John R. Hall

You’ve probably seen people wearing wristbands with the initials W.W.J.D. imprinted on them. The letters stand for “What Would Jesus Do.” The initials and the meaning behind the phrase are very popular among people who question why things happen and how Jesus would react to these things. It is an expression of faith and hope.

I like that. It is especially important in the times that all of us face now - economic woes, changes in the political landscape, global unrest, terrorism, declining morality - to name just a few. There are many ways we all deal with the challenges the world throws at us. Some choose to ignore and march on using their own beliefs to guide them while others succumb to the pressures and fall by the side of the road.

The same scenarios are true in our business lives. The business owners who succeed are those who choose to follow their minds - and hearts - down the business path they have chosen. Some make it and some don’t. It saddens me when I read about another HVACR contractor who has folded his or her tent, unable to stay in business either through economic pressures or lack of business acumen to weather the economic storms.

Oh sure, there are more reasons why a business fails, but it is safe to say that those are the top two reasons. Retirement, health, death, natural disasters, or crime could be some of the other reasons. The point is, during times like this, business owners tend to ask themselves what a higher authority might do, short of turning to their deity for answers.


I think back to the days of the great inventors, such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and one who is familiar to most of us: Willis Carrier. I ask myself what these men would do in the year 2008, facing the pressures that business owners are facing.

I know a little bit about the first three because of a dinner theatre troupe I belong to. We perform a skit called “Henry and Friends” and interact with the audience about the men and their inventions. I play the role of Harvey Firestone, the lesser known of the three but not of any lesser importance. Besides their engineering prowess, all three men had very keen business minds. It wasn’t just their “brawn” that made them successful, it was their brains.

Willis Carrier was a tinkerer. He liked to fix things, which in turn, fixed people, too. The “father of air conditioning” was also a problem solver. He first grappled with humidity control as a means to help a printer whose reproductions kept messing up because temperature and humidity caused the paper he was using to expand and contract, making a runny mess of the inks he was using. He also helped solve a humidity problem for a pasta maker whose macaroni was always turning to slush.

It seemed that if there was a problem involving temperature or humidity control, this engineer and pioneer in the HVACR trade would have an answer - or at least he’d search for one. If they were available back in the turn of the century, a lot of people may have been wearing W.W.W.D. bracelets - “What Would Willis Do.”


Too bad we can’t bring Carrier back to life (although holographic technology would make it seem possible). I’m sure he would have a lot of interesting things to say about our current state of the industry.

Sadly, in my mind, there are no real great inventors out there today, maybe with the exception of the person who invented the “pocket fisherman” and “10 teeny tiny clothespins” that are part of infomercial lore. The giants like Carrier would probably be burning the midnight oil today, thinking of ways to improve our products and keep HVACR in demand, rather than just a “necessary evil” for people who complain about high energy costs and uncomfortable indoor environments.

I honestly believe that by continually reinventing ourselves, either through technological advancements or changes in our business operations, the HVACR trade will continue to thrive and be looked up to by a global community that is searching for answers to energy conservation while maintaining comfort and safety. We already know that many people appreciate the importance of air conditioning.

In a nationwide poll conducted four years ago by the historical institution The Henry Ford and America Online, residential air conditioning was voted the No. 1 invention of the last 75 years. We are important - now it is imperative that we prove it or reinvent ourselves again.

Maybe it’s time we all start wearing our W.W.W.D. bracelets and put our thinking caps on. What would Willis do? Better yet, what are you going to do?

Publication date:06/09/2008