ACCA recently hosted an event at the Packard Museum in Dayton, Ohio. It was an apt choice of venue, since Packard was the first manufacturer to offer in-car a/c in the 1940 models it rolled out in the fall of 1939. By 1969, a majority of cars came with air conditioning, a shift said to have killed the convertible. That same year, the government mandated headrests in all cars, a move some say finished off men’s hats. In the ‘70s, folks were driving hatless with their tops up in air conditioned comfort, and they never looked back.
The world is always changing. As a result, your business is changing. Your employees are changing. The technology your employees install is changing. The consumers for whom they install it are changing. Are you changing?
I know the Packard story because I spent a long stretch working at a trade publication for used-car dealers before I started with The ACHR NEWS in August. And I have to say that the best thing to happen to my former employer in the past year is that I quit. “Wait, what?” my current employer is saying. No, I’m not admitting to anything. I was doing fine, but I was probably too comfortable. Everybody around me was, too.
When I left, I had to find my way at a new place. I had to learn a new business and a new way to operate in my workplace. As I moved onto a new experience, so did those I left behind at my former employer. People took on new roles, and the approach they took changed slightly. Like anybody in any job, I had preferences. They weren’t wrong, but they weren’t the only way to do things. You might be surprised to find some of your preferences and assumptions need correction. Talk to your staff — all of them — and find out what’s really happening with your company and your customers
Maybe you need to change the focus of your HVAC business. Plenty of firms I speak with changed to residential service from new-build installation during the housing crisis. People often only change when they have no other choice. In one famous example, Intel was failing, as its main market had been disrupted by Japanese imports. The top executives asked themselves what a new owner would do. The answer was focus on another market. They decided to do that themselves and thrived. You don’t have to wait for the worst to happen for this kind of move. Just ask yourself what you would do in that scenario — and then do it.
One consultant I know used to tell conference attendees, “Go home and fire someone.” I think he was joking and that his point was you need to find a way to shake up your workplace every once in a while. Here’s one idea: Run a training session in which different departments teach the other workers how they do their jobs. Everyone will learn something.
The one person you can’t fire is yourself. Or can you? You can fire the “you” that does certain tasks, like doing all the quotes. And while you can’t get a new job like I did, you can get insight into how other businesses operate in other ways, like joining a peer group. These groups of HVAC contractors get together on a regular basis and share their thoughts about each other’s businesses. They get to know each other’s firms inside and out.
Attending events, like the one ACCA hosted, is another opportunity to share ideas and compare notes with your peers. Closer to home, you can join a local business group in your area, like the Chamber of Commerce. While it isn’t specific to your industry, it’ll still cover most issues shared by all businesses. Trust me, you have a lot more in common with your local used-car dealer than you might think.
See more articles from this issue here!