Learn From Others' Successes

[Editor's note: This letter is in response to Mark A. Roberts' article "Lessons Learned In Bankruptcy," March 8.]

This article should not have been written. This bankruptcy could and should have been avoided. After teaching for two years I joined my father's business in 1977. Our sales were $400,000. Today the sales are $4 million with 10 percent net profit. We never ended a year in the red one time in all those years. Am I a rocket scientist? Most definitely not. What I did was basically read the trade journals and join ACCA. It also helps to actually do what other winning companies do and not just read about it. Between these two organizations, I gathered all the info I needed to run our business and not have it run us. It can be done. The info has been out there for 25 years.

I would encourage The News to run a series of articles on successful small companies to give these poor guys some hope. You don't have to settle for 2 percent to 4 percent net profit. You may not become a millionaire like some of the Air Time/One Hour guys and their cohorts brag about, but you can produce a fair and adequate income and make enough money to hire and keep excellent employees.

How can someone who went bankrupt become a consultant?

Listed below are some keys to our company's success over the years.

1. Partners - Surround yourself with people you can trust, share the load, delegate, work in your areas of expertise, and share the profits.

2. Know your costs - Job cost every job no matter how small and then use the results to add types of work you do well or eliminate what isn't profitable. "Only a fool does things the same way and expects different results."

3. Be flexible - Always be willing to learn from others and adjust. We have added service agreements, flat-rate pricing, bonus incentive programs, regular employee training, larger trucks, newsletters, changed focus from new construction to service, to name a few [changes]. Don't just read and talk about it, do it.

4. Hire the best - You have to constantly be on the lookout for great employees. When you find them, hire them. The work will follow. If you treat them well, they will stay with you a long time. Keep the best ones by making them business partners. I have four partners.

5. Communicate with your customer base - Your customers are your personal gold mine. Mine it with constant communication from newsletters to post cards, to thank you cards, to coupons, and anything else you can think of to stay in touch. They are your bread and butter. Spend your advertising money on them first.

6. Share the profit - You have to have an incentive/bonus program for your employees that is rewarding to them, very rewarding. Reward your employees and watch the sales and profits skyrocket.

7. Vision and oversight - Someone in the organization has to work on the business, not in the business. Take the time to step back and objectively look at what is going on around you. We all make the time to do what we think is important. Make this a daily, weekly, monthly high priority.

8. Training, training, training - Managers are basically coaches. You are constantly coaching and training your employees in all areas, from customer service to technical. Make it a high priority to have regular group/team training as well as individual training.

9. Professional reading and professional associations - Make time on a regular basis (weekly at the bare minimum) to read the trade publications. Join ACCA, join Service Roundtable, and follow the advice of the best in the business.

I could go on and on, but do these nine, and you will be on your way to success. If you ever heard of praying without ceasing, that doesn't hurt either. A lot of your challenges will be bigger than you, and you will need all the help and encouragement you can get.

Joe Ranck
Robert H. Ranck Inc.
Lancaster, Pa.

In Support Of Raising The Minimum To 13 SEER

I got around to reading the Jan. 26 issue and am delighted that the courts have put the bar back to 13 SEER. I think it interesting that in this issue you have an article on the court ruling, with ARI [the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute] against it and an article about ASHRAE [the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers] for increased home efficiency. I do not for the life of me see what the problem is for the 13 SEER. It is not that difficult or expensive to get there [to 13 SEER]. Add a $12 TXV. (I know that the manufacturers will have a harder time up-selling, where their margins are much greater.)

Peter Freund

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Publication date: 04/12/2004