People fear change for a variety of reasons such as uncertainty, loss of control, complacency and risk aversion. Regardless of the reason, change is about the only thing we can look forward to. For HVAC contractors, the key drivers of change are often the customers. And the HVAC companies who stay closest to their customers and inquire about new preferences and needs will stay ahead of the pack.
My busy travel schedule enables me to serve HVAC contractors throughout the United States and Canada. I have found that the one differentiating factor among the most successful contractors is a willingness to innovate and drive change.
Prior to being a self-employed consultant, I managed a supply chain group for a manufacturing company. My team was comprised of young men and women about twenty five years my junior. Our group was responsible for maintaining the manufacturing schedule and minimizing worldwide inventory exposure for high-technology components with short life cycles. The reality of Moore’s Law on high-tech manufacturing is a force to be reckoned with because every 12 to 18 months, new technology replaces the old.
My young team was energetic and willing to participate in teleconference calls with European and Asian customers any hour of the day or night. When one continent needed more inventory, our team analyzed whether it made sense to manufacture a new product or simply to shift inventory from one continent to another. Decisions were made quickly and sometimes I would ask a younger staff member to visit customers in Europe or Asia to conduct an inventory audit and to meet their overseas counterparts.
While worldwide travel seems glamorous, these trips were exhausting and my young staff members knew it. They resisted the travel because of my high expectations, tight deadlines and the heavy workload during a major time-zone adjustment, all of which challenged their comfortable routine. Their resistance was no match for my insistence.
The outcome of these overseas trips was always the same; the returning young staff member’s overall performance improved exponentially afterwards. Their thinking was more strategic and they took greater risks because they began to see the bigger picture of how the worldwide distribution plan fits together. Travel expands a person’s perspective in ways one might not always realize. In addition, Woody Allen’s quote, “Eighty percent of success is showing up,” carries a lot of weight when you consider how important it is to be present.
Here is a second interesting and refreshing perspective about change and the related benefits.
At sixteen, I broke my right arm and was forced to write with my left hand for about four months. It was awkward and uncomfortable. The cast on my right arm went from my hand to my shoulder. Writing was an activity that I took for granted and it wasn’t until I struggled and re-learned how to hold a pen and write that I fully understood what “outside my comfort zone” meant.
At the time, switching back to my dominant right hand was not an option, so I persevered and, within a few days, my left hand writing became more proficient. By the end of the four months, I was a left hand writer. After the cast was removed, I went back to writing with my right hand only part time. With two dominant hands, I was able to switch back and forth with ease.
During the subsequent months, I remember that life got rosier. My attitude and outlook was more positive. My high school grades improved, I became more extraverted and some of my adolescent weirdness subsided. What might have caused the flood of positive outcomes after the broken arm?
The answer lies in the possibility that the persistent discomfort of learning how to write with my left hand resulted in new brain activity called neurogenesis. This new brain activity involves the growth of neurons from neural stem cells. Years later, I learned that while most human neurons are developed prenatally, some parts of the adult brain retain the ability to grow new neurons. In my case, disruption, change and ensuing discomfort turned out to be a good thing.
Courageous HVAC service operations that step outside their comfort zone and disrupt their routine in the interest of exceeding their customers’ ever-increasing expectations will also yield positive outcomes. It requires both trust in the synergies which will abound (like new neurons) and courage to take the first step.
Sometimes change occurs unexpectedly, similar to when I broke my arm, and sometimes change is forced upon a person in the same way I insisted my young staff travel. Either way, get on board, overcome fears and embrace change.