Let the Seller Beware

After a long and historically disappointing partnership in a large, successful mechanical contracting company, I had decided to dissolve my interest and take my talents (and integrity) elsewhere. This decision came at the same time as the first wave of consolidation.

During the course of selecting consultants to steer us through the marketing and (hopefully) the sale of the corporation, I became aware that our consultant had been gifted stock by the purchasing consolidator. That information was not volunteered. I decided at that moment to enlist the aid of an outside law firm to protect my personal interests, against the wishes of my partners. It is the best money I will ever spend!

The sale went through, guided largely by my attorney, who also addressed the long-term liabilities and my employment contract. Had it not been for this detailed objectivity, the consultants would have slammed the closing documents together, closed the deal, and been back on their Southwest Air flight with the greater part of a half million dollars.

With the sale of the company, I was able to put myself in a cash position which was far beyond the real value of my shares. And now that “everyone” would be accountable for their performance, I decided to stay put and see if the business could evolve in a more healthy and positive direction, given the new demands of the acquirer.

Apparently, the managing officer (a former partner) forgot that my employment contract was for two years and dismissed me without cause exactly one year to the day of the closing! Well, you know where that went!

I have a considerable amount of stock in one of the consolidators. The value of the stock is greatly diminished, and I don’t have any feelings one way or the other about it. I’m very fortunate to have been able to take advantage of the consolidation war chest at the time of my decision to leave.

I am most empathetic to the financial disappointment a lot of other owners have experienced since selling their companies. At this point I can only hope that the stock may evolve into something worth being excited about. But if it doesn’t, I’m still a very lucky soul.

Name withheld upon request

NATE Prerequisite: Real-World Experience

This is a great letter [“Questioning NATE Tests,” Dan Hazley, Dec. 11] about NATE and other certifications.

Please try to get someone’s attention about the testing. I feel that we all want techs to be the best they can be, but when you have high school students passing these tests only because they spend time studying the test material, it is scary. Would you want a person to work on your furnace only because he/she passed a certification test?

There isn’t an easy solution, but surely some real experience should be required.

Don Ball Ball Heat & A/C Biloxi, MS

The Ear as a Diagnostic Tool

I’d like to refer to John Hall’s article in the Dec. 11 issue “Ask Our Consultants: Techs Answer Typical Service Questions.”

Service techs are on the front line in sales when it comes to parts, equipment upgrades, unit replacements, and service contracts.

“What is the most common problem?” you asked. Did you get your question answered? The first answer was close; the problem was “too hot.” The last answer stating “there is no common problem” is way off the mark, while the others are somewhere in between.

Obviously the most common problem is comfort, or more specifically, the lack of it. Once the tech arrives, listening to the customer points him/her to the path of logical troubleshooting.

Let’s narrow it down a bit further. Is the problem electrical or mechanical? Many years ago I had an hvac instructor that touted “95% of the problems found in the field are electrical” and “the rest are mechanical.” Isn’t that closer to the answer you were looking for?

Aren’t things like a bad heat exchanger a result and not necessarily the root problem? Sure, just as “dirty filters” can be defined as an “airflow problem,” which ultimately leads to the “failed heat exchanger.” It all comes down to listening.

Service techs today have the “sell parts,” “sell service contracts” stuff pounded into them from early on in their careers. They need to be gently reminded to not walk into a job with blinders on so as not to miss the root problem.

The techs who responded alluded to the effects of problems. As we all know, replacing a failed part is not considered to be a diagnostic fix unless our troubleshooting skills tell us that the part just flat wore out. Our industry needs to teach listening because I have a hunch that your article may have developed a little differently had those who responded heard the question that was put to them.

Dave Singer Carrier Great Lakes Livonia, MI

Publication date: 01/15/2001