If sports betting were legal (wink, wink) in my home state I would spend my fall Sundays attempting to leverage my NFL knowledge into some extra walking-around cash. As an HVAC contractor you should probably be doing the same thing, just at a much greater level.
I am not talking about sports betting, blackjack, or craps, but rather betting on the HVAC technology of the future.
I recently returned from Trane’s 100th anniversary celebration in Minnesota. It was there that I was told that only 2.5 percent of companies make it to their 100th year. Honestly, I was not surprised. Based on our economic situation and the tough business world it might be a long shot for a company to last 10 years or 10 months.
Sure, you might be at the top of your game and market this year, but where will you be in five, 10, or 40 years? One of the most impressive things about Trane is its ability to be on the forefront of HVAC technology. While the market has changed greatly in 100 years, they are still as relevant as ever because they either helped change the market or were quick enough to realize the market was changing. Is your company doing the same?
This editorial is not going to tell you what markets are the future of HVAC. To be honest, as a contractor, you are working on the ground level, and have a much better idea of what’s trending than I do. However, I do know that I have talked with a lot of really smart people who have bet on different technologies and they all had good reasons for doing so. They each profess the undeniable benefits and growth of items like geothermal, solar, and ductless. Since you can’t be all things to all people, you have to make some decisions on the direction of your company. And while I can’t look into my crystal ball to tell you which ones will be winners and which one will be losers (I was convinced the 49ers were going to regress last year), I can tell you that standing pat is not the answer.
How do I know that? Because history is littered with companies that tried that approach and are either no longer around or are barely sputtering along. Some mainstream examples:
• Kodak: Anyone remember when Kodak was synonymous with photos? Not so much anymore. What makes this especially painful is that Kodak invented digital photography but missed the boat on seeing its promise and competition. Proving that denial is not just a river in Egypt, the company failed to evolve — or even think about evolving — until it was much too late.
• Blockbuster: It was not too long ago that when you thought of watching a movie at home you likely turned to a Blockbuster. However, the company did not foresee the potential of mail delivery or the strength of online movie streaming. Thus, a trip to the video store has become obsolete. They tried to change course down the road, but the die had been cast.
This is not a decision you make sitting at your desk after reading this article. It takes some real thought on what direction your company should be headed. This dedication of time now might get you a very impressive return on investment down the road. This was even mentioned in a recent “Ask the Experts” column that we ran in the magazine. Nexstar coach Jodi Peter advised contractors to take two hours each week to just think about the business in bigger terms. Block the time off on your Outlook calendar and unplug from email, cell phones, etc. We all get extremely busy in our everyday business lives and if you don’t schedule such a time, you’ll likely never find hours to dedicate to these issues.
Think about where you think this industry will be in a few years. Do you, like some, think home-performance contracting is the wave of the future? If so, it is probably time to turn your company in that direction. There is a school of thought that the price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.
Obviously, none of us will be around in 100 years, but hopefully with some luck and some planning each of your businesses will be.
Publication date: 5/6/2013