Okay, I admit it. I was one of the millions of Americans caught up in the “Survivor” series craze. My family camped out in front of the boob tube each week to cheer on our favorite island inhabitants — Kelly, Rudy, Jenna.

Okay, that over-publicized event resulted in each contestant going way over their allotted 15 minutes of fame. But let’s see how we can relate this media phenomenon to our industry.

What if we compiled our own list of survivors? We don’t have to invite them to a remote South China Sea island, either. The comfort of their own business will suffice, thank you. We don’t have to feed them bug larvae and/or rats for dinner — the usual Wednesday night spaghetti fare will do.

In fact, let’s skip the part about stranding our contestants anywhere. Let’s cut right to the chase.

The Finalists

Well actually, I’ve skipped right past the preliminary rounds and focused directly on the four major groups who will comprise the finalist list:

  • Independent contractors;
  • Consolidated contractors;
  • Utility-owned contractors; and
  • Acquired contractors.
  • First, in the words of the late Richard Nixon, let me make this perfectly clear: The entire list of contractors will all be survivors. I think each will continue to grow and thrive, albeit some more than others. But they will all survive.

    Independents will survive because of their entrepreneurial spirit — a spirit that has always driven small businesses in the U.S. Independents are often visionaries, able to see changes in the market and adapt to them, for their own sake and for sake of future generations of family-owned businesses.

    Consolidated contractors will survive because they have passed the frenzied acquisition phase of their life cycle and will now be able to settle into strengthening from within while raising the industry bar for service.

    Utility-owned contractors will survive because they are partnering with utility providers, who have the deep pockets and the know-how to market products and services, and will back that knowledge with strong facility and energy-management teams and design/engineering services.

    Acquired contractors will survive because they are usually associated with a larger, centralized company that views expansion and acquisition as a way to increase market share and add to the bottom line. These businesses often forsake individual identity for the opportunity to join a larger entity.

    In the TV show, island inhabitants were rewarded for winning skills competitions with material things such as blankets, pillows, hammocks, live chickens, fruit, etc. In order to survive in the hvacr industry, contractors need some “rewards” too.

    The list includes:

  • Eager, well-trained workers who exhibit a genuine love and loyalty for the industry;
  • Training and educational tools that are complete, comprehensive, and superior to any tools previously available;
  • Products that address the growing needs for comfort, e.g., indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and energy management; and
  • Fair and equal pricing for products and services that will ensure healthy profitability.
  • Armed with all of these rewards, all contractors should be able to survive and thrive. And after all, what is good for one contractor is also good for the others, right?

    Now, the burning question: If they all survive, who wins the hypothetical million dollars?

    E-mail me (halljr@bnp.com) with your vote. (Remember, this is for fun, so please keep it light.) Polls close September 30. The hypothetical winner will be announced in the Oct. 9 issue.

    Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 248-244-6417; 248-362-0317 (fax); halljr@bnp.com

    Publication date: 09/11/2000