Al Levi
Editor's note:Consultant Al Levi helps HVAC and plumbing contractors run their businesses with "less stress and more success." He has agreed to let us share with readers ofThe NEWSsome of the questions he gets and the answers he provides. The focus is strictly on problem solving and handling the day-to-day operations of a successful contracting business.

To send Levi your own questions, which if selected will run anonymously, send him an e-mail at or fax him at 212-202-6275.

This column is meant to be a resource only. Please check with your own trusted business advisers, including your own attorney, to make certain that the advice here complies with all relevant laws, customs, and regulations in your area.


Dear Al,

I have been searching for the key to business. I'm an avid reader, I attend tons of workshops, I've bought just about every videotape and DVD there is out there, I joined a local trade group, and I participate in a bunch of online trade chat rooms. But my business is failing when it comes to being profitable and getting things going along smoothly. It just doesn't seem to be getting any better.

What am I missing?

Full Of Information

Dear Full Of Information,

You're in severe information overload!

What started out as a need to know has become the building of a Frankenstein. You've been sticking mismatched pieces of business advice together and wondering why the result is a monster.

Face it! All business advice doesn't work together. In fact, much of that advice collected from all those different sources may actually be in conflict with one another.

My recommendation is one less idea and one more item fully implemented and improved until it's working the right way.

Then, you ought to consider finding a business mentor who can become your "filter" for all that information. Many times a consultant will have an integrated approach which is designed from scratch to work seamlessly together. And each good system should integrate with the other, so they intensify the good results from one another.

Find yourself a good business coach and go back to working on your business with the right information.

Al Levi


Dear Al,

I've been lucky enough to grow my business to 10 techs. But, it's killing me. My Nextel phone is ringing all day long as I play answer man to all these guys. It was okay when my shop was just five techs, but now there is no peace.

What's the answer?

Nutty Nextel

Dear Nutty Nextel,

I applaud your ability to grow your shop to 10 techs. I also understand that you've lost your life in the process.

What I recommend is what my company did 20-plus years ago. We created the field supervisor position. This is a senior technician who through an extensive testing and qualifying process acted as a team leader for his four to six techs. If there was a sales, operational, or technical question, their team of techs called the field supervisor first for support.

During the day, the field supervisors worked in the field and had some flex time to do ride-alongs and training that improved their team. This formula of one field supervisor for every four to six techs proved to be a winner. The field supervisors found great satisfaction from their job. The techs were better supported and enjoyed greater success, and my life got better.

Try this hub and spoke approach to growing your company, and you and your Nextel will get some well needed rest.

Al Levi

Al Levi of Appleseed Business specializes, as his Web site says, in "Making Contractors' Lives Less Stressful and More Successful." Through private workshops, on-site assessments, customized operating manuals, and staff training programs, Levi delivers the benefit of the experience he gained from years of operating a large family-run HVAC and plumbing business. Learn more by visiting You may also contact Levi by e-mail at or by fax at 212-202-6275.

Publication date: 01/09/2006