A parade of high-profile speakers challenged attendees of the recent EPIC event in Las Vegas to take their businesses to the next level. EPIC is a two-day training event for HVAC contractors, presented by EGIA. The speakers themselves have accomplished everything from building an iconic fashion brand to turning around failing bars to landing a plane in the Hudson River. And they all delivered the same message — accept reality, but not excuses.

Jon Taffer, a consultant and star of the hit show “Bar Rescue,” kicked off the event with some brutal truth for those who made the trip to Las Vegas. He said statistics show that 70% of them will return home after being presented with dozens of ideas for improving business and they will do nothing. Those who fail to act will give more reasons, but in the end, Taffer said, they are all excuses.

And Taffer has heard every possible excuse while filming more than 200 episodes of his show. The worst ever, he said, was a bar owner in Detroit who blamed her troubles on the Euro crisis in Greece. Not one owner ever takes responsibility for the obvious struggles of the businesses, Taffer said.

They blame fear, scarcity, and circumstances, Taffer said. They claim to lack the necessary knowledge, even though just about everything can be learned online these days. And they often say they lack time.

“Nobody ever runs out of time,” Taffer said. “You just allocate it wrong.”

“You’re not selling equipment. You’re selling more than that.”
Jon Taffer
Host, Bar Rescue

Working On The Business, Not At It

Business owners need to spend at least 10% of their time each week working on ways to improve their business, he said. This may mean reverse engineering the lead flow or finding barriers to sales and breaking them down. The ultimate goal is to create a process that creates positive reactions for customers.

“You’re not selling equipment,” Taffer said. “You’re selling more than that.”

A positive customer experience is especially necessary in these times of rising prices. Taffer has paid for plenty of HVAC upgrades during his bar remodels. He said customers are much less likely to pick apart numbers if they believe in the contractor.

Again, this all requires putting thought into a company as much as effort. Steve Shallenberger, author of “Becoming Your Best,” said during his presentation that only 10% of organizations have a planning process. Shallenberger said companies need to develop a solutions-based culture.

That means looking at solutions rather than problems. Business owners need to clearly define the real issues they face. Then the need to create an organized system for finding answers to these issues. After doing that, owners need to implement a plan and evaluate the results.


Can’t Ignore Reality

Ignoring reality is never an effective strategy, Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger told the crowd. When a plan meets reality, an HVAC contractor must adapt. Sullenberger’s plan on Jan. 15, 2009, was to fly a jet from Laguardia Airport in New York to Charlotte, North Carolina. That plan changed when the Airbus A320 flew into a flock of Canadian geese, each weighing around 10 pounds.

Sullenberger said he focused on taking the actions that were the most important. He said too many people try to do everything, calling it multitasking. What they are really doing is switching quickly from one activity to another and not doing any of them especially well. Speaking on a panel, HVAC contractor Paul Kelly said that’s the biggest challenge for HVAC contractors when it comes to implementing new ideas. They tend to get easily sidetracked by the day-to-day operations.

Draymond John, an entrepreneur now famous of his role on TV’s “Shark Tank,” ended the event. John founded clothing line FUBU in Hollis, Queens, in 1992. John literally bet his house on the brand, taking out a second mortgage and turning half of his residence into a factory.


Doing What Has to be Done

HVAC contractors do face challenges today, including shortages of equipment and workers, along with rising prices. Gary Elekes, founder of EPC Training, said during a panel that responding to these challenges requires discipline. Elekes said that’s how he’s been able to grow business during every recession. Discipline means doing “what you have to do when you don’t want to do it.”

That might mean raising prices and risking business as a result. Weldon Long, an entrepreneur and author who emceed the event, said some contractors are adding a fuel surcharge to their bills. Long said HVAC contractors can’t absorb all these higher costs and must pass some on to their customers. He recommends talking with them about how they are handling inflation in their own businesses.

Many HVAC contractors worry about losing business to a competitor who comes in with a lower price. Long said what really hurts is losing business to someone who charges more.

For all the challenges, there are plenty of opportunities for HVAC contractors, Taffer said consumers are looking ways to save energy and upgrade the quiet and comfort ion their homes. He said home builder Toll Brothers is now including a home office in many of their designs.

“This pandemic, as bad as it’s been for the world, has been good for our industry,” Long said. He shared the story of Kenny Jerry Bell, the former co-owners of Bell Brothers Heating and Air in Sacramento, California. The brothers recently sold their company for $95 million. Long said he’s heard of investors paying 15 times multiples for HVAC firms.

“It’s amazing what’s happening in our industry right now,” he said.