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No small company has been immune to the negative business forces that have besieged the HVAC industry since the implosion of the housing market and the economic downturn. This is certainly true of two contractors from the Alamo City who finally took a stand and came up with new ways to fight against declining sales and profits.
In both cases, they armed themselves with indoor air quality (IAQ) products and set forth a plan of attack to make comfort and health in the home a key ingredient on every sales and service call.
San Antonio Contractors
Ben Hubbert and Jeff Standley are both San Antonio-based contractors who faced the same business dilemma. New construction was way down and unemployment was way up in the area, although the business climate was better in Texas than in most states. Both companies had to compete for a piece of business that was much smaller than in the previous eight to 10 years.
Hubbert and his partner Anthony Martinez run Champion AC Inc., a medium-sized HVAC contracting company with 30 employees and 14 trucks specializing in residential replacement and service. San Antonio was booming when they started their business in 2006 after Hubbert completed his fourth deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jeff Standley rejoined his family’s business, Agee’s Service Co., in 1998. His dad purchased the San Antonio business in 1985, and it is similar in size to Champion with 23 employees and 14 trucks.
Finding Success with IAQ
To fight the tough economy, Standley and Hubbert both decided to focus on add-on sales. “We always dabbled in IAQ, but we never really focused on it,” Standley said. So when he was approached by Andrew Brockmire, the local representative of Dynamic Air Quality Solutions, with a plan and a training program to help his sales and bottom line, he paid attention. Market conditions told him it was time to make a commitment to IAQ.
Hubbert took a different path to get to the same end. He had developed severe allergies when deployed overseas and became fascinated with UV systems after learning the ropes at Champion from his partner. He experimented with a system in his own home and saw firsthand the tremendous benefits of not only filtering the air but also cleaning the air of contaminants, germs, and bacteria. He not only saw the health benefits of a good IAQ system but also realized that add-on sales were a key to his company’s continued success.
Investing in Training
Both companies attribute a large part of their success to a commitment to training all their outside employees to be experts in IAQ and teaching them how to inform and educate the homeowner.
Standley utilized the Dynamic training program, which focuses not only on product but also how to communicate with the homeowner. According to Standley, “We teach our technicians and service people about features and benefits and how to focus on the IAQ problems in the home and offer a solution.”
Hubbert has taken a more independent approach by developing his own training programs and producing his own videos for use when the technicians are on the job. He has equipped all of his outside people with Apple iPads so they can show videos in the home, visit the Champion AC website, and even take the customer to third-party websites like the Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov/iaq) and the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (www.aaaai.org).
“We stand out because of our training and our investment in marketing once we are in the door,” Hubbert said.
Standley claims after committing to offer the Dynamic media air cleaners and UV lights on every call, Agee’s has increased its average replacement sale by $1,300. Emphasizing the benefits of IAQ “increases profits several fold because you are already there,” he added.
Champion AC offers APCO Fresh-Aire UV systems on the vast majority of its replacement and service calls. Hubbert said, “It’s a 50/50 proposition with some people being very receptive, and some are not.”
He estimates sales of eight to 10 APCO Fresh-Aire UV systems per week, with each selling for $800 to $1,000. Recently, one of Hubbert’s customers purchased three for his home and seven for his business.
Both Standley and Hubbert say the same thing when it comes to talking about IAQ and comfort on every call — people won’t buy if you don’t offer.
Publication date: 02/27/2012