From time to time, we place a survey question on our Web site ( If you have never participated, we hereby cordially invite you to enter our current one.

The initial question is:

  • In your experience, have you found energy efficiency to be an important issue to your customers?

    Should you answer yes, then there is this follow-up question:

  • What are your customers (residential or commercial) doing to improve energy efficiency?

    Here is where we seek more than just a yes or no. We seek your written input.

    Now, should you answer no instead to the initial question, then there is this follow-up question to answer:

  • What do you think it would take to get customers (residential or commercial) to consider efficiency improvements?

    Again, we seek written input.

    Prior to the above survey, in early July we wanted to know how your contracting company was doing. Since June had come and gone, we wanted to find out if the first half of 2004 was a hit or a flop. At the same time, we wanted you to give us your best "guestimate" for the last half of this year.

    Unfortunately, for whatever reason, not many of you responded to that online survey. We received a mixed bag of electronically sent answers, but they were so few in number that they did not shed much light on the overall picture for HVACR contractors in the first half of the year.

    At the same time, we wanted to know your financial forecast for the last half of this year. Again, the response was not necessarily overwhelming one way or the other. Time will tell, in the end.

    Speak No Evil

    Then again, there are two obvious reasons why there was a lack of participation in the July online survey. Pure and simple: Most of you were too busy to answer. While one would like to think that was the case, my best guess centers on another reason: Contractors, generally speaking, dislike disclosing financial matters for public consumption.

    It's true. And, one can understand this line of thinking. Business financial matters are private to many of you. It is one reason why it is difficult for us to round up our annual residential all-star team. When we call, many of you decline to participate. The most commonly cited reason is: "I don't want our figures exposed."

    Therefore, as the votes and financial figures started to roll in to News headquarters this summer, some conclusions became clear in a hurry, including the fact that the respective 2004 teams were not going to be exact duplicates of last year's first-ever 2003 News All-Stars.

    One reason for the change is that some who qualified for 2003 did not do so for 2004. To be specific, 50 percent or more of a company's total 2003 sales volume had to be in residential sales. Some members of the 2003 team had more sales in the commercial arena than in the residential one.

    Another stumbling block was the rule that each contractor candidate had to agree to have his/her 2003 sales figures printed in The News. Unfortunately, more than a few stated they wanted to participate, but then failed to provide the requested financials. Without the financials in hand, we could not even place these contractors in the "possible candidate" category.

    Despite contractors' general hesitancy to open their books to strangers, there are, fortunately, some who see the value in showing their numbers for the cause. They know that being selected to one of The News' two residential all-star squads is quite an accomplishment. It's an honor.

    So, review who is on this year's team. Coverage begins with our page 1 story "2004 News' Residential All-Stars Are Major League Contractors," along with features on two of the winners, "Beutler Thrives In New Construction Market" and "It's Another Stop To Lorton, Va."

    If you believe you should be on next year's list, do not forget to send us your 2004 financials when they are complete. From the beginning of next year through the end of March, we will be taking nominations for the 2005 squad. Look for nomination forms to be placed online and included in The News during this time frame.

    Don't be shy. Give us those numbers.

    Mark Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax), or

    Publication date: 08/30/2004