ISL Leadership Discusses Practices and Education

December 11, 2006
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TORONTO - International Service Leadership Inc. (ISL) recently convened its fall meeting in Toronto, where members learned about marketing programs, education, and best business practices. Milt Baum, president, and Bob Wilkins, vice president of operations, presided over the three-day meeting and reflected on the past while looking toward the future.

Baum talked about the summer 2006 competition between six ISL HVAC contractors who were challenged to sign up as many service agreement customers over the summer months as they could. Each contractor gave $1,000 to enter the competition.

The results showed that Atlas Air ClimateCare sold 586 service agreements and Chapman’s sold the most service agreements per employee: 26.51. “Next year our goal is to get everyone to participate,” said Baum.

Looking forward, Baum said that ISL is moving toward a marketing program based on simplicity and few touch points. He also talked about the vision he has for ISL.

“No matter where you are going, you have to see the big picture,” he told meeting attendees. “You know where you are going and how to get there.”

Baum said that ISL members should ask four basic questions:

1. What is the ISL course of action?
2. What level of membership does an ISL contractor want?
3. How do you use the ISL course of action?
4. Why do you need to use the ISL course of action?

“These questions need to be on your desk,” he said.

Wilkins talked about the ISL certification programs, both individual and company certifications. There are three levels of certification. “In order to achieve various levels, 40 percent of the staff has to have completed required levels of training,” said Wilkins.

He said there are 14 ISL-certified business courses including onsite and online training, technician training, dispatching, financial formatting, and sales management. Some of these courses are available now and others are still in the planning stages.

“Our intent is to bring you more online studies,” said Wilkins. “Let’s face it, airline tickets are not cheap and gasoline is not cheap [to go to regional meetings].”

Wilkins is proud that these courses support the career paths that employees of ISL contractors choose once they begin working in the HVAC trade. He also acknowledges that smaller businesses often require owners and managers to wear several hats and education may help these multitaskers. “Wearing a lot of hats slows down a career path,” he said. “But you need information in order to grow.”

Part of career path development is to let others in the company track the progress of each individual. Wilkins encourages members to keep a “goal board” in plain sight where training can be tracked and noted. “A goal board publicly acknowledges an employee who has completed his or her classes,” he said.

SIDEBAR: MARKETING KIT

TORONTO - International Service Leadership Inc. (ISL) members were given a new tool to add to their toolbelts: marketing tips. During their fall meeting in Toronto, ISL contractors got some valuable ideas from Doug MacMillan, president of Toronto-based MacMillan Marketing Group.

MacMillan began his presentation by stating “more and more of our customers are opening their mail over the trash can.”

He said that people don’t have time to read a two-page direct mail letter. “It worked in the past but not anymore,” MacMillan said. “But the problem is there is no silver bullet solution for marketing.”

The challenge for all HVAC contractors is to make the phone ring, according to Bob Wilkins, ISL vice president of operations. He talked about the need for seasonal marketing programs, prepared by a professional marketing group, and adding new materials each season to give the marketing campaign a different look. “Every one of you should be creating your own brand name,” said Wilkins. “You are the brand and not the equipment you sell.”

He showed ISL members the new tagline for the group - Carefree Comfort - that allows the customer time to do whatever they want without worrying about how they are staying comfortable in their homes.

“The idea is to take care of your customers’ comfort and health, and give families more time to spend together,” Wilkins said.

MacMillan concurred. “Families are busier than ever,” he said. “They are all about assurance that they have a comfortable home to come into.”

MacMillan also echoed the importance of marketing a brand name to customers and backing it up. “A brand is what people think about you,” he said. “People do give a hoot about what you are all about.”

MacMillan added that Carefree Comfort will remain the core brand of ISL members, and it will never go away from any of the advertising campaigns. Carefree is one of three concepts that ISL members should have in their marketing and product mix. The other two are service and retrofit.

He also said, “It is not enough to just have a direct mail piece. There have to be certain layers of marketing. For example, you can add radio spots on one layer in order to make marketing impressions.”

Wilkins rolled out the ISL marketing planner, which is based on weather trends in the United States and Canada over the past 30 years. The trends are shown with U.S. thermal maps of highs and lows and statistical data from Canadian government weather centers. Why have weather maps? Wilkins answered the question with a question. “How do you market based on weather in your area?” he asked. “You need to have marketing in place in case you don’t have high demand months due to normal weather patterns. Using statistical data, you can plot your weather curves.”

ISL members were given time to use weather statistics to plot weather patterns in their geographic regions. The statistics provided a “course” across the various temperature ranges - a course that gave contractors the average temperatures for any month of the year.

“Based on this information, you should be able to assemble a marketing plan that your staff can implement,” said Wilkins.

For more information on ISL, visit www.islinc.net.

Publication date: 12/11/2006

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