As I was preparing to leave the office, one of our replacement sales engineers came to me regarding a long time customer who happened to also be a friend of mine. It seems our engineer was quoting a complete new first-class system for the customer and the customer told him that he needed to lower the price by $500 to get the job.
I reviewed the numbers and the price he used was both fair and appropriate. Since he wasn't to respond to the customer until the next day, I asked him to let me sleep on it. By the way, this is a position I take frequently. If a decision is not called for immediately, I wait until the next morning to make a decision. Often the decision I make in the morning is the same that I would have made the night before. But just as often, giving it a little time, perspective, and perhaps some more input, I'll make a different and better decision the next morning.
THE VIDEO SAYS IT ALLThat night I watched the raw footage of a training video made of one of our replacement installations. The International Training Institute, a joint trust between the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) is producing a complete new set of residential training videos and asked to use one of our installations. In order to have enough material, they taped the entire job from tearout through completion.
I watched the video as the drop cloths were put down, the booties were put on, and the old equipment and portions of the ductwork were removed from the home. Then I watched as the installers carefully cut the ductwork from around the drywalled ceiling and squeezed hands into a small opening to remove a duct flange. Next the refrigerant was properly evacuated so that the condenser and coil could be removed.
As the video continued, I was repeatedly impressed with the tremendous amount of skill that our people must exhibit in performing their jobs. Even though I know well what goes into an installation, actually seeing all of the parts of the installation including gas piping, electric wiring along with the ductwork, and equipment installations made me exceedingly proud of what our industry provides.
While all of this was happening, every hour or so, the homeowner would look in just to see what was happening. Our installer would politely explain what phase he was in and what he would be doing next, even if he was right in the middle of some intricate wiring or piping. This reminded me of the importance of people skills even on the part of an installation crew.
IT MADE AN IMPRESSIONAs the last of the video and installation were completed, I thought about how much I had seen. I thought about how many skills I had seen performed in only one routine everyday installation. It made me realize what a skilled profession we are in and how we need to charge properly for the skills we bring to a job.
The next morning I met with our sales engineer and told him to return to the customer's home and explain to him just what all of us as contractors are providing for the price we charge. Also, he was to explain that in order for us to perform the professional kind of job which we do provide, we have to charge a proper price. To reduce the price would mean sacrificing the quality of the job we perform, and we're not willing to do that.
The sales engineer returned in a couple of hours with a signed contract at the full price. The moral is we, as an industry, have a tremendous service to provide and must charge enough to properly provide that service.
Publication date: 11/27/2006