Unified Group Examines Client Motivation

November 29, 2010
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After gathering data at the SMU campus, Unified Group teams worked out sample energy cost-reduction proposals that included both short- and long-term solutions.


DALLAS - At the Unified Group’s Energy Services Forum, commercial-industrial-institutional contractors were shown ways to get their customers to buy into getting an energy audit performed, and maybe even following up with work to achieve operational savings.

Group founder Jim Bartollota said that reducing energy consumption, “first and foremost, is good for the environment. We know that it’s on the clients’ radar.”

However, some clients think energy expenditures are a fixed cost. “They think it’s something they can’t do much about; it’s just an energy bill they get month to month. But it is controllable.” They may also think their systems are being well run, “but there are ample opportunities to save them energy and improve their bottom line.”

Energy services contractors present themselves as building service providers, and this can open new doors, “to get into places we normally wouldn’t get into before,” to differentiate.

It requires a contractor to broaden its focus beyond the mechanical system. “We’re all mechanical contractors by license, by trade,” he said, but those getting into energy services need to remember that they are talking to building owners and operators. “We’re there to address their building challenges … we need to look at the entire envelope.”

“We need to open ourselves to new ideas.”

IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES

Energy conservation can be “a differentiator for ourselves,” said speaker Rich Madeira of Enginuity LLC, Mechanicsburg, Pa.

He said mechanical contractors can take a consultant approach, become an Energy Service Company (ESCO), or use their field workforce to create value-added work. He also discussed how to gather data and find energy-conservation measures that are easy to identify.

Energy Star is a great resource, Madeira said. “You can take facts and figures back to customers, and it shows that you know what you’re talking about.”

Madeira came from the ESCO world. Mechanical contractors may not have the size of an ESCO, “but if you position yourself correctly, you can make the same sale.”

ESCOs want to talk to the CEO, VP of operations, or CFO. “We want to be at that high level. The direction the CEO is taking his company and the financial challenges are often going in different directions,” he said. “Things like facilities tend to come in last.”

Getting a two-year ROI is really low hanging-fruit, he said; and “that’s not even addressing big pieces of equipment or things the facility director would really like to get done.” By understanding “C[hief]-suite concerns, you’ve added more key pieces to the puzzle.”

Then add environment concerns. “When I was at Siemens,” Madeira said, “attending events across the country where Clinton or Gore were encouraging conservation,” they could get the CEO to commit to a 15 percent reduction in energy.” The CEO would go back to his staff and say, “This is what we’re doing; figure it out.”

“The environmental aspect can take a project that has four years and no chance of being approved based on ROI merit, and push it through.”

He called ESCO projects two-year rollercoasters, “not for the faint of heart.” Working with field workforce, he said, can achieve similar results in less time.

The equations used to figure out savings are the same as those used by the 900-pound gorilla companies, he said. And it makes sense to make conservative predictions. “If we told the client they were going to save a dollar, they were going to probably save $1.50.”

Regarding the field staff, Schroeder said techs already can identify equipment with issues. “We typically will write that up on a workorder saying we identified it.” This goes across a desk and may end there. “Take that same work order; get manufacturer data on how much energy it wastes; create handouts for techs showing data on common problems, like worn belts. Tell the customer, ‘This is how much you can expect to conserve with this repair, and here’s how much it costs.’ Create that material and put it in the hands of your workforce.”

Also, spend some time with commercial lenders, “folks who do a lot of leasing.” When putting together proposals, it’s good to have a relationship with a leasing company.

“Have a lease quote already on it.” You’re not going into the lending business, but you can use it as a model. With that information, “You can take what you get from the maintenance guy and get it to the CFO. You get the right people looking at it.”

Being leasable can also send other opportunities a contractor’s way. It’s differentiating. And being up to speed in the green marketplace “may make you a resource to them.”

Attendees of The Unified Group’s Energy Services Forum walked through a building at the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus. Teams gathered a broad variety of information, going from the basement mechanical room to the roof.

WALK THROUGH

A good part of the forum focused on how to walk through a building and come back with data. Attendees were able to walk through a building at the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus. A building either is or is not a candidate for a project; the determining factors are the data a contractor can gather. “A lot of times, the data gathering can take the longest amount of time,” said Madeira.

Getting utility bills to review is a good way to learn if there’s real executive interest; if you can’t get them, the interest isn’t there. “And without executive buy in, I walk,” he said.

Learn about your potential clients online. “If you haven’t Googled your client,” Madeira said, “you haven’t done your job.” You can find statements about commitment to the environment, etc., on the company’s website. “A lot of these customers are simply saying, ‘Conservation is the right thing to do.’ There is a real awareness of their carbon footprint.”

The combined information - utility bills, operational info, client info - paints an accurate picture of what to talk to the client about. “You’d be surprised how many people actually don’t know when their buildings are running,” Madeira said.

After the information is compiled, he said that it’s time to walk through the building.

“These guys have no idea what they need,” he said. “You have an opportunity to go in and say, ‘This is what you’re doing wrong. Here’s what we can do.’ ”

Publication date: 11/29/2010

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