In baseball, hitting for singles with a .330 average is considered pretty good, though nothing will soon match the Sammy Sosa–Mark McGuire home run race, or Barry Bonds' savage attack on the record books. Everyone knows that in baseball, singles are good - but home runs are much better.

In business, it's sometimes tough to hit home runs. Every week, we all do our utmost to be the best technician, the best boss, or perhaps the best writer. For instance, in this weekly magazine, the back page is reserved for opinions that are intended to challenge HVAC contractors to think about ways to make their businesses more productive, or more efficient, or maybe even just more enjoyable.

Our normal lineup includes John Hall, our leadoff batter; yours truly, predominantly a singles hitter; Mark Skaer, with a good on-base percentage; and Butch Welsch, very dependable for extra-base hits. Barbara Checket-Hanks appears often as our well-respected designated hitter.

However, we've been looking to add some power to the lineup, so we've picked up a free agent who has a career history of hitting the long ball - Steve Howard, famed founder of The ACT Group.

We're excited to be working with Steve once again. He has trained thousands of contractors in the fine art of selling, and has become a legend for his enthusiasm and love for this industry.

I had the good fortune to meet Steve nearly 18 years ago when I had more brown hair and he had more hair. In recent conversations, we agreed that not only would he be bringing his expertise in selling and business management to the pages of The News, it was time for him to share his opinions and the vision that he has for this industry. In other words, we think he's got a few home runs ahead of him.

How's Your Batting Average?

As a technician, installer, salesperson, manager, or owner in a contracting company, have you done a recent evaluation of your progress? Many people use the turn of the new year to establish resolutions or goals for themselves. Whether it's promising yourself to join a health club and shed a few pounds, or resolving to increase your sales closing ratio by 10 percent in 2005, goals are perhaps the single most important tool to moving yourself toward any end result.

Some goals are simple and some may be quite grand in scheme. Setting the goal is the critical first step; tracking the progress is the essential process that must follow. For instance, if increased sales is your goal: Are you tracking the number of sales leads, sales calls, and closed sales in your company? If increased profits are your ultimate desire: Are you sharing profit and loss information with your employees on a regular basis so that they, too, might work toward the goal?

I've heard that many business owners don't entrust their employees with the important information that otherwise might lead to enhanced business success for everyone in the company.

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending the day with owner Dan Peterson and the members of his company, Comfort Tech Service Now! The company is one of the winners of The News' recent "Best Contractor To Work For" contest. I was most impressed when I learned that every single employee in the company has the authority to do "whatever it takes" to satisfy a customer, without first asking Peterson for permission. If that means a discount on a service ticket or a no charge ticket for a frustrated customer, so be it.

Peterson encourages and measures employee successes in all aspects of the business, which serves to make them all better performers.

Measuring individual performance in your business is just as important to you as it is to a baseball coach who doesn't want to wait until the end of the season to learn how individual team members are doing at the plate. Don't wait until the end of the year to see your win-loss record.

Mike Murphy is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-244-2905 (fax), or

Publication date: 02/14/2005