As I write this column I, like many Michiganders, are in the midst of a summer heat wave that is pushing the mercury toward the century mark - with matching humidity levels. That may not be great for an average Joe like myself who needs to occasionally get outside and do yard work. But at least I can retreat to my air conditioned home and office and do some real work - like writing this column.

To be honest, I hope many of you don't have time to read this. That's not an indictment of my writing or of the great things to read about in The NEWS. For those of you who know me, the last thing I'd want to do is keep readers away from this fine newsmagazine. Let me set the record straight.

This is Christmas time for many a/c contractors. Hot summer months are to them what Christmas is to retailers. This is the time to "git while the gittin' is good." The last time I checked, I don't think reading John Hall's column was on a contractor's P&L statement. But I do think that reading it would help the "P" ledger.

Anyway, I like this time of year because a/c contractors have to put off reading my column until the next week or so, or until they catch up on all of the service calls they are running in this heat.


Some contractors tend to load up on their staffs during extreme temperatures or they authorize a lot of overtime work on nights and weekends. It is often the right thing to do - to look after their employee's welfare - by not overloading the calls or asking techs to work in hot attics or unshaded rooftops during the hottest part of the day. Instead, opt for early morning or evening work when temperatures are cooler, albeit still intolerable.

It is also commonplace for the boss to don a cap and shirt, hop in a truck, and make some of the calls him or herself. It is hard to keep rescheduling or delaying the repair of an a/c unit if an elderly homeowner is suffering through a heat wave. I don't have any problem with what I call "compassion contracting" - helping out customers when there are no alternatives but to do it yourself.

But the bigger picture is this: How do you plan for these weather extremes? Do you keep one eye on the weather forecasts and one eye on your staffing levels? Is it possible to know when to ask employees to prepare for six- or seven-day workweeks? Do you ride out the weather with what you have and run extra calls yourself?

I have to admit, I wouldn't want to be in an a/c contractor's shoes when he or she has to answer these questions. I would certainly enjoy the cash flow rewards from the service calls this time of year, but I'm not sure I would be able to budget my time and resources accordingly.


If you choose to ride out the weather with your current resources (or even if you don't), I would strongly advise that you take the necessary precautions. First, demand, do not ask, your employees to keep plenty of water with them, or some type of sport drink that contains little or no caffeine. Demand, do not ask, that they take periodic breaks to cool down, either in their air conditioned truck or van, or in a cool, shady area. Demand, do not ask, that they keep in constant contact with dispatch, apprising the company of any health concerns they may have.

If you or your service managers have the time to visit your techs during the heat, bring them out some cold water and a change of clothing. Show them you care about their welfare - it can only help your business.

If you know of other suggestions, please let me know. Just don't suggest that your techs drop everything and read my column. I can see right through that.

Publication date: 08/14/2006