Linc Service Touts Bundled Energy Solutions

March 20, 2006
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ATLANTA - During the Continuing Education (ConEd) Conference in Atlanta, members of the Linc Service® Network, a network of commercial HVAC mechanical contractors, got a glimpse of the future of their business: selling bundled energy solutions (BES).

The conference, made up of more than 650 attendees, was an opportunity for business owners, general managers, and sales professionals to determine whether BES is right for them. The foundation was laid for this program through Linc Service with more than $400 million in mechanical projects and services sales each year.

By Linc's definition, BES is a "comprehensive package of energy conservation services to optimize solutions, energy savings, and performance in commercial buildings" which eliminates the bid/spec process and working with multiple contractors. A single point of accountability is used to purchase a complete suite of services. The four key deliverables of BES include: detailed assessment and analysis - assessing current equipment; expert project management - providing turnkey installation, training, and benchmarking; continuous measurement and verification - ongoing monthly and annual monitoring of energy consumption; and guaranteed performance - based on operational or energy savings.

The Linc Service Network’s Bundled Energy Solutions (BES) is discussed by (from left) Andrew Beggs, Bruce Phibbs, and Scott Taylor.

GETTING ACQUAINTED

ConEd attendees were shown the multistep process for BES, which involves service, facility management, and energy audits. Bruce Phibbs, senior vice president of sales for Linc Network LLC, told the group, "You need to take your blinders off and look beyond just maintenance deficiencies. Everyone wants to conserve energy and our mission is to reduce owning and operating costs while improving the environmental conditions in the facilities we service. Looking at value-added energy retrofits is just part of what we do. Our solutions involve value added, negotiated work."

Linc Network has dedicated a Website to BES so members can learn more about how the 13-step process works. One of the tools on the Website allows Linc service contractors to directly link to public agencies and laws regarding bundling services in each state. Some of the 13 steps include prospecting (which can include qualifying prospective customers), concept meeting, feasibility study/verification, comprehensive technical study, final proposal presentation, implementation, and account management.

"BES is everything we are about: helping our customers reduce their total cost of operation," said Andrew Beggs, vice president of energy solutions for The Linc Group - the parent company of Linc Network LLC.

Beggs added that schools are good customers for BES because "their needs are more permanent - the buildings and people are not going anywhere." He noted that most states allow public schools to obtain their own bundled services.

Beggs said that BES includes lighting systems, which opens up opportunities for members to subcontract lighting maintenance as part of the package. But the bottom line is that maintenance must include energy savings. "We should be concerned about conserving resources, just as we preach about conserving energy," he said. "Linc is committed to using technology to conserve energy - and that is why we continue to grow."

USING A CASE STUDY

To show the effectiveness of BES, members examined an actual case study involving a church. What started out as a routine call to investigate a humidity problem landed the contractor a $600,000 BES deal. Part of the process was explaining the mechanical problem to the church finance committee, effectively "bringing the roof down to the committee" as one member pointed out. Committee members were told that the building equipment was sized to a maximum load, which only took place a few hours a week during church services.

By explaining the problem and offering solutions, including a substantial savings in energy costs, the Linc contractor got the job.

Scott Taylor, general manager of Linc Mechanical Services, one of The Linc Group's franchises in Alpharetta, Ga., said that growth in his region is fueling the demand for effective facility management. He believes the time is right to show building owners the benefits of BES.

"We feel our job is to help customers reduce their total cost of operation," he said.

Taylor commented that most customers have money earmarked for equipment replacement and, in general, companies can spend less money using BES than by sticking with traditional service and replacement plans. He said contractors just have to know where to look and how to look for the work. "I can walk around a campus for one day and identify opportunities," he noted. "My advice is not to go after the elephant first. Go after the smaller jobs and take small steps." It was small steps that helped build Linc's resume in the Atlanta area, leading up to a $6.2 million contract with a school system - the biggest single sale in the history of the Linc Service Network.

Yet as lucrative and rewarding as selling BES is, there are still some realities that contractors must be aware of.

"Most of our success has been with new customers," Phibbs noted. "However, putting your creative energy into creating a wonderful BES solution presents the possibility that your custom design will be put out for competitive bid."

"Selling a BES package can be a risky proposition because of the time and money invested in each proposal. You may spend many man-hours and thousands of dollars in creating a great solution that goes nowhere - time that may have been better spent on smaller maintenance opportunities.

Sidebar: Network Plans

Scott Giacobbe, president and CEO of Linc Network LLC, sat down with The NEWS to discuss his organization and its plans for 2006. Giacobbe noted that Linc added nine new franchises in the last 12 months and the continuing goal is to add 10 to 12 franchises each year.

"Our existing group of franchisees has really helped us grow," he said. "Linc is very unique in this industry and not too many groups can compare to us."

Giacobbe said a large factor in Linc's success is the current energy market and customers who are looking to get the most out of their capital investments. "It is easier to sell energy efficiency now because of high heating bills," he said. "Customers need to take action.

"More and more people are investing in commercial real estate. They are looking for service and maintenance to optimize efficiency. For that reason, we want to have a record year for BES retrofits."

Giacobbe turned his conversation to another topic that is important to Linc Service® contractors and the entire HVAC trade at large: getting young people interested in HVAC as a career. "How do we get young people excited?" he asked. "We offer them a good career path. Our business is becoming more high tech, which is attractive. And most of our customers own commercial buildings that have critical [technological] needs."

Speaking of technology, Giacobbe said Linc's goal is to add more technology in 2006, led by its LincWareâ„¢ technology infrastructure, described as a "quality management system." The LincWare Technology Suite is a collection of enterprise-class software applications designed to provide enhanced employee productivity, collaboration, knowledge sharing, process improvement, and corporate performance management.

Giacobbe also knows that in order to grow, Linc members must remain happy with the company and competitive in their marketplaces. "I'd like to think that 99 percent of our franchisees are happy," Giacobbe said. "We feel we are hitting on all of the marks right now. We are in a great position from the standpoint of technology.

"We are in a very competitive market. I know there is someone around the corner out there, just waiting to get our business and our employees. My hope is that they see the value of The Linc System® and the future of our business. The theme for our 2006 meeting is ‘Setting the Pace,' and the Linc Service Network is doing just that."

Publication date: 03/20/2006

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