Most contractors look forward to these times, despite the backlog of service calls, angry customers, and overworked employees. Dare I say it - this is the fun time of year.
This is also one time each year (extreme cold being the other) when contractors put aside their normal routines and devote most, if not all, of their time to working in the business instead of on the business. Many owners and managers are so focused on the burgeoning number of service calls they have to go on and customers they have to satisfy that they temporarily put aside the routine business matters that have made them so successful.
I have to admit that I got my idea for this column from my fellow columnist on this page, Butch Welsch. This very successful contractor writes about maintaining a high level of customer service during the busy times. Amen to that. I’d like to add another thought to Butch’s fine advice: Don’t let the business go to pot.
KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOINGI spoke with a friend recently who is a consultant to the HVAC contracting trade. I could sense the frustration in his voice as he described how the hot weather was having an affect on his business appointments. He said some of his best contractor customers were putting off previously scheduled appointments or not returning his phone calls - all because they were too busy putting out fires created by a busy schedule of service calls. These are contractors who need advice on profitably running their businesses. These are the same people who, only a few short weeks ago, had the time to sit down and map out their business future, but who now have no time to talk.
I understand the dilemma but only to a certain point. For the small one-person shops or shops with two or three service techs, I realize that losing any man-hours during the busy summer months can be a real business killer. Making hay while the sun shines and long after it has set is the only way some small businesses can afford to keep their doors open. Sadly, being busy does not ensure profitability. But I’ll save that discussion for another time - when more folks have time to readThe NEWS.
The businesses I am referring to are those in the medium-to-large range with at least 15-20 employees or more and 10-20 trucks on the road at any given time. These are the businesses that need to keep their momentum going and who should not act paralyzed when a heat wave hits their community.
IT'S ALL ABOUT PLANNINGHaving a business plan may sound like a trite statement, but it isn’t. Part of that business plan should include provisions for the ebbs and flows of the HVAC contracting world, the times when temperature spikes put a business into crisis mode. If you’ve been in business for a while, you have a good idea about the history of your local market. You probably know when you will be the busiest. You may use that information to add more people to your staff or to authorize overtime for your field personnel. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.
But do you also add provisions for your own schedule? Do you have someone in your business who you can hand off responsibilities to when it gets busy? Maybe you are a control freak (not a bad thing, my wife says that I am and I’ll let her believe that) and you need to be in charge of every detail. Wrong. If you take that attitude you will never grow the business, trust me.
I’d suggest that you take the time - yes, take the time - to set up a realistic plan of action in the event of a heat wave or cold spell. Ensure that you have the time to meet with your business consultant or software management representative or the territory manager from your wholesaler or the local newspaper advertising salesperson, or… you get the picture.
Keep working on your business during the busiest of seasons. That is, if you want the business to last until the next busy season.