The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) recently held its annual meeting in Florida. As usual, it was a great meeting. The organization is always trying new things and this year they introduced a 5K Run/Walk. It seemed like a great idea. It was another way to get the manufacturers together for some networking and it was for a good cause — the Rees Scholarship Foundation.

However, like most new projects, it did not go off without a hitch. First, it was scheduled for 6 a.m., which meant people were running/walking in the dark. I am not sure if it was the darkness or a lack of cones, but one of the race leaders took a wrong turn and the rest of the runners followed. What was intended to be a nice 5K turned into a significantly longer jaunt.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I heard this story secondhand from Keith Coursin of Desert Aire. While I was at the AHRI meeting, 6 a.m. is too early for me to exercise, and, as long as we are being honest, a 5K is not going to turn around my body mass index. It would be the equivalent of throwing a deck chair off the Titanic.)

Here is hoping this anecdote does not foreshadow the coming year for the HVAC industry. And I doubt it will. However, it lends itself to asking our contractor readers if they are leading their employees in the right direction, or are they running in the dark?

Technology Helps

This is the era of “Big Data,” where there is a plethora of information at our fingertips. You are doing your business a disservice if you are not plugged into this. This point was driven home to me at the recent Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) meeting in Phoenix. HARDI executive vice president and COO, Talbot Gee, has his organization gathering a lot of data from its members so that companies can benchmark their production. The organization partners with JP Morgan on an HVAC study; produces a report on distribution sales, arranged by region and annual sales volume; and is launching a vendor review tool assessment report. HARDI knows it is hard to improve on something that you can’t measure. Speaking of which, how would you know you have improved? Contractors need all the information they can get their hands on during their pursuit of higher profit margins.

And, it needs to be more than just tracking different ads with different phone numbers — although you should be doing that also. You need to know who your customers are and how they like to spend their money. You also need to know who your competition’s customers are and how their share of the market compares to your company’s. Is your region full of highly sophisticated homeowners who want to jump on the energy-efficiency bandwagon? Do you know of an area that has homes that a builder cut corners on? Sounds like those homeowners would be in need of a home-performance contractor.

The first step is being sure you are capturing, entering, and reviewing all the information from your customers. Step two is to make sure you know who is visiting your website, what they are looking for, and how often they stay. Step three would be to get some help. If you are part of a national organization, make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck by processing all the information and studies they produce. If you are not part of one, this might be just the reason to join.

In today’s day and age, it is much easier to get data than it was even 10 years ago. I advise you to make sure you are putting this information to good use so you are not running in the dark. You have a lot of people in your organization who are following you.

Publication date: 12/30/2013

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