Act Like a Professional and Don't Moonlight

John Hall’s Jan. 28 article [“Why Techs Work ‘Off the Clock’”] interviewing moonlighting technicians is sure to raise a lot of debate. But let’s not be too quick to condemn; contractors and techs alike could learn a few things from this article.

Moonlighting is not only detrimental to the company you are working for, it is detrimental to our industry. For the record, early in my career I would do side work. I was just starting out, the extra cash came in handy, and it seemed harmless; or so I thought.

As my career moved forward, I realized my time was worth more than the side work. The energy I put into moonlighting was now focused on the company I was working for, thus securing my position. I could easily make as much money in weekly incentives as working nights or a weekend moonlighting.

Moonlighting for a customer of the company you work for is inexcusable. There is no justifiable reason to perform side work for one of your firm’s customers; it is stealing. I would guess the vast majority of the moonlighting techs are using materials and parts stocked on their company-provided vans; again, stealing.

If you were buying your own parts, refrigerant, acetylene, solder, duct tape, paying 100 percent of your insurance, would the side work money really be that good? Uh, no. Welcome to really being in business.

To all you young techs, there is something to be said about integrity, honesty, and ethics. These traits will take you further than the best technical skills.

Owners and managers, allow your employees to put a system in their own homes or a relative’s. What better way to promote your products and services than to have them in your employees’ homes. Add a little administrative cost, 10-15 percent, to the equipment and sell it to your employees.

It is very easy to determine how far into the family tree you will allow this type of work to be done. Your good employees will be open and honest about what they are doing, and the ones you find doing work for your customers don’t need to be working for you anyway.

All your employees from your receptionist to your highest paid tech should be on an incentive program. It cost $300-$500 to bring in one new customer. Pay your folks $20 for bringing in a new customer or converting one of your existing customers to a maintenance plan. Pay your techs for turning a potential repair into a system replacement.

I wonder if the techs interviewed are an accurate measure of technician moonlighters as a whole. If you are a really good technician, why are you working for a company that is not paying incentives and spiffs?

The “friends” that are having you do this work, does their profession allow the same in return? Does your doctor moonlight? Does your banker or your realtor? I doubt it.

What makes our profession less valuable than theirs: perception. The act of moonlighting alone keeps us firmly planted in the eyes of the consumer as a butt-crack tradesman, who is uneducated, unimportant, and continues the false perception that we are not trustworthy and unprofessional.

The fact is, we are part of a great industry with great opportunities, providing valuable services; we are educated professionals, let’s start acting like it.

Tracy N. Parrish
Service Manager
Howell’s Heating & Air Conditioning
Ashland, Va.

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Publication date:03/10/2008