Success in any business requires that you never stop growing. Especially in the HVAC industry, those who want to succeed need to stay on top of developing technologies, management strategies, and customer expectations. Technology in the industry is changing constantly, and companies must know how to efficiently install, maintain, and service equipment. And not taking advantage of new technologies — such as software and wireless tools — could be leaving money on the table. In addition to this, customers’ expectations consistently change, and companies not aware that customers want technicians to take care with social distancing, for example, could lead to service complaints. Lastly, as the labor force ages, new employees — sometimes a generation or two removed from the oldest ones — will have different perspectives on what perks their company should offer them and how management should be run.
In sum, an attitude of constant learning will help ensure that your business adapts to the times and continues to grow in quality with each passing day.
There are numerous ways to grow your skillset, be it technical or management skills. Here is a guide to popular avenues that keep you learning:
Podcasts are becoming an increasingly popular way for people to connect with news, topics they’d like to learn about, or their celebrities. They’ve come to the HVAC industry too, and now commutes, drives to the grocery store, and chores at home all offer opportunities to connect your phone to a speaker and play a podcast that will train you to be a better contractor. We’ve written a more extensive article about HVAC podcasts, but here’s a list of some of the top ones:
- EnVisioneering Exchange — Danfoss puts out this podcast, looking at trends shaping the HVAC marketplace.
- HVAC Jerks — Three hosts offer an accessible, friendly look at the HVAC industry.
- HVAC on Air — Emerson’s Lindsay Headings talks with contractors, homeowners, and HVAC industry leaders.
- HVAC Uncensored — This podcast helps contractors with both technical tips, as well as business advice to grow profit.
- HVAC School — Bryan Orr discusses technical service tips for technicians in the field.
- To the Point Home Services — This podcast from Ryno Strategic Solutions focuses on helping clients develop plans for success in areas such as customer service, SEO website design, and more.
Industry events offer the chance for contractors to interface with manufacturers and learn about new products, as well as network with other industry players and contractors. Plus, breakout sessions and speakers offer pointed tips on select topics from experts, allowing contractors to pick and choose with subjects they’d like to grow their knowledge of.
Historically, contractors needed to travel physically to these events. However, the outbreak of coronavirus has prompted many of these events to move to an online format this year, and has cast uncertainty about events that are far enough away where being held in person might be a possibility. While many in the industry look ahead and hope for in-person events to resume, the offer of online events permits event-access to people who otherwise may not have been able to attend due to an inability to travel. Here’s a list of some of the top industry events:
- Service World Expo — Sept. 22-24, 2020. Service Roundtable hosts this event, complete with breakout and keynote speakers and a product exposition.
- HARDI Annual Conference — Dec. 5-8, 2020. This year’s event features the theme “Adapt,” focusing on how the distribution industry has adapted to world events, and how to effectively plan for the future.
- AHR Expo — January 25-27, 2021. The event, slated to take place in Chicago, will feature speakers, a massive expo, and networking opportunities.
- ACCA Conference & Expo — Feb. 21-24, 2021. Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) feature an event that will focus on workforce, leadership, operations, and finance, with presentations and the goal of offering a place for HVAC industry decision makers to interact.
- MCAA Annual Convention — March 14-18, 2021. Mechanical Contractors Association of America offers educational workshops, exhibits, and social functions
- SMACNA Annual Convention — October 13-15, 2020 — Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association presents a digital event with education opportunities and a virtual product show.
Many times, the best teacher is good experience. Many contractors say one of their favorite parts of events is networking with other contractors and rubbing shoulders with other business leaders in the HVAC industry. This allows them to exchange ideas for topics such as employee management, marketing, tool recommendations, and much more.
This doesn’t need to stop once the event ends, though. A formal setting for networking is nice, but the same thing can be done elsewhere. Other contractors are only a phone call away, and striking up a relationship with another HVAC business owner in your area (though not a direct competitor) can be extremely beneficial. Participating in a local chamber of commerce can be helpful too, offering the chance to meet other business owners from different industries, who may have their own ideas for success.
Online Learning and Classes
The Internet is at your fingertips, and the outbreak of the coronavirus has only made online learning more accessible.
YouTube, for example, offers loads of learning opportunities. The site provides quick videos that can help troubleshoot and fix system issues, and the videos are often very user-friendly. However, because the content accuracy isn’t moderated, contractors should ensure the video comes from a reputable source before completely trusting it.
Other online resources include websites like HVAC School, which offers technical training for system installation/maintenance. Plus, online forums can offer a virtual location for contractors and technicians to dialogue about technical details of equipment repair, as well as business management. Similar to YouTube, since content accuracy isn’t guaranteed, contractors should vet the resources they are in taking and be sure they are coming from a qualified source.
Recently released technologies and products may be harder to find Internet resources on if they haven’t had enough time to circulate in the marketplace. That said, manufacturers and distributors will often host classes so that contractors and technicians can feel comfortable working on them. These classes are high quality, especially since manufactures and distributors have a vested interest in a contractor’s success with a product (contractors won’t sell products that they can’t install/service).