Contractors think 'out-of-the-box'

April 13, 2000
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Are you feeling the four walls closing in on you? Are you running out of ideas for taking your business to the next level? Are you too busy to see beyond conventional “box thinking?”

Two hvacr contractors with a reputation for outside-the-box thinking provided News readers with a few ideas.

James Merritt, president of Quality Air Systems, Inc., Millbrook, AL, is a strong supporter of “selling beyond the box.” He has applied whole-house comfort principles in his business, which provides the customer with the ultimate comfort level that can be achieved.

“We strive for 100% customer satisfaction; therefore, we must go beyond the box,” Merritt said. “My entire staff, from the office personnel to the service technicians, is committed to providing the customer with a professional, top-quality product.”

Merritt cited one of his employees, Terry Barrett, an Indoor Air Consultant, as an example of a true professional.

“Terry is totally committed to providing the customer with all the information they will need to make an educated decision before purchasing a new hvac system,” Merritt said. “We are helping to reduce suffering from allergies, rooms that are hard to heat or cool, and high utility bills by checking the whole house as a system instead of just getting the sale by pricing boxes.

“We have a partnership with customers, long-lasting ones.”

Merritt added that service technician Jim Moulton said that on the service and installation side of the picture, the Whole House Program is beneficial to both the customer and the contractor because the service team arrives on the jobsite knowing what is required to complete the job without delays.

“The customer can be assured that their system is operating at peak efficiency and can expect longer unit life, lower operating cost, and that satisfied, no-worry feeling,” said Merritt. “We take pride in being the best!”

Attracting new folks

Ernest Ongaro, president of Ongaro & Sons Heating & Cooling, San Anselmo, CA, has some thoughts on attracting new customers and employees to his business.

“I would have to attribute new customers to two main sources, whole house and marketing,” Ongaro said.

“We use the whole-house approach that goes beyond the [hvac equipment box] and looks at the home as a complete system.”

Ongaro credits training from The Comfort Institute, an independent research and training organization, for giving his people the “ability to perform advanced diagnosis of the thermal envelope, duct system, and hvac equipment.

“The specialized test equipment we use to perform the whole-house diagnosis is from Retrotec Inc.,” he added. “This approach really makes a difference to improve the indoor comfort and energy usage of our customers. Our customers enthusiastically spread the word about their experience to their friends and family.”

Ongaro said that he also uses a well-known equipment manufacturer to help with his direct mail marketing.

“Another great source of new customers is a unique direct mail program our local Trane dealer Specialty A/C has put together,” he said. “The Specialty A/C in-house marketing department can target the best-fit customers that would most likely appreciate our services, and has been very successful.”

Ongaro said the issue of attracting workers is best handled by word of mouth. He wants people who are unique thinkers.

“When we are hiring, we look outside the box,” he said. “We are looking for individuals with specific natural abilities, not existing knowledge of our industry.

“Our best installers and technicians have all come from other industries, such as a restaurateur, a registered nurse, and many others. We saw natural abilities in these individuals and through our in-house training program, as well as other types of industry training, have come up with high-quality workers.” Ongaro said that there are many ways to attract customers and employees, as long as contractors keep an open mind.

“Try something new, mold it so that it fits into your own company. It takes the drudgery out of work and makes the hvac business both fun and profitable.”

Do you have some “out-of-the-box” ideas for your fellow contractors? Please share them with News business management editor John R. Hall at halljl@bnp.com (e-mail).

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