Like a lot of baby boomers, I am a child of the '60s and '70s, having the culture of that time period indelibly stamped on my psyche. Part of the stamping process involved the influence of television shows from that era. This was before the age of cable, satellite, and choices of 800 stations featuring current and nostalgic, i.e., classic, shows from the past - the very ones I grew up on. I still think the old shows were the best shows.
I would have loved to live in the lazy farming town of Hooterville, fictitious hometown of folks from "Green Acres," "Petticoat Junction," and "The Beverly Hillbillies." This was a one-store town where life was simple and a business owner like Sam Drucker really knew how to run his businesses. Yes, call me crazy, but we can learn a fine lesson from Sam.
And just to make this conversation interesting, we can also learn a few lessons from the opposite end of the spectrum - from another television show of that era (my all-time favorite). The greedy and money-grabbing oil barons from "Dallas" showed us how to run a business and succeed at any cost. The fictitious J.R. Ewing, though hated, was quite a businessperson.
DRUCKER'S GENERAL STOREDrucker knew what his customers wanted - and gave it to them. Being in a farming community he was cognizant of the needs of his customers. They needed seeds and farm implements, as well as crop growing advice. Successful HVAC contractors know what their customers need, e.g., furnace filters or fan motors, and keep them in stock. They are also good listeners and freely dispense advice if a customer has an HVAC question.
Drucker also kept up with some of the latest consumer trends and often carried some niche products among his cans of grocery products. So too do successful contractors. The good ones pay attention to latest trends and can match wits with customers who want to "keep up with the Jones'." I would use IAQ products to represent some of the latest "got-to-have" products for consumers.
Lastly, Drucker also ran the local post office inside his general store. This "add-on" business brought more customers in, which is half the battle. Bringing a customer to your business may not be your No. 1 goal but contractors who have a showroom or display area, just in case a customer or walk-in comes by, can satisfy those people who want to touch and feel the merchandise.
EWING OILEwing was a bottom-line business owner. Although he may have used questionable tactics to meet his goals, one cannot argue with his success. (I am not advocating using J.R.'s business tactics, but I am advocating his results.) Here was a businessperson who had plans and implemented them. The problem with so many contractors is that they often go into business without a plan.
Ewing had the ability to see a trend before it became ingrained into the oil business. For example, he knew that gas prices would rise so he planned to monopolize the refinery business and drive production costs down. With that strategy locked up, he opened a chain of gas stations offering gas prices below that of his competition. He achieved his bottom-line goal: more customers at the gas pumps.
And when he needed to create a demand for gas in order to drive prices up, he simply started an oil crisis. He understood the law of supply and demand. Now contractors are seeing the same scenario unfolding before their eyes. The new 13 SEER standard has opened up a new demand for higher-efficiency products and the supply may struggle to keep up with it. Contractors (at least some I have noticed) are keeping a healthy inventory of high efficiency equipment to meet this demand.
John R. Hall, Business Management Editor, 734-464-1970, 248-786-1390 (fax), firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication date: 05/08/2006