You’ve probably seen the memes. “I didn’t have murder hornets on my 2020 apocalypse bingo card!” Sometimes it seems like this year is a grab bag of one calamity after another. And while offices, stores, and — yes — even hair salons are reopening, the virus still has no clear end date.
“It feels like we’re standing 20 yards from the end zone with our feet nailed to the ground,” wrote the editor of my hometown paper. Meanwhile, we cross our fingers that the outbreak won’t have a second wave.
It can be hard to stay optimistic. But despite not knowing what’s next in regard to public health or the economy, there is still good news. There’s still innovation and opportunity. Here are five reasons for those of us in the HVAC field to be positive as we head into summer.
1. Our industry is better equipped than ever.
HVAC has officially joined the digital age! Over the last few months, contractors were thrown into a world of Zoom calls — and now, our contractor sources at The ACHR NEWS report that everyone’s Zooming like pros. Manufacturers are doing online training, and NATE is even doing online certifications. HVAC students and trainers created online workarounds for hands-on classes, and while most everyone I’ve spoken to is ready to be back in-person, those real-life lessons on distance learning and remote work will be carried forward by everyone who went through this and everyone who will learn from them in turn.
In short, HVAC got a crash course, and the industry nailed it.
2. Online everything means more new business opportunities.
Behold the advent of widespread online grocery shopping, telehealth, virtual family reunions ... the list goes on and on, and HVAC is no exception, with technicians performing more work remotely or doing a pre-check video call to diagnose an issue before coming out to the site. Pandemic precautions aside, virtual diagnosis is a smart business move. It means efficiency, which leads to more business and more profit.
It’s been said that, with the exception of social distancing, the pandemic isn’t creating a new way of life so much as accelerating trends that would have otherwise taken a decade to play out. So if people are looking for an HVAC contractor who uses live texting and online booking, offering that option (and advertising that you do) gives you an automatic leg up on anyone who doesn’t.
Online everything also means you never have to waste time standing in line at the grocery store again. Even after it’s safe to shop without masks once again, the pickup/delivery system’s still in place. Small blessings!
3. You can take beer or cocktails to the park.
As of June 10, 33 states plus the District of Columbia are allowing restaurants and bars to sell cocktails to-go, bottled spirits to-go, or both. Here in Michigan, carryout cocktail legislation just passed the Senate with a nearly unanimous vote and is headed to the House. It seems like this is one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on, and personally, I can’t wait — this is really going to up my Taco Tuesday game.
Once this legislation passes in Michigan, cities will also be able to allow drinking in designated outdoor “social districts” like parks.
Why is a margarita in a Styrofoam cup significant to HVAC? Carryout cocktail laws demonstrate a willingness, across the U.S. and among state and local legislators, to bend the rules and help small businesses in creative ways that go beyond financial assistance like PPP loans. And if they’re willing to change the laws for the restaurant industry, odds are they’d be down to change them for the service industry, too. Now is the time to pitch your ideas to your local city councilmember. They want their city’s businesses to stay afloat, just like you do.
It could be something as simple as suspending the sign ordinance, or it could be something super out-of-the-box and creative. Start with the “temporary” angle and see where it goes. You never know how it might shape up — some states, including Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Iowa, and the District of Columbia, are considering making drinks-to-go a permanent policy.
Now that’s a “new normal” I can get behind.
4. A new recruiting strategy has just played out in real-time.
COVID-19 and the resulting shutdowns have given essential trades the recruiting opportunity of a lifetime. No one who lived through 2020 will ever forget the way the pandemic affected the way we work: the furloughs, the layoffs, and the essential front-line workers — doctors, nurses, EMTs, plumbers, HVAC techs, grocery store clerks, pharmacists — whose jobs were too vital to American society to be placed on hold.
It’s one thing to hear HVACR jobs are projected to grow more than twice as fast as most industries over the next 10 years. It’s another thing altogether to see people in this industry bringing home a paycheck when everyone else is on furlough. “You’ll never lack for work” is a recruiting tool gifted to us for immediate use. Point to it when you’re talking to high school graduates, people out of work, and anyone looking for a pandemic-proof profession.
5. We know we are tough enough to weather anything.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” might not be the best adage for a pandemic, but in terms of mental toughness, it’s still true. While staying at home sure doesn’t feel like fighting a war, these are times of crisis, and we are the home front and the battlefield both at once.
The good news is, it’s a war we will eventually win. And as with a war, we’ll come out stronger because we made it through. The sheer fact that we are still forging ahead despite this state of altered normalcy should give us confidence that we can and will prevail.
None of us want to see another wave of the virus — or any other disaster, natural or manmade, that might be thrown our way. But the fact remains that when push comes to shove, we now know we are capable of so much more than we thought we could ever be.