On a recent trip through the Jacksonville airport, I stopped off for lunch at the Jacksonville Miller Brewery. While there, the back of the menu piqued my interest with its brief history of the Miller Brewing Co.

When Frederick Miller emigrated from Germany in the 1850s, he bought the then Plank-Road Brewery for $2,370. Over the years, Miller and his successors kept the brewery going and it grew steadily. For years, it ranked in the 60s on the list of the biggest breweries. Then came the breakthrough that changed Miller and the brewing industry forever - light beer.

After several attempts at a light beer, Miller Brewing Co. finally got it right in 1975 with Miller Lite. That year, they sold 12.8 million barrels of Miller Lite. Two years later, they were selling 24.2 million barrels and had risen to No. 2 in the brewery ranks behind powerhouse Anheuser-Busch.

That willingness to try something new revolutionized Miller and the beer industry. By 1992, light beer was the most popular category of beer in the world, and it just keeps growing. Here’s a toast to Miller for having the foresight and courage to step out and try something new.


Now, what does that little story have to do with HVAC?

If you’re No. 67 in the brewery rankings and you keep doing exactly what you’ve always done, will you move up to No. 2? It is safe to say that if you only continue offering the same products and services you do today, your business probably won’t advance either.

To change your position and your results, you need to look for new opportunities. We’re all inundated with salespeople calling, and everyone handles them differently. Some people hang up on them or never call them back, but some business owners are open to what they have to offer. I’m suggesting these are the wise individuals. The next time a salesperson calls you with a way to increase your revenue and enhance your success so you don’t have to work 80 stressed-out hours a week, you might want to think about Frederick Miller’s little brewery. That salesperson’s idea might just be what takes you from No. 67 to No. 2. Here are three examples of what I mean.

In today’s transient world, some statistics indicate that 15 percent of homeowners will switch homes in a year, depending on the community. That means 15 percent of your customers could be leaving. However, the one constant is the home. Since the home stays put, what if you could control it?

To do just that, there’s the talking thermostat. The best way to think about it is as an electronic service agreement. Service agreements are powerful, but this is a step beyond. With the talking thermostat on the wall, the homeowner simply pushes a button when they have an HVAC problem and a prerecorded message with your information is played. The homeowner doesn’t even need to go to the Yellow Pages. Once your thermostat is on the wall, you own the home no matter who lives there. Is the talking thermostat your Miller Lite?

People buy new heating and air conditioning to enhance their comfort. What better way to enhance their comfort than with a zoning system? Offering a zoning system could put you ahead of the competition. While I don’t work for a zoning company in any way, I am interested in giving homeowners the comfort they want, and zoning systems are a good way to do that. These systems are one of the easiest ways to distinguish your company. Could zoning systems be your Miller Lite?

Today, people are bombarded with ads. The book Data Smog claims that the average American viewed 560 advertising messages a day in 1971. By 1997 that amount totaled over 3,000 a day. Imagine what the total is today. It’s hard to cut through the clutter. Plus, your competition goes way beyond other HVAC companies. Your marketing choices are more crucial than ever.

What if your software could help you target your marketing efforts by identifying which of your clients have equipment of a certain age? What if it told you who to call for tuneups in the spring or fall? What if it told you when it was time to replace a media filter? Software can do all that plus track your inventory, map your calls, and more. While I don’t have an interest in a software company, the technology will help you enhance your success. Maybe that’s your Miller Lite.


The point is to capitalize on the technology, tools, systems, and strategies that give you a competitive advantage. That’s what Miller did, and look where that company is today.

The next time a salesperson asks, “What do you do when you’re stressed out working 80 hours a week and struggling to make payroll?” listen to their ideas. They might just have the edge you need to leapfrog your competitors and land at the top of the heap.

Embracing innovation is how you make more money every day. Let’s all toast to that.

Publication date:12/18/2006