Thou Art Is the Question

I want to work for you!

I want to work for you!
Image courtesy of paradicetattoolv.com

There was an article in a trade publication some time back about appearance and how much it matters in today’s HVAC industry. Specifically, the article was talking about piercings and tattoos, and whether or not that mattered. The article had interviewed some contractors who said it was okay if reasonable, and others who said they would not hire someone with piercings or body art. The article also cited an amazing statistic, that is that 40% of adults in their thirties have a tattoo and that 20% of all adults in the US have a tattoo.

Given the statistics, the odds are pretty high that at some point a contractor is going to face the decision of whether or not to hire someone with a tattoo or a piercing. Whenever the subject arises, so also does the argument of freedom of expression. It is the knowledge and skills that a technician possesses that is important, not how they look, so goes the argument. This argument advises contractors to look past physical appearance if they want to hire the best technicians. This typically does not apply to piercings however, given the concern for health and safety issues of those working around electrical currents.

On the other hand, some contractors say they find tattoos distracting and that given a choice of 2 individuals with equal skills, they would hire the one without body art. Still other contractors are concerned about the image a technician with body art will project to their customers. If a customer is turned off by the personal appearance of a company’s technician, they stand the possibility of losing that customer without ever knowing why. Service technicians need to understand this concern on the part of business owners without taking it personally.

In the final analysis, all the arguments in the world for or against don’t really matter, because it is the customer that decides. Service technicians need to understand the importance of the image they project to the customer as a function of any tattoos or piercings they may have, especially in an industry I once heard described as one where “consumers are concerned for their wallets when they let our industry in their door.” Therefore, if you are a service technician and considering whether to ink/pierce or not, let discretion be the better part of valor!


Running And Planning Promotions   Recently updated !

Running And Planning Promotions

Picture courtesy of startupnation.com

This blog is the 3rd in a series which discusses marketing plans. The 1st one talked about the need for and benefits of having a written marketing plan. The 2nd talked about the three elements of a marketing plan, the importance of promotions and a sample of product, service and other types of promotions. In this blog we will discuss how many types of promotions you should run and when, along with how you make people aware of these offers.

 

The question of how many types of promotions you should run is a function of of what you are trying to accomplish. Do you want to increase business for your service department during the slow season, tap into preseason equipment sales or try to drive overall business during a cooler than normal summer? While retaining the ability to be flexible should be an element of your promotional schedule, one thing that all experts agree on is that you have to be consistent. It is consistency over time and not the “splash and dash” marketing effort that produces results. The best way to make sure this effort is consistent is to plan it into a monthly calendar. The calendar below is an example demonstrating this concept.

January February March April May June
Heating 2-3 2-3 1-2 1-2 ? ?
Cooling ? ? 3+ 2-3 2-3 2
Service 1-2 1-2 1-2 1-2 1-2 1-2
July August September October November December
Heating ? ? ? 1-2 1-2 1-2
Cooling ? ? 1-2 1-2 ? ?
Service 1-2 1-2 1-2 1-2 1-2 1-2

How much should you spend on marketing, advertising and promotions? Experts say you should be spending 2 to 5% of all replacement and service sales on marketing. For some of you that number may come as a shock, but the industry average is 4.3%. If you want to be aggressive, you can add manufacturers co-op on top of this number and if you want to be more passive you can use co-op to reduce from these percentages. Once you have decided how much you are going to spend, what format these promotions will take and how many you will run and when, there is one more question to be answered – how do you make people aware of your promotions? Broadly speaking, there are 2 audiences to be reached, internal and external. External audiences or customers can be reached through the many channels utilized to advertise and promote your company – website, print media, electronic media, social media and direct mail. The mistake some companies make is forgetting about that 2nd audience, internal staff. You never want a service tech or someone who answers your phone to be surprised by a customer who tells them about a promotion your company is running! That is both embarrassing and unprofessional. Prior to the start of any ad or promotional campaign, make all of your office, installation and service staff aware of the specific ad/promotion that will be running and the dates during which it will run. Create a large wall calendar that clearly identifies every ad and promotion you are running as well as the dates, and post it in a prominent place where employees can see it. Your employees should all be part of your social media audience, and it goes without saying that all promotions should be prominently displayed on your website. These are just some of the steps that will firmly put you in the position of running your business – as opposed to having your business run you!

Courtesy of HVAC Business Dr.


To Go or Not to Go – That Is the Question

The holidays are over and now we are in the middle of winter. For those in the HVAC and construction trades, that means convention time is here. Most notably on the horizon, the ASHRAE Show is expected to attract 60,000 visitors to Orlando beginning January 25th. This show has evolved over the years from one dominated by residential equipment manufacturers to one populated with light commercial and applied commercial manufacturers, along with controls manufacturers, specialty/component manufacturers and foreign based companies.

Convention time means that both manufacturers and contractors will go through the conundrum of whether or not it makes financial sense to display or attend. For manufacturers, the cost of putting together/maintaining/updating an expensive display plus the cost of shipping it is of no small issue. Add to this the salaries of those attending plus their expenses means that you can often be making a decision that reaches into the tens of thousands of dollars. Deciding factors often include the opportunity to attract new customers, unveil new products, attend educational symposiums, source new vendors, network and check up on competitors. Contractors wrestle with the same question of ROI. Typically, they wrestle with the issues of direct expense and opportunity cost of what they could be accomplishing if they didn’t go. Contractor attendance is reported to be down over the past few years, so how should contractors look at convention show attendance in general?

First and foremost, no one should invest in convention show attendance without a plan. If you have put together a business plan for the upcoming year for your organization, you will have identified new market opportunities for your business. To exploit these opportunities you might need to enhance your knowledge, take on new product lines and network with new people. An attendance plan should include companies/products you wish to investigate and why, people you want to meet and what you want to learn along with symposiums that can help you gain that knowledge. You might even use these events as a way to recognize high-performing employees who have the potential to take on more responsibility in your business. Even these employees however need to have specific objectives for what you – and they – want to accomplish at these conventions. Having a plan for attending might be the easiest part of the convention however. The secret is in the implementation, because many individuals come back from such a meeting with the best of intentions, but plans become lost after being confronted by the business issues that took place while they were gone. Before going to any convention, pencil specific time in your calendar immediately following the meeting to figure out specifically how you are going to implement ideas or follow up with contacts made at the show. This one last piece can make the difference between an unsure payback and a business that is moved strategically forward.

Image courtesy of bushwalkingco.com

Image courtesy of bushwalkingco.com

Oh, and one last thing. Bring a comfortable pair of shoes!


Change a Life by Playing a Hand

As you may or may not know, the official foundation of Callahan Roach Business Solutions is the Joseph Groh Foundation. Founded in 2009, this foundation provides financial assistance to individuals employed in the construction trades and their families who are living with a life altering disability. By life altering, we are talking about serious disabilities such as spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy and the like. To date, the foundation has helped about 35 individuals purchase items like handicapped accessible vehicles, home and bath remodels – critically important things that insurance will not pay for. The foundation was started by Joseph Groh who was rendered a quadriplegic following a bicycle accident in 2008. Prior to that, he had spent 35 years in the HVAC industry working for contractors, distributors and manufacturers.

 

On Sunday, January 17 the foundation plans to host its 1st ever Texas Hold’Em poker tournament at WinStar casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Specifically, the event will be held in the poker room at the south end of the casino with a start time of 3 PM. Buy in for individual players is $150 which gives you 5000 chips, and if you prepay by January 15 you will receive an extra 1000 chips. There are also sponsor opportunities, as seen below.

 

TITLE SPONSOR $2500 >Qualifies for 9 Players in Tournament
CLUB SPONSOR $1500 Qualifies for 7 Players in Tournament
TABLE SPONSOR $1000 Qualifies for 5 Players in Tournament
DIAMOND SPONSOR $500 Qualifies for 3 Players in Tournament
PRIZE SPONSOR $500 Qualifies for 100% Tax Deduction
HEART SPONSOR $250 Qualifies for 2 Players in Tournament
SPADE SPONSOR $150 Qualifies for 1 player in Tournament

 

Joe Groh Foundation Poker TournamentProceeds from this tournament will directly benefit a woman who spent 25 years working in the construction trades as an office administrator for her brothers contracting business. Paralyzed as a result of a fall following her retirement, she has depleted her resources and recently moved in with her daughter. Her daughter’s home does not have a handicapped accessible bathroom, so for the last couple of months her mom has only been able to get bed baths. The foundation is working with a local contractor to assess what needs to be done to make the bath fully accessible.

 

We at Callahan Roach fully support this foundation, and we urge readers of this blog to join our efforts. If you have the opportunity and inclination to be a player or sponsor at the poker tournament, you will find all the information you need about doing so on the homepage. To learn more about this foundation and their work, log on to josephgrohfoundation.org. We believe you’ll find their motto of never look back, never give up and remain positive is a mantra for all of us to live by!

The Joseph Groh Foundation Homepage

Texas Hold’Em Poker Tournament Brochure


You Don’t Have To Be a Hero

You Don’t Have To Be a Hero

Courtesy of efinancial careers.com

Service Technicians pride themselves on their ability to correctly diagnose and repair mechanical systems encountered on the job. Discretion however as they say is the better part of valor, and sometimes service techs need to use discretion when they encounter a tricky diagnosis. As a consumer, have you ever had a situation whereby you can clearly see that a service person whom you have hired is having difficulty with your car/pool/refrigerator/hvac system etc.? You probably have and if so, what thoughts were likely going through your mind? Typically, not good ones. As a technician, you don’t want to start changing suspect parts until you get the system running because you don’t learn anything and it leaves a bad taste in the consumer’s mouth. So what should you do?

Call for help! Some manufacturers who market direct to contractors have technical experts locally on staff that can provide assistance. Still others have some type of in-house technical support staff available by phone. You may also find that manufacturers have FAQ sites on the website to help technicians. Still others have begun linking their products to technical literature for faster troubleshooting. You can scan product labels with your smart phone or QR code reader and link directly to the specific model’s information on the company’s online literature library. Available documents might include installation instructions, charging charts, replacement parts list, wiring diagrams and more. Having a list of these websites and phone numbers at your disposal can help you quickly reach assistance if you are having difficulty with a diagnosis or repair.

Other sources can include your supervisor or coworkers, as well as distribution houses who sell the brand of equipment you are working on. The point is, you don’t have to – indeed you can’t possibly – know it all. Even the most experienced techs have questions and it is always better to ask for help than to waste time working on a problem and not resolving it. The key to calling for help is to be organized and prepared with information such as the model and serial number, running suction and discharge pressures, amount of superheat at the evaporator outlet and compressor inlet, subcooling readings at the outlet of the condenser, ambient temperature, voltage and amperage readings etc. A well organized service ticket, either electronic or hard copy, will require this information be recorded as part of the diagnostic. By incorporating these tips you will be the hero in the end – and you will enhance the professionalism of both yourself and your company!

Courtesy of ACH & R News – Troubleshooting Difficult Systems


Elements of a Marketing Plan

When you talk with small and sometimes medium-sized contractors about the need for a marketing plan, you can almost see eyes roll. Many such contractors got into business for themselves so they could be their own boss. The ones who successfully survive the startup years then often find themselves a victim of their own success. They find that their business is succeeding, often beyond their own expectations, yet they don’t want their role in the company to change. If profitability is to be maximized and further growth achieved however, their role must change. It must evolve from being a startup entrepreneur and knowledgeable technician to a business owner. In short, they must learn to work on the business as opposed to in the business.

 

Elements of a Marketing Plan

Courtesy of Chriscolotti .us

Recently we published a blog about the need for having a marketing plan. Such a plan need not be long and complicated, as we will illustrate in this blog. Essentially, there are 3 elements of a marketing plan, and they are:

  • Promotions Planning Calendar
  • Marketing & Advertising Calendar
  • Marketing & Advertising Budget

 

What are promotions? In short, promotions are offers that give your customers and potential customers a reason to contact and purchase from your firm. The stronger the offer, the more likely you will be contacted. Depending on the makeup of your operation, you want your promotions to address the following areas in your business. Residential Replacement Installations – IAQ Accessories – Demand Service Calls – Service/Maintenance Agreements.

 

There are a number of sources you can tap in order to develop your promotions. For example, equipment suppliers or manufacturers typically offer consumer financing or equipment rebates at various times of the year. The downside to these is that many contractors have access to the same or similar programs from competitive suppliers. Sometimes government entities and local utilities will run promotions for efficiency upgrades as well, but again these are available to everyone. Perhaps the best source for offers come from in-house promotions. While these may or may not have the opportunity to attract supplier or government money to help fund them, you have complete control over the type and timing of the promotion. The creativity for in-house promotions is limited only to what you can devise, and the advantage here is that no one else in the market will be offering what you are. The following table is a small example of the different types of in-house promotions you can develop – let this serve to fuel your own imagination!

 

The next blog in this series will discuss when and how many types of promotions you should run, along with how you make people aware of these offers.

 

Product Related Service Related Other
Free Thermostat Free 2nd Year Service Agreement Free Gas Grill
Free Merv Filter/ Upgrade Extended Warranties Free Christmas Tree
Free CO/Smoke Detectors Product Checkup Discount Cause Marketing Offer
Free evaporator coil with AC purchase Duct Leakage Analysis and Sealing Event Tickets (i.e. ballgames, museums etc.)
Free Humidifier Air Distribution Analysis Getaway Vacation
Free Energy Analysis Free Blower Door Test Staycation Package
Free Duct Cleaning Svce Agmt W/combo Pch Free AC Cover
Free Attic Insulation Total Performance Diagnostic Through Call Smart W/Service Call Consumer Electronic Giveaway (i.e. TV, Tablets etc.)
Free Dehumidifier Reduced Rate Service Calls For Certain Time Periods Free American Flag & Mounting System
Free Grill/Register Upgrade Free Evaluation for Generator W/Service Call Free Thanksgiving Turkey

 

Courtesy of The HVAC Business Dr.

 

 


It’s Time to Get Serious about Workforce Shortage In the Trades

It’s Time to Get Serious about Workforce Shortage In the Trades

Courtesy of about-salary.com

For the past 40 years a common sentiment expressed throughout the construction trades industry has revolved around the shortage of new incoming talent. While there have been individual and collective efforts to do something about the problem, these efforts have been lackluster and largely ineffective. “Our industry is just not seen as glamorous as other professions,” many bemoan.

The topic has been a frequent one in the trade press. The November 9 ACH & R News featured the latest such discussion. “We hear it everywhere we go,” the article opined. “There is a shortage of HVACR workers, and the industry needs new blood.” The writer had attended the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) 2015 Connect Event in October, where the topic was top of mind for many contractors who couldn’t seem to find enough skilled workers to fill their payrolls. The article nailed it when they said talk is cheap when it comes to actually solving the problem.

How critical is the shortage? According to the article, the North American HVACR industry will need 100,000+ new technicians and installers in the next 7 years just to keep up with demand. The executive summary of a study by the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation indicated that the number of mechanic and installer jobs will increase by 21% through 2022, which is nearly twice the growth of employment overall. In the face of this demand, the foundation also found that nearly 60% of instructors reported their programs are under enrolled, and to make matters worse 50% of North American instructors have indicated they will retire in the next 10 years.

They say under every problem lies an opportunity. Today we are hearing about the epidemic of college debt and how it is strangling the future of those who have incurred it, but there is at least one political candidate running for president who seems to understand the problem – and some potential solutions. During the Republican presidential debate earlier this week, Marco Rubio stated that “The American private sector is going to create not just millions of jobs but millions of better paying jobs. But better paying jobs are going to require more skills, which is why the second thing we have to do is to modernize what we mean when we say higher education. For starters, I do not understand for the life of me why we became a society that told young Americans that trade schools and vocational training are for kids that aren’t smart enough to go to college. A welder makes a lot more than a philosopher,” Rubio quipped and then added, “I want to be the vocational education president, not someone that celebrates these jobs in hopes the private sector creates them, but someone that actually makes it easier for people to go into those fields.”

There it is, someone finally said it. Now, let’s actually do something about it!


The Power of Call Smart

When we selected a component on our original screen, we had an opportunity to answer some questions from the customer. If for example on the motor, the motor showed excess wear on the bearings, at the end of the service call we would print out a What Our Customer Ask Report. This tells a customer that we found an area of concern, here is why this happened, how our technician found it, what we would do to repair the situation, how you can prevent it from happening again and does this repair make good economic sense. At the end of the service call, instead of the customer receiving an incompletely filled out invoice that is difficult to read, your customer can receive an invoice, a report of what you found and a diagnostic summary from a third-party. This expansive information allows you to be the consummate professional in your market area!

The Power of Call Smart

Courtesy of TKworldwide.com

In addition to all this, you get other powerful reporting through the web portal of Call Smart. You can see how many times your tech presented an agreement, how often it was accepted and the average revenue per ticket. You could be sitting on the beach thousand miles away from your shop and see what your techs are doing, as long as you have access to the Internet.

Callahan Roach carries this a step further by assigning you an analyst who runs monthly reports and makes a brief phone call to review the information with you. This helps you maximize opportunities to make revenue, while doing a thorough diagnostic job. It’s like having your own consultant on call, and these individuals have years of experience in the field.

The final question remains, how much is Call Smart? First of all, there are no out-of-pocket expenses so it is very cost-effective. You tell us what you want your flat rate pricing based on, we calculate the repairs and when the repair goes to the ticket, we put in a small $2 fee on top of your charge. We get paid out of that fee and only get paid for service tickets that generate revenue. No more monthly payments, especially in slow months. If you are not creating invoices, we are not getting paid. Because the fee is on top of what you charge, it is a direct pass-through to the customer. The more volume of service tickets you generate, the less the dollar amount of that $2 you will pay to Callahan Roach. Call us today and put the power of Call Smart to work for your business!


Do You Have a Marketing Plan?

Does your business have a marketing plan? Is it documented? If you don’t, you might be asking yourself, “What is a marketing plan anyway, and why do I need one?” Those questions represent a good place to start.

 

Do You Have a Marketing Plan?

Image courtesy of manhabrasileira.com

Most people think marketing is just advertising or perhaps they think of it only as selling, but it is much more than that. Marketing is an umbrella that encompasses everything from market research to name recognition, to lead generation, to advertising, to sales, to sales and lead tracking, follow-up and customer retention. In short, marketing is the single word that describes everything in your business related to finding, getting and keeping a customer.

 

“Well,” you say, “I know what kinds of customers I want, I know how I want to advertise to them and I know what my selling proposition is. Isn’t that enough?” If that is your plan, that puts you in the majority. It has been reported that 77% of all contractors do not have a documented marketing plan! “Why do I need to document it,” you ask? There are actually four good reasons for documenting your marketing plan. Better Results. When you document your plan and map it out, it will create more leads and selling opportunities then if you don’t. Better Timing. When you document your plan and map it out, you will be creating opportunities during the timeframe of your choosing, as opposed to reacting to market conditions. Better Use of Funds. When you have a documented plan, you are less likely to spend money emotionally or on impulse. You will find that your funds go further and have greater impact. It is not unlike going to the store with a list – you’re much more likely to spend less money and make fewer impulse purchases. Better Communication with Staff. When you have a documented plan, your staff will be aware of your promotions and will be positioned to communicate these offers both to your customers and others they come in contact with.

 

A marketing plan need not be long, complicated or take a long time to prepare. Future blogs will delve into the elements of a marketing plan in order to give you the basics for putting together your own. Remember however, as the owner of your business this is not something you can delegate to others. It is one of the elements which separate owners who work on their business from those simply working in their business!

 

Courtesy of The HVAC Business Dr.


What Is a Top Rate Contractor?

Don't Make Your Customers Look like This

Don’t Make Your Customers Look like This

I had a recent experience with a service contractor who shall go unnamed, but unfortunately the business practice they displayed is still all too typical in the contracting trades industry.

We needed some work done at the house, the same type of work that a number of homes in our neighborhood are looking for.  One of her neighbors had spoken with a contractor who gave her a preferred rate for his services, based upon leveraging that work across a number of homes in our subdivision.  I called the contractor and he sounded knowledgeable and well-organized over the phone.  He came to our house at the appointed time, evaluated the work to be done, showed us samples of his work, provided references and gave us a price.  It was a verbal price, he did not follow with any type of written quote.  Nevertheless, we told him we wanted to follow up with his references so we could see for ourselves the quality of his work.  When we did, we weren’t overly pleased.  It wasn’t that the quality of his work was bad, it’s just that it wasn’t great.

A relative of my wife’s had the same work performed in her home 10 years ago and was quite pleased with the contractor they used.  The quality of the work still shown after 10 years, so we contacted this company.  Based on not being overly satisfied with the quality of work by the first contractor we first had out, we made an appointment with the second company.  The day they were to come out, they called and said they were running late and would make it late in the day.  They didn’t.  Come out or call.  Rather, they called the next day and wanted to know if they could come by that morning.  Even though we were a bit irritated we said yes.  When the contractor came out, she seemed very knowledgeable and answered all our questions.  She evaluated the work to be done and provided references where we could see her work.  She promised to drop off samples later that week.  She didn’t.  The following weekend after she was out, we followed up on her references and were very pleased with the quality of their work.  Based on that we called to remind her about the samples, which she said she would deliver in the next couple of days.  She did, and based on everything we knew we contracted with her for the work, even though her price was about 10% higher than the first company.  It seemed well worth it, and due to our discussions with adjoining neighbors she sold another job next door.  She described her schedule and gave us a 5 day window for starting and completing the work.

On day 4 of the window I called the contractor because I had not seen or heard from them.  She called me right back and said the previous project they had been working on had taken a little longer than she thought so that they would start the following Monday.  As I was expecting this response, I was not particularly bothered by it but I know some homeowners would be.  Monday came and went with no sign of the contractor, but with some concern for the weather the remainder of the week.  Inclement weather would only delay the project some more.

As of this moment it is 5:30 PM on the “following Monday”, and I realistically don’t expect her phone call until Tuesday.  I know we will eventually complete this project and be happy with it, but I will not be giving her company the rave reviews her work will most likely have earned.  While I have no reason to doubt their technical competence and quality of work, their business practices are terrible.  Contractors, take note.  In this day and age it is no longer sufficient to take pride in your quality of work.  Your overall business practices must be of the same caliber as your work if you are to truly call yourself a top rate company!