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As all of us have worked through an economic downturn like we have never seen before, we have had to make a number of difficult decisions. We have done everything possible to improve our operations and efficiency. We have reduced inventories, eliminated waste in all the ways we can, even have laid off employees who had been important within our organizations. Yet, even while taking all of these steps, we still find that it is very difficult to remain profitable. We have found that our maintenance agreement customers, who previously would take our bid and maybe one other when replacing equipment are now taking three, four, or more bids. Needless to say, the prices reflect the number of bids taken.
You have made all of the obvious improvements in your organization, so what is left to be done? This is when it gets difficult. Now it’s time to make some real changes in your business. It’s time to consider looking at the products you are marketing and all of the things that you are offering to your customers.
This was brought fresh in my mind as I watched the Brickyard 400 from Indianapolis. Some may know I am a big Indy 500 fan and I remember clearly when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that there would be a NASCAR Race, the Brickyard 400, starting in 1994. This was a major change for a track that since 1911 had held only one race per year. The Speedway realized that it was time to expand the scope of the products that it offered. But more change was ahead. After announcing the Brickyard 400, there was a demand for five times as many good seats as there were seats available. In the last few years, however, there have been a number of seats available, so the Speedway has now announced that next year more changes are coming. On Friday before the Brickyard, there will be a Grand Am race on the Speedway’s Road Racing course and then on the day before the Brickyard, the Nationwide Series, NASCAR’s top minor league will also run at the Speedway, on the oval. These changes were and are being made due to changes in the markets.
As HVAC contractors we have to look closely at the markets we are serving and determine if we are serving all of the markets that we can to be profitable. For example, have you considered geothermal? Geothermal has tremendous potential. This was a new market that we got into a few years ago and now find that the majority of large custom homes in the St. Louis area are served by geothermal systems. What about solar energy? This is a market we have looked at but haven’t felt it was right for us — but it might be right for you. It’s time to really think outside the box. If you have been mostly a new construction contractor, either residential or commercial, I hope you have at least explored the service and replacement markets. What about even simpler items? You have heard me say this many times before, are you doing all you can to sell maintenance agreements? If not, and you want more information, just e-mail me. Are you making the most out of media air cleaner and humidifier sales? Replacement media and replacement humidifier pad sales can be a profitable sideline business. When performing a routine maintenance call, you can generally sell a replacement media with virtually no added costs.
The important message in all of this is that even though what you used to do was successful, times are so different now that you need to really look at what business you are in and make sure that it is a business that will provide you with the income you deserve.
We all know that change is difficult. The fact is that things are changing whether we like it or not, so we need to be proactive and make the changes that will benefit our company the most. If the very conservative Indianapolis Motor Speedway can do it, so can you.