Most contractors love freebies and bargains. Don’t tell me differently. At every convention I’ve ever attended, if there is a freebie or bargain to be had, a contractor is there to grab it.

At this year’s Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) convention, for instance, The News was promoting its first-ever National HVACR Three-on-Three Basketball Tournament (and there is more to report on this event in the not-so-distant future). At our booth, we had a miniature basketball rim and backboard on display. We had two miniature basketballs on hand to see if any contractor could make a basket. Well, one contractor (who shall remain anonymous) began to walk off with one of the basketballs, thinking they were handouts.

Such was not the case.

“But I want to give one to my young son,” he pleaded.

OK, so I gave it to him.

Did I mention that many contractors drive a hard bargain, too?


Because most contractors are bargain-seekers, I thought I’d pass along what appears to be a pretty good offer from Boston-based software development firm Insight Direct, Inc. By August 1, the company wants to have 100 HVACR contractors signed up to be beta testers to assist with the customization of its new software, ServiceCEO.

Christopher Chapman, chief operating officer of Insight Direct, is looking for contractors of all sizes, from one-man operations to firms with multiple offices or franchises.

“As it stands today, our software handles 99% of the needs of any service business,” said Chapman. “What we need now are real-life business people who vary in comfort levels and skills in using computers to help us finely target this software to specifically address the particular management needs of their industry.”

In truth, Chapman would prefer to call these contractor volunteers “assistants,” rather than beta testers, as those who sign up are supposed to provide feedback — good and bad — with the intention of tweaking the software to be as near to perfect for the HVACR industry as possible. As we all know, commercial software is available, but the price can run from $10,000 to $40,000, which, as you will agree, is out of reach for a majority of contractors.

“Let’s face it,” said Chapman, “if technology isn’t affordable, it might as well not exist. Insight Direct’s mission is to bring affordable, yet extremely powerful, management applications to service businesses. We can design a technology solution for a business of any size with a budget from $1,500 to $5,000 or more.”

Other challenges in using most software programs are that they are not necessarily designed to handle the needs of a service business that must deal daily with crew assignments, booking appointments, detailed employee and customer information, and dealing with quotes and estimates. Plus, many times, these programs are extremely difficult to use.

“It’s not that the businesses are technologically inept,” stressed Chapman. “The challenge has always been in that the unique operational needs of a service business requires unique management software. This is an exciting opportunity for an individual to have direct input into designing business management software that is specifically targeted to their industry.”


If you desire to participate in this project, which is slated to end January 1, 2003, you can contact Insight Direct at 800-471-4200, or submit an application online Just know that there is a cost for participating, but Chapman promises that the program, ServiceCEO, will be made available to beta testing businesses at a special discount.

Remember, he said, the program will be tweaked to specifically help your business.

“We want to make sure that it is easy to use and it will be exactly what you want,” promised Chapman.

As an added bonus, Insight Direct offers training options to customers, including interactive online training classes, Web-based training material, as well as computer-based training manuals. Chapman said technical support is offered to customers through live telephone support or on the company’s website support area that features regular software updates, upgrades, and technical support.

Up for a bargain? It’s there for the taking.

Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446; 248-362-0317 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 07/22/2002