ST. LOUIS - With all the material handed out, suggestions made, tips offered, and networking experienced over five jam-packed days, you could say attendees of the 2008 AirTime 500 Expo went home thick with information and knowledge. Then again, “Thicke” may be more appropriate.

Looking for more ways to make members a step ahead of the competition, the association introduced a new Web program that will have Alan Thicke providing commentary on Websites of members who buy the offering. For a set price, members can have Thicke, as well as Bob the Technician, providing homeowners with information they need to know regarding heating and cooling.

“You have six seconds to convince a visitor to your Website that they should be interested in what you have to offer, and give them reason to spend more time on your site,” AirTime 500 president Terry Nicholson told his members. “Now you can put Alan Thicke on your home page in full video and let him invite your potential customers to learn more about your company.”

According to Nicholson, market research shows that the Internet is now the No. 1 resource consumers use to research products and services before they buy. However, not all of his members’ Websites, he could say, were necessarily exciting. To boost traffic and more, Nicholson opted to partner with .advancedMethod, a business experienced in video marketing on the Web.

As soon as a potential customer hits a member’s homepage, Thicke appears and speaks directly to the customer concerning the importance of HVAC and invites visitors to click on his picture to learn more. When customers click on Thicke, they see a full, large-frame video of the former star of ABC’s “Growing Pains,” now syndicated in over 65 countries. Thicke talks about his experiences with HVAC services and why it is important to choose the right company.

“And it looks like your site, with your logo, address, and phone number,” said Nicholson.

After Thicke talks about the importance of HVAC to the homeowner’s quality of life and the importance of dealing with a truly professional service company, he introduces Bob the Technician, who provides full video answers to 23 frequently asked questions. “The cost of this program is not much more than what most home contractor services pay for one qualified lead a month,” said Nicholson.


Over five days, Nicholson kept the attention of AirTime 500 attendees with new material to bring back to their respective business. The first three days were a review of the association’s founding principles and strategies. It was meant for new members to see how they need to reconstruct their business.

Topics discussed included ways to make more money, poor image and self-esteem, the nuts and bolts concerning “straight-forward pricing,” and the value of club memberships. In addition to Nicholson, speakers included sales and business management consultant Don Jennings, BuyMax President Steve Mores, and AirTime 500 co-founder John Young, who zeroed in on his specialty, marketing.

Nicholson closed the final day of the expo by encouraging each residential contractor to become a replacement company.

“A service company earns a living, but a replacement company creates wealth,” he said. “But how you become a replacement company is a matter of choice.”

According to Nicholson, if one is in the residential repair business, one can become a replacement company by one of the following paths:

1.Performing repair and then converting to replacements;

2.Performing scheduled service and then converting to replacements;

3. Marketing for replacements; or

4.Acquire companies to get to the replacement.

He went through the pros and cons of each option. Most, he concluded, failed to focus on replacements. “If you depend on service revenue with few replacements, you will probably not ever achieve much more than business survivorship,” warned Nicholson.

If one has a business focused on scheduled service, Nicholson provided three paths to get to replacement business:

1. Perform preventative maintenance on systems still operating to generate additional revenue;

2.Perform scheduled service to build a club membership base to lead to replacements for the future; or

3.Perform scheduled service to generate replacement revenue today. In regard to the last path, Nicholson said a contractor can focus on converting systems “that are in the replacement opportunity zone” into replacement sales.

“It’s usually easier to generate scheduled service calls than it is to generate replacement leads,” said Nicholson, providing a positive before providing a warning. “If you do not eventually convert club memberships into replacements, you will probably never achieve much more than survivorship.”

If one has a business which banks on replacement marketing, this entails advertising to a homeowner that now is the time to consider exploring investment in a new comfort system.

One of the cons here, he said, included the fact a company would need salespeople with strong communication skills. Also, if you stop marketing, the revenue stops.

Yet another way to get into replacement is via a replacement acquisition focus. This means acquiring competitors to generate replacements from their customer base, explained Nicholson.

The pluses to this business approach are that one may acquire excellent customers and employees, and the process does fuel growth. However, Nicholson warned that replacement acquisition may require an extensive outlay of cash and existing employees may not fit your culture.

And the bottom line is the same, he said: “If you don’t convert the database of the acquisition into replacements, you will probably not achieve much more than survivorship.”


The expo included a full day of honoring top-notch members. Receiving two awards was Thompson Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling of Cincinnati, which garnered the Service Company of the Year plaque and the Training Company of the Year award. Owner Wesley Holm was pleased with coming home with top honors.

“It says a lot about our employees,” said Holm. “We couldn’t do this without them.”

Schneider’s 72 Degrees Heating and Air Conditioning in Fredericksburg, Texas, was named Market Dominance Company of the Year. Owners Brad and Jennifer Schneider, who serve an area of 50,000 population, said it helps to be at every function, be it a local country fair to public function. “Just get out there and be noticed,” offered Jennifer Schneider, who noted the visibility helped in the company’s 51 percent jump in profit.

Last year the company held a barbeque for past customers, which resulted only in good public relations. “Take care of your clients,” suggested Mrs. Schneider. “That’s the best thing you can do.”

Service Champions of Northern California in San Ramon, Calif., operated by Kevin Comerford, earned Replacement Company of the Year while Service Champions of Southern California in Yorba Linda, Calif., operated by Leland Smith, was bestowed the Business Professional of the Year. Comerford and Smith both stated that they cannot stop working on their business.

“We’ve got work to do in 2008,” said Comerford, who noted that his company only made a 6 percent profit in the months of January and February this year. “That’s just not good enough.”

Smith was his normal humble self upon the stage. “We are not smart. We’re just good copiers,” said Smith, adding, “There really is not a new thing that will flip your company.”

Instead, Smith encouraged fellow members to just keep following the teachings of the association.

“Everything what AirTime teaches, it works. You just do what they tell you to do,” offered Smith. “I never listen to what my competitors are doing. Otherwise, you are going to be like them. You have to think, ‘How am I going to have to help customers and our people?’ ”

Technician Chris Donzelli of Service Champions of Northern California was honored for having the most replacement sales for a tech in the residential sector, bringing home $2,390,782 in sales. Top residential sales salesperson was George Matusak of Thompson Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, accumulating $2,411,837 in replacement sales.

“Developing rapport with the customer is very important,” offered Matusak. “I don’t believe in being pushy. I like to say, ‘Doesn’t this make sense to you?’ ”

Donzelli said he has fun with the video camera, pointing out indoor issues with customers. When he has the customer’s attention, he prefers to get commitment. His 54 percent closing rate proves his method is working.

“Remember that if it’s their idea, it’s the best idea,” he said. “I like to do it right then and there. I don’t like to go back.”

Other top award winners are:

• Club Memberships CCR - Lanette Rodriquez of Stark Heating and Air Conditioning (392 clubs).

• Club Memberships Tech - Kenneth Brantley of Comfort Experts (343 clubs);

• Talking Thermostat Sales by Tech - Greg Surma of Schneider’s 72 Degrees Air Conditioning and Heating (124);

• Leads Generated by a Tech - Gilbert Sanchez of Comfort Tech/Service Now (268);

• Total Service Revenue by a Technician - Mike Bullen of Horizon Services Inc. ($386,921);

• Installation Crew - Victor Perez of Comfort Experts ($1,545,267).

Publication Date: 04/14/2008