[Editor's note: Welcome to the eighth installment of "Money Talks." Each month, Terry Nicholson, president of AirTime 500, will be providing business management information, all with the aim of helping contractors, as he put it, "make money every day."]

Each season in Major League Baseball, one team rises above the rest to win it all in the World Series.

How do they do it? Is it by having the highest payroll? Is it by having the nicest ballpark? Is it by having the craziest fans?

No, the team that rises to the top each year does so by having the right people, the skills to win, and the drive to come out on top.

To rise to the top in the HVACR industry, your team must have the same qualities. The most important aspect of your company is your people. They are the ones that give your company life and create its success. Without a team that possesses these traits, you'll have a hard time reaching the top.

The Right People

In our industry, though, you must not only have the right people but the right number of people, too. If your number of office personnel grossly outnumbers the amount of people you have in the field, you should re-evaluate the makeup of your team.

Can you combine jobs? Is someone doing a job that you could do?

If so, you may want to take on that responsibility in order to reduce the size of your team and send some extra money to your bottom line.

Paring down the size of your team can be a difficult decision to make, but if coming out on top is your goal, then it may be necessary. Having the right team means not only having the right people but the right number of people.

A good rule of thumb is to have three technicians in the field for each inside person you have. This 3-to-1 ratio will get easier to achieve as you grow larger, but it should be your goal even as a smaller company.

The Skills To Win

Baseball teams that come out ahead in October have the skills to win. They'll have the offense to score and the pitching to shut the door. Your team must also have the skills to win, and you must give them the opportunity to achieve.

This starts with identifying the skills your team possesses. For instance, which of your technicians is a troubleshooting expert, and which one is a superstar communicator? Once you know what your team's strengths are, you can give them the opportunity to apply them.

That means dispatching for profits. In other words, you have to give your team an opportunity to use their skills for the greatest benefit to your client and to the company.

For example, if one of your technicians is skilled at explaining the benefits of replacing an older system, you should send them to homes with older systems. That way, your clients will understand the benefits of re-placing their older system rather than repairing it, and you may generate the replacement revenue by doing what's in your client's best interest.

The Drive To Come Out On Top

Championship teams also have one more important trait - the drive to win. In sports, that desire and drive comes from the very nature of the game and the competition it creates. Getting your team to achieve those same results and victories means creating that same competitive drive within them.

Sure, a competitive drive is easy to create in the World Series, but how do you create it in the day-in and day-out world of HVACR?

The simple answer is that you let your team create it itself. The secret is to use goal boards, track results, and reward achievements. It starts with setting goals for your entire team. That means goals for your technicians in categories like revenue, average ticket, and leads generated - and goals for your call-takers in categories like percentage of calls booked.

Once you have goals established, post them for all to see and track the results. No one ever wants to finish last, and when your team sees its performance on the wall next to that of its peers, the competitive drive will take over. It will want to achieve more, which means higher revenues for you and greater rewards for the team - a win-win situation!

By fostering these three traits in your team, you'll see the results of a well-managed, effective team that will rise to the top of the HVACR industry. Your success and your ability to make money every day lie with those on your team. Make your team the best, and you'll be the best.

Next installment: There are three strategies designed to help a contractor turn one-time customers into repeat clients. Finding out how to do so will provide a contractor with more benefits than he or she may realize.

Nicholson is president of AirTime 500. For more information on AirTime 500, call 800-505-8885. Nicholson can be reached by e-mail at tnicholson@venvestinc.com.

Publication date: 08/16/2004