AWCI's 2017 Pinnacle Award Winner: Michael Heering

May 2017

Loyal. Competitive. Honest. Resourceful. Hardworking. Dedicated. Inventive. Stubborn.
    
Those are just some of the words that family, friends and coworkers use to describe Mike Heering, this year’s winner of AWCI’s highest award, the Pinnacle Award.
        
AWCI’s president in 2006–2007, Mike is currently the president of F.L. Crane & Sons, Inc. in Fulton, Miss. But that’s not where he started. Mike is originally from Michigan. He worked as an engineer for Mueller Copper Tube, which is where his father worked. When the company transferred Mike’s father to Fulton, Mike came for a visit and never went back to Michigan. The man who was building his parents’ house asked him if he wanted a job, and the rest is history.
    
Johnny Crane, owner of F.L. Crane & Sons, has worked with Mike for 44 years. It started when Mike’s then-boss was injured on the job, leaving Mike out of work. Johnny says, “… so I talked him into coming to work for F.L. Crane. And he was a [drywall] finisher. He was a good carpenter, he could do about anything and has made us an excellent employee. I believe when he started he was making $3.10 an hour.
    
Marilyn Heering has known her husband about as long as Johnny Crane has known him. Regarding Mike’s long employment at a company with a different family name, Marilyn says, “The advancement in the company with Mike’s name not being Crane has a lot to do with loyalty and respect. He started out at the bottom pretty much and he would go from [drywall] finisher to maybe the head of the crew, and then maybe from head of the crew on to a field rep and then from that he learned all the stuff that goes into other jobs. He was always wanting to advance.”
    
He also wanted to help the company advance, so Mike introduced new computer technology to help speed the estimating process. According to Marilyn, Mike brought his computer to the office—because “nobody in the office was using computers at that point”—and started estimating. He then taught others in the office how to use the computer. “He started with each individual estimator until he got everybody on a computer,” Marilyn says.
    
F.L. Crane Chief Operating Officer Ty Crane says, “One of the things that Mike has pushed in our company is pursuing new technology in the industry. He’s kept us ahead of the curve in so many ways throughout his career.”
    
Chip Crane, chief executive officer of F.L. Crane & Sons, says Mike brings new ideas to the company. And, while Mike’s management style—at first—was “stern and strong,” Chip’s style was more laid back. “We complemented each other pretty well,” says Chip. “But he’s mellowed in his older age.”
    
Mike’s skills on the job site and now in management aren’t left at the office. Jonathan Heering, Mike’s son, says, “I’ve learned a lot from my dad growing up. I picked up a lot of skills: carpentry, plumbing, electrical, cabinet building. But most importantly I picked up how to have a strong work ethic.”
    
Chris Heering, Mike’s son, recalls, “Many years ago when I was a small child I remember going to the job site and seeing my dad finish drywall, and over the years I have watched him grow the company. Today I walk into his office as president of FLC & Sons. I have seen how the hard work has paid off, and I try to apply that in my life today.”
    
Mike’s influence is felt throughout the company, even in other states. Ron Molleur, president of the Texas Division of F.L. Crane & Sons, Inc., says Mike is always available to help. “You can bounce ideas off of him,” he says. “He is always there, easy to talk with and will give you his input, his criticism, his concerns. But ultimately he is always a team player with you, partner up with you and help you succeed with what you are doing.”
    
“Mike shows a management style of a true leader in my opinion,” says Ty Crane. “He never asks anything of anyone that he wouldn’t do himself. He’s going to outwork everybody and always put in his time, make sure that everyone knows that he’s got their back.
    
“One of the things that impresses me most about Mike is his loyalty to the company. He has truly shown what it is to be a part of the F.L. Crane family.”
    
Many members of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry also consider the Heerings to be part of their family.
    
Johnny used to attend AWCI meetings with his brother Jimmy, and Mike started joining them. Mike “immediately took right into wanting to serve on different committees and get involved,” Johnny says.
    
“AWCI and its members have truly been a benefit for F.L. Crane & Sons and Mike has been that portal for us,” Ty says. “Through his meetings he’s always listening in on seminars, giving us industry knowledge that we wouldn’t get otherwise. He’s built relationships with so many people throughout AWCI who can help us and have been through things that we might have coming up who have experienced things that we’ve never experienced before.”
    
Mike is active in his community as well. He is a member of the Itawamba County Development Center, which plans events for the city and county. He was also in Rotary Club, where he received the Paul Harris Fellow Award.
    
Ty explains one of the many reasons Mike is deserving of AWCI’s highest honor: “The thing I admire the most about Mike is his ability to speak on every level of the company. He came up through the field, so he can communicate with our guys out in the field. He can do every trade of work that we do at F.L. Crane, yet he can sit in meetings with the CEOs of companies much larger than ourselves and communicate on their level and make tough business decisions. That takes a true leader.”