I recently had the pleasure of participating in the Joint Futures Committee Meeting in Arlington, Virginia. In case you are unaware of the group, this is where the best and brightest of the industry — save for me, of course — get together for a one-day meeting to brainstorm solutions for some of the HVACR industry’s problems. It takes place at the ACCA headquarters and is run by Glenn Hourahan of ACCA and former ACCA chairman Laura DiFilippo.
All the major stakeholders were represented at the meeting, as a good mix of manufacturers, distributors, and contractors were present. They even welcomed a home builder representative.
The interesting part is that this group is not concerned about problems that are here today or even problems that will rise up in the near future. Instead, the Joint Future Committee tries to look three years or more down the road to examine what will impact the industry. It is a very proactive, yet challenging, way to address the industry’s future.
The process starts months prior, when everyone in the committee sends three ideas to possibly discuss at the meeting. That is not as easy as it sounds. In my job, it’s easy to identify the problems of today, and figuring out the problems of tomorrow is not really that hard. In fact, they tend to knock on your door; you don’t need to go looking for them. Trying to come up with the problems that will bubble up three to five years from now is a lot tougher.
INTERNET OF THINGS
For instance, at the event, my group talked about the Internet of Things (IoT).
The topic centered upon the move to have all HVAC systems electronically connected to the house and building network and controls system. This is being pushed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as well as utilities to enable connection to the smart grid, improve diagnostics, and help in the efforts to reduce energy consumption, control peak power, and better enable the use of renewable energy. This will change the way equipment is designed, installed, and serviced. The question was, “How do we get the industry engaged and prepare the installation and service industry for the change in the way units may be installed and operated in the future?” It sounds like a lot to discuss, but, don’t worry — they ordered in lunch.
Another subgroup tackled what would happen if a group decided to do to HVAC what Uber has done to taxis. This is what it looks like to try and identify problems of the future.
What does this mean to our contractor readers? Well, first, it means there is a group of smart folks in HVACR trying to make sure this industry stays ahead of the curve. Also, those who complain that the different channel groups don’t work together are probably unaware of meetings like this.
Finally, this should be a blueprint for running your business. I am sure, for a lot of HVAC contractors, running a business is a day-to-day or week-to-week job. This means they are just trying to put out the fires of the day and make sure they have a good week. Contractors who feel they are ahead of the game are tracking their monthly numbers and can tell you how they compare to last year.
But, how many contractors are truly looking three to five years down the road to investigate what their company will look like and, more importantly, what their competitors will look like? Odds are the government will be moving the goal posts on you.
Obviously, this is not something that you can think about daily or even weekly. But, maybe you can squeeze in a couple hours monthly or quarterly. Better yet, get your executive team to help you out. As I can tell you firsthand from my experience on the Joint Futures Committee, multiple heads thinking about problems are definitely better than one. The number of ideas that come out of the group brainstorming session is staggering.
Give it a try so you won’t get caught flat footed when the industry and your market inevitably changes.
To learn more about the Joint Futures committee, visit http://bit.ly/JointFutures.
Publication date: 6/29/2015