BALTIMORE, MD — If you had the chance to gain an edge over your competition, wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity?

Brian Urbanski believes contractors can gain an “unfair advantage” by embracing the Internet and the benefits it brings to a business owner. As the featured speaker at the first-ever e-Contracting Summit, presented by The News and Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), Urbanski encouraged contractor attendees to put together a strategic Internet plan “which will tilt all advantages your way.”

Urbanski, an international Internet trainer with Real Profits, Inc., stressed the importance of a strategic Internet plan. “It’s like a game plan in football. It gives you an unfair advantage in the marketplace. Anybody interested in an unfair advantage, on your behalf, in the marketplace?”

Hands went up inside the packed conference room at the BWI Marriott Hotel. The summit, held Nov. 4, brought together cutting-edge contractors, manufacturers, dotcoms, and wholesalers to discuss the latest e-business issues facing the hvacr industry today. (See related articles on pages 12 and 16.)

Urbanski made sure everyone in the room understood the power of the Internet and the advantages it can give a contractor.

“What we have seen take place in a few short years is an entirely new revolution in the way we communicate,” he said. “That’s what the Internet is. In its most simple form, it is the marriage of computers and a telephone network.

“The only thing you have to be concerned with is to understand it and how to make it help your business. Embrace the technology. Don’t fight it. Don’t fear it. Make it work for you.”

Develop a Game Plan

Urbanski noted that every contractor’s strategic Internet plan should cover four general areas:

1. Generating revenue;

2. Nurturing customer relationships;

3. Improving efficiencies in sales and operations; and

>4.“This is simply an assessment of your business, where it is now and where you’d like it to be,” he said. “Are you looking for sales goals, revenue generation, or enhanced profitability? Wouldn’t it be great if we could increase profits by 20%, 25%, 30% or more a year, without having to expand our service department, by keeping our overhead low? We can do that with maximized efficiencies. The Internet can help you meet your goals.”

A strategic plan begins with a vision statement, he explained.

“Once you identify your objectives and understand the investments involved, that’s when we can start determining our return on investment. It’s not just an issue of throwing money at Internet technology and strategies. You have to plan so that you do it right. You have to do some homework.”

In the big picture, Urbanski said a contractor should establish immediate (today through the first six months), short-term (six- to 18-month), and long-term (18- to 36-month) objectives. He discouraged contractors from planning ahead more than three years due to the changing nature of the technology. One of the immediate items, he said, is establishing a company website.

“Keep realistic expectations,” he warned. “There is a lot of hype out there about the Internet. There is a lot of hype when it comes to marketing and potential and opportunity. We get numbers thrown out at us all the time. We hear that ‘This is so great’ and ‘That is so great,’ blah blah blah. But that hype is usually from the companies that are selling us the software or the communication or the bandwidth.

“What we have to remember is what our expectations are for our business. You have to establish realistic objectives, and you are going to communicate that to your employees and your supply chain. The Internet, as a whole, represents an opportunity for us to evolve the way we do business.”


Urbanski urged attendees to know their target audiences and to research the competition. He encouraged attendees to go to one particular website (, which can provide a basic analysis of any company’s website.

“Your website should be your company’s cornerstone in communicating information to your customers, your supply chain, and your technicians,” he said. “You can supply resources for [technicians] there, along with your customers. Now that you have a website, you should really evaluate it to see if it meets your expectations and needs. You can track traffic and other things.

“One of the best ways to learn about growing your business is to look at what others are doing on the Internet. You have to stay involved and keep it up-to-date.”

Advertising and promotions should also be a part of your website strategy, he said. Money spent there should be a part of the marketing budget.

“A lot of people think an Internet website is a typical advertising medium and that is far from the truth. Your website is basically an island out there in cyberspace, just like everyone else’s website. We have to draw people to our site. The more links you get, the better off you are.”

Urbanski urged attendees to think about online coupons, rebates, contests, and giveaways. “Sure, it can be costly, but it can provide a flood of prospects,” he said. “The idea is to stay ahead of the competition.”

Find a Coach or Partner

Coaching and support are critical throughout the development and implementation of an Internet strategy, Urbanski noted.

“I keep using the term ‘Internet strategy,’ but in a very short time we’re going to quit looking at the Internet as this separate entity because Internet, communication, and technology in general are being integrated into our businesses,” he said. “In the end, you need to have a training partner or a coach who can help you understand and grow that technology, to help you and assist you with updates.”

This technology coach or partner will be needed to provide a contractor with ongoing training and education.

“This evolution is going to continue. We aren’t going to get to 2003 and then drop web development. This is something that is changing all the time.

“Do you have the ability to have a team to look at what software’s out there and keep up with changing technology? You have to link up with the experts and keep getting educated. It’s going to be key to stay up to date.”

Urbanski can be reached at

Sidebar: Website Needs

According to Brian Urbanski, these are the main ingredients a contractor’s website need to make it both user-friendly and e-commerce-capable:
  • Content. “Your customers are looking for more bang for the buck,” he said. “Anything of value should be added to attract viewers.”
  • Speed. “Your homepage should be the fastest to download,” he said, recommending that the “weight” of the homepage (text and graphics) should equal to 40 to 60K. “The faster, the better.”
  • Simplicity. There’s no need for complicated graphics, which tend to bog down quick viewing. “You don’t want to confuse or frustrate your viewers.”
  • Timeliness. “Always bring them back to your site for updated material,” he said. “You have to have a reason to bring them back.”
  • Relevance. Make sure the website fits your company and your strategic plan.
  • Publication date: 11/13/2000