PROVIDENCE, RI — “Lights, camera, action.” With those words, the production crew springs into action for one of’s “live” Web broadcasts.

The website has been around for over two years. Funded by Taco, Inc., and several sponsoring manufacturers, the news and information source features hvacr- and plumbing-related topics, accessible via the Web to over 2,000 subscribers. (Membership is free.) The News provides editorial content for the site. also hosts a variety of training and education seminars for companies such as Honeywell and Johnstone Supply.

Arthur Pickett, president of Royal Air Systems, North Reading, MA, and I appeared on a Web broadcast to discuss topics including marketing, the Internet, technician retention, service agreements, and “turning negative trends into positive ones.” The sessions, which lasted seven or eight minutes each, were taped for subsequent broadcasts.

Pickett, whose market consists primarily of residential service and retrofits, took the opportunity to talk about his company’s marketing plans, and in particular, his involvement in local home shows.

He said his company sponsors booths at local home shows on a regular basis, and he finds the contacts and exposure very beneficial. He added that there are some proper etiquette rules for booth personnel to follow.

“The people should be neat and should not be munching on food while visitors walk through the booth,” he said. “They should be able to answer questions and provide literature for visitors to take home. It helps us to always be in the same location each year, too.”

“We generate a lot of good leads, but you have to be patient. It may take a while for the lead to turn into a sale.”

Another topic — service agreements — drew some good feedback from Pickett. He is a strong believer in the value of service agreements and asserts that having properly trained personnel is essential for selling the agreements.

Pickett agreed that having service agreements ensures a good workload for his technicians, alleviating the need to lay off workers.


When the “webcast” was aired later that evening, the topic turned to how contractors can position themselves in the market during economic slowdowns, which began to show up in early 2001 and were further heightened by the tragic events of Sept. 11.

The segment also included interactive chats with online members and telephone calls from viewers.

Pickett started the segment by talking about the need to keep advertising — the right way.

“We don’t want to stop advertising, or hide in a closet,” he said. “We need to sit down with our wholesalers and figure out how to use and spend co-op dollars. It is our responsibility as business owners to go face-to-face with our wholesalers and figure out how to spend advertising dollars wisely.”

And what advice does Pickett give to his employees in tough times? “You reassure your people that you are on top of the situation,” he said. “Let them know their jobs will be there.

“We just have to be more innovative. Our service techs may have to find new ways to get leads. If you have a good tech that has been through a down cycle before, he’ll know what to do.”

Some of the suggestions made by Pickett included finding new ways to market the service department, such as examining the partnering opportunities with utility companies and energy providers.

“You have to stop thinking about what you have done in the past and think about how you will be doing business in the future.”

To view the entire archived presentation, visit, sign up as a member, and browse through the archives. The discussion with Pickett originally aired Sept. 25, 2001.

Publication date: 04/15/2002