Contractor members listen attentively during an AirTime 500 presentation.

SAN ANTONIO, TX — There’s a lot of room in the great state of Texas, but when you throw in a fledgling group of business owners who outgrew their national meeting before it even began, it can seem awfully crowded. Nonethe-less, the management team of AirTime 500 was happy to see an overflow group of hvacr contractor clients at their January meeting in San Antonio. Since meetings of this size have to be planned several months or even years in advance, it is impossible to predict attendee turnout. That was the case in San Antonio.

“We outgrew the facility before the meeting took place,” remarked Rebecca West, director of planning, communication, and support.

The packed seminars featured presentations by the management team of VenVest Inc., the St. Louis-based investment group that owns AirTime 500, Plumbers’ Success International, and Clean Indoor Air.

Despite a brief inconvenience due to a power failure at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the seminars featured a lively exchange between members and management. In particular, at the Thursday “Success Meeting,” members were asked to stand up and chant the lyrics of AirTime 500’s “fight song.” After that, a couple of dozen members shared their favorite success stories with the group.

At the end of the session, members voted on their favorite success story, and the winner was awarded $500. The members came away with several new marketing ideas to take back to their businesses.

AirTime 500 cofounders Jim Abrams and John Young gave pep talks to members throughout the four-day event, which included topics such as:

• MIS Basic: Learning what the computer can do for business;

  • Winning Sales Techniques: Teaching salespeople how to use new tools for superstar performance;
  • Millennium Institute Update: Discussions on AirTime 500’s educational facility;
  • Vendor Expo: Featuring vendor partners and their products/ services;
  • Advertising and marketing campaigns for spring and summer 2001; and
  • Branding: Preparing members to become the next “Mc-Donald’s” of the hvacr industry.

  • Helping Contractors

    AirTime 500 has grown to 280 contractors within one year, and the organization is planning to reach its goal of 500 members within the next year. Abrams touched on some of the member benefits of AirTime 500.

    “Our [Wealth Now!] division helps in researching and acquiring other contracting businesses for our members,” Abrams said. “For example, if your competitor is selling their business, we can contact them and work on an offer for the business.

    “Contractors looking to grow have an opportunity to grow via acquisition. We believe that the hvacr acquisition market will be at a half-billion dollars this year.”

    Abrams cited another example of how AirTime 500 helps its contractors who need to perk up their cash flow.

    “We formed a partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car,” he added. “One of our members needed a quick infusion of cash, so Enterprise bought the contractor’s fleet and leased the vehicles back to him, giving the business a $200,000 infusion of cash.”

    Citing the industry’s need for qualified technicians, Abrams recommended that contractors get a clear picture of their operating expenses before searching for more technicians. “If you’re not making enough money with 10 technicians, you’re not going to be making any more with 20.”

    Brett Hobson told attendees that it is important to have a service contract program in place. He said that if a company can sell an average of 1.2 service contracts a day (six per five-day week) at a customer cost of $11.95 per month, it can generate $6 million in sales over a 10-year period.

    John Young talked about teaching salespeople to “upsell” rather than “downsell.” He cited the example of the Brunswick Company, which manufactures pool tables. The company wanted to know how to increase revenues and found that by starting at the top of the line, telling customers about $3,000 pool tables instead of the bottom sellers at $300, the company increased its sales 50% by selling the same number of pool tables.

    These were just a few examples of the ideas that management shared with members. AirTime 500 has lofty plans in 2001, with similar meetings planned later in the year. If the enthusiasm generated from the San Antonio meeting is any indication of the company’s future success, the future looks bright.

    Sidebar: The Inspector Looks at Heat Exchangers

    There’s a new detective in the neighborhood, and AirTime 500 contractors are happy about that. The detective? It is named the “Inspector,” and its manufacturer touts it as “the world’s first heat exchanger video inspection camera.”

    As a strategic vendor with AirTime 500, Shamrock Industries, maker of the Inspector, has successfully shown how contractor members can increase furnace service sales by showing customers “concrete proof” of the repair or replacement work that needs to be done.

    Tom O’Connor, inventor of the Inspector, said, “We in the heating industry don’t simply service furnaces, or merely sheet metal and wires. We first and foremost are serving people. Human beings and their families, and of course their comfort. And we absolutely must consider safety as our first priority.

    “We should approach both furnace repairs and furnace maintenance with our first order of business being an honest and complete safety check of the equipment we are about to work on. I never want to be in a position of having to explain why I replaced a thermocouple in a furnace and didn’t bother to notice that the furnace was spilling carbon monoxide into a family’s home.”

    O’Connor added that he sold 64 of the cameras to members at the San Antonio show, mainly because of the product’s effectiveness.

    “I believe that my heat exchanger inspection camera, the Inspector, introduces a degree of professionalism and competency in the hvac industry that is long overdue. If there are cracks or holes in a furnace heat exchanger, the Inspector will absolutely find them.”

    For more information, call 630-469-2080 or visit www.shamrock (website).

    Sidebar: Software Program Looks Out for Your Bottom Line

    SuccessWare is another of AirTime 500’s strategic partners. Titled “SuccessWare21,” the software program has drawn rave reviews from contractor members, and a few good words from Christopher DiRe, director of sales.

    “I believe there’s only two reasons to use software in your business,” he said. “To make your life easier, and to make you more money.”

    The premium software system has features such as:

  • Customer service and customer file
  • management;
  • Accounting functions including accounts payable and receivable;
  • Dispatching, including Alpha-Paging;
  • Marketing;
  • Purchasing;
  • Inventory controls;
  • Management reporting; and
  • Time-card, commission, and payroll management.
  • SuccessWare is a 32-bit Windows-based application with over 16,000 hrs in development. It was created by contractors for the hvacr business, according to the company. DiRe added, “We know most hvacr business owners are unhappy with their software, so we want to offer a product that will solve their problems, not create more.”

    For more information, call 716-565-3500 or visit (website).

    If the Shoe Cover Fits...

    One of AirTime 500’s strategic partners is ShuBee, manufacturer of scented foot covers. The partnership with this company defines the professionalism that AirTime touts in its member contractors. Professional appearance is a big part of professional service, starting from the “ground up” with foot covers.

    According to ShuBee president Steve Stone, the relationship with AirTime 500 is beneficial to members because of an exclusive offer. “We are offering an exclusive color — orange — that will be attention-grabbing,” he said.

    Besides being scented, the ShuBees (one size fits all) are available in a rainbow of colors. Stone added that contractors who are looking for individuality should try ShuBees for one very good reason: “They increase customer loyalty.”

    Stone and his brother, Mann, saw their residential service business increase dramatically when they introduced ShuBees to the market, citing an increase of 35% in technician closure rates.

    For more information about ShuBees, call 877-974-8233 or visit (website).

    Publication date: 02/12/2001