LAS VEGAS — Business management education, networking, and products were on the agenda when HVAC contractors from around the country traveled to Las Vegas for the recent Service World Expo.



Marcia Barnes, CEO and founder of Valve+Meter, presented on how contractors can beat their competition in a mobile-first world.

“So we have to understand that things are changing in your business,” Barnes said. “Your business model needs to change. Somewhere at Amazon, there are probably 500 people trying to figure out how to do your business and cut you out of it. You have to be able to adapt.”

To show how things are changing, Barnes talked about the Yellow Pages. When she first started in marketing, she was getting the Yellow Pages correct for her contractor clients by using the correct company name to get high up in the listing and purchasing the right size of a display ad to get noticed.

Then the internet arrived, and the Yellow Pages began to be less effective. Shortly after, smartphones came along, and the world of information was at the consumers’ fingertips.

“You have to think what your mobile strategy is. Who is my client, what are the markets I am going after, and what are the products I am trying to sell? You need to reach these consumers,” Barnes said.

She cautioned that HVAC contractors have to realize that this applies to them. Barnes shared the statistic that 49 percent of home services searches are done via mobile devices.

“We want to make sure that people can find us in the neighborhoods and that they can see that we have the products they are looking for,” she said. “Site speed is a Google ranking factor. That is generally something that is broken, so you can go home and analyze your site speed pretty easily.”

That is important because 53 percent of mobile visitors will leave a web page if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

“If you are slow, Google will deprioritize you due to the clients bouncing off your website. So now you don’t have the traffic that you deserve,” Barnes said.

Edward McFarlane of Haller Enterprises presented on how to effectively train employees.

McFarlane shared that 31 percent of employees leave in the first six months because of lack of clarity. Considering the cost it takes to hire and bring on new employees, it is important to make sure employees do not lack clarity. This can be done with training.

“Meetings are not training, and training is not a meeting,” he said. “They are different. It might seem like semantics, but here’s the thing: training should bring change. If nothing changes after the training, you’re just holding meetings. And while it’s very important for you guys to know that, it is equally important for those who are doing the training to know that.”

He said an important part of training is to make it engaging. This means having a topic that applies to the person being trained. If it is training on financing, your service guys won’t be interested. If it is technical training, odds are your sales crew will not be focused.

“It’s unreasonable to expect people to pay attention to stuff that isn’t their job,” McFarlane said. “It would be nice if they did, but that is not practical. Look who you are trying to impact and invite them.”

Another important aspect in training is measurement. According to McFarlane, you do this by reverse engineering.

“Don’t just have a meeting without being laser focused on what the outcome is. You wouldn’t send an installer out without a plan for the install. Don’t do it to yourself,” McFarlane said.

McFarlane was sure to point out that before training happens, it is important to identify why the training is occurring. Contractors need to make sure they have a reason to train, and not just because it is Monday morning.



Also at Service World Expo, The ACHR NEWS’ Ron Smith Leadership Award was presented to Jim Batson, owner and CEO of H.C. Blake Co. The goal of the award is to recognize a person in the HVAC industry who has given of themselves in outstanding fashion for the betterment of others in the industry.

Batson is the sixth generation who’s worked at this family company. When he purchased the company, its work was 90 percent commercial construction and 10 percent residential service. It was also the year the market collapsed. Batson knew he’d have to adapt. Now, the company does 50 percent commercial construction and 50 percent retail service. They employ 150 people and have about 60 fleet vehicles. Due to recent growth, the company — which had been in the same building for the past 50 years — relocated to a larger, 30,000-square-foot facility. They have a separate facility for training new employees, complete with a computer lab, a training room, and a model house for them to practice working on.

Next year, Service World Expo will be Sept. 22-24 in Tampa, Florida.

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