GALVESTON, TX — Arguing that the hvacr contracting industry should not allow itself to be defined by its lowest common denominator, the chief elected officer of a nationally recognized contracting association challenged the industry to “Stand up to the unscrupulous contractors who would rather steal a quick buck than build a business relationship.”

In candid remarks before the Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association (TACCA) Annual Conference, Larry Taylor, 2001-02 national president of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), issued a three-pronged challenge to America’s hvacr contractors, urging them to remember that small businesses are the foundation of the nation’s freedom.

“We still believe in the American dream because we see it come true every day,” Taylor said. “The notion that one person can one day open a business and grow it, prosper in it, just because he or she wants to and is determined to see it succeed — that is a notion foreign to the terrorists and many other countries of the world.

“It is the notion that makes America what it is today. It is the notion that will make America what it is in the future.”

United We Stand (You Finish The Rest)

Taylor, a Texas resident and president of AirRite in Fort Worth, praised his fellow contractors for their service to America and modern life. But he issued a warning: “While we are united as Americans, it is clear — and has been clear for some time — that we are not united as an industry.”

Contractors must “reverse the process” in which they find their industry losing credibility with the buying public, Taylor said.

“There are some contractors out there who do not deserve to be in business,” he said. “They lie to their customers. They inflate their prices. They provide unnecessary services and claim to have provided some services that they have not.

“I am not surprising any of you with this admission,” Taylor said. “It is also true that these contractors are the minority. That is no surprise to you, either. However, like any industry, we are all judged based on the actions of the lowest common denominator among us.”

To counter the potential loss of credibility, contractors should embrace a solution that “has been right in front of us for a long time,” Taylor said.

Training Above All

“We must all accept training costs as a necessary part of business, make it part of our business plans, and make successful completion of training as much a part of employee evaluation as anything else.

“Some people complain about the quality of training, or its accessibility. They have valid concerns. But the answer is not to throw up our hands and wait for good, accessible training to come along. We must take charge of it and create programs that meet our needs.”

Taylor continued, “We must embrace NATE certification. It is not enough to certify one of your technicians. If we are to convince the homeowners and facility managers of America that our technicians are professionals, then we have to prove it. Show that they are [certified] professionals who meet the quality standards of the industry nationwide.”

Finally, Taylor urged reputable contractors nationwide to “Embrace ACCA membership. I mean ‘one ACCA’ — the ACCA that exists in local chapters, state chapters, and the national organization.

“My business is better today because of what I have learned from other members nationwide,” he said. “I serve my customers better today because of what I have learned from ACCA. And I make more money today because of my membership.

“While we must provide training for our technicians, we must also get training ourselves — not only through formalized education but, sometimes more valuably, from the informal mentoring and knowledge sharing of ACCA.”

According to Taylor, if all reputable contractors embraced these initiatives and acted on them, “then we would go a long way toward restoring our credibility,” he said.

“It is incumbent on those of us who believe in this industry, and who take seriously our responsibilities to the public and to our customers, to ... force the lowest common denominator to either rise up to our standards of service, or drive them out of business.”

Taylor concluded, “Just like this great country, when we stand up together, united, there is nothing we can’t do. There is too much talent, too much wisdom, too much determination in the hvacr contracting industry, to allow room for failure. All we have to do is act.”

Sidebar: Contractors Respond To Mini-Poll

TACCA contractors responded to a “snap poll” regarding the biggest concerns they face today. The top responses are listed below.

  • Worker shortage — 27 responses (82%)
  • Training — 21 responses (64%)
  • Economy — 17 responses (52%)
  • Competition — 9 responses (27%)
  • Price cutting — 7 responses (21%)
  • (Tie) Utilities; marketing/advertising; government (regulatory)
  • — 4 responses each (12%)

    Sidebar: Highlights of TACCA Idea Session

    Josh Kahn, vice president of the Texas ACCA (TACCA), asked participants to share some ideas that have worked in their businesses — and rewarded each with a $5 or $10 bill. Here were some of the suggestions:
  • Since many technicians transport hazardous chemicals, all trucks should be stocked with Material Safety Data Sheets, which are available by calling 800-451-8346.
  • Thanks to “stings” and consumer mistrust, one contractor began mounting mini-cams on the technicians’ trucks, which send pictures back to customers on a monitor or can be linked to a website.
  • A contractor formed accident/safety teams among employees and started out with $600 in each kitty. When team members were involved in an accident or traffic infraction, money would be taken out of the kitty. The kitty was dispensed at the end of a predetermined time period.
  • One contractor offered to pay each driver $250 a year if they didn’t have an accident, far below the deductible on each vehicle.
  • Another contractor purchased portable coolers that blow cool, moist air, reducing temperatures and keeping dust down.
  • One contractor started using a “downtime checklist” for technicians to fill out while waiting for customers to show up or other work stoppages. The checklist contains items like counting invoices, checking inventory, etc.
  • Changing to synthetic oil has been convenient for one contractor. The company has onsite changes done every 9,000 miles instead of the normal 3,000 miles; gas mileage is improved, too.
  • Contractors can advertise on the “front page” of newspapers by having imprinted stick-on notes with a company coupon attached to each newspaper by carriers — thus the front-page ads.
  • Publication date: 11/05/2001