A high percentage of heating and air conditioning companies have been started by individuals with extraordinary technical skills, but not necessarily business or leadership skills. Today, I want to address the issue of leadership.

Every ship must have a captain, and every business needs a leader. I’ve known several individuals who entered the HVAC business with exceptional technical skills, yet lacked business and/or leadership skills. Some of these guys hired someone to run their business so they could continue practicing the technical work they knew and liked.

A major homebuilder we work closely with took this to the extreme. The founder reached great success, and, while his son wanted to be involved in the business, he didn’t feel he had the necessary qualities to take the company to the next level. To make it even more difficult, by that time, his three sons were in their 20s and early 30s, and he didn’t feel any of them had what it would take to successfully run such a large company. As a result, he hired two exceptional nonfamily leaders to oversee the company. They did so and helped make the son and other family members a considerable amount of money. I’ve always marveled at the guts it took to overlook three sons and find someone more capable of running the company.


Leaders are not appointed. Leaders achieve for several reasons, but it is never because of their titles. If you’re seeking to be a leader, or you’re searching for a leader, there are number of things to remember. The following list may be helpful to you, or another, when seeking a successful leader.

1. Act like a leader, but don’t be overbearing. Leaders set dates and times for meetings and start them on time. These meetings have an agenda, and the facilitator has goals he hopes to accomplish through the gathering. These individuals are properly prepared for the meeting prior to the meeting.

2. When issues or problems come up — and they will — examine what the situation is now, determine what’s necessary to correct the problem, and act. Review the situation afterward to determine what caused the problem and work to eliminate it from occurring in the future. When you’re in the process of determining what is necessary to correct a problem, it’s nonproductive to worry about establishing blame.

3. As a manager or leader, manage the function and the desired outcome, not the details necessary to get there. Sometimes, to my dismay and embarrassment, I’ll ask a subordinate to solve a particular issue and will then tell the subordinate how to solve it. In many instances, the subordinate comes up with a better result and route to that result than I ever could. In other words, explain what you want accomplished, and let them go about accomplishing the result.

4. Remember, any function should be performed by the least-skilled person capable of performing that function. In other words, delegate the easy things, and, as a leader, solve the hard problems.

5. Open your ears and close your mouth. There is a reason the Lord gave us two ears and one mouth. Listening is at least twice as important as speaking. You learn much more from listening than speaking.

6. Treat your employees, regardless of level, with respect, and, whenever possible, include them in the decision-making processes where their activities may be affected. Getting buy-in from employees when making changes is absolutely critical to the success of those changes.

7. Similarly, give employees the authority to make appropriate decisions. If a customer has an issue, I’ve found I can have an employee meet with the customer and solve the issue, and the employee will do it at a lesser cost than had I gotten involved.

Following these seven simple rules will greatly help you become an effective leader, be able to train someone to be a leader, or know the qualities to look for if you are searching for an outside leader.

Publication date: 9/28/2015

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