I am seeing an occurrence of a trend that was started by some contractors about 30-40 years ago.

In fact, I know there are consultants out there who are actually encouraging this practice. What I am referring to is the idea of adding different types of work to the list of things you provide customers. The list of items varies, but it will typically start with the addition of plumbing, then electric, and then perhaps some other home services. We are all entitled to our opinions regarding whether or not increasing the scope of work you perform is right for the overall good of your business. In my opinion, it is not a good idea, especially for newer or smaller contractors. Let me explain why.


A person’s comfort in a home is much different than whether the toilet flushes or a wall switch turns a light on. A person’s comfort is very subjective. As you’ve probably found by now, two different people have completely different ideas regarding their comfort levels. As a result, it is especially important for us in the HVAC industry to employ technicians who are not only able to technically solve problems, but solve customers’ needs, as well. Additionally, today’s equipment is much more technical than equipment was even five years ago. The electronics present in furnaces, air conditioners, and thermostats today are vastly different than the old days when a furnace repair could be made with either a pilot, a thermocouple, or a blower motor.

Many years ago, when small businesses attempted to add additional disciplines to their core businesses, it was because technicians who had gone into business for themselves were having trouble making a reasonable profit on the work they performed. Those contractors who were struggling to be profitable should have obtained some training and education in the actual business operations, or, alternatively, hired someone to perform those functions for them. Instead, their consultants were telling them to branch out and begin doing additional types of work, like plumbing and/or electric. I remember a very savvy consultant, who was strongly against this practice, giving me some very good advice. He said: “If you’re not being profitable in the field in which you have the most expertise, how in the world do you think you’re going to be profitable in a new field in which, not only do you not have the business experience, but you don’t have the technical expertise either?”

Any time our team holds a meeting and the idea comes up about us adding some other type of work to our traditional HVAC work, I remember that consultant’s evaluation. In addition, I look at the size of the HVAC market here in the St. Louis metropolitan area and tell myself that until I have replaced every furnace and air conditioner in the area and made every one comfortable, there is still plenty of HVAC business out there for us.

I certainly don’t think it is possible with today’s HVAC equipment to expect a technician to be well-versed in servicing that equipment while also being current on the new, high-efficiency water heating systems that are available.

There is the old saying about being a jack of all trades, but the sub-heading to that is master of none. I want to be able to tell our customers that we are masters of our trade and that our people are well-trained in the HVAC area, and that is the only area in which we specialize. Fortunately, I don’t believe the need for comfortable heating and air conditioning is going to go away in the foreseeable future. Thus, I encourage you, before you decide to add a new scope of work to the work you perform, just re-read above what my consultant’s advice was to me. 

Publication date: 5/15/2017

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