How much do you give to your company, and how much does it take from you?

Many HVACR contractors put a tremendous amount of themselves into their businesses. It seems as if the three key components of building a successful contracting business are blood, sweat, and tears. But at what point can the fruits of those labors be fully enjoyed? Can the situation ever change so that the business serves the owner, and not the other way around?

One of the good friends I’ve made in this industry hopes to answer that question. Tom Casey Jr. grew up in an HVAC family and since the early 1980s has been a part of or has led a number of very successful HVAC and energy management companies in the Northeast.

I’ve known Casey for nearly 20 years, and he’s always placed a high value on honesty, integrity, and technical excellence. He loves what he does and has given his all to his businesses over the years. However, he also loves his wonderful wife and three children, and is ready to start having the business give a little back to him and his family.

To that end, Casey and his family will soon be leaving their long-time stomping grounds in Connecticut for the sunny climes of Florida. This isn’t a retirement scenario; he is only in his late 40s. He’s turning the day-to-day management of his current business over to his brother. Although Casey will still serve as a coach and consultant to the business, he will not be involved in the daily operations; the team will handle that autonomously.

I spoke with Casey recently and his rationale is hard to dispute. Basically, he feels that a business should serve the owner. He said what often happens is that contractors lose the distinction between the purpose of their businesses and the goalsof their businesses: the purpose is to make profits; the goal is to make enough profits to serve the owners.

“If a business does that, it can be a good citizen in its market, providing lucrative employment, charitable work, and investment into the community,” Casey said. “So, let's get back to the goal that serves us, and focus on that goal to enable smart, balanced decisions that serve our lives and loved ones.”

Contractors often rationalize that if they just work more, put in more hours, and sacrifice more, things will be better for themselves and their families. Yet, ironically, in the process, many contractors let their businesses take over their lives — at the cost of everyone and everything that's important to them.

“No one wishes for more work or more money at the end of their lives,” Casey said. “Everyone wishes for more time with their loved ones. I'm not going to keep participating in the insanity. After all, even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.”

He and I will be keeping in touch, just as we have for the past 20 years. I’ll keep you posted to let you know how this life experiment is going. Can he tame the beast, and, in the process, offer advice (and hope) to other contractors who wish to do the same? I know I’ll be rooting for him.