As an HVAC contractor, you will never hear me say this profession is an easy one. We wear a great number of different hats in our businesses and it is never easy to make sure we are wearing the right hat at the right time. We have to answer to a large number of constituents: our entire customer base; our vendors; our employees; the municipalities in which we work, etc. No one can say that is easy.
As a result, we can often get caught up in the day-to-day efforts required to answer to all of these groups. While it is important that we do properly answer, it is necessary for us to step back and look at the big picture, at times, to make sure that our contracting firm is really headed in the right direction. Remember, a common speaker phrase is: How will you know you have arrived at your destination if you didn’t take the time to determine what or where that destination is?
There are several reasons why it’s important to take the time to look at the big picture and determine where your company fits in.
This is the time to set goals for the future of your company. This means not just goals for the upcoming year, but goals for at least three to five years in the future.
Our day-to-day work can often be tedious, almost monotonous. While the details may be different, the general topics on which we must spend our time are often from the same group of issues. Occasionally we need to get out of the monotony.
It’s important to reenergize yourself and your key employees. This may mean that you reenergize yourself and then return to your company to pass that energy on to your employees. Now is the time to reenergize and prepare yourself mentally for the times ahead. There are several methods that you can use to move yourself away from the day-to-day issues, even if it is for just a short time period. Even a short break can do wonders to put yourself in the proper frame of mind moving forward.
One simple, inexpensive method is to take your key people — even if it’s only one or two — away from the office for a one-day retreat. This can be a simple trip just down the street to a hotel conference room, but it should be away from the office. This will give you the chance to discuss with these key people the direction they see the company heading. The subsequent conversations should be free and open, and it’s important that you, as the boss, not be defensive and immediately shoot down any proposals.
Plan to attend a meeting with other contractors. Listen to your peers and converse about the issues they feel are important. You will be surprised at how much you have in common.
Several options are out there to meet with other contractors and vendors to share thoughts and ideas. The AHR Expo in New York City offers thousands of contractors and vendors of all types and sizes the opportunity to display and discuss their products and services. Most manufacturers host annual dealer meetings this time of year, to introduce new products and programs. These can be a great opportunity to talk with other contractors about the issues that they are facing and what they see for the future. The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) convention is scheduled to occur in March in Nashville, Tenn. At such a convention, not only do you have the opportunity to learn from industry experts about all types of industry issues, but you have the chance to share with contractors from differing geographic areas their thoughts and ideas regarding issues that may be bothering you. The advantage to a national convention like this is that you can talk with contractors who are not direct competitors.
I’d like to put a plug in here for the benefits of belonging to a MIX/peer group. This is typically a group of six to 12 contractors from noncompeting geographic areas who meet to not only discuss industry issues, but to typically delve deeply into each other’s financial records. These can be an immense help in answering a myriad of questions that may arise during any given year. If you are interested, you can contact ACCA or send me an email.
In summary, the winter season is when we need to take the time to develop plans for not only the upcoming year, but for the long-term future of our companies. This is also the time we need to make sure that we, as the leaders of our companies, are in the proper frame of mind. It’s time for us to move forward and to do everything we can to be even more successful than we ever have in the past.
Publication date: 1/20/2014