The flesh had been ripped and scraped from the bone. There was nothing left even for the flies, much less the airborne scavengers.

The skull, once part of a thousand-pound beast, was affixed to a spear, imbedded in the dry soil of the canyon bed. The rest of the bones were scattered about the village. There was no sign of a fresh kill anywhere.

With nearby villages in competition for the thinning herds, food was becoming more scarce. The collection of food and water was the primary concern of the village people. Thirty men and a few older boys were responsible for hunting, out of a population of 200.

The strongest of the hunters was a bright, rugged individual who went by the name Nepo. He was born to the tribe and had hunted for 15 years. His shelter on the edge of the village contained remnants from his kills. Skulls, body coverings and huge saber teeth were littered about the floor.

Nepo’s closest friend, Dnim, was also a hunter. Dnim, like Nepo, was fully aware of the need to change their hunting ways. It was soon to be a matter of survival and not choice.

Their spears were soon to be replaced by bent wood and twine. This device would set forth smaller spears, which would cover a greater distance, increasing their chances for a kill.

Nepo and Dnim encountered many naysayers. Change was slow. But eventually all of the hunters would use the bent wood and twine. And life went on.

The future hunt

The bow and arrow of the hvac business arena for the next century? The Internet. Still in its infancy today, one can communicate, purchase, sell, research, train, market, and advertise, to name a few possibilities.

The successful contractors of tomorrow will use the Internet for much more than a place to display an electronic brochure. It will be a medium of continuous interaction with the customer and a platform from which to provide a Nordstrom level of service.

Business in the past decade and a half saw a revolution of trimming fat and streamlining operations.

The buzzword was “re-engineering.” With the focus originating from within the organization, the re-engineered product was meant to fit the customer.

Today, the Internet allows a refocus on the customer.

Internet-based operating systems are built today with the customer’s needs as the main priority. The focus is not on the service technician showing up at Mrs. Jones’ house packing a laptop computer, headset, radio, and mobile invoice gear — all stuff meant to make the company more efficient. The focus will be on Mrs. Jones herself— her wants and needs, and how the company can make her life easier.

The company will build, cultivate, and sustain a business relationship with her electronically. As the relationship develops, the company will be influenced to provide efficient service and there will be a natural progression to the high-tech devices that provide that service.

When customers visit a website and receive the information they need, there is a sense of the whole organization working and pulling together just for them. And, in fact, that is just what is happening.

The Internet affords the opportunity for individual customer care and marketing. Coupled with back-end data and the customer’s on-line profile, the company has valuable information it can use to draw a bead on the customer.

This can be carried out with thousands of customers at one time, eliminating the small percentage of returns from a mass marketing effort that places a lot of square pegs into a round hole. The low cost of interactions will allow the company more opportunities to keep its name in front of customers.

Compare the cost of 15,000 newsletters, sent six times a year, with that amount of e-mail. And consider the ease of customer feedback via the Internet, helping the company stay on course by providing what the customer really wants.

The Internet is a tool, much like the bow and arrow of Nepo’s era. It will create a new type of hunter, one who can respond quickly to customers’ needs, and then deliver.

In the not too distant future, this will be a matter of survival, not of choice.