Make Your Company Recession-Proof

July 18, 2003
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NOVI, Mich. — Aprilaire recently wrapped up its series of seminars titled “Building Your Service, Replacement & IAQ Business.” The workshops were available in several major cities across the country throughout the spring. For those who missed the informational sessions, new dates are currently being scheduled for next fall.

The Aprilaire workshops featured Jackie Rainwater, a 43-year veteran of the HVAC industry and owner of Peachtree Heating & Air Conditioning in Atlanta. Rainwater is significant because he knows what keeps businesses thriving. Rainwater told the audience of over 100 contractors present at the Novi meeting that they can “build a company that is virtually recession-proof.”

To do this, companies must develop a strong company culture and focus on the importance of service agreements.

Securing Profits

Rainwater purchased Peachtree Heating & Air Conditioning in the late 1980s. The company is a 100 percent residential-light commercial service and replacement IAQ business and had over 4,000 service agreements when Rainwater came on board. Between the years of 1990 and 2001, the company’s management team was able to secure 18,000 service agreements with its customers.

“Maintenance agreements are the cornerstone of our company,” said Rainwater.

He explained that there are several reasons to make service agreements a priority.

First, service agreements help to retain customers.

Peachtree offers an agreement that will guarantee three visits from a technician over the course of one year. The first visit includes a system check and tuneup before the cooling season, the next visit occurs at the beginning of the heating season, and the third involves an overall check of both heating and cooling components.

Most companies only offer a two-visit service agreement, but Rainwater said this is a way to provide more value to customers and differentiate yourself from your competition. He also said that service agreements are a way to keep customers from going to your competitors. But service agreements alone are not enough, he stressed.

“After having someone under a maintenance agreement, we can begin to cultivate that relationship over time,” he said.

This relationship is about building trust and educating the customer. Rainwater said that once you gain the trust of customers and they are satisfied with the work you have done under the service agreement, they will begin to use you in the future for other work, such as system replacement.

“Your job is not to fix systems, it’s to fix customers,” Rainwater told attendees of the seminar. “This means providing them with a healthy indoor environment with low energy costs.”

Rainwater says that if a customer is concerned about allergies, a high-end air filtration system might be the answer. If customers want to prevent static electricity in their home, they may want to invest in a whole-house humidifier. Rainwater also said that technicians should make customers aware of how much they can save on fuel bills by installing an energy-efficient system.

But Rainwater warns against technicians becoming salesmen.

At Peachtree, after a technician has made a diagnosis on a system and a customer is interested in either upgrading to a more efficient system or purchasing IAQ products, the technician will call the company. A salesperson will then take the time to speak to the customer about their options.

Company Culture

To get technicians more proactive about providing customers with more efficient equipment, Rainwater maintains that contractors need to create a positive company culture. At Peachtree, the company motto is simple: Win + Win = Win.

Rainwater explained that the first win is for customers, the second is for employees, and the third is for the company. He said that when technicians provide superior service, their customers win. In turn, this will create better profits for the technicians, and they too win. When the customer and the employees are satisfied, the entire company enjoys the benefits.

The idea is easy enough, but Rainwater says that for it to work, employees need to have a regular reminder of the company goal.

Peachtree conducts monthly communication meetings to reinforce the Win + Win = Win attitude. “We’ve come to realize that one hour each month was the most important thing to do,” said Rainwater.

At the meetings, the company shares its revenues for the month with employees and keeps them up to date on whether they are reaching their annual goal. Rainwater said that this keeps everyone on the same page and reinforces the purpose of the company.

“Once you get the company culture in place, you can keep and get technicians,” he said.

To be more specific, Rainwater said that when a company has a clear-cut objective and technicians know exactly what is expected of them, they are more likely to stay with the company for the long term.

Providing Perks

Rainwater said that technicians at Peachtree receive bonuses for sales leads that result in maintenance agreements. They are also rewarded for quality installations.

The company has two-man installation teams. After each crew installs a new system, the installers go over a 34-point quality audit with the customer. This is done so that technicians can prove to the company and the customer that various services have been provided.

After 30 days, if there is no callback complaint from the consumer, the installation crew on the job will receive a bonus. This bonus is 1 percent of the sale. Over time, if the technicians are providing quality work, this will begin to add up substantially, said Rainwater.

For more information, visit

Sidebar: Upcoming Dates For IAQ Seminars

Sept. 2 Hyatt O’Hare, Rosemont, Ill.

Sept. 3 Marriott, Bethesda, Md.

Sept. 23 Westin Crown Center, Kansas City, Mo.

Sept. 24 Marriott, St. Louis

Oct. 2 Marriott, Cleveland

Oct. 7 Embassy Suites, Denver

Publication date: 07/21/2003

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