFSA apprenticeship program and competition are second to none and have created a culture of excellence with our field crews. We have been fortunate to have 14 national finalists in the 20-year history of the competition.

Many of our past apprentice qualifiers are now in positions of leadership within our firm. Our apprentices are driven to learn every nook and cranny that they can about our industry as they strive to “be the next one.” The value to them and ultimately to us, is in the process. Even the young men that don’t qualify, really do win as they have made themselves better through study and preparation.

We are thankful to Bob McCullough for dreaming of and then bringing this competition to life. It has fueled success and growth in our firm and throughout this industry. This value alone for any company would surpass the dues that are required to be a member of the AFSA. Trust me... it isn’t even close. Add in the many other values such as the sprinkler forums, technical support, educational and relationship opportunities and a membership in this association becomes the easiest business decision you have ever made. We clearly understand what the AFSA and in particular the apprenticeship program and contest have done for our company. I am confident it can do the same for yours.

Rod DiBona
Vice President
Rapid Fire Protection, Inc.