ORLANDO — If you don’t measure, you are just guessing. That phrase was uttered more than a few times as the National Comfort Institute (NCI) met for its Annual Summit in Orlando in late February. Members who attended were greeted with a carefully designed technical and business-oriented educational program that addressed specific challenges facing performance-based contractors.

The sessions examined subject matter designed to help contractors do a better job for their customers.

“Over the years, through surveys and in person, NCI asked members what they wanted out of a membership meeting. The answer was clear: Rather than a collection of seminars scratching the surface about a bunch of different topics, they would rather dive deeper into some of the key areas that could benefit their businesses, and come away with a clear vision of what they needed to do when they returned home,” said Dominick Guarino, chairman and CEO of NCI.

Milton Baum, owner of KEIL Heating and Air Conditioning in Riverdale, N.J., presented on how to build and protect your customer base. This involves targeting your ideal customer and measuring customer retention and growth.

The first step Baum recommended was to establish who you are. A contractor needs to recognize who they are and what their brand represents.

“In my area, I am proudly the most expensive guy — by a lot. You have to get your money so your brand is worth X amount of dollars. My brand is 10 years, parts and labor. If you ever have a problem, you pick up the phone, and it is taken care of. It does not matter if it is 2 a.m. or 2 p.m., on a Sunday or a Tuesday. You go with us because you don’t want any hassles at all. If you think we charge too much, and it is not worth it, then don’t play. That is about as hassle free as you get. That trims down our customers quite a bit.”

The next step is to identify your territory. This area should best serve your customer and maximize your profitability.

Baum established his company’s territory a day after a horrible experience where his technicians had a ton of problems on a job that was an hour away. He had a meeting where he pulled out a map and a coffee can. Baum put the can on the map and drew a circle around it.

“I told them, ‘we never go outside that circle ever again,’” Baum said. “All those people outside the circle, we will refer them to someone else. The only reason we go out of that circle is to fulfill a warranty.”

To research your territory, Baum recommended www.infoUSA.com and www.maps.com. “These websites will let you know what the homeowners earn, what a house is worth, the number of houses, how many people are in the house, etc.,” he said. “This information will help the contractor identify the best territory.”

Baum recommended that once a business has between 20-25 percent of its target market, it is time to either expand its reach or add more products. After he explained his system, a lot of contractors in the audience realized their territories were way too big.

“You can make your territory smaller and you can make your business run more efficiently,” he clarified. “This makes business easier for everybody, and it leads to fewer mistakes. You want to be the big fish in a little pond. Top-of-mind awareness and branding is improved when your trucks are constantly seen in this smaller area.”

Other topics that were highlighted during the meeting included: how to maximize HVAC system performance, how to generate leads through service, rediscovering home performance, and turning leads into profitable sales. The event also included a well-attended trade show.

“The classes were amazing,” said Christie Fisher, customer service representative, FisherAir Heating and Air Conditioning Services, Brea, Calif. “This really got us motivated to change how we do things.”


The awards ceremony during the event highlighted the best of the group. “Choosing the winners was extremely difficult, as there are so many contractors devoted to performance-based contracting and their success proves it,” said Rob Falke, president, NCI. “The winners and finalists represent contractors who are the best of the best, and we are proud to have them associated with National Comfort Institute.”

NCI members were honored for their commitment to training excellence, outstanding achievement in testing, quality service, and implementation of NCI best practices and efficiency standards.

• Contractor of the Year (small business category) went to TM Johnson Bros. Inc., Cambridge, Minn. Accepting the award was Tom Johnson.

• Contractor of the Year (medium business category) went to Masterworks Mechanical Inc., Craig, Colo. Accepting the award was David DeRose.

• Contractor of the Year (large business category) went to Holt Plumbing & Heating Inc., West Des Moines, Iowa. Amanda Holt-Potter, Josh Potter, and Ben Holt accepted the award.

A highlight of the awards banquet was the presentation of the David Debien Technical Excellence award, honoring Debien for his pioneering work in HVAC systems design and installation. This year’s award was presented to Michael Hyde of Hyde’s Air Conditioning, Indio, Calif. The NCI National Training Excellence award went to Air Assurance Co., Broken Arrow, Okla., for its dedication to performance-based contracting. The Preferred Partner of the Year award went to Baker Distributing Co., Jacksonville, Fla., for its strong support of NCI membership with special pricing, discounts, and rebates as well as hosting NCI training classes.

Guarino presented William Kennihan of Kennihan’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, Valencia, Pa., with the 2014 NCI Chairman’s award, in support of Kennihan’s staunch support of NCI’s mission; company-wide implementation of performance-based contracting; and his great contribution of ideas, energy, and time.

Publication date: 4/14/2014 

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!