I hope you enjoyed the extremely hot summer as much as we did. We all certainly deserved it after the ridiculously warm winter. I don’t know how it is in all areas, but if I had to choose one, I would take the hot summer over a cold winter every time. Furnace breakdowns don’t bring the same amount of revenue as air conditioning failures.

Now that you are basking in what hopefully has been several profitable months, I’m here to give a reality check. We all know that our industry is seasonal, so just as quickly as the extended hot spell came, it will be just a memory. The key for all of us is to make sure that we are prepared to react when the business slows down. We don’t want to give away in the last three or four months of the year all that we worked so hard to earn.

The important action that is necessary is for you to be proactive — not reactive regarding the slow-down that you know is coming. Perhaps you had to add some crews and some additional service technicians in order to handle the extra summer business. Be prepared to make sure you continue to have plenty of work for those employees, or you can very quickly lose some of your well-deserved profits. You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression “work will expand to fill the time available.”

We have definitely found this to be the case. It isn’t that the employees intentionally take longer on the jobs, the fact is that when an employee has several jobs ahead of him, he is going to move faster than if he doesn’t see that there is a job for him after he completes the one he is on currently. This is an extremely important, yet difficult situation to manage. The goal for you as the employer is to make sure that you have the appropriate crew size so that there is another job ready for the crew after the job they are performing.

Maintenance Agreements

Another proactive step you can take as the breakdown service slows down is to re-energize your efforts selling maintenance agreements. You’ve probably been too busy taking care of the “no-cool” calls to think much about maintenance agreements during this hot weather. But now is the perfect time to get your troops together and emphasize the importance to them of selling maintenance agreements. They benefit the employees because they provide work in off-peak times, they benefit the company in that they bring a solid relationship with the customer, and they benefit the customer because maintenance will reduce the likelihood of breakdowns. If you would like a copy of our maintenance agreements sales brochure and forms, just e-mail me at the address shown.

Another area that needs to be reviewed is staffing and other overhead items. If you had to add some additional office staff to handle the summer rush, make sure that you reduce that staff quickly as the workload reduces. The same work situation exists with office personnel as field personnel.

It’s up to us to make sure that there is, in fact, plenty of work for them to do because I assure you that they will always look busy. Just think to yourself as to how much work they accomplished when you were so busy, and try to develop systems that will ensure that you continue to receive that type of productivity all of the time.

If you have read these columns before, you know that I am an optimist, so please don’t take this column as being negative. I hope that we have a major heat spell again through September and that we continue to be as busy as we were at the peak.

But I also am a realist. I have seen enough of these times to know that sometime it is going to slow down. Whether that is now, or two months from now, my point is to make sure you are ready for the slowdown before you look at your books and find that something happened to all of those nice profits you worked days, nights, and weekends to achieve.

Publication date: 9/17/2012