I’ve heard it from more than one contractor: “We need to attract more young guys into the business.” Well, from my vantage point, most techs I see today are young.

The true question should be: “Where did all the ‘elder statesmen’ go?” Or, better yet: “Why would we want to attract new techs to this industry when we’re not necessarily taking care of the ones we already have?”

Recently, a contractor and I were discussing his problem of high employee turnover. I had to tell him that overworked and mistreated techs were being driven away. This explained, in part, why most of his techs were young. The more experienced techs he had on staff were not willing to put up with the long hours or the numerous other (often unnecessary) demands this contractor had placed on them. As a result, they either left or he got rid of them.

Well, isn’t that grand?

A Wise Career Choice?

We tell our techs that we want them to see themselves as being in a “career position” and to think of their jobs as careers. My question to all contractors: Have you written a career path for your techs? If you haven’t already, let’s hope you do.

We say we want our techs to see themselves as highly paid and important professionals, but then some contractors allow $10-an-hour clerks to dominate them, rush them, harass them, intimidate them, interrogate them, and, ultimately, drive them out of their companies!

A high turnover rate is self-perpetuating. A high turnover rate makes a company seem like it’s a place where people do not want to stay. In truth, a high turnover rate can reflect poorly on the owner. This is not good.

Do your techs recommend HVACR as a career to their children and friends? Do they recommend working for you? If not, whose fault is that?

Granted, the shortage of quality personnel is a national concern that is not confined to our industry, but saying it’s not your fault is like blaming slow sales on the weather. Each and every contractor has to do something about it.

Everyone wants to impress their customers with their nice trucks, uniforms, and shoe covers, all of which are important. However, if you really want to impress your customers, make the effort to retain your employees.

As I travel the country doing my technician field training, it’s embarrassing that on many calls I run for companies, more than a few customers will ask, “Why do I get a new guy every time I call your company? Why don’t people stay at your company?”

It’s tough to come up with a satisfactory answer.

What’s Good About Traffic Jams?

As you drive along, stuck in traffic in an area where new construction is going up, take a moment to realize a couple of things:

1. Every one of those drivers, who are either in your way or causing traffic to back up, more than likely has a cooling and/or heating problem, whether they’re aware of it or not, and will need someone to fix it for them some day.

2. All those buildings going up in all the new construction areas throughout the country are packed with HVACR equipment, every bit of which is going to require maintenance, repairs, and eventual replacement.

What would happen if the HVAC techs of this country quit working tomorrow to pursue other careers?

In effect, there would be no one left with the willingness and the know-how to fix HVACR equipment and maintain our standard of living.

Think about it. We don’t have enough techs to repair and maintain the existing equipment. Who is going to fix all the new equipment being installed?

Can you answer that?

My suggestion is simple: Love your techs. Yes, protect your techs. In the end, make reducing employee turnover your top priority.

Guest columnist Charlie Greer is a service technician, a salesman, and president of HVAC Profit Boosters Inc. He is the sole instructor of the Sales Survival School for HVAC technicians and salespeople. He can be reached at 800-963-4822 or Charlie@hvacprofitboosters.com.

Publication date: 09/15/2003