Success Group Intl. lit the path to HVAC contracting prosperity at its Spring 2015 Expo. The March event, held in Atlanta, featured vendor breakouts, general sessions, breakout groups on a variety of business management topics, and a vendor showcase. About 400 SGI members made the trip to Atlanta for the Spring Expo, which is average attendance, according to Rebecca Cassel, president and part-owner, SGI.

“We serve almost 800 members in North America,” Cassel said. “Typically, 55-60 percent of our membership attends the expo. We have people who sometimes can’t do two events a year, so they do one or the other.”

Technological Teaching

SGI’s general session on human resources allowed attendees the opportunity to respond to a number of general business questions using clickers, with the poll results being displayed on screen.

Breakout group sessions also featured video clips, like the TEDx Talk video played during Milestone Electric & Air cofounder Gus Antos’ “Leadership Lessons” session. Antos began his session with a disclaimer, saying he was not a leadership expert. “A lot of the ideas came out of this room; these aren’t all my ideas.”

Leadership works from the inside out, and it all boils down to company values and culture, he said. “Culture is more than your company, it is your company,” Antos said. “I’ve heard people say: ‘We’re trying to create a good company culture.’ Well, that’s good, but culture is your company — it’s not a subset of everything else. Culture is literally everything you are, and you create it in two ways: unintentionally and intentionally.”

Heath Betts, AirTime 500 client success manager, SGI, spoke to members about converting lost leads and capitalizing on sales opportunities — something that can cost contractors thousands of dollars. In fact, Betts had audience members quantify the amount of missed opportunities have cost their businesses.

“How much of your business are you willing to give away right now?” he asked. “Who wants to give away $700,000? Who wants to give away $100,000? Then, why do we do it? When are we going to get mad enough to fix it?”

Betts said the key is to focus on keeping current customers because they are the ones most likely to spend money.

“The average cost of acquiring a customer today is $350, but we’ll divorce one over $50,” he said. “All because maybe they said something you didn’t like or maybe because, ‘That lady’s crazy — I don’t want her as a customer.’ But, you’ll take her $8,000 for that system. It’s much easier to keep an old customer you already have than to go out advertising for new ones. Now, don’t get me wrong, we have to have new customers because we have to keep growing. But, we can’t afford to throw away the customers we’ve already built relationships with.”

Betts recommends technicians find out something personal about a customer every time they enter a home. “Get to know the kids by name; know the pets’ names. The more personal you make it, the more part of the family you’re going to be. The customer is not going to let a stranger in the home because you’ve become part of the family. Years ago, when I ran service, most of my clients knew me by name.”

Looking Ahead

It’s been almost a year since SGI was purchased from Direct Energy by Cassel and her husband, Lon Cassel, along with a few other SGI employees and members.

“The reason we wanted to acquire the company is we have a passion for independent contractors,” Cassel said. “Our whole measurement of success is our members achieving their successes and dreams. The stories that come out of this group are moving and touching — it makes all the work so worthwhile. We like to tell people, ‘This is now a member-owned organization. We’re here to focus on their brand, their marketplace, and their desires.’ I think that’s something that’s really neat for us.”

Currently, SGI has an agreement in place with Direct Energy to provide training that expires in April 2016. “Right now, our big focus is our training initiative,” Cassel explained. “We’re working to duplicate the training school that’s already in existence and then expand. It’s a huge focus of what we’re trying to accomplish right now.”

Additionally, the group also has a three-year agreement for BuyMax Alliance® with Direct Energy to provide purchasing discounts, rebates and vendor programs to help members lower operating costs and improve profitability.

Cassel said SGI is looking at new opportunities and options but will continue to promote Direct Energy, as it’s always done, while under the agreements. Cassel hinted at some new announcements expected to be made at the group’s Fall Expo, which will be held in Boca Raton, Florida. “Prior to our agreement expiring, we’ll have a clear understanding and vision for the future.”

Publication date: 4/6/2015

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