As we approach the middle of the year, it is time to look back and see how we are doing on our list of New Year's resolutions. I think it is important for us to review to make sure we stay on track to accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves.

How do you stand?

I hope you still have as a main priority the selling of maintenance agreements. A customer whose unit has failed due to lack of maintenance makes an excellent prospect for a maintenance agreement, especially if you mention the discounts that would have been available to them. We are willing to send copies of our maintenance agreements and sign-up forms; just e-mail me at the address below and be sure to include your mailing address, as we will mail the forms to you. Just because you are getting more calls for repair service than you can handle, do not forget to continue to sell those maintenance agreements. Make that customer your customer.

Hopefully, your slow season is over and you are getting busy. Ideally, during the slow season you spent time on long-range planning; cleaned, painted, and spruced up your facility and equipment; conducted in-house training; and developed a lead generation sheet, and have gotten involved in local organizations to spread the name of your company.

Busy Season

Now that you are getting busy, there are actually some resolutions that will be appropriate to work on at this time. As our technicians get busier and work longer and longer hours, it gets harder for them to find the time to keep their trucks washed, cleaned, and straightened.

Nevertheless, this is the time - when you are busy, and when lost time is a big money loser - that it is most important that the technician knows where things are in the truck so he can access them immediately.

Therefore, a service meeting that includes routine truck inspections is perfect at this time. Don't let the fact that you are busy keep you from thoroughly checking each truck and making sure that all defective parts are returned, etc. It's at this time when things are happening the fastest that the opportunity to lose something - like a part that must be returned - is the greatest. Remember that the more your trucks are moving, the more they are a reflection of your company image.

Similarly, the more calls your technicians make, the more impressions they make. This is an important time to make sure your trucks and employees project the image you desire. I know it may be hard to continue to pursue your New Year's resolutions in the heat of the summer. Just remember that you may be able to complete some of those resolutions more easily now that you are busy.

Check Pricing

The most obvious thing to do now that work is picking up is to review your overall pricing structure. If you are on a flat rate, review your hourly charge. If you are on time and material, look at labor charges (both "show-up" rate and hourly) and review your parts markups to determine if they are adequate to provide you with your needed profitability.

You've complained since last fall that you weren't making as much money as you should, but you couldn't raise prices because your competitors, who had no customers, would take all the work. Well, now everyone is going to be busy, so now is the time to recover the labor increases, health care cost increases, higher gasoline costs, etc., in order to maintain profitability.

One important thing to remember this year is the fact that gasoline costs have risen dramatically across the country in the last year. You need to make sure that you are either adding a fuel surcharge, as some industries do, or your "show up" charge is increased sufficiently to cover these gasoline increases.

Guest columnist Butch Welsch operates Welsch Heating & Cooling in St. Louis. He can be reached by e-mail at

Publication date: 06/14/2004