Whether you’re a piano bar or an HVAC company, customization is the key to success.

Imagine that we are down at this year’s AHR Expo in balmy Orlando. We’re sitting with a couple of drinks in the piano bar where a manufacturer has rented the entire venue for its private hospitality event. Our assignment: to figure out how this bar got a well-paid private party job over a ton of local competition, and what that could mean for your business.

I’ll tell you upfront — I thought I had this metaphor figured out pretty completely after about half an hour at that party, but I did not see the real game changer coming.



The bar’s assets — aside from the alcohol — start with a great location on a high-traffic tourist strip. These guests could find the bar and get there, no problem.

For the HVAC contractor, this applies less to physical location than to marketing and brand presence: an updated and attractive website, proper responses and maintenance of online customer comments, and other outreach like TV or radio.

Approaching the bar made a good first impression in person, too. Guests were welcomed with good signage, a staffed check-in table, and a wristband.

That might translate to decent vehicles, maybe a truck wrap, and the right techs: people who can present well, can conduct that important first conversation upon entering a home, and who don’t track mud into the house.

Nothing earthshattering so far, right?



I mentioned this is a piano bar. A good piano bar, with the right musician, can get the job done. But this place turned out to be a dueling pianos bar — two pianists/singers on duty at a given moment. As a result, they tag-teamed one song after another and completely eliminated lulls in the action.

Let’s call that adding a second discipline to a business. Maybe a company starts out with HVAC and adds plumbing, or vice versa, or adds electrical instead. It doubles the opportunities to be of service to a customer for the first time and get other disciplines in the door.

The “other” pianist would not just alternate songs but would often throw in harmonies or even other piano parts to whatever the primary pianist had decided to play.

That translates to keeping eyes open, asking the right questions about the homeowner’s situation and interests, and listening well. Maybe that translates to a job for a different crew, or maybe it leads to some shoulder season business or maintenance agreement. Either way, it is done in a natural fashion so the customer knows how else a company might improve their life at home without feeling overly pressured.

To be honest, neither of the two pianists had radio-quality voices or world-class chops. But they knew the ins and outs of a ton of songs right off the top of their heads (let’s call that a depth of practical experience). They had a positive, energetic presence, and they knew how to work as a team to provide a seamless experience.

The combination of those skills is what got the job done. That blend mattered more than whether or not either one was a flat-out virtuoso. Moreover, two additional pianists rotated into the mix a little later in the night with no dropoff in quality in any combination (we might call that strong staffing and scheduling).

Later, the pianists could even rope in a drummer or guitarist for certain songs. This equates to keeping and building customer relationships by outsourcing certain tasks like duct cleaning or more involved home automation. Or it could be something as simple as offering a useful recommendation for a non-HVAC company to strengthen that bond.



The dueling pianists sang new stuff I didn’t know, and they played Supertramp and Steve Miller I did know. They responded to a variety of customer demands (i.e., requests) and even elicited valuable input in the form of what we will generously call audience “backup vocals.”

All told, I thought that covered several keys for taking a reasonable amount of talent and adding exceptional attitude to win business in a tough environment, but I was wrong. Because then, the musicians pulled out a custom composition.

The manufacturer was celebrating an anniversary. Its marketing team had obviously fed some details to the venue ahead of time. And now, the piano talent went on to sing not just some quick jingle but a full set of lyrics tailored to the company’s history and accomplishments, all set to the music of a popular song.

Guests took video on their phones. People listened and smiled. The company’s president thanked the group onstage. In that moment, the chance the customer might regret choosing this place for their event decreased to exactly zero percent. Those four minutes cemented the venue and the experience as irreplaceable.

It didn’t involve undercharging. It didn’t involve additional equipment. It involved the willingness to find one distinct way to overdeliver in the regular course of doing business.

What is the parallel between that anniversary song and your particular business? Just like that song was custom-made for the bar and for the event, customizing your version of that experience is up to you. It might depend on a given market or a given contractor’s team. But I’m pretty sure it is out there waiting for you to try.

See more articles from this issue here!