Eric developed this page for one reason: To give a big THANK YOU to the folks that have helped him along the way both personally and professionally. Of course, our customers go to the top of this list, but there are WAY too many of those to name individually.
All too often, people and organizations will name an award, or a building, or even an entire WEEK after someone that has been a big influence to them or to a certain organization or cause. Unfortunately, this doesn't generally happen until AFTER that person has left this world. I felt it important to let these folks know how much influence they have had on me while they are still here! Of course, some of the folks HAVE left this world, but many of them are still around, continuing to influence others as they have myself.
For the most part, I can honestly say: If it were not for these folks, I would not be in this business, and as successful at it as I am today. And for that, I thank you ALL! And, of course, they are in no particular order.
Some of the names below don't have any stories or reasoning associated with them. That's not because they were less influential, it's strictly because I haven't gotten there yet. As is our entire web site, this page is a constant work in progress. Please check back often for more details.
Kerry Haldeman - Ok, well this one is in the right order. Kerry is my extremely understanding wife. I remember many days, early in the Rhino Chimney Service business, I was ready to give up and find another line of work, or go to work for someone else. Kerry continued (and still continues) to put my head back on straight, and make me look at the big picture. She makes me realize that the particular problem I am having, really isn't that bad, and that with a little bit of thought and work, it will all work out. And as much as I hate to admit it, she is generally right. There is no doubt, without my wife and her understanding, I would be nowhere near the person I am today. Thank you honey, you truly are the best!
Denny Haldeman - This is my dad! He, along with my mom have always been super supportive in whatever crazy idea I come up with! Last minute installation help, running errands, bouncing ideas off of, dad is always there whenever I ask! If others had a list like this, I am certain he would be on many more lists, too!! This is actually a pretty short paragraph for everything he has done for me (and the rest of my family). However, if I were to list ALL the things he has done to make an impact on me, there would be miles upon miles of text here. Thanks, Dad!!
Ashley Eldridge - I remember sitting is a class at an HPBA Expo years back (before Rhino Chimney Service was in existance), talking to Ashley about sweeping chimney, installing liners, and everything associated with the "chimney" side of our business. Ashley gave me the courage (although several years before I needed it) to pursue a career in the chimney sweeping and repair side of this business. Ashley was also one of my instructors at Certified Chimney Sweep School. Whenever I showed up at the training facility, Ashley was ALWAYS already there. Even if I was a half hour early - his car may have been the only on in the lot! I asked him if he ever left, or if he lived there, to which he just chuckled. Well, one day I got really creative and showed up for class about an hour and a half early (about 6.30 am if I remember correctly), and by golly I actually BEAT Ashley there! He showed up no more than 5 minutes after I got there, noticed who was sitting in the vehicle, and just began laughing. It was a truly, memorable moment!
Bob Fish - Another instructor of mine at Certified Chimney Sweep School. He might have given me the single most important piece of business information I have ever received. During training, he asked the class "When you get so busy, you can no longer handle all the calls, and sweeps, and repair work by yourself anymore, and you decide it is time to hire your first employee, what kind of employee are you going to hire?". My answer was the same as everyone else in the class room "I'm going to hire another chimney sweep". Bob's response: "WRONG! You're going to hire an office manager". Of course, it didn't make sense until he explained a little further. He asked "Did you get into this business to do paperwork?". Of course the answer was "no". He continued "Why would you take your BEST chimney sweep out of the field and put him in the office and let someone less experienced in the field to deal one on one with your customers?". Hmmmmm ..... I think Bob was on to something! So, just a few short months after I started Rhino Chimney Service, I remember getting back to the office after a day of sweeping and repairs and having a slew of phone calls to return. Well, after cleaning up my truck and myself it was awful late, and I certainly wasn't going to call my potential customers back at 8 or 9 pm! So, it might be a couple days before I got them called back. Well, guess what? They didn't wait! Most of them had already called someone else and gotten on their schedule. So, I decided I needed help. I must admit, my first thought was to hire another sweep until I remembered Bob, just a few months earlier saying "WRONG!". I hired a part time office manager, and I have had one ever since! Good call, Bob!
Dave Pomeroy - For those of you that did not know Dave, you really missed out! Dave was the first person I had ever heard mention "lean" when talking about running a business. Lean means (to me) efficiency. I don't really have one point or specific story to share about Dave, as I have taken countless numbers of his classes, including one of my very first certification classes. One thing I learned from Dave that has stuck with me over the years: Have a separate tool box (I think he called them work boxes) for most every job you do. For example, if you are going in to the customers house to work on a gas fireplace, take the "gas fireplace repair" box. In it was all the common tools AND replacement parts needed to repair a gas fireplace. Fewer trips to the truck means less time. Less time means more money. Dave even spoke of calculating how much money each step a technician takes, costs the company. YES, every step costs the company an extra .07, and the average trip to the truck takes 35 steps. So for every EXTRA trip to the truck, the company is loosing another $5.00. This $5.00 costs the company, and eventually costs the customer more money. Genius! I don't go to quite THAT extreme, but I must admit, I have a "sweep box", "roof bag", "masonry repair bag", "HeatShield" bag, etc, etc. It has made my life SOOO much easier!! Something else I remember about Dave: He hated 5 gallon buckets used for tools! Dave said "5 gallon buckets are NOT for tools. They are for trash cans and emergency toilets, that's it". I can not occasionally put a tool or supply into a 5 gallon bucket and not think of Dave. Dave was certainly passionate about the hearth industry, and about teaching it to anyone who would listen. I heard Dave was an outstanding person, I wish I had been around sooner to get to know him on a more personal level. Rest in peace, Dave.
Dick Niebel - Also known as "Dickie Bird", "Old Joe" and probably several more names that cannot be written here. Dick was the person that taught me, first hand, about service in the propane business, which eventually led me into fireplaces, then chimneys. I learned a lot about servicing gas products, and customer service from Old Joe, starting about the age of 12. I worked with him several days a week and we would always stop at some mom-n-pop type restaurant, and NOT ONCE did we enter a restaraunt that I didn't hear "Hi Dick, how ya been?", or "Hi Dick, good to see you again." That guy knew EVERYBODY. It was unreal. We even made a friendly wager once while attending training somewhere in southern Ohio. He said "I bet I don't see anybody I know down here". We parked the car in front of the hotel and headed towards the lobby and what did I hear? "Hey Dick, what are you doing down this way?" All he could do is look at me and grin. He really enjoyed that everyone knew him. He even told me while he was in the Bahamas on vacation, a gentleman approached him from behind and said "You sure look like your from Mt. Vernon, Ohio." Sure enough, someone he knew! Even out of the U.S. Dickie Bird was recognized. I sure enjoyed working with him, I can only hope he enjoyed it, too.
J.R. Aurand - JR and I have worked together several times over the years. I have worked for JR, and JR has worked for me. We have known each other for a long long time, and it is a friendship I cherish. We have had our disagreements, but we always got through them and I think it has made us better people for it. Probably my most odd memory with JR was back years ago, riding in our service truck from job to job, we would quiz each other from the national code book (NFPA 58, for those of you familiar with code books). No, we weren't THAT bored, we were both just THAT thirsty for knowledge. Do it right, or don't do it was a motto we followed religiously. Sometimes that did cause problems, but we didn't care, we knew it was going to be done right when we were done, or we weren't going to do it! It was often said we were one of the best service crews around, back in those days, and we took a lot of pride in that! We have both gone separate ways, trying new adventures, but have continued to remain friends over the years, and continue to "bounce" ideas off of each other.
Russ Dimmit - I think it was the first time I met Russ, in a relining seminar somewhere near Cleveland, Ohio. I was a pretty new fireplace guy back then and hadn't much of a clue about chimney liners. Well, I knew enough about chimney liners to be scared of them, but that's about it! Russ taught that class with such integrity and finesse, you couldn't HELP but be excited about chimney liners afterwords. I have taken several of Russ' classes since then, and I continue to learn something each and every time! Russ, along with Ashley Eldridge are probably given the most credit when I answer the question "What on Earth made you want to become a chimney sweep?" Kudos to you for the passion you have for this industry and everyone in it!
Jerry Isenhour - This guy .... What can I say? Jerry Isenhour has been a HUGE contributor to hearth and chimney professionals across the globe. I've had several memorable moments with Jerry, several things he has said to me that kind of made me lean back in my seat and think. Two of those moments actually happened in the same day, back in the summer of 2012. I was at Jerry's office conducting other business and, as I knew would happen, the gab session began!
For a little bit of background for those of you who weren't aware, Jerry and I are on a chimney sweep discussion list together through Yahoo!. A discussion list commonly referred to by members as simply, "the list". So, I sit down and we begin discussing all things chimney and fireplace. After about 15 minutes of discussions, he stops, looks at me real serious and says "You're a lot smarter than you seem on the list." Huh? I wasn't sure exactly how to take that. He meant it as pure compliment which he went on to explain, but I wasn't sure exactly how to respond to that! You see, sometimes when I get in a hurry, I type an email to "the list", don't proof read it very well, and viola! I have said something that I didn't exactly mean, or something that (had I read my own post before sending) I could have answered myself. I have since been a lot more careful before hitting the send button.
Something else that really made an impact on me that came from Jerry, and I had read similar statements/questions before, but it really never sank in until he actually asked me directly. And this is near the top of his home page on his companies web site: Are Your Business Realities Matching Your Business Dreams? That sounds pretty simple, right? Not really, think about that for just a minute. He went on to say that it's OK if you want to be a one man band for the rest of your career. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that! "Do you want to run a 10 million dollar chimney company with 15 employees, and 6 trucks?, well that's OK, too". The point was this: Do what YOU want, what makes YOU happy! NOT what Joe is doing 7 states West, or what Nancy is doing 7 blocks South. Let them do what they want to do, YOU do what YOU want to do! It sank in a little when he said it, and it continues to sink in more and more each day. It really does make a lot of sense and as long as you can provide what you need to provide for your family, and you are happy, what else really matters? The key to that statement is you first have to figure out what it is that you want.
OK, on to a more fun story: So, it is about lunch time and my son, Tyler (who traveled with me) and I are getting pretty hungry since we hadn't had any breakfast, and evidently so are Jerry and his wonderful wife, Sheryl. Sheryl peeks her head in the door of Jerry's office and says "Jerry, we better go eat before it's too late". So Jerry looks at Tyler and I and says "Do you guys like hot dogs?" Uh, well YEA, who DOESN'T like hot dogs? "But, do you like SOUTHERN STYLE hot dogs?" We looked at each other not knowing what to think since we had never spent much time in the south. We were both a little skeptical, but said we would give it a try. Evidently, every Friday not far from Jerry and Sheryl's office there is a church that fixes southern style hot dogs, chili, and several other "southern" lunch favorites. As we are walking in we are informed that a "southern" style hot dog is one that is topped with cole slaw (this is all news to us yankee folk)! Well, I'll eat just about anything if my fork is big enough but Tyler, he isn't quite as adventurous with his palate as I. I convinced him to get a "slaw dog" (we learned this and several other southern phrases in just a few short hours) and if he didn't like it, I would eat it and get him a plain ol' "yankee dog"! Keep in mind, Tyler doesn't even like coleslaw, but was willing to give it a shot! That kid ate TWO of those things and talked about how Jerry got him slaw dogs for a MONTH after!
To anyone not on this list, please don't be offended. Each and every person I have ever come in contact with has made a difference in my life. Some good, some ... well ... not so much :0) These folks have just made an everlasting impact. Whether it was something they said, or something they did, it just happen to hit me at exactly the right time. As I continue along this journey called life, there will be more, I am sure. There are certainly more that probably deserve to be on this list, I just haven't realized it yet. When I do, they will get their place in my personal hall of fame, as well.
Many of you reading these stories probably know some of these folks, and have similar stories about them. I encourage you all to take a few minutes to reflect on these stories, and enjoy them again. Everyone has had some of those "light bulb" moments, most likely triggered from what someone else said or did. Like I said near the top of the page, a lot of times people wait until someone has passed to "honor" or "thank" them for the kind words or actions that made an impact to them. Naming an award, or a city street for someone after they have passed, is a great honor, don't get me wrong. I just wanted to say Thank You to some of the folks that have made me who I am, while they are still with us! To Dave and Dick: I'm sorry I didn't get to say thank you while you were still with us.