CINCINNATI, OH — Robert Bean had a pretty straightforward message for his seminar audience at the recent Radiant Heating Conference & Expo (REX): “The more nothing we do, the more nothing we get.”

Bean, general manager for Danfoss Manufacturing Co., Calgary, AB, Canada, spoke about the need to get young people interested in the radiant heat trade and how to make business attractive to them, to customers, and to potential business buyers.

“We have a real need for youth to keep our industry going,” he said. “Working with our hands is one of the best ways to make a living — but it is also one of the toughest ways, too.

“Someone told me that in the [field service] market there are more apprentices than journeymen, which tells me there are fewer people available to train the younger guys.”

Bean talked about all of the high-tech equipment available today and the importance of the Internet and wireless technology; but he added that all of the advancements have not diminished the need for skilled workers.

“You are a dying breed,” he told the audience. “There are very few of you with electrical and mechanical skills — you can write your own [career] ticket.

“I don’t know of any other industry where demand for service is so high and supply of people is so low — and product prices keep going down.”

Bean added that the best way to get young people interested in the trade is to go to the most influential person in their lives: their mothers. “If we want kids to get into our industry, go to their mothers,” he said. “We need to start today to market ourselves to the mothers of the world.”


Bean pointed out that in order for a business to succeed, it must differentiate itself from others. Differentiation could also mean a lot when it comes to selling the business.

“We live in a world of vanilla, where it is hard to differentiate,” he said. “You need to decide today what you are going to do with your business when you retire. A lot of baby boomers will be selling their businesses at the same time as you. Your business has to look good and be profitable in order to be saleable.”

The idea of differentiation is also critical when presenting radiant heating to potential customers. With the information available via the Internet, customers can learn all about radiant products ahead of time.

Bean said that this saturation of information can have a downside, too.

“If you have unique knowledge, people will pay for it,” he said. “But as this knowledge becomes less in demand, it becomes cheaper and actually becomes a commodity. We have a unique product and either we are very good salespeople or we haven’t learned how to tap into the market of telling consumers how to touch and feel our products.”

Bean said that the hydronics industry has not established a “survival form — one form or shape that people can identify the hydronics industry with.”

He suggested an idea that would bring customers “in touch” with radiant products — putting radiant heat in a hotel room.

“Do you know that furniture stores are now competing with hotels to sell furniture?” Bean asked. “They are giving guests the option of purchasing furniture from their rooms if they like it. Why not work with a local hotel chain to install a radiant system in one room and market the product?”

Bean also said that the HVACR industry can help to grow the hydronics industry in the next 10 to 15 years. “People will begin asking for radiant heat and what will HVACR contractors do? Sub the work out? Hire a radiant specialist?

“You cannot be just a contractor — you need to be a salesperson, too. We have a comfort solution that no one else can sell, so let’s go tell the world and become profitable.”

Publication date: 06/17/2002