Small Company, Big Company, ... Good Company?

April 17, 2006
Please forgive me. I am about to offend some people. I'm not sure if it will be those who work in small contracting companies or large companies. But at least a few people will respond stating their displeasure. They always do. The NEWS receives several comments each week about one of our less than pleasing opinions. But, hey, it's what we do. Those that can do, those that can't coach, and those that can't do either write about things that they typically know little about - it's our way of sticking it to the man, if you will.

A gentleman who operates a one-man contracting business in Idaho left a voice mail for me a few days ago, complaining about some administrative point of our operation. He was so displeased that he topped it off by saying that he really didn't like our news magazine at all and that the quality had been going downhill for nearly a year. (Oops. I joined The NEWS nearly a year ago; I wonder ...) He also noted that, in his opinion, there had even been editorial content that was denigrating toward small contracting companies.

In fairness, we also get reports from small contracting companies that tell us our editorial material is very valuable and is often used as fodder for staff meetings - even staffs of one.

However, back to offending people. A common axiom I hear touted by many small contractors is that the level of quality rendered is directly proportional to the number of employees of the servicing or installing HVAC company. The thought is that a small to very small company can be more focused on quality than a super-size-me company. The big contractors lose sight of quality as the company becomes so overburdened with administrative tasks, or so the story goes.

Another commonly-held belief by many larger companies is that they provide better quality service as they have the capability of staying more technologically current and have better-trained staffs.

Of course, small and large contractors often use these axioms/fallacies to leverage their success in the competitive marketplace. Certainly, good competition will take all shapes and sizes. However, regardless of size, ignorance has no advantage in the market.


Whether it is a one-person or 100-person company, there are some things that every good company does. If a customer was smart enough to pre-qualify you over the phone before inviting you into their home or business, how would you respond to these questions?

  • Do you perform load calculations?

  • What type of indoor air quality (IAQ) products do you provide?

  • How will you help me save energy?

  • Do you offer zoning?

    I know small and large contractors who don't perform load calculations, won't sell IAQ products or higher energy-efficiency equipment because they don't believe in them, and tell customers that zoning doesn't work because they themselves don't know how to make it work.

  • It is estimated that only 14 percent of all HVAC contractors in the United States perform load calculations.

  • Big box stores will sell more IAQ products than all contractors combined this year.

  • Most air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces sold in 2006 and 2007 won't be much higher than the baseline efficiency requirements.

  • Fewer than 10 percent of newly constructed homes are properly zoned. (Far fewer existing homes.)

    If a customer knew that you should perform a load calculation, and you answered no to the first question, how would you feel if they simply hung up the phone at that point? It does not matter if your company is large or small; it only matters that it is good. Yes, good can come in all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, so can bad.

    To the gentleman in Idaho: I hope our comments that were perceived to be denigrating toward small companies have in some small way, become more equitably discharged.

    Mike Murphy, Editor-In-Chief, 248-244-6446, 248-244-2905 (fax), mikemurphy@achrnews.com

    Publication date: 04/17/2006

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