I want to sincerely thank Mike Murphy, Kyle Gargaro, and the staff of The NEWS for selecting me as one of three “Legends of the HVAC Industry” presented Sept. 7 at Service World Expo in Las Vegas. I couldn’t be prouder to have been selected for this award. As I looked back on the information provided in my entry form, I noticed a number of things that I felt would be pertinent and worthwhile to share with you.
AGE IS INEVITABLE
To be a legend, you must be old.
I say that only partially with tongue in cheek. What I really mean is that legendary contractors tend to be around for a long time. The average life expectancy for an HVAC contractor is about four years. Certainly, to really be successful, you have to establish yourself in your community for a number of years in order to show your staying ability.
For those interested in sticking around for a long time, you have to make decisions based on the long-term success of your company and not just short-term profits. This is not always easy. Young contractors frequently face situations where decisions must be balanced between short-term gains and long-term company stability. I have always favored long-term stability. With that approach, you will have a much better chance for long-term success.
To support that approach, my dad always impressed on me that if we would take care of our customers first, then the profits and longevity would be the end result.
In order to help ensure you make the right long-term decisions, it’s important to be prepared to adapt to change. Ironically, the most constant thing we have found in our business through the years is constant change. It’s important that you, as a contractor, watch out for factors that occur that may require you to change your business. When I started working during the summers in high school, we were still basically installing gas furnaces in basements of new houses with all of the necessary ductwork. Then, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a new business was created. Air conditioning was added to all of those heating systems we had installed for about 15 years. We had to change our whole operating system because of that change in the business. Within about five to 10 years, air conditioning units had been added to homes that could afford it. Thus, we had to revert back to a company that specialized in new construction. Then, in 1990, for the first time, more air conditioners were sold for replacements than new construction. That meant another change for us to rely less on new construction and to get more heavily into service and replacement. You can see a pattern. Changes are always coming, and you must be prepared. I’m sorry to say I know of a number of contractors here in St. Louis who didn’t adapt to the changes, and, unfortunately, they are no longer around.
GIVE BACK TO THE INDUSTRY
Another important trait to ensure your long-term success in the business is to constantly be prepared to give back to the industry. This means getting involved in an industry association, such as Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), ACCA, or possibly another local contractor group. I assure you that any and all of these groups will welcome new contractors willing to serve the industry. When I say getting involved, I don’t mean just joining the association. I mean joining and really getting involved. This means serving on a committee or trust fund and giving your time. It is also important for you to encourage young people you know in the industry to get involved. Our industry is always going to be in need of leaders. Leaders are those who get involved. There are really many advantages to getting involved and participating with a contractor association. You are in a position early on to know about changes that may be occurring in the future of the industry. I can honestly say that our company and I have always received more in benefits than what we have given regarding our involvement in contractor associations.
These are just a few of the things I believe are important for contractors to keep in mind — not to become legends, but more importantly, to ensure their long-term success in the industry.
I hope you will remember these things as you chart the course for the future of your business.
Publication date: 9/25/2017