This has been a crazy summer. We thought last year was cool, and this summer has been even cooler. The 20-plus 100°F days we experienced in 2012 are just a far-away memory. These conditions give contractors a perfect opportunity to complain about all of the external factors that are negatively impacting their businesses. Of course, many complaints exist: There’s the weather, I can never get good people, the economy is still not recovering fast enough people, and there’s a host of other situations to place blame for lack of business success. The one place contractors seldom look to place blame is in the mirror. Do we look closely enough at ourselves and what we are doing within the business to honestly say that we are not part of the problem?

Time to Make a Change

When you talk to business people in other industries, they can all share the ups and downs which occur within their particular industries. We think we are a seasonal business, but look at retailing where records show about two-thirds of its success comes in the two- to three-month Christmas season. All businesses and industries have highs and lows; the most successful companies do the best job of managing through the downs.

Richard Flint, a motivational speaker who has spoken at numerous industry programs, has a very simple theory: “You are in your life, where you want to be.” While this may be hard to accept, it is true. If you are not happy with the state of your business, it’s up to you to take steps to change the state of
your business.

I have spoken for many years about the importance of maintenance agreements, but they certainly are worth discussing again. Nothing will help even the flow of work in the HVAC business more than having a good book of maintenance agreements. I am still willing to send you a copy of our maintenance agreement and the sales brochure if you send me an email at the address shown under my picture. A smart service technician acknowledges that maintenance agreements immensely help the company by providing work for himself. Nevertheless, we have found it worthwhile to give a spiff to service technicians for each maintenance agreement they sell. Due to the cool weather plaguing the area this latter part of summer, we have even been offering customers a discount off the price if they will allow us to do the furnace maintenance very early in the season. Time will tell the success of this program.

Know Your Numbers

It’s important for you as the contractor to know exactly where your company stands regarding current and future business so that you can react quickly when it becomes necessary. Due to slow July sales, two of our manufacturers added additional sales rebate programs, effective immediately. We were made aware of them the day before the programs started. The late notice was attributed to a last-minute decision from the manufacturers that something needed to be done to encourage homeowners to change equipment, which may have continued to struggle into next year. We, as contractors, also need to have ideas and programs available and ready to put in place to help our sales force bring in sales when the conditions are not necessarily encouraging.

Fortunately, with Facebook and our website, we are able spread information about promotions fairly quickly and easily. In addition, it is important to make sure that all of the people in your company are aware of these promotions. You never know when a friend or relative of one of your employees may be considering a system replacement. If you can provide sufficient incentives, it is very possible you can turn that undecided customer into a sale.

Those types of sales won’t occur if you just sit around complaining about the weather, your competition, and everything else you can think of. Take that energy and use it to determine what drivers you can put in place that will help fill up the gaps in your fall and spring schedule. Remember, if your business is not where you want it to be, you are the one who needs to take the steps to get it there.

Publication date: 9/8/2014

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