In any business, it is easy to develop the herd mentality. Basically, that means making decisions based upon the actions of others. You can understand why this happens when you think about it. Not many people enjoy being out on the idea island all by themselves. If you are going in a different direction than every other HVAC company in town, you can’t help but wonder what they all know that you don’t.

However, there is a problem with that thinking. A study by scientists at the University of Leeds (I Googled it … it is a thing) said it takes a minority of just 5 percent to influence a crowd. So that means that 95 percent of people can be following for no good reason. That might explain the popularity of the Kardashians.

So HVAC contractors should not be afraid to step out and swim upstream. And to use just one more played-out phrase — zig when the competition is zagging.

I recently witnessed this at the manufacturing level when meeting with Goodman Mfg. on a trip down to Houston. In addition to sweating through a few shirts in the Houston heat, I was introduced to an interesting new product. While a lot of manufacturers are coming up with great thermostats to partner with their high-efficiency systems, Goodman has decided to open it up, and they have produced a technology that works with almost any thermostat — including a single-stage thermostat.

I was able to get a firsthand introduction to what they are calling ComfortBridge technology. Rather than installing the communicating circuit board in the thermostat, the ComfortBridge technology system has the control board mounted in the gas furnace or the air handler. It uses Bluetooth technology, which allows for wireless connectivity for contractors to set-up, configure, or diagnose the system.

The ComfortBridge technology algorithm gathers data from the heating and cooling system. As it gathers that information, it makes automatic adjustments as needed to create a consistent level of indoor comfort. It monitors and learns a homeowner’s desired heating and cooling needs for the whole house. Sounds like a smart thermostat, right? They are calling it “off the wall” communicating technology.

I found it very interesting and can’t help but wonder how the market will respond. To my knowledge, this is a unique technology. Contractors, and the market, will render the verdict on how much importance they place on the thermostat. Time will tell if the other major players will join Goodman down this road or if they think the manufacturer is making a big misstep.

I also found it interesting that Daikin (Goodman’s sister company) is not going down the same path. Any way it turns out, I respect Goodman for having the guts to step out.

It is a lesson that most contractors can learn from. Doing things because that is the way everyone does them or that is the way they have always been done is not a good enough reason. As the crazy summer season begins to wind down, the shoulder season provides a great opportunity to think through how your company does things.

This does not have to mean introducing a new product to sell — although it certainly can. Contractors should be looking at how they are pricing items, how they are hiring employees, and how they are executing sales. Maybe marketing is where you need to break from the same old stale processes that have been used for years.

Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to shake up the status quo — it might just make you a lot of money.

Publication date: 9/10/2018

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