The 15th annual Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA) conference in Toronto gave contractors the opportunity to learn more on how to get ahead in their field.

One topic that seemed to appear again and again was the impact new technology is having on the hvacr industry.

According to Jim Harris, 80% of the technology we will use in our day-to-day lives in just 10 years has yet to be invented.

Harris is a management consultant and author of the book The Learning Paradox. He also works with business leaders to help them explore new directions for their businesses. He gets them to think about the ever-changing technology that will have an inevitable impact on the way business is done.

Harris also has a few other theories on what the future of technology and business will offer. Long distance rates will fall to three cents a minute by 2002, and will be free within seven years. E-commerce will save organizations $1.25 trillion by 2002, and we will have full-motion video conferencing from our computer within three to five years.

So what does this have to do with hvacr? The hvacr industry will be deeply affected by rapidly changing technology, and surviving in business is about staying one step ahead of those changes.

The Paradox

“Job security today is based on learning, changing, and accepting uncertainty,” Harris said.

If job security today is about learning, changing, and accepting uncertainty, then according to Harris it is these three things that most people fear.

It is also the exact opposite of what the business mentality has been for many years. Security was the goal, and a secure job meant working for a large, stable corporation. It meant striving to get to a higher rank, specializing your knowledge, and gaining seniority. But these things are not worth what they use to be in today’s corporations.

Harris says that large companies have been the biggest net job losers in the last 10 years. New developments have changed the way we do business, whether it is the Internet or video-conferencing or other computer applications. Corporations that refuse to keep up with these rapid changes suffer while competitors take advantage of new and easier ways of conducting business.

Technology has definitely left its mark on hvacr. Whether you own a large business or a small service company, an awareness of industry change can help you survive. More and more hvac units are being run on computers. Even the equipment for servicing the units is becoming more technologically advanced.

Harris says the key is to know “the needs of customers before they know they need them.”

Like the changes in e-commerce, video-conferencing, and long distance rates, it is important to know that these changes could be coming and customers will want them. Harris points out the growth of buying and selling on the Internet. He says Amazon .com started business in June 1995, and made over $1.6 billion by 1999.

In a short amount of time, the needs and wants of customers can change drastically. Harris says that realizing that this extreme growth rate will continue — and staying on top of new technology — will help contractors outlive their competition.

Most contractors will say this is easier said than done after doing business a certain way for a long period of time. Harris likens it to teaching an old dog new tricks. But unlike the cliché, Harris says it can be achieved. Contractors who have been in the industry for years can still come out on top.

Harris says anyone can learn new computer applications and new technological tasks. If contractors can develop their computer and technological skills, embrace change, and still hold on to their business and marketing savvy, the future will be bright.

The bottom line is providing customers with new ways of doing things, but first contractors must be aware that these possibilities are out there or on their way.

“If you can become comfortable with being uncomfortable, you’ll never have to worry about job security,” Harris said.

If you would like to learn more about Harris, visit his website at

You can also read more about this year’s MSCA conference in upcoming issues of The News.

Siegel is Training & Education Editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1731; 248-362-0317 (fax); (email).