Small Contractors’ Big Mistake

Having worked as an hvacr instructor for Lincoln Technical Institute for the past five years, I am constantly amazed at some contractors’ inability to see the writing on the wall when it comes to starting pay. For at least the past couple of years, fellow contractors who I have known over the years on both personal and professional levels have contacted me in search of new recruits for their firms. They seem to be constantly in need of new help. Even though they have had good prospects sent to them by myself or the school employment assistance office, they cannot hold onto their new hires. The problem is, of course, typically wages.

Unlike the larger mechanical contractors, who seem to have gotten the message of higher starting wages, the smaller contractors are still thinking it’s an employer’s market. They get an opportunity to hire a promising technician and let him walk out the door a few months later to go work for a larger company that is willing to pay him more. The excuse is always the same, “I can’t afford to pay what the larger companies are paying.” It’s actually the reverse that is true. The smaller companies can’t afford not to match the larger companies’ pay scale.

Ask yourself this, how much profit do you make on all the jobs you can’t accept because you don’t have the manpower to get them done? How many jobs and customers have you lost because you could not get to those jobs in a timely manner? Until the smaller contractors realize this mistake is driving our best and brightest potential technicians to work for large mechanical contractors, these new technicians entering the field will continue to do so.

Many new graduates leave school with the idea that they wish to work for a smaller contractor because they feel they will be more comfortable there, yet end up with the larger contractor due to the smaller company’s resistance to paying competitive wages. I regularly speak to former students on a regular basis, and nine times out of 10, when they have left a company to go work somewhere else, the reason is simple. They enjoyed the work, they enjoyed the people they worked with, but the management was not willing to pay them based on the current pay scale that is being offered by other companies.

Hard as it may be to swallow, it is now an employee’s market out there. Having worked as a technician for a number of years, I think it’s a good change. As an employer, it’s a big shock. It’s time to get with the times or shrink your business. Which seems like the way to go for you?

Mark Urscheler

Lincoln Technical Institute

Mahwah, NJ

BAS Interoperability Still an Issue

I am taking issue with a portion of Ms. Turpin’s Nov. 20 article “BAS Interoperability Still an Issue.” You have a quote attributed to Mr. Alan Barnes Jr., chief operating officer, Aircond Corp., that reads, “Systems that are made by the equipment manufacturers like Carrier and Trane are more ‘canned’ and tend not to work as well with other systems.” This is just a totally untrue and biased statement. I would expect our competitor to make such a statement as this. The real truth regarding this issue is that The Trane Company has far more capabilities in this field than does the manufacturer that is listed (Aircond).

Our field panels are designed around the ASHRAE standard (SSPC 135 BACnet) protocol. We were the first manufacturer to introduce a native BACnet controller in 1993. The Trane Company is a charter member of the ASHRAE BACnet committee and has participated in the development of the BACnet standards.

We have a track record that we would be happy to put up against any competitor, of literally thousands of successful BACnet installations. Further, our new Version 11 Tracer Summit system enhances our interoperability offering with the introduction of LonMark compati-bility. We are able to connect to third-party systems at the controller level, and I am sure if Aircond has a LonMark controller, we can connect to it and incorporate it into our system. The bottom line here is that The Trane Company has made every effort to ensure that our customers will be provided with the most effective and flexible system on the market today.

Bill Muxlow

Trane Upstate Carolina

The Personal Touch

John Hall’s Nov. 27 editorial [“Let’s Not Forget Our Roots”] reminded us “middle agers” of the simpler times of the past and the benefits that the computers and the Internet have brought to us.

Yes, we couldn’t broadcast e-mail newsletters to customers as a means of keeping in touch (and save money on postage, paper, and time). But when it comes to adding a personal touch to customer service (get it — “person”), it’s hard to beat two real live people talking to each other.

And yes, computers can make that calling process go a lot faster also — especially if a customer has a problem or a nice, (i.e., profitable) order that you want to thank them for. That sincerity comes through when you “reach out and touch someone.”

Chris Pamplin

American GeoThermal DX

Publication date: 12/18/2000