As summer winds down and autumn swings into full effect, contractors are facing what some consider to be the slow season. There are still plenty of calls to make and maintenance agreements to fulfill, but this season is often not the same pace of a hot, crazy summer.
It is not just the slow season that can cause contractors to struggle with hours and payroll. Business can take a turn, and contractors can find themselves searching for a way to keep employees working — and for their businesses to survive. Enter add-on services.
Roger Elkins is the director of HVAC service at Williams Comfort Air in Carmel, Indiana. The company has tried several add-on services for customers, including duct sealing, IAQ accessories, blown-in insulation, and crawl space encapsulation, to name a few.
“We tried some of these services because we were looking for more revenue from our client base,” said Elkins. “The cost of acquiring new clients was more money versus trying to get more revenue from the same clients.”
The most successful pieces of their add-on strategy were duct sealing and IAQ accessories. These services opened new revenue streams for Williams Comfort Air, as well as increased the company’s client base and the top and bottom line.
“If you are considering adding a service to your current business, remember the following three items,” said Elkins. “One, make sure the business fits your business. Two, listen to the professionals in that add-on service segment. Three, put a person in charge of it who has a passion and a goal to make it succeed.”
Based in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Amber Mechanical Contractors Inc. offers IAQ accessories, duct sealing, and duct cleaning. The company is a large commercial contractor that performs commercial and residential replacements.
“We integrated add-on businesses and services to grow our residential HVAC replacement and existing home customer base,” said Roger DeVries, home solutions advisor, Amber Mechanical. “We added on Aeroseal duct sealing, and it has shined light on customers’ existing issues with ductwork and other opportunities for the replacement side of the business.”
The Aeroseal patented process uses a non-toxic, water-based formula to seal the holes in a home’s air ducts and vents for more effective and efficient air delivery. In selling this service, Amber Mechanical conducts all of its duct sealing estimates on site, which DeVries said opens the door to equipment replacement or corrections to poorly installed equipment as well as ductwork revisions.
“It’s not unusual to find multiple problems that can be corrected by Aeroseal and other services we offer overall, giving us a higher ticket sale and a more satisfied customer,” he said. “Don’t devalue your add-on services.”
Along with Aeroseal, the company integrated Air Advice for Homes Inc.® into its residential sales calls and service appointments. Placing a monitor into the home for 30 minutes allows IAQ information to be gathered and analyzed for the purposes of remediation.
“This provides the customers current data on the quality of the air in their home and immediate real solutions while a technician is in the home,” said DeVries. “Air Advice works together with our IAQ add-on business and duct sealing.” He recommends both solutions to his clients.
He also recommends taking the time to establish processes to handle each lead with the proper attention, as well as to assign staff appropriately.
“Streamline your process and cross train your team members,” said DeVries. “Having a tracking method in place for the entire life cycle of the lead will provide insight on how that division of the business is performing.”
NO SLOW SEASONS
Rodney Koop, CEO and founder of The New Flat Rate, Dalton, Georgia, and former contractor owner of Clean Heating and Air Filtration, Dalton, Georgia, takes the concept of add-on services to a whole new level. According to Koop, the slow season is a myth that contractors have chosen to believe.
“As a matter of fact, in September, if you’re not selling school supplies and back-to-school clothes, you’re nothing,” he said. “But why can’t you sell school supplies and school clothing? Because you don’t want to, and that’s fine, but don’t think people aren’t spending money because they aren’t spending it with you.”
He describes contractors as labor brokers who have assets — their skilled technicians — who are able to accomplish more than HVAC jobs.
“I happen to know that they could put up a better outbuilding because they put up mine,” said Koop. “I also had them rewire half my house. You see, back in the day, whenever business was slow, I just had them come work for me at my house.”
He laughs about some of the steps he made early on in his business and acknowledged that some may have been a little too far outside of the box. One thing Koop didn’t laugh at, however, was the lesson he learned when he decided to take on mold cleaning and remediation.
“When you are a struggling contractor and you hear my story of how screwed up when I was a contractor, you have to ask, ‘How did he survive?’” he said. “It was mold. Mold is gold, and it’s so easy to work with. My average ticket for IAQ was $35,000, and approximately $21,000 in cash came from mold remediation.”
This went on for 12 years straight as Koop worked to dispel the myth of slow times in his company. He has since sold the company to his son, Dallas, whose average IAQ ticket continued to grow to $50,000. A few years after buying the business, Dallas experienced a slowing of the heating and air side of his business. He received a call from a local county building that had discovered black mold and made $280,000 just from that one job.
“People are afraid of black mold; not me, and in Dalton, we love it,” said Koop. “How much of that money went to a manufacturer? None. That’s just one thing out of a million ideas you can have that can help you eliminate slow seasons. We have to get out of our little shells and quit thinking, ‘Well, I’m just an HVAC technician.’”
Koop noted that there are steps that should be taken if contractors choose to add an unconventional service to their business. Not only should there be a process, but there should also be a plan of how the contractor is going to take this service to market, he said.
Once the process is in place, the next steps are to decide who will complete these new services and whether or not they will need training.
“Mold is one thing out of about 100 ideas, and I could name one after another, after another, after another,” said Koop. “The slow season is an absolute myth.”
From directly related to not even in the same neighborhood, there are plenty of add-on services that contractors can consider for their business to make the slow season a myth.
- Attic renovations
- Solar attic fans
- Mold cleaning
- Drain cleaning
- Drain treatment
- Duct sealing
- Duct cleaning
- Bathroom remodel
- Flood stops
- Water monitoring
- Fire protection
- Kitchen remodel
- Power conditions
- Smart homes
- Surge protection
- Playground equipment
- Portable buildings
- Appliance installation
Source: “Slow Season Solutions” presentation by Rodney Koop, CEO and founder of The New Flat Rate, Dalton, Georgia.
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