John R. Hall

Now that the baseball season has wrapped up and Red Sox nation is king once again (watch out for my Tigers next year), the baseball world turns to its annual rite of passage - the hot stove league.

According to the Internet dictionary Website Wikipedia, hot stove “is not actually a league, but the term instead calls up images of baseball fans, anxious for the start of the new season, gathering around a hot stove during the cold winter months discussing their favorite baseball teams.”

I think it is fun to imagine what my favorite team will look like in 2008, with new faces and higher expectations. There is always hope for every fan of every baseball team because right now each team has the same record: 0-0. We are all tied for first place.

Now let’s take that sports metaphor and compare it to the HVAC world. After all, it is not unusual to compare everything with sports metaphors. Even the nonfans might have to agree with me on that.


If you know anything about business planning, you realize that you need to look ahead into the short-term and long-term future of your team, or in this case, your company. You know that forward-thinking business owners are usually the most profitable and successful.

So let’s fast forward to spring 2008 when you need to field the best team possible for the upcoming warm weather season. You realize that, like baseball owners, there are holes in our lineup that you have to plug and fill with experienced veterans or young people with a world of potential.

I harken back to the “good old days” of HVAC contractor consolidation when it wasn’t unusual to see contractors make blatant recruitment overtures to employees of other companies - supposedly their peers - with offers of greener pastures.

I can even recall one trade organization that, faced with the prospect of members stealing employees from other members, put it into writing that no member was to solicit another member’s employees. There were some bad feelings over employee stealing then, just as there are now.

Let me make my position clear, when it comes to raiding another contractor’s employee ranks, the sports metaphors end. There are no free agents in HVAC, unless an employee has left his job and declared his own free agency. Even in that case, I’d advise you to find out why a person has chosen to seek greener pastures. The reasons could be more circumstantial as opposed to “shopping his or her talent around.” Maybe that ex-employee was like Alex Rodriguez of baseball fame; always looking for more money. Of course, Rodriguez will get the money because he is arguably the greatest baseball player in the game today.


One of the most overrated words in the sporting world is potential. As managers and general managers huddle around the hot stove, they often look beyond a person’s youth and inexperience and realize that he or she has a strong will to succeed and play for a winner.

My advice is to fill your 2008 lineup with some young people with potential. Go visit your local high school and talk with teachers and students in the vocational classes. Find out if any of the students want to work next summer as a helper or apprentice in your shop. And offer them a rookie salary, maybe $10 an hour. Baseball rookies generally make a minimum wage when they start out and some are worth a lot more while others should kiss the ground their owners walk on for paying them such an outrageous salary.

You may find that $10 an hour is the best investment you could possibly make. You have the opportunity to develop young talent and show them that a job in the trades, in many cases, is more rewarding and fulfilling than a job behind a desk with a framed college degree hanging on the wall of the cubicle.

As your crew services and installs furnaces this winter, stay inside next to your hot stove and plan your short-term future for 2008. You may find that rookies with potential are the keys to your long-term success.

Publication date:11/19/2007