Like the proverbial light bulb illuminating over one’s head or the ton of bricks creating havoc with one’s hairline, I finallygot itthe other day.

Before you begin to visualize all kinds of interpretations, let me explain what I mean.

As a child of the 50s and 60s, I often listened to my parents’ diatribes about the old days — not the good old days, mind you. My mother would tell me tales about living in a small house, with barely enough food to fill the stomachs of her parents and five siblings. My grandfather worked in the coal mines of British Columbia and didn’t stick around long enough to see that his children were cared for. He died of black lung disease when Mom was nine years old.

It was hard for me to imagine the childhood struggles my parents went through because they were from a different era. They didn’t have television or the Internet. Their culture was completely alien to my generation. After all, our modest home included a black-and-white TV and a stereo LP player.

I think about my childhood now as I watch my two children grow up. I realize that they have no conception of what it was like when I was a kid. I shouldn’t expect them to, either. The 50s and 60s were great times to be a kid because of their simplicity. But those days can never be duplicated or retrofitted into today’s lifestyles.

Too bad.


Before I get too melancholy, I’ll cut to the chase. The hvacr industry is going through many dynamic changes right now — changes that mirror the different cultures that our trade has passed through. This is very much like the changes from when my parents grew up in the 20s and 30s to the changes that are currently invisible to my children. I realize that the current crush of information technology and high-tech gadgetry is passé to the children of our generation, the so-called Gen-Xers and their little brothers and sisters. What we middle-agers see as revolutionary time-saving devices are merely commonplace ways of doing business for our young whippersnappers. Are we trying to force-feed this new technology on old-line, traditional contracting businesses? Are the “mom and pops” that formed the backbone of the hvacr trade being asked to change their entire culture in order to compete with the cutting-edge contractors, if they indeed exist? I finally get it. Yes, we are asking people to transform their 3 x 5 index card world for high-speed DSL lines and Internet service providers (dot-commers). We are asking them to ditch their traditional methods of calling on customers in person to e-mailing them with the latest techno-interesting news. In essence, we are asking them to lose the personal touch and join the 2001impersonalcommunications world. Before you e-mail me with your objections, think about this: Our industry needs to keep pace with every other service industry; and the deluge of high-tech gadgets is one way to do that. I am all for using the latest wizardry to keep in touch with customers, suppliers, and manufacturers. But let’s not forget our roots. Let’s not condemn our forefathers for wanting to stick with conventional means of customer service. They set the table for us and the lessons we learned from them should not be forgotten. Just like the lessons I learned from my parents and their parents before them, it remains imperative for contractors to pass on the wisdom of their predecessors to the future owners or managers of their companies. If we can understand the importance of this link to our past, we can make the hvacr industry the admired and copied service industry that it deserves to be. I’m willing to wager that many of you have alreadygot it. I’m just a little slow.

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 248-244-6417; 248-362-0317 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 11/27/2000